Other Questions. - EU Presidency.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

7 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the formal and informal meetings to be hosted by Ministers during the Irish Presidency of the EU; the topics to be discussed; and the venues and dates of such meetings. [30471/03]

All formal ministerial Council meetings that are scheduled to take place during the Irish Presidency will be held in Brussels and Luxembourg. Seven informal ministerial meetings, six in Ireland and one in Brussels, as well as other high-level ministerial meetings and conferences, will also be held during the Presidency, and I have arranged that a calendar of such high-level meetings giving details of dates and locations be deposited in the Oireachtas Library and kept regularly updated.

The agendas and topics to be discussed at each meeting are a matter for each Minister involved but in all cases are dependent on several factors, including the outcome of the remaining Council meetings under the Italian Presidency. I will be hosting an informal EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Tullamore on 16 and 17 April 2004. That meeting will provide EU Foreign Ministers with an opportunity for in-depth discussion, and consideration is currently being given to appropriate areas for discussion.

In addition, I will host a meeting of EU-ASEM Foreign Ministers, bringing together EU Ministers with ten of their Asian counterparts in Kildare on 17 and 18 April and a scheduled mid-term EuroMed ministerial meeting, which will provide an opportunity for dialogue between EU Foreign Ministers and their Mediterranean counterparts, on 5 and 6 May in Dublin.

On the external relations side, I envisage that we will hold five summits during our Presidency in the first half of 2004. The Taoiseach will co-host the EU-Latin America and Caribbean summit with the Mexican President, Vicente Fox, which will take place in Mexico on 28 and 29 May 2004. An EU-Russia and an EU-Japan summit are likely to take place during our Presidency, in Russia and Japan, respectively. We are also scheduled to hold an EU-Canada summit during our Presidency. Finally, we expect that an EU-US summit will take place in Ireland during our Presidency and we are working closely with the US side to establish dates.

The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Roche, will host a meeting in Wicklow in April 2004, on the theme of communicating Europe and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Kitt, will host an informal EU development ministers meeting in Dublin on 31 May and 1 June and also a major conference entitled Breaking the Barriers – Partnership to fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia in Dublin on 23 and 24 February.

I am sure the Asian representatives will enjoy the Japanese gardens and that their visit will be good.

Are there any formal or informal meetings scheduled to deal with culture, broadcasting and issues which deal with the concentration of ownership of the media in the EU?

I can get details for the Deputy, but I am not aware of all the items on the sectoral Council formats off hand. I assume the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, will be involved.

The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Fahey, has announced a major meeting for Galway.

Excellent.

Will the Minister tell us the topic of that meeting?

I would have thought the Deputy and the Minister of State would be so close, he would have been able to tell him directly. I do not know off hand, but I will get the information for the Deputy.

We do not have that kind of relationship now.

The Deputy should. The Laoighis-Offaly constituency is a great example for such relationships.

When the informal ministerial meeting takes place in Tullamore, will the delegates be greeted by banner which says "Welcome to Cowen country" or "Welcome to Parlon country"?

I refer the Deputy to the electoral results.

The Minister is throwing acid in all directions today, even behind him.

It was an attempt at humour.

On a more serious note, will the EU be raising with Russia, in the forthcoming summit, the situation in regard to human rights, in particular the reports of violence against women which have been considered by Oireachtas committees recently?

Arising out of the last summit during the Italian Presidency, the Council decided to instruct the Commission to review all aspects of the EU-Russia agenda to see where we stand in regard to all the issues in order that we could prepare for it. We must emphasise the need for reciprocity in regard to these dialogues. There are issues for both sides which need to be advanced and we need to see progress on both sides. I am not sure the issues which the Deputy raises will form part of the agenda – it is too early to say. The Commission will revert to the Council with a full review of where we stand on the issues in order that we can decide how to proceed.

If the US President, George W. Bush, attends the EU-US summit, will he be asked to address Dáil Éireann?

That is a matter for the Dáil.

The normal situation in regard to summits is that the President and the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, would attend. I am not aware of any proposal such as that suggested by the Deputy.

Would the Minister recommend such a move.

It is not my job.

Is that a "No"?

It is not my job.

It is a matter for the Dáil who it decides to invite, rather than any individual Minister.

Will the Minister consider a precedent set by the previous Irish Presidency, wherein a special meeting was held in Cork on rural development which contributed to a substantial budgetary provision for rural development, which has not yet been quantified, which was agreed at the summit in Brussels in October 2002? Does the Minister agree it would be a useful initiative for the Irish Presidency to seek to bring this matter further and put substance on the commitment which the EU is now making to rural development? This commitment has the support of the Government, but has its origins in the special meeting organised by the previous Irish Presidency in Cork.

I freely acknowledge that meetings during the previous Presidency have brought great benefit to the country and the EU generally. The Deputy outlined a particular issue which is of importance to Ireland and the EU. I will refer his suggestion to the Ministers for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Agriculture and Food to see what way it might be taken up.