As I will be at the European Council Meeting in Brussels tomorrow, on behalf of the Government I wish Members on all sides of this House, Members of the Upper House and everyone who works here in Leinster House a happy and peaceful Christmas. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his patience in some difficult and contentious issues that were raised here over the past 12 months. I thank his team here who ensure the House functions as a modern, efficient Parliament. They put in very long hours. I also thank the Captain of the Guard and the Superintendent for the work they do in presenting the House to the public. I thank everybody involved in the running of the Houses of the Oireachtas for their services and courtesy.
The European Council in Brussels tomorrow and Friday will be the first Council since Ireland successfully exited our international bailout. I will inform my European colleagues that this success was due to the sacrifices and perseverance of the Irish people. As the first eurozone country to successfully exit a bailout it is an achievement not only for Ireland but for Europe. It is also the final Council of the Lithuanian Presidency. Lithuania, together with Ireland and Greece, form the current trio Presidency group. I congratulate Lithuania on a successful maiden Presidency and wish Greece well with its impending Presidency.
This month the European Council has a very substantive agenda, with a number of very important issues to be discussed. The main items on the agenda are: the common security and defence policy, CSDP; economic and social policy, including implementation of the compact for growth and jobs, SME financing and taxation; economic and monetary union, EMU, including banking union; migration flows; and enlargement. Leaders will also take note of progress reports on the implementation of the internal energy market and on external energy relations. We will revert to energy policy in the spring.
The European Council will also welcome the successful outcome of the recent WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali. In addition we will discuss the ongoing and very serious humanitarian situation in Syria. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Donohoe, will provide more detail on this in his contribution. I expect the European Council might also look at recent developments in the Central African Republic and in relation to Ukraine and the eastern partnership.
My main priority for this Council meeting will be banking union. I welcome the fact that President Van Rompuy has also identified this as the top priority. As I have said here and elsewhere on many occasions, timely delivery of what we have already agreed in this area is a key credibility test for the Union. Finance Ministers continue to work on these issues and there are some indications of progress overnight from Brussels. A good and balanced agreement will be important for Europe and for Ireland.
On the common security and defence policy, conclusions were agreed by foreign and defence Ministers in their meeting on 18 and 19 November. We will be seeking to maintain a strong focus on enhancing the effectiveness of CSDP tomorrow. In his letter to Heads of State and Government, President Van Rompuy has set out what he sees as the key priority issues for the remainder of his term and that of the European Parliament. He emphasised the need to begin implementation of the youth employment initiative and the SME financing initiative from 1 January next. I welcome the fact that we will have discussions on these at the European Council.
The agreement reached between the Presidency and the Parliament last week on the bank recovery and resolution directive is another welcome step in putting together banking union. There has been progress on the deposit guarantee scheme. Ministers for Finance are in Brussels with a view to reaching agreement on the single resolution mechanism, SRM. There are some positive signs emerging from these discussions. They include agreement that a common backstop will be developed during the transition period of the SRM and that the banking sector will ultimately be liable for repayment. This is fundamental and welcome. Work is continuing on governance arrangements, including voting rights for the single resolution board. Again, we will continue to press for our concerns to be addressed. This is a complex and sensitive task. Each member state has a vested interest in seeing a good and balanced outcome. I know that the Minister, Deputy Michael Noonan, and his ECOFIN colleagues are working very hard to find the right way forward. Ireland supports a broad scope for the SRM and the creation of a single fund which should also have a credible EU level backstop. The combination of a single fund and the backstop will assist in achieving the objective established by the Heads of State and Government of breaking the link between the sovereign and the banking sector. As I mentioned, indications overnight from Brussels are positive. After all, that is the point of the exercise. Moreover, it is what we have committed to do.
With regard to partnerships for growth, job creation and competitiveness, the Council agreed in October that work would be taken forward to strengthen economic policy co-ordination on the main features of a proposal to introduce contractual arrangements and associated solidarity mechanisms. While a great deal of work has been done and good progress has been made, significant divergences of opinion remain on these proposals. This is a serious business if we are to commit member states to new binding arrangements. We want to ensure we get this right and should not rush to make decisions if there is a need to elaborate further on the nature, process and impact of such contracts. Any new contractual arrangement should operate within the framework of the existing European semester process. A number of economic governance instruments have been in operation since the adoption of the six pack and the two pack and we should approach this entire debate from the perspective of adding value to the existing framework, where appropriate, and avoiding duplication. Further discussion and clarification are required on central issues such as the nature of the proposed contractual arrangements and whether they would be mandatory or voluntary, the source of funding for the proposed solidarity mechanism, how we can encourage participation and to which policy areas the contracts might eventually apply. These are very necessary.
The precise roles in the process of the member states, the Council and the Commission also need to be defined. As a supporter of the Community method, Ireland welcomes the proposal that the Commission monitor compliance with the contractual obligations by recipient member states. However, we will need clarity on the respective roles of the Commission and the Council. Overall, I would like to see far more detail on these proposals before we make hard and fast decisions. Many other member states share this view. I believe we will return to this matter again in 2014.
I undertand my time is up.