I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, together.
I met Chancellor Merkel at the European Council on 17 and 18 March, and while I spoke to her, we did not have a formal bilateral meeting. I last held such a meeting with the Chancellor when I visited Berlin on 3 July 2014 following her visit to Dublin that March. I have had no scheduled bilateral meetings with my European counterparts since the start of March, although I did of course see and engage with them at the 7 March summit with Turkey and at the later European Council meeting of 17 and 18 March. Several of them have written to me since my re-election as Taoiseach.
As to the joint statement, the implementation of the measures agreed between the EU and Turkey in March continues, although this process poses challenges for all sides. In assessing whether the measures are working, it is worth recalling that the core intention of the joint statement was to break the so-called business model of people smugglers profiting from the suffering of the vulnerable and to stop migrants attempting to cross the Aegean Sea. The latest reports indicate the numbers using this migratory route have reduced very considerably since the implementation of the measures began, which is to be welcomed.
However, the realities of dealing with a crisis this profound and complex cannot be ignored, and in some areas implementation of the agreed measures has been very slow. I share the recent assessment of the European Commission and others that progress on the relocation and resettlement of asylum seekers is unsatisfactory. From Ireland's perspective, in September last year the Government established the Irish refugee protection programme, under which we have agreed to accept 4,000 people in need of international protection. This allowed us to opt in to various EU measures in solidarity with our partners.
I am pleased that we are on track to meet our resettlement commitment. To date, 263 people have arrived in Ireland and the balance of 257 individuals to be admitted under the programme have been selected following a mission to Lebanon in January and should arrive in Ireland by the end of September. Progress on relocation has been much slower. Only ten people have arrived in Ireland to date in spite of our best efforts to fulfil our overall commitment. These delays are due to factors outside our control, in particular the establishment of emergency hotspots in Greece and Italy, and have been experienced by all other member states. We are working closely with our EU partners to address these issues. The delivery of commitments in regard to international and European law is rightly undergoing scrutiny and there is close co-operation between the European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Member states on the front line of dealing with the crisis remain under pressure. It is essential that all partner countries assist them in managing the practical realities of supporting the significant number of migrants and refugees who have arrived in their countries. To that end, Ireland's contribution to the overall response, in terms of humanitarian assistance and technical support, are important.
On the wider situation in Turkey, recent developments there have given rise to heightened concerns about respect for human rights, freedom of the media and the rule of law. I also note the resignation earlier this month of the Turkish Prime Minister. It remains to be seen what impact these development might have on the delivery of commitments under the EU and Turkey March statement, including visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens entering the Schengen area.
Therefore, while some of the measures have had an immediate and positive impact, it is important to maintain momentum if the overall package is to make a long-term contribution to tackling the migration crisis throughout the entire region. We also know that pressures continue on other migratory reroutes. I was very pleased that the Government agreed last month to the deployment of the LE Róisín in support of the humanitarian search and rescue efforts of the Italian authorities in the Mediterranean, repeating the valiant efforts of our Naval Service last year which rescued 8,592 men, women and children. The LE Róisín will spend ten weeks in the Mediterranean assisting the Italian authorities. She commenced search and rescue missions on 12 May 2016 and since that date has rescued almost 400 men and women.
On behalf of the people, I extend my appreciation and warm wishes to her and her crew for the duration of her mission.
The migration crisis rightly and necessarily remains an issue of the highest priority. There will be a further discussion of these issues at the June European Council and I will report back to the House afterwards.
I made a comprehensive statement to the House on 22 March on the meetings of the European Council in February and March and on the two EU summits with the Turkish Prime Minister, both in March. The conclusions agreed in February and in March have been laid before the House. To give a brief recap, the two main areas addressed at the meetings were the EU-UK relationship, and the discussions with Turkey on the migration crisis.
In February, the European Council also addressed a range of economic issues. There was a commitment to further implementation of all aspects of the Single Market. That includes delivering on the Commission's Single Market and Capital Markets Union strategies but also, on a point which is key for this country, and at our insistence, on the Digital Single Market. Conclusions were adopted on Syria and Libya.
The European Council on 18 March also adopted conclusions on climate and energy, recalling the need to reinforce energy security and to sign and ratify the Paris agreement as soon as possible, as well as on agriculture and on the steel sector.
I met Prime Minister Cameron bilaterally at the European Council of 18 to 19 February. Following my re-election as Taoiseach on 6 May, he telephoned me to express his congratulations. I said that I would do whatever I could usefully do to help in the run-up to the UK referendum on EU membership on 23 June. I expect to meet him soon, when our schedules permit.
The issue of Ireland’s housing and homelessness crisis was not on the agenda of the March European Council. I did not raise it at the meeting, therefore, nor is it generally the practice of the European Council to discuss domestic issues in the 28 member states.
The current draft agenda for the June European Council, as it stands, includes migration; jobs, growth and investment; external relations; and the outcome of the UK referendum, which will have taken place five days earlier. The last item will feature more or less prominently depending on the result.
The European Council will review the situation on migration in all its aspects. In particular, it will look at the external aspects of migration, assess progress in strengthening EU external borders, and take stock of the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement.
On jobs, growth and investment, the European Council will endorse the country-specific recommendations as they stand following Council consideration and conclude the 2016 European semester, assess the first results of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, EFSI, and draw operational conclusions for its future, endorse an agenda for the implementation of all aspects of the Single Market with a view to exploiting in full its untapped growth and productivity potential, address the issue of economic and monetary union, and take stock of ongoing action to fight tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
On external relations, the European Council is likely to discuss developments in a number of countries. There may well also be an exchange on EU-NATO co-operation in advance of the NATO summit in Warsaw in July. I will, as usual, make statements to the House both before and after the meeting.