Priority Questions

Foreign Conflicts

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

21. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the specific proposals or contributions Ireland is making to the Foreign Affairs Council to ensure the EU strategy to address the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis is effective and respectful of international humanitarian law and EU humanitarian commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36373/16]

Ireland and its EU partners are committed to ending the suffering of the Syrian people. A political solution is required to address comprehensively the humanitarian, human rights and refugee crises that are the consequences of the conflict. Ireland and the European Union remain committed to supporting the United Nations' efforts to achieve an end to violence, the formation of an inclusive administrative structure with full executive powers and a constitutional reform process, as set out in the 2012 Geneva communiqué. This framework has been endorsed by the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 2254.

I discussed the Syrian conflict with my EU colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council on 17 October. We were joined by the UN special envoy, Mr. Staffan de Mistura. The Council adopted conclusions condemning atrocities in Syria, particularly in Aleppo; calling for an immediate end to the bombardment of Aleppo and the protection of civilian populations across Syria; calling for an end to restrictions on the provision of humanitarian assistance and the lifting of all sieges; reaffirming the European Union's support for a political resolution to the conflict in Syria; condemning the illegal use of chemical weapons by the regime and Daesh; calling for accountability through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court; and condemning in the clearest possible terms the unacceptable actions of Daesh.

The Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, participated in the November meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council which discussed the Syrian crisis and strengthening the European Union's diplomatic engagement with the regional states, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as other key stakeholders, with a view to creating the conditions for a renewal of political negotiations. The Council was briefed by the EU High Representative on the implementation of the European Union's humanitarian response to the crisis in Aleppo.

Last Monday I met the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dr. Peter Maurer, in Dublin. We discussed the humanitarian crisis in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, and the importance of demonstrating full respect for international humanitarian law.

I specifically asked about Ireland's role in upholding the rights of refugees and migrants. We cannot separate the conflict in Syria from the refugee crisis. My party and I have consistently raised concerns about the EU-Turkey migration deal, about which we have major reservations and which has been widely criticised as undermining refugee and migrant rights. As part of the Turkish Government's crackdown post the failed coup, more than 90 journalists have been arrested, 2,500 civil servants have been sacked, while opposition MPs have been imprisoned. In the light of this, can Ireland, as an EU member state, really designate Turkey as a safe country to which to send people who flee the conflict in Syria and beyond? Does the Minister not see the paradox in supporting the EU-Turkey migration deal while calling for countries to abide by humanitarian laws and ensure refugees' rights are upheld?

The Deputy raises an important issue in so far as Turkey is concerned. The European Union and its member states, including Ireland, are keeping the situation in Turkey under close review in the light of negative trends in that country. As a candidate country for membership of the European Union, I expect, as do my international colleagues, Turkey to adhere to essential democratic norms and respect what we might describe as the core values of the Union. A regression from these norms and values would cause me great concern. I have raised this issue a number of times at international fora. With our European colleagues, Ireland is considering how best to influence Turkey and encourage a commitment to return to respecting fundamental freedoms and core human rights.

I appreciate the Minister's response, but is he, on behalf of the Government and the people, happy to continue supporting the EU-Turkey migration deal in the light of the recent events in Turkey? He has stated there are negative trends in Turkey. They have been evident for some time if one considers the actions of the Turkish army in northern Syria and the crackdown on the opposition and the free press. Representatives of the National Union of Journalists have appeared before the foreign affairs committee, on which Deputy Seán Crowe and I sit. This is a serious matter. The idea of Turkey even aspiring at this time to accede to membership of the European Union is ridiculous. The best message the Government can send is that it should extricate itself from the EU-Turkey migration deal. These third country arrangements are not good because they undermine the rights of refugees and migrants. Turkey is not providing a safe haven for people in need.

A unilateral withdrawal from the EU-Turkey deal would not be in migrants' best interests. The deal is far from perfect, but since it was agreed to, there has been an alleviation of the plight of the many hundreds of thousands of migrants in the region.

I assure the Deputy that Ireland will continue to play an important role in the debate on Turkey, its relationship with the European Union and its possible status as an accession state. It is important that we send a clear and united signal to it on our concerns which I had the opportunity to make on behalf of the Government and the people and those of the European Union. However, I invite the Deputy to agree with me on the importance of keeping open channels of communication with Turkey in order to establish a framework so as to ensure the best interests of the and those of the European Union and migrants are kept to the fore.

North-South Ministerial Council

Seán Crowe

Question:

22. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the matters discussed in his meetings with political parties in Stormont on 3 November 2016; and if he will provide a report on the North-South Ministerial Council meeting that took place on 18 November 2016. [36557/16]

I have tabled this question following last week's North-South Ministerial Council which all sides broadly agree was positive. A set of principles were agreed to on how to move forward. Will the Council be the vehicle used to discuss Brexit issues between the Executive and the Government and are there plans to have more regular meetings?

The Taoiseach and I visited Belfast on 3 November for a series of meetings with political parties. We met the deputy First Minister, Mr. Martin McGuinness, MLA; the Sinn Féin President, Deputy Gerry Adams, the SDLP leader, Mr. Colum Eastwood, MLA, and colleagues; the UUP leader, Mr. Mike Nesbitt, MLA, and colleagues, and Alliance Party MLAs, Mr. David Ford and Dr. Stephen Farry. The Taoiseach also met the First Minister, Ms Arlene Foster, MLA, in Dublin on 15 November.

Each of these meetings was an important opportunity to speak directly with political leaders in Northern Ireland as part of the Government's continuing engagement with the Executive and other parties, with a view to working together to prepare for and manage the shared, all-island impacts of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the and those of the European Union. We emphasised the Government's commitment to playing its full role, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, in support of continued peace, prosperity and deeper reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

We also discussed what special arrangements might be required to take account of the unique situation of Northern Ireland in the upcoming negotiations within the European Union on the departure of the United Kingdom from the Union.

As the Deputy outlined, the UK departure from the Union was also a major focus of the North-South Ministerial Council, NSMC, plenary meeting last Friday. The Government and Northern Ireland Executive agreed to continue to work closely together to optimise North-South planning in the phases preceding and following the UK withdrawal from the European Union. In terms of taking forward the necessary work, the NSMC agreed that the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive will be guided by some common principles. It also agreed that this work would be taken forward through continuing bilateral discussions within the NSMC at sectoral level, as well as through a high-level working group comprising senior officials from the Government and from the Northern Ireland Executive.

In addition to our discussions on Brexit, we also reviewed progress on the implementation of the Fresh Start agreement, commitments on cross-Border infrastructure projects and on the cross-Border partnership arrangements, developed by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council. I am pleased that my Department has played a leading role in that regard by contributing €2.5 million to the North West Development Fund.

Does the Minister accept that Brexit undermines the institutional, constitutional and legal integrity and status of the Good Friday Agreement? Has the Government done an impact assessment on what Brexit could mean for the Good Friday Agreement? We all agree the Good Friday political institutions, human rights guarantees and all-Ireland bodies, the constitutional and legal rights of the people to exercise their right to self-determination and a united Ireland through consent by referendum North and South must be protected.

We also agree that the peace process is still very fragile. There are many unresolved legacy issues. Acht na Teanga has not been implemented. There are outstanding human rights concerns and there are problems with prisons. Sectarianism is rife. Issues also arise on parades, flags and emblems. A considerable amount of work remains to be done and the problem is Brexit brings uncertainty, division and doubt. Has the Government undertaken an assessment of the potential impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement?

I very much agree with the Deputy that we have many challenges in respect of Northern Ireland, the fragile political process and the institutions as established under the Good Friday Agreement. The Deputy is correct that it is essential in the context of Brexit that we ensure the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement as a legally binding international document.

It is fair to say that while at last week’s North-South Ministerial Council the dominant agenda item was Brexit, other issues were also discussed. In the context of the other issues I adverted to progress in the Fresh Start agreement, the Stormont House Agreement and at last week’s meeting, the council received an update on the progress being made on the implementation of the various commitments under those agreements and some issues that remain unimplemented from the Good Friday Agreement itself from 1998. The plenary meeting also reviewed the major economic and social developments which had occurred in both parts of the island since our last meeting in July 2016. I share the Deputy’s concern that this is something of a challenging agenda. I intend to be in Belfast on a couple of occasions between now and the Christmas recess.

The Minister’s time has expired.

We have a very full agenda with particular reference to the issues as raised.

Has the Government undertaken an assessment of the potential impact of the damaging effect and possible breaches of the Good Friday Agreement? Has the Minister briefed other EU governments on the issue?

Ambassadors have appeared before committees and spoken about the great sympathy that exists for this country, but what exactly does that mean in terms of possible practical outcomes in terms of the Good Friday Agreement?

One practical example is the consequence of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom for the Border counties. That is an issue on which my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, has been particularly anxious to ensure is a priority focus of his engagement.

I described our meeting last week of the North-South Ministerial Council as being a Brexit impact assessment where we had Ministers from Dublin responsible for a wider range of Departments meeting with their counterparts and engaging fully on the consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union, with particular reference to agriculture, fisheries, food, energy and jobs. I do not believe any Department will not be impacted in some way by the challenge. As well as that, we have the issues of the Good Friday Agreement. The status of the Good Friday Agreement is an overriding principle for any negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union that refer specifically to Northern Ireland.

I ask Members to be conscious of the time constraints because we will be depriving Members at the end of the queue.

Brexit Issues

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

23. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his Department's plans in preparation for Article 50 being triggered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36374/16]

While Fianna Fáil and all parties here fully respect the result of the British referendum, we are deeply concerned about the negative impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and the effect that will have on the entire island of Ireland economically, politically and socially. With that in mind, I ask the Minister to outline his Department’s plans in preparation for Article 50 being submitted and triggered, and to comment on his view of the level of preparedness within the Government.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union provides the legal framework for withdrawal by a member state. The British Prime Minister, Mrs. May, has said that she intends to trigger Article 50 not later than the end of March next year. An agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom on British withdrawal has to be concluded within two years. Further negotiations on a future UK-EU relationship are going to be particularly complex and multifaceted and may well last considerably longer. I should be clear that in preparing for Ireland’s participation in future negotiations, the Government’s priorities remain the same, namely, to protect the interests of our citizens, with particular regard to Northern Ireland and the peace process, the common travel area, North-South and British-Irish trade and co-operation and our economy. It is also essential that we contribute positively to the debate on the future of the European Union itself.

Given the cross-cutting nature of the EU-UK dossier, a number of divisions within my Department are devoting a considerable share of their resources to the key issues involved. They include the EU division, the Ireland, United Kingdom and Americas division, the legal division and the trade division. The overall departmental effort is led and co-ordinated by the Secretary General and by the Department’s management board, a sub-committee of which meets on a weekly basis.

With respect to the Article 50 negotiations, the EU division of the Department, which was re-established further to a Government decision in July, is leading preparations within the framework of the whole-of-government approach to Brexit, which is led by the Department of the Taoiseach and to which I referred in response to a previous question from Deputy Crowe.

Now that we have the beginnings of a concrete timeline for Article 50, our work on analysing the implications of a UK exit from the European Union, which began over two years ago, and on preparing for the Article 50 negotiations has intensified. There is daily contact with the Department of the Taoiseach and there is also close engagement with other Departments, many of which have established Brexit teams. In addition, there is also daily contact with our permanent representation in Brussels.

I thank the Minister for that rather vague outline of the level of preparedness within the Government. I tabled a series of parliamentary questions that deal with the facts, the answers to which I have received. The Minister mentioned that the Department of the Taoiseach is leading the approach on Brexit. In reply to a parliamentary question I tabled I was pretty stunned to hear the Cabinet committee on Brexit established under the Taoiseach has only met three times on 8 September, 19 October and 7 November and is due to meet again tomorrow.

Does the Minister believe the fact that it took the committee three months after the referendum result to actually meet shows any degree of urgency or priority? I am reminded of the phrase "fail to prepare, prepare to fail" because that is where we are right now. This is why we in Fianna Fáil firmly believe in the need for a Minister for Brexit to co-ordinate what is happening across Departments. For this committee to have met only three times since the referendum result does not give me any great confidence that this Government is prepared for the potential risks and, in some cases, the potential opportunities of Brexit for this country.

On the contrary, rather than my reply being vague, there is an unprecedented amount of detailed planning across a range of Departments on the matter of the Brexit challenge. It is natural that the Taoiseach, who leads the overall Government response, should be the lead figure. He has chaired all three meetings of the new Cabinet committee on Brexit, which will meet again at 9 a.m. tomorrow. I have a particular role with reference to Northern Ireland and relations with our EU partners which is also complemented by the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy. There have been actions on our part also, such as reinforcing our embassies in London, Paris and Berlin as well as our permanent representation to the EU in Brussels.

We discussed the matter of a Minister for Brexit previously. Not only would a separate Minister for Brexit be completely unnecessary, the creation of such a post would, as we see from the UK experience, cause significant administrative disruption at a time when we need to be focused on substance. I welcome the support from Deputy Darragh O'Brien and his party on this issue.

This is an important issue for our country, North and South, so the Minister will have whatever support we can give but the Government must show leadership in this regard. I put it to the Minister that three meetings of the Cabinet committee on Brexit, which is the all-powerful Brexit committee, since the referendum result is outrageous. It does not show any degree of priority or urgency.

I found the all-Ireland meeting in the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham most beneficial. It involved hearing views from across all sectors of our society, North and South, but I would like to see a plan emanating from that. Could the Minister outline the next steps? I thought the forum was a most useful event and I welcomed it on the day. I commend the Minister for that. However, I still have genuine concerns. I look forward to continuing to engage with the Minister and his Department. I tabled a series of questions across all Departments. The average number of meetings held by Brexit committees within the Departments is about two. That is not sufficient.

It is appropriate for me to repeat that there is daily contact among senior officials across a range of Departments with the Department of the Taoiseach as the lead Department, and close engagement with other Departments. Many Departments have already established dedicated Brexit teams to deal with this issue. I am happy to brief the Deputy at any stage on our progress and engagement.

I welcome his comments about the all-island civic dialogue. It was a most successful day. I also welcome the contribution of his party and his party leader in particular. It is one of a series of engagements. Having evaluated many of the issues raised, we are now into sectoral mode and there will be a number of sectoral meetings, particularly in Border areas. I hope we will have a level of engagement with civil society up and down the country in a listening exercise but also demonstrating the type of leadership we have seen from the Taoiseach on this issue since the vote on 23 June.

Human Rights Cases

Seán Crowe

Question:

24. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) who is a member of the Turkish Parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, who was due to visit Ireland on 14 November 2016 for three days; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that while the person was in Brussels carrying out diplomatic work for the HDP, his passport was revoked by the Turkish authorities and a warrant for his arrest issued in Turkey; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 11 HDP MPs have already been imprisoned in Turkey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36558/16]

Last week, I met with a representative of the Peoples' Democratic Party, HDP, to discuss the political repression the party is facing in Turkey as well as the Turkish Government's severe violation of international human rights law. I had planned to meet with HDP MP Faysal Saryldz but he is currently stranded in Brussels because his passport was revoked by the Turkish authorities. Is the Minister aware of the case and the arrest of the 11 MPs from Mr. Saryldz's party?

I have repeatedly stated my serious concerns about the deteriorating situation in Turkey, including its impact on the lives of the Kurdish population. The increasing tensions in the south east of the country are deeply troubling and I am also gravely concerned at the mounting threat to civil society by breaches of human rights and democratic norms. On 4 November, I issued a statement in which I explicitly expressed my concern at the arrest of the co-chairs and other democratically elected members of the pro-Kurdish HDP party in the early hours of 4 November. The arrest of these parliamentarians was made possible by the lifting of parliamentary immunity from some 130 members of the Turkish Assembly in May of this year. Ireland shares the view of the EU that parliamentary immunity must be applied equally to all members of the Turkish parliament.

I am aware of the specific case to which the Deputy refers. Officials of my Department met members of the HDP last week and I know that several members of the House also met the delegation. The HDP representatives presented a very stark case, in particular on the circumstances surrounding the detention of democratically elected representatives from Kurdish areas and the restrictions on the Kurdish media as well as the deteriorating security situation in the south east of Turkey in particular. They also detailed the circumstances of the individual in question and highlighted his concerns about the very negative trends that we are seeing in Turkey.

I have repeatedly called for a return to dialogue to allow the political process to resolve the Kurdish issue to resume. In a strong statement issued on 8 November, the EU was critical of Turkey’s recent actions and the direction of recent developments and called again on Turkey to resume political dialogue to resolve the Kurdish situation.

The HDP is the third largest party in the Turkish Parliament. I was due to meet Mr. Faysal Saryldz last week. He was travelling around different European capitals. I think he was also due to meet Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. He did not arrive because his passport was revoked. The worrying thing about this case is the fact that he was travelling around European capitals detailing the mass killings of Kurdish civilians by the Turkish military in his home city of Cizre. Revoking his passport seems to be a crude attempt to silence him. The Turkish security forces sealed off Cizre and denied access to food and water and 120 people were killed. People compared it to Kobanî after the attack by Daesh. What can the Irish Government do about this? I heard what the Minister said about what has been happening in Europe but what can we do as an independent country?

I have repeatedly called for a return to dialogue to allow the political process to resume. The Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, also emphasised this issue during the extensive debate on Turkey which took place at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 14 November. I have also clearly stated Ireland’s position at the Foreign Affairs Council and the Council of Europe where I engaged directly with the Turkish Foreign Minister. The European Commission’s annual report on Turkey, which was published on 9 November, is critical of Turkey on the core issues of rule of law and fundamental rights, including minority rights. I share that concern. Ministers will discuss the report at the December meeting of the EU General Affairs Council.

The EU is currently considering how best to influence Turkey and to encourage a commitment to the return to democratic norms and respect for fundamental freedoms.

Faysal Saryldz was a witness to the mass killing of citizens and gross human rights violations. He was travelling around telling people what was happening. I ask the Minister to raise the issue of the warrant for his arrest and the revoking of his passport with the Turkish foreign Minister. He is not the only one who has been put in this position. I referred to the 11 MPs. Will the Minister call for their release? These were people doing the work they were elected to do.

Another worrying development is that trustees of the AKP, the governing party, are being appointed to run the municipality and all powers are being transferred to them. In the wider community we are getting reports of a build-up of aggressive rhetoric against the Kurdish population's representatives. I am concerned that the next step could be a civil war in Turkey if this repression continues. I ask the Minister to raise wherever he can the arrests of these parliamentarians and particularly the revoking of Faysal Saryldz's passport.

I would be happy to raise the issue the Deputy mentioned. I am scheduled to meet the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Muižnieks, tomorrow. I will discuss with him his views on the pathway forward in terms of commitments already made to Turkey as a member of the Council of Europe. I will continue to raise these issues at every opportunity, particularly since the attempted coup in Turkey in July. I would be pleased to keep the House fully informed of developments as they occur.

I thank the Minister for his reply. The HDP is a victim of its own success in that having reached a certain threshold in the Turkish parliamentary system, its members have since been targeted. That is the reality. Turkey does not have a democracy; clearly it is a one-party state. Unfortunately the Kurds are at the front line of the attacks in that regard.

Middle East Issues

Seán Sherlock

Question:

25. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action he will take internationally and within the EU to ensure that the Israeli Government ceases to demolish Palestinian-owned buildings in the West Bank and halts the forced relocation of Palestinians. [36375/16]

The European Union has invested significantly in buildings and services in the West Bank. Up to June 2016, the Israeli military has demolished up to $74 million worth of EU-funded structures. Is Ireland's policy and, by extension, that of the European Union sustainable? Do we have the means to influence an outcome to stop this deliberate Israeli policy?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important ongoing issue. I have consistently called for the Israeli Government to cease demolishing Palestinian structures, including houses and infrastructure such as water and power structures and animal housing, in the West Bank and elsewhere. We have also made known our opposition to forced relocations of Palestinians. This practice is growing in intensity at a time when international opinion has repeatedly called for an end to provocative actions on the ground. Already this year, demolitions reached their highest level since the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs began detailed recording in 2009.

In deliberations on the Middle East peace process earlier this year, the EU's Foreign Affairs Council reiterated its "strong opposition" to actions taken in the context of Israel's settlement policy, including demolitions and confiscations and forced transfers of people. The EU delegations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have raised the issue of demolitions with COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and have issued statements locally condemning demolitions on behalf of all EU member states.

EU missions, including the Irish mission, are active on the ground in trying to protect vulnerable communities, including through numerous diplomatic visits to sites and communities threatened with demolition or forced relocation. Such visits serve to highlight the threats faced by these people, to ensure visibility of their position and to demonstrate solidarity with them. In this regard Ireland participated in a visit this month to the Bedouin villages of Khan Al Ahmar and Abu Nuwar, and in another visit in August to the South Hebron Hills.

It is not possible to physically prevent demolitions or for us to be present everywhere at all times. I assure the Deputy of Ireland's engagement in this regard, bilaterally and also at EU level.

By any objective analysis Irish Aid on the ground and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been proactive in directly assisting communities in the West Bank and across Palestine over many years. There is an area called Area C comprising 60% of the West Bank. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which is co-ordinated by the World Council of Churches, claims that Israel retains near-exclusive control, including over law enforcement, planning and construction. An important part of Area C has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military at the expense of Palestinian communities. Just this month 35 people, one third of them children, were displaced following forcible transfer actions.

At what stage does the European Union or the United Nations stop expressing its concerns? What logical action can we take? If we have invested so much time, money and resources in assisting these people, at what stage do we shout "Stop"?

The Deputy made specific reference to Area C. It is important that we acknowledge the situation there in terms of confiscations and demolitions. I would be anxious that Ireland, along with our EU colleagues, would play a lead role in requesting compensation in respect of Area C issues. While I know the European Union has not reached a final decision on that, from our perspective it is not inappropriate for a measure of compensation to be paid to those people who have faced serious consequences. We are stronger when we act in tandem with our EU partners. From time to time the approach of some of our partners will differ from ours. Agreement has not yet been reached on some of the specifics, but Ireland has continually argued for a strong response to these practices and I assure the House that I will continue to do so.

I welcome the Minister's response in proactively seeking compensation through the European Union. Israeli civil administration data reveal that only 1.5% of requests for building permits submitted by Palestinians in Area C between 2010 and 2014 were approved, and none were approved in 2015. Perhaps the European Union and by extension Ireland, through the good offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, can continue to press that issue with the Israeli authorities.

The demolitions, unacceptable as they are, need to be placed in the wider context of the settlement issue, on which I have made my position clear in this House and outside. I had the opportunity of speaking directly to the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, when I met him in his office in June.

The continuing expansion of illegal settlements, in effect, threatens the viability of the two-state solution and the overall Middle East peace process. Next week in Paris, I will have the opportunity to discuss with my French counterpart, Jean Marc Ayrault, his Government's efforts to inject new momentum into the peace process.

I am pleased Ireland was invited earlier this year to an initiative by the French Government to inject new momentum into this stalled process. I will be discussing the issue next week and I would be happy to provide details of the next steps to the House.