An informal meeting of Ministers of Employment and Social Policy was held in Galway on 16 January. Ministers and their officials attended from the 15 EU member states, the 10 accession states, the three applicant states and Norway. In addition, representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council secretariat attended. The meeting focused on the theme, "Making Work Pay", which is a key priority for the member states of the European Union and a core objective in the EU level process to support the modernisation of social protection systems.
The meeting was preceded by a Council troika meeting on 15 January, attended by Ministers from the Netherlands and Luxembourg together with representatives of the EU Commission, the European Parliament, the Council secretariat, the social partners and the social platform of NGOs. There was a fruitful discussion on the issues of "Adaptability and Change" and "Making Work Pay."
The informal and troika meetings were held in the Corrib Great Southern Hotel and both were co-chaired by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Coughlan, and me. The Presidency papers which provided the basis for the discussion at the meetings and the conclusions from the meetings are posted on the official Irish Presidency website atwww.eu2004.ie.
The delegations and their supporting staff were accommodated in the following hotels: Great Southern, Eyre Square, Corrib Great Southern, Flannery's Hotel and the Westwood House Hotel. As joint presidents of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, and in line with established practice, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and I co-hosted a dinner for the delegations and guests on 15 and 16 January in the Ardilaun House Hotel and the Radisson Hotel respectively. Lunch was provided in the Corrib Great Southern Hotel. Evening entertainment was provided by Con Tempo, the Inisbofin Ceilidh Band, Macnas, Kathleen Loughnane, Celtic Legends and Eleanor Shanley. Norita Ni Chartúir compered the entertainment programme on 16 January. Sponsorship for the bulk of the entertainment programme was provided by Galway Chamber of Commerce, Galway City Council, Galway County Council, Tourism West and the Radisson Hotel.
The budget for the informal and troika meetings was €670,000 to be funded jointly by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and my own Department. As all invoices have not yet been received I am not in a position to give definitive costs for the event but I expect it to be within budget.