Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (238)

Charlie O'Connor


355 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to report on his Department's activities in respect of Ireland's EU Presidency; if he will outline his plans for the next few months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1213/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The Department has been working closely with other Departments to develop, co-ordinate and carry out the programme for Ireland's EU Presidency. The Presidency programme was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas last December and was debated in the House on 20 January. The priorities for the Irish Presidency are to take forward work on the draft constitutional treaty; to ensure a smooth transition to a Union of 25 member states on 1 May and carry forward work on the wider enlargement process; to give renewed impetus to the Union's programme of economic, social and environmental reform; to advance the area of freedom, justice and security; and to carry out effectively the Union's international obligations, including in regard to development issues. The Department of Foreign Affairs is also actively involved in planning and logistical arrangements for the meetings that will take place in Ireland and elsewhere, as well as the organisation of sponsorship and management of the Presidency website.

During the Presidency Irish officials, including many from the Department of Foreign Affairs, will be called on to chair approximately 3,000 meetings in Brussels, Ireland and elsewhere. The majority of these meetings are working groups at official level which meet in order to progress the Union's agenda across the range of its activities. The calendar of Council meetings, which I and other Government colleagues will chair, has been deposited in the Oireachtas Library, as has the calendar of high level meetings which are being held in Ireland.

I will host an informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Tullamore on 16-17 April 2004. I will also host a meeting of the ASEM Foreign Ministers, which brings together EU Ministers and their Asian counterparts in April in Ireland and an informal euromed foreign ministerial, which provides an opportunity for dialogue between EU Foreign Ministers and their Mediterranean counterparts on 6-7 May 2004 in Dublin Castle. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Kitt, will host an international conference on HIV-AIDS in Europe in Dublin Castle on 23-25 February 2004 and a development co-operation ministerial meeting in Dublin on 1 June 2004. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Roche, will host a conference of Ministers for European Affairs on communicating Europe in Wicklow on 7-8 April 2004. The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the organisation and management of these meetings.

In addition, I will participate in ministerial troika meetings with, among others, the US, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, New Zealand, the African Union and ECOWAS. I have had a successful meeting in Ireland with the Foreign Minister of Australia. I recently visited the Middle East and held discussions on the Middle East peace process in Israel and in Egypt. I attended the inauguration of the new President of Georgia, Mikhila Saakashvili, in Tbilisi last weekend.

Work on the Presidency programme is being advanced through these meetings as well as through a wide range of bilateral contacts between Ministers and officials with their counterparts in the member states and other countries and with the EU institutions.

In addition to the work at the Department's headquarters and the permanent representation in Brussels, our other missions abroad also have important Presidency responsibilities. Our missions in third countries, for example, will chair meetings of the EU member state representatives in their countries of accreditation and will act on behalf of the EU in relations with their host Governments.