Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (159)

Charlie O'Connor


288 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans his Department has to promote Ireland's EU Presidency with the Irish public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2799/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Promoting the Irish Presidency of the European Union to the public is a key priority of Ireland's EU Presidency programme and forms part of a wider commitment by the Government to communicating information about the EU to the public. Since the start of the Presidency last month, the Department of Foreign Affairs has undertaken a range of initiatives to promote public awareness of developments in the European Union that will take place during Ireland's Presidency. Included in this will be the transmission on RTE 1 in January of "Europe — How are You?", a two part television series which reviewed the enlargement of the EU which will take place during Ireland's EU Presidency and the debate on the draft constitutional treaty. These programmes were supported by the Communicating Europe Initiative, CEI, which is managed by the Department, and attracted a combined audience of over half a million viewers. Over the coming weeks, videocassettes of the programmes will be distributed to post-primary schools, NGOs, the National Forum on Europe and our embassies abroad.

CEI is also supporting a new information initiative which will provide an insight into meetings and events taking place during the Irish Presidency from a citizen's perceptive. This initiative has just been launched and will provide a range of information on meetings, conferences and events taking place across Ireland during the Presidency. These reports will feature in local and regional newspapers, on local radio and on the Presidency website.

The Presidency website, which is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, features a range of user-friendly information on all aspects of the Presidency from details of events and meeting venues across Ireland to the latest press releases on developing issues. A specific section of the site has been dedicated to providing information about the Presidency and the EU to young people. The site also allows users to personalise web pages and receive updates on developing issues through SMS and e-mail alerts. The site also contains background information on Ireland's Presidency priorities including the IGC and enlargement, and on the EU, its history and structures.

My Department has also funded the development of an educational resource for second and third level business students — this resource uses the Presidency as a business case study. A link is also provided to the Presidency website, which means that students have access to a comprehensive and up to date information resource.

CEI is supporting a number of initiatives to promote the Presidency and the forthcoming enlargement of the EU with groups and organisations including young people and women. It is also supporting a number of local events organised by the Irish Countrywomen's Association taking place throughout Ireland focusing on the Irish Presidency and the enlargement of the European Union. An information leaflet summarising Ireland's Presidency goals and objectives will also be launched this month and will be distributed to schools, non-governmental organisations and to the wider public.

As Presidency, the Government is committed to better informing and engaging citizens in Ireland about developments in their Union. To this end, Minister of State, Deputy Roche, will chair a conference of Ministers from existing, acceding and candidate states on 7-8 April, to review existing EU information strategies and discuss how the EU might be communicated more effectively to its citizens. The Presidents of the European Commission and the European Parliament have also been invited to attend the conference. On the second day of the conference, Ministers will meet with a delegation from Ireland's National Forum on Europe to exchange views on how better to inform and engage citizens in the EU.

Over the coming months, the Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to work with other Departments in undertaking initiatives to promote greater public awareness about Ireland's Presidency of the European Union. The Department's press section will also continue to work closely with the Irish media on a daily basis to promote a greater understanding of EU and Presidency issues among the media and, by extension to the wider Irish public. The press section works in close collaboration with the Presidency press office in the Department of the Taoiseach to ensure full public awareness of the events organised across Ireland for the Irish Presidency.