Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (5)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

6 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives for which her Department has responsibility which have yet to be implemented; the number in respect of which the deadline for implementation has passed; if she has satisfied herself with the rate of compliance by her Department; the number of cases where legal actions have been notified or commenced by the EU Commission arising from a failure to implement a directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8064/04]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The current position in relation to the transposition of EU directives for which my Department is responsible indicates a total of 23 directives to be implemented, including seven for which the deadline for implementation, in full or in part, has passed.

Details of the directives, including, in so far as it has been decided, the proposed transposition instruments, are available on my Department's website atwww.entemp.ie/ecd/eudirectives The website also contains information on directives in respect of which infringement proceedings have been commenced.

In relation to one of the directives that has not yet been transposed and for which the deadline has passed, a letter of formal notice, under Article 226 of the treaty, has been issued by the European Commission. In the case of another three of the directives for which the deadline for implementation has also passed, reasoned opinions have been issued to the Commission.

My Department transposed 25 directives in 2003 and, to date this year, seven more have been transposed. I am satisfied that my Department is giving all due priority to the task of implementing EU directives, in light of the available resources.

The Minister of State said that, a formal notice under Article 226 was issued by the Commission in respect of one issue. What was that issue? Of the 23 directives, that have not been transposed, is it a fact that the majority relate to the health and safety sector? Why is it taking so long to transpose these directives, some of which go back to 1995, into Irish law? Is the Minister of State satisfied that sufficient attention is being paid by his Department to ensure that we are up to date?

These directives are agreed at Council of Ministers meetings, as well as being agreed by the European Parliament. The Department knows they are coming up, so why must we wait years before they take effect here? Will the Minister of State provide an assurance that the delays we have witnessed to date will not be replicated in future? As regards the seven directives for which the deadline has passed, will he indicate when specifically we can expect them to be transposed into Irish law?

The directive which has been the subject of a letter of formal notice is Directive 2000/34/EC, concerning aspects of the organisation of working time to cover sectors and activities excluded from the working time directive. While my Department has overall responsibility for employment rights legislation, the sectors covered by the directive involve three other Departments.

Significant progress was made in the transposition of directives by the Department in 2003. While I accept the valid criticism that progress had been slow up to then, a total of 25 directives were transposed in 2003, which compares favourably with 2002 when a totalof 16 directives were transposed. In addition, Ireland's position on the EU directives internal market scoreboard has shown a remarkable improvement. The latest figures published by the Commission on 12 January show that Ireland was in joint third place among EU member states. Ireland exceeded the EU target of a 1.5% deficit for the transposition of internal market directives. At the beginning of 2003 its deficit was 3.5% and ranked 13 of the 15 member states. By the end of 2003 Ireland's deficit was 1.4%. Therefore, the Department's transposition record last year contributed to a much improved performance. However, I accept further progress must be made to get up to speed and I assure the Deputy every effort is being made to do so.

I refer to the Taoiseach's statement at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis last weekend. Will the working time directive be renegotiated during the Presidency or will the directive be fully operational for all employees within the deadlines announced and agreed?

What is Ireland's negotiating position on the directive? Has the Department put forward proposals to its counterparts in Europe or have proposals been submitted to the Department in fulfilling its duties during the Presidency?

Two issues must be considered and sometimes there is a mix up in regard to both. The working time directive is being renegotiated by the European Commission because of decisions by the European Court of Justice, particularly in the Jaeger case. That is ongoing. I chaired a meeting of employment Ministers in Brussels last week during which we had a discussion on changes to the directive. There will be changes and Ireland is supportive of the general consensus in this regard.

Deputy Howlin is referring to doctors in training. The deadline for the transposition is 1 August. The Department of Health and Children is involved and it has commenced negotiations with the relevant organisations with a view to transposing the relevant provisions of the directive on time.