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Diplomatic Contacts.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 5 November 2008

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Questions (189, 190)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

274 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the EU will improve relations with Georgia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38706/08]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The EU has been involved in conflict resolution efforts in Georgia from the start of the recent crisis and has played a key role in every step which has reduced tensions there. The pledge of assistance made at the 22 October donor reconstruction conference for Georgia, which the EU co-sponsored, will help Georgia to develop economically and rebuild the damage done during the fighting in August.

More generally, Georgia's relations with the EU are addressed under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which is intended to share the European Union's stability, security and prosperity with neighbouring countries to the south and east of the EU. It supports respect for human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development. The ENP remains distinct from the issue of EU membership.

Given recent events, further moves to strengthen the relationship were decided at the extraordinary European Council meeting on 1 September. These include the possibility of the negotiation of a visa facilitation agreement and of a free trade agreement. Last month's European Council supported efforts to achieve modernisation and democratisation in eastern neighbourhood countries and instructed that proposals for a future ENP "Eastern Partnership" be submitted by the Commission later this month. Measures to further expand EU-Georgia relations in the economic, social and political spheres are likely to be included in this initiative.

I look forward to visiting Georgia myself later this month and hope to be in a position to assess how the EU, and Ireland nationally, can best develop relations with Georgia.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

275 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the attempts being made to establish better relations between the European Union and Russia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38707/08]

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EU-Russia relations have inevitably been affected by events in Georgia, which have pointed to a new and worrying stance by Russia in relation to its right to intervene to protect its interests and citizens. Both Russia and EU Member States must abide by the international standards they have themselves signed up to through the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe.

However, the EU and Russia share important economic, political and security interests and will remain interdependent and essential partners on many issues, including international matters such as Iran and North Korea. The EU accounts for over half of all Russian exports and provides most of the foreign direct investment in Russia. The bilateral relationship is also reflected in the energy sector, where the EU imports a third of its gas and a quarter of its oil from Russia. The EU remains open to developing its strategic relationship with Russia on the basis of mutual respect and regard for common values.

An in-depth evaluation of EU-Russian relations was called for in advance of the next scheduled EU-Russia Summit on 14 November. This evaluation will be discussed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council next Monday, 10 November. Both the evaluation and developments on Georgia will be taken into account in deciding whether to lift the suspension, originally agreed at the 1 September extraordinary European Council, on negotiations for a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia.

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