Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (54, 55, 56)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

49 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has studied the details of the address made by Lord Ashdown at the recent joint meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committees on European Union Affairs and Foreign Affairs and Trade; his views on Lord Ashdown’s statement and if he shares Lord Ashdown’s concerns regarding the lack of progress towards normalisation and stability in Bosnia; his views that the federal structure of the state is being threatened by secessionists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4442/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I have not yet had the opportunity to study the details of Lord Ashdown's address but I am aware of media reports of his comments to the joint meeting. I would agree that the pace of progress on necessary constitutional and political reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina in recent years has been disappointing. It is important that the newly formed government gives fresh impetus to domestic reforms to ensure Bosnia-Herzegovina moves forward on its path towards EU candidate status.

Safeguarding the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the cornerstone of the EU's policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EU has not hesitated to reject statements questioning the legitimacy of the country's post-Dayton institutions. Ultimately, the EU perspective of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the most powerful tool at the disposal of the international community to help build and maintain stability in the country. The EU is closely engaged in assisting Bosnia-Herzegovina to undertake the reforms necessary to achieve EU candidate status.

In terms of the EU's commitment to safeguarding stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I would also note the presence of EUFOR Althea, the EU military mission in the country. The mission of Operation Althea, to which Ireland has made a significant contribution over the years, is to provide a military presence in order to contribute to a safe and secure environment, deny conditions for a resumption of violence, and help to implement the Dayton agreement.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

50 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be in a position in his role as chairperson of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to contribute in any way towards the achievement of greater stability in Bosnia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4443/12]

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As Chairperson-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2012, I bear overall responsibility for the executive action of the Organisation and the co-ordination of its activities. In carrying out this role, I will offer my full support to the OSCE's extensive network of institutions and field operations working for regional stability throughout the Western Balkans, as well as the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

The OSCE has maintained a Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1995. Mandated by the Dayton Peace Accords, the Mission carries out vital projects in the areas of human rights, judicial reform and security sector capacity building. It has been supported in this work by a number of the OSCE's central institutions, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Strategic Police Matters Unit (SPMU), with whom it has provided training for members of the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies. I commend these operations and their important contribution to the ongoing reconciliation process in the country and wider region. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently attended the official closing of the OSCE Office in Zagreb in neighbouring Croatia. The Office's successful completion of its mandate is a testament not only to the progress made in the Western Balkans since the 1990s, but also to the effectiveness of OSCE field presences in fostering stability and democratic development in the region.

Ireland brings its own unique perspective on conflict resolution to its role as Chair. While recognising that the particular circumstances of all conflicts are very different and that no single set of lessons can provide all the answers, I hope that, where appropriate, we can share our own experience of the peace process in Northern Ireland with other members of OSCE. In my address to the OSCE Permanent Council earlier this month, I outlined my intention to host a conference in April this year presenting aspects of the Northern Ireland example as a case study. Invitations will be issued to all 56 OSCE participating States. In hosting this event, I hope that we can assist others who are engaged in similar peace building efforts throughout the OSCE area.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

51 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of his interest in and concern for the achievement of political, social and economic progress in Bosnia, if he will ensure the Bosnian situation is highlighted as one of Ireland’s priority issues during the 2013 EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4444/12]

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Work to identify priorities and emerging issues in policy areas that are likely to be of importance during Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013 has been ongoing for some time. While it is too early to identify the specific issues as Ireland's main Presidency priorities, enlargement is likely to be a significant item for Ireland's and the European Union's foreign policy agenda during the Presidency. Bosnia-Herzegovina is a potential candidate country for EU accession since the Thessaloniki European Council of June 2003 reaffirmed the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. As a first step, the Union signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2008 and this will enter into force once its ratification process has been completed. Work arising from this Agreement will continue throughout Ireland's EU Presidency.