As the Deputy will be aware, I this year visited Luxemburg and Belgium as part of the Government’s St. Patrick’s Day Travel Programme.
I visited Luxembourg on 14 March 2013 and engaged in a full programme of activities, including a visit to a promotion of Irish food and drink at a local hypermarket, a courtesy call on Luxembourg's Minister for Finance, Mr Luc Frieden, and a meeting at the European Investment Bank with the President, Mr. Werner Hoyer, and Vice President, Mr. Jonathan Taylor. I was also the guest of honour and gave a keynote address at the Embassy’s official St. Patrick’s Day function in Circle Cité in Luxembourg.
I travelled to Belgium on Friday 15 March 2013 and met with Hendrik Bogaert, State Secretary for Civil and Public Service Modernisation. I also had an opportunity to build on trade contacts and meet with members of the Irish community in Belgium. I held a meeting with the Commissioner General for World War 1 commemorations and finally, on the evening of 15 March 2013, I was guest of honour and gave the keynote speech to the official Belgian Embassy St. Patrick’s Day function in the BOZAR Centre, an event that attracted over 600 guests.
I am sure that the Deputy will agree that the importance of these visits, which are aimed at promoting Ireland and enhancing the existing relationships between our countries, cannot be underestimated given the current economic climate.