Overseas Development Aid Provision

Questions (68, 69, 74)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

68. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is committed to spending 70 cent in every €100 on overseas aid by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29513/13]

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Dominic Hannigan

Question:

69. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is still committed to Ireland meeting the commitment to spend 0.7% of our GDP on foreign aid by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29569/13]

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Billy Timmins

Question:

74. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will achieve its commitment to spend just 70 cent in every €100 on overseas aid by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29697/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 69 and 74 together.

The Government is strongly committed to Ireland’s overseas aid programme. Our new Policy on International Development, “One World, One Future”, clearly sets out our vision for a sustainable and just world, and our goals and areas of focus for the coming years. It reaffirms the Government’s commitment to international development and its centrality to our foreign policy.

The new policy restates the commitment in the Programme for Government to achieving the UN target of providing 0.7% of Gross National Product (GNP) for Official Development Assistance (ODA). Over the past two years, the Government has broadly stabilised the budget for development assistance. This is a significant achievement in the context of the very difficult economic conditions facing the country. We have allocated a total of €622 million for ODA for 2013. We will continue to work to maintain aid expenditure broadly at current levels until economic circumstances permit us to make further progress towards achieving the 0.7% target.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (70)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

70. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the decision by the President of the United States of America to arm rebel forces in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29589/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have noted the decision by President Obama on 14 June to review current US support to the Syrian civilian opposition and, in particular, expand US assistance to the Syrian Supreme Military Council to include military assistance.

Given the continuous deterioration of the Syrian crisis with a death toll now estimated at more than 93,000 and an unprecedented humanitarian emergency now affecting Syria and its neighbours, I continue to remain very firmly of the view that the provision of further arms and weapons is unlikely to assist current international efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully. On the contrary, such a step runs the clear risk of contributing to further violence and militarisation of the conflict as well as initiating an arms race in and outside Syria, with daunting consequences for the stability and security of the wider region.

Ireland's view remains that what is now required is a strategy of de-escalation of the violence in Syria and the pursuit of wide-ranging diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing all sides to the negotiating table to agree on a political solution to the crisis. Ireland and the EU have expressed their full support to the recent US-Russia initiative to convene an international conference on Syria (Geneva II) with a view to mapping out a genuine transition towards democracy in Syria. In its May 27 Conclusions, the Foreign Affairs Council, which I attended, urged both sides to respond positively to the US-Russia initiative and to engage openly in a genuine process of negotiation. It also reaffirmed that the EU will spare no effort in helping to create the appropriate conditions for a successful convening of the conference.

Ireland will continue to work with all European and international partners, including the US, towards achieving a peaceful political settlement of the Syrian crisis and towards mobilising all possible assistance on the part of the international community to address the appalling humanitarian crisis.

Diplomatic Representation Issues

Questions (71)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

71. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline Ireland's diplomatic relations with Abkhazia; if recognition of such has been discussed with his colleagues from other EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29594/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland and its EU partners support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. In that context the issue of recognition of, or diplomatic relations with, Abkhazia does not arise.

European Council Meetings

Questions (72)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

72. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the preparations he and his Department have made to date in advance of the European Council summit in December 2013 that will play host to a substantive debate on European security and defence matters; if he can outline at this juncture what stage discussions within his Department have reached; his views on whether this summit may change the nature of public debate here regarding collective security and defence in the EU, given the recent comments by President of the Council, Herman Van Rompuy that the EU needs a long-term and more systematic approach to co-operation in this policy field; if pooling of Irish defence resources is going to be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29617/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The European Council in December 2013 will include a thematic discussion on security and defence issues. The European Council on 13-14 December 2012 adopted conclusions inviting the High Representative, notably through the European External Action Service and the European Defence Agency, as well as the Commission, all acting in accordance with their respective responsibilities and cooperating closely as required, to develop further proposals and actions to strengthen CSDP and improve the availability of the required civilian and military capabilities, and to report on such initiatives, at the latest by September 2013, with a view to the December 2013 European Council. The European Council underlined three issues: increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of CSDP; enhancing the development of defence capabilities; and strengthening Europe’s defence industry. Discussions on these three areas have been ongoing during the Irish Presidency of the European Council at ministerial and official level. Last month my colleague the Minister for Defence hosted a seminar in Dublin the theme of which was December’s European Council. At the May Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign Ministers had a discussion on CSDP in the context of preparations for December’s European Council. During that discussion I highlighted the importance of providing a clear foreign policy direction to the December European Council discussions, and to ensuring that the EU had the capabilities it needed to carry out its activities under CSDP. I also stressed that the role of civilian CSDP Missions should form a component of discussions at the European Council. High Representative Ashton will produce report on these initiatives by September and the European Commission will issue a Communication on a Global Strategy for strengthening Europe’s Defence Industry shortly. These documents will form the basis for debate of the conclusions for the European Council.

Member States will continue to remain closely involved in this process. Ireland’s approach will continue to be framed by the considerations which are set out in the “Protocol on the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon”. This Protocol states clearly that the EU’s common security and defence policy does not prejudice the security and defence policy of each Member State, including Ireland, or the obligations of any Member State, and that the Treaty of Lisbon does not affect or prejudice Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.

Common Foreign and Security Policy

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 68.

Questions (73)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

73. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if co-ordination of EU member states' policies at the United Nations General Assembly is the responsibility of the member state holding the Presidency of the EU, which Ireland is right now, or the responsibility of the European External Action Service delegation to the UN; if it is the responsibility of member states, the role Ireland has played in this over the past six months of the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29619/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009 altered the institutional arrangements for the external representation of the European Union. The creation of the role of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the establishment of the European External Action Service ( EEAS) to support the work of the High Representative, significantly reduced the role of the rotating EU Presidency in Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) matters.The EU gained enhanced observer status at the United Nations in May 2011 when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/65/276 upgrading the status of the European Union's participation in the United Nations. This resolution allows EU representatives to present common positions of the European Union to the General Assembly. The European External Action service is responsible for coordinating common positions of the European Union at the United Nations. European Union Member States coordinate closely to advance common EU positions at the United Nations.

As Presidency, Ireland has worked closely with the European External Action Service to promote greater effectiveness and coherence in EU policy at the United Nations.

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 68.