Foreign Conflicts

Questions (60)

Martin Ferris

Question:

60. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the upcoming legal trials of Basque political activists; his views on whether they could have a negative effect on the Basque-Spanish peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41175/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Policy on the placement and treatment of a country’s nationals in prison in the European Union is a matter for the democratically elected government and the relevant competent authorities in each Member State in accordance with domestic, European and international law, and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to become involved in the matter in question. As I have stated previously, the Government continues to support and encourage all efforts that are aimed at securing a definitive peace in the Basque Country.

EU Directives

Questions (61)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

61. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress he has made in creating a mechanism across Government to accelerate implementation of European directives, involving relevant Departments and the Attorney General’s office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41211/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The timely transposition of EU Directives is a priority for the Government. The Government has established an Interdepartmental Committee on EU Engagement (ICEE) to ensure active oversight of progress by Departments in transposition and implementation of EU legislation. The Committee is also charged with examining and improving overall working methods and the exchange of best practice in handling transposition cases. The Committee is chaired by the Minister of State for European Affairs and is attended by senior official representatives of all Government Departments, the Offices of the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Counsel and the Houses of the Oireachtas Service.

We have a much-improved record in the transposition of EU Directives since this Government took office. Much of the improvement is down to the work of the ICEE in proactively engaging with Departments on an ongoing basis in order to accelerate the implementation of EU law. In 2003, for example, Ireland’s transposition deficit stood at 2.4%, well above the EU average. This placed us seventh out of 15 Member States in terms of transposing EU Directives on time.

By December 2012, we had achieved a zero% transposition deficit score in the Internal Market Scoreboard as a result of transposing all Directives on time. We were only the second Member State to achieve this level of compliance since the Scoreboard was first compiled in 1997. We have since achieved a score of 0.3% - much better than the EU-wide average of 0.6% - in the most recent, May 2013, Scoreboard.

The work of the ICEE is a concrete example of the proactive and forward thinking engagement on EU matters which is a priority for the Government, and I wish the Committee continued success in its work.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (62)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

62. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the ongoing conflict in the Congo has been discussed at recent EU Foreign Affairs Council meetings. [41215/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region was discussed at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 22 July, which I attended. At that meeting the Council adopted comprehensive Conclusions in support of the ‘Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region’, which had been concluded in Addis Ababa on 24 February in the presence of the UN Secretary General. The Council Conclusions also welcomed the appointment of UN Special Envoy, Mary Robinson, to oversee the implementation of the Framework Agreement. The Council noted that these measures and other regional efforts constitute a window of opportunity that must be seized. The European Union will continue to pursue a strategic and comprehensive approach to the crisis in DRC, working through political and diplomatic engagement, development cooperation programmes, and support for the United Nations peacekeeping operations. The EU is also pursuing security sector reform programmes, through the EU Common Security and Defence Policy missions in the DRC. Ireland will also continue to play a constructive role. So far in 2013, Ireland has provided €3.8 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This assistance is being channelled through the UN, international organisations, and our NGO partners.

We have also funded two recent high level events in support of mediation efforts with the involvement of Special Envoy Mary Robinson. These events focussed on encouraging the participation of women in the implementation of the peace Framework. We will continue to examine ways in which we can support the implementation of the Framework Agreement.

Human Rights Issues

Questions (63)

Clare Daly

Question:

63. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take in response to the statement from the Council of Europe's human rights chief, Nils Muiznieks, on 11 September 2013, stating that countries like Ireland, which colluded with the kidnapping and torture of terror suspects by the CIA, must investigate and atone for their actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41059/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have clearly stated on numerous occasions that the use of Irish airspace and airports for extraordinary rendition operations has not, and will not, be permitted under any circumstances. The current Programme for Government states clearly that this Government “will enforce the prohibition of the use of Irish airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law”. Ireland does not tolerate, and will not tolerate, the use of our airspace or airports for any illegal purpose, including torture, rendition or the unauthorised detention of any individual. Ireland has cooperated fully with an investigation of the Council of Europe of the various allegations made in regard to secret prisons and extraordinary rendition. Out of forty-six responses received, Ireland’s was one of nine that was adjudged to be sufficiently comprehensive not to require additional clarification.

Recent reports on extraordinary renditions do not provide any new information or evidence to support its assertion that Ireland permitted such activity. In particular, they do not suggest that any person has been subjected to extraordinary rendition through Irish airspace and airports. It has been made clear by the current and previous Governments that such activity would be considered completely unacceptable and illegal by Ireland. I reiterate however that should anyone have evidence to suggest that any person subject to extraordinary rendition has transited through an Irish airport, this evidence should be made available to An Garda Síochána so that an investigation can take place.

Passport Application Fees

Questions (64)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

64. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the decreased cost in producing the new passports will result in a reduction in the cost for citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41180/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Yesterday I launched a redesigned Irish passport that incorporates images of Irish landscape and culture with innovative and enhanced security features. Over the lifetime of the contract for this booklet the average cost of the blank book will be halved. In these current economic times the procurement of an enhanced product from an Irish company at a lower cost to the Irish people is to be welcomed. Passport prices will not be reduced. At present all passport revenues received are returned to the exchequer. Furthermore, the Passport Service needs to replace the software and machinery used in the production of passports, both of which are nearing the end of their service. This will require additional investment over the coming period.

Syrian Conflict

Questions (65)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

65. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide further details on his commitment to provide Irish funding for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria; the persons that will receive the funding; and the way it will be spent. [41152/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Last Wednesday, 25 September, I announced that the Government will make a voluntary contribution of €200,000 in support of the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria. This funding will be provided to the trust fund established by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for that purpose. The practical implementation of the framework agreement brokered by the US and Russia on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons is to be the responsibility of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The OPCW is the body established by the Chemical Weapons Convention to oversee its implementation. This is a substantial contribution and it reflects both our commitment to ensuring that Syria’s chemical weapons can never again be used, against Syrians or anybody else, and our long-standing commitment to a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

Although the OPCW needs resources immediately to begin the process, the full picture of what is needed will become clearer in the coming days. Implementing the detailed destruction plan, which is to be finalised by 15 November, will clearly require substantial additional resources for the OPCW. Inspection activities to determine the full extent of the challenge and to inform the destruction plan began yesterday. The Government is open to the possibility of providing further assistance, either financial or practical, if it is within our means to do so.

European External Action Service

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 10.

Questions (66)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

66. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recent publication of Review 2013 by the European External Action Service, EEAS, two years after the creation of the body, discussing a range of short, medium and longer term proposals and suggestions for the organisation and functioning of the European Union's diplomatic corps; his views on whether the direction of its being more than a foreign ministry, combining elements of a development and defence ministry is the correct approach for a twenty-first century Europe; if he will outline Ireland's current deployment to the EEAS and detail Ireland's contribution over the first two years of existence of the EEAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41060/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The High Representative's Review of the European External Action Service (EEAS), was circulated to EU Foreign Ministers in late July. Ireland welcomes the opportunity to take stock of the performance of the EEAS following its first two and a half years in operation. The Review was the subject of discussions at the informal Foreign Ministers meeting which I co-hosted, together with Cathy Ashton, in Dublin in March of this year. The Review contains a large number of recommendations, some of which are already being implemented; others will require careful consideration in the period ahead. Ireland, along with other Member States, is currently reflecting upon these recommendations and their implications, which are being discussed at senior official level in Brussels.

Ireland supports a strong EEAS which fulfils the vision set out in the Lisbon treaty of an effective and coherent foreign policy. As such, we welcome the recommendation within the Review which emphasises that development policy expertise needs to be strengthened within the EEAS. Over the longer term, we believe that this has the potential to assist in the more effective integration of development into the EU’s overall foreign policy.

The publication of the EEAS Review is also timely and important in the context of the forthcoming European Council discussion on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Much progress has been made over the past nine months in reforming planning and administrative procedures which will ensure that the EU continues to develop a comprehensive approach to crisis management, and is in a position to respond quickly and effectively to crises as they emerge. There are currently seven Irish officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade serving with the EEAS. This is in line with the commitment to achieve one third representation by diplomats from the Member States in the EEAS and is reflective of Ireland's percentage of the EU population.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 10.

Overseas Development Aid Issues

Questions (68)

Seán Kyne

Question:

68. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the proportion of Irish Aid which is directed towards efforts to combat climate change, the effects of which are likely to be more intense in the developing world; and the projects operated or supported by Irish Aid. [41096/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In 2012, over € 33 million of Irish Aid programme funding was directed to actions to address the impact of climate change on developing countries. The Government's new policy for international development,One World, One Future’ , recognises that the majority of the world’s poor are directly reliant on the environment for their survival. We aim to meet our commitments to reducing hunger and poverty by putting the issue of climate change at the heart of our programmes. Reducing the impact of climate change is intrinsically linked to development and our ability to tackle global hunger. We have prioritised reducing global hunger and climate change in our new policy .

Irish Aid supports programmes to adapt agricultural nutritious food production to changing climatic conditions to assure long-term sustainability of food for poor farmer households. Several programmes support the development of integrated farming systems and food crop diversification to maintain a nutritious diet for rural families. Climate adaptation is key to improving the production of sufficient nutritious food and fuel for poor households while sustaining the fertility of the land and maintaining the natural and water resources.

In our key partner countries, Ireland supports sustainable resource management, agricultural research into climate-smart agriculture and conservation agriculture to protect soil fertility and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and pastoralists. Irish Aid prioritises promoting sustainable development and programmes include funding for social protection schemes, income diversification projects, and projects that promote empowerment of local residents in urban areas on the issues of saving energy, reducing waste and water use.

Irish Aid supports the promotion of solar light and water pumping systems in Ethiopia and energy efficient cookstoves programmes in both Malawi and Ethiopia. We also support a number of countries to increase the accuracy and use of long-term weather forecasts in agricultural planning, and to reduce the impact of disasters on local communities.