US Surveillance in EU Institutions

Questions (24)

Seán Fleming

Question:

24. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason the European External Action Service still has not received clarification from the United States authorities in relation to alleged surveillance by the United States at European Union offices; the reason he has not received clarification from the United States embassy in Dublin in relation to these allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41197/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Following allegations of US surveillance of European Union institutions earlier this year, the EU has engaged regularly with the US authorities in both Washington and Brussels to seek clarification on the issues raised. An EU-US High Level Expert Group on data protection has been established, where this and related matters are discussed. The EU is represented on this working group by the Commission, the Presidency of the Council and the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the work of the group is ongoing. In addition, the EEAS reported to EU Member States in July that High Representative (HR) Cathy Ashton had raised these allegations with both US Secretary of State John Kerry and with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I understand that HR Ashton intends to raise EU concerns again with her US interlocutors over the coming weeks. Ireland, through our Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels, is monitoring developments on this issue closely.

Ministerial Travel

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 14.

Questions (25)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

25. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the official foreign visits he or his Ministers of State have planned to the end of 2013; the proposed dates for these visits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41199/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Delivering an intensive programme of Ministerial-led trade missions is a key commitment in the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs in 2013. The number of Ministerial-led Enterprise Ireland trade missions conducted with the active support of the Embassy network has more than doubled over the past two years, up from eight in 2011 to eighteen this year. I undertook a political and trade mission to China (Beijing and Shanghai) from 30 July to 3 August 2013, at the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. The purpose of my visit was to strengthen the high-level political engagement necessary to deliver on the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Ireland and China. I also had a series of engagements focussed on supporting Irish companies doing business in China, promoting Ireland as a tourist destination, and promoting Ireland as the best investment location for Chinese businesses looking to expand in Europe. I will travel to London in November to speak at an Enterprise Ireland Financial Services Networking event.

My colleague, Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello, will lead an Enterprise Ireland Trade Mission to South Africa and Nigeria from 10 – 16 November. I visited New York from 24 to 29 September to participate in the General Assembly of the United Nations and to deliver an address to that body on Irish foreign policy priorities. The Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D. also travelled to New York from 21 to 26 September to participate in the General Assembly and attend events relating to the global development agenda. As outgoing Chair-In-Office of the OSCE, I hope to attend the OSCE Ministerial Council in Kyiv, Ukraine in December.

My colleague, Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe, is scheduled to attend the plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London on 21 October. He will also represent the Government at the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, India, on 11-12 November, where he will have a number of bilateral meetings and engagements.

My colleague, Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello, is planning an official humanitarian visit to the Middle East 6 – 11 October. The visit will involve a short stay in Beirut, Lebanon to visit refugee camps hosting Palestinian refugees from Syria. From Lebanon, the Minister of State will travel to the West Bank and Occupied Palestinian Territories where he will monitor humanitarian and development programmes funded by Irish Aid and managed by our Representative Office in Ramallah. In addition, he will accompany the President on a State visit to Central America from 19 October to 2 November. A visit to Uganda later this year is being considered.

I attended an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Vilnius on 6-7 September, where discussions covered security and defence issues, Syria and the Middle East Peace Process. I anticipate that I will attend EU Foreign Affairs Council meetings in Luxembourg in October, and Brussels in November and December. My colleagues will be similarly engaged on EU matters and will attend meetings as follows:

Minister of State Donohoe

Paris, 7 October, meeting with Minister Repentin

Luxembourg, 13 – 15 October

Luxembourg, 22 October, General Affairs Council

Brussels, 24 – 25 October, European Council

Rome, 28 October, meeting with Italian EU Minister

Athens, 29 October, working lunch

Vilnius, 28 – 29 November, Eastern Partnership Summit

Minister of State Costello

Brussels, 26 – 27 November, European Development Day

Brussels, 12 December, Foreign Affairs (Development) Council

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 14.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (27)

Dara Calleary

Question:

27. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the costs incurred by his Department in using VIP services at Irish airports during Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE and the Irish Presidency of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41190/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The service provided by the Dublin Airport Authority facilitates secure and prompt entry and exit from Dublin Airport. This is a necessary security measure for visiting Heads of State and Government. Such facilities are provided for high-level delegations only. The total cost of services for visiting Ministers and Heads of State and Government provided by the Dublin Airport Authority during Ireland’s Chairmanship of the OSCE and the EU Presidency amounted to €209,660. The costs arising in connection with the EU Presidency for all Government Departments/Bodies for meetings convened during the six-month Presidency by every Government Minister and some Ministers of State came to €178,091. Thirteen Ministerial meetings, attended by visiting Ministers from all 27 EU member states, and other high level meetings were hosted in Dublin during the EU Presidency.

All Presidency-related events were conducted in the most cost-effective manner possible, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade negotiated a reduced rate with the Airport Authority for the duration of the Presidency. Total expenditure on the Irish Presidency across all Government Departments/Bodies is expected to be less than €51 million, or approximately €9m less than the initial budgetary allocation of €60m. This compares with a cost of €110 million for the previous Irish Presidency in 2004. Costs arising in connection with the OSCE Chairmanship amounted to €31,569. The OSCE Ministerial meeting – the largest ever Ministerial meeting held in Ireland – involved fifty visiting Foreign Ministers and their delegations, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Minister William Hague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the UN Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Cost of Services, Dublin Airport

Chairmanship of OSCE

Presidency of EU Council

€31,569

€178,091

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (28, 70)

John Halligan

Question:

28. Deputy John Halligan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will condemn the closure of Gaza from both the Israeli and Egyptian sides, which has resulted in a severe shortage of medicine and medical disposables entering the Gaza Strip and which combined with electricity shortages has placed nearly one thousand patients at risk of death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41183/13]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

70. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the case of Wael Abu-Sada, a 40 year old Palestinian citizen who died of a serious illness on 23 September 2013 after he was prevented from travelling through the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt for medical treatment in Jordan; if he will raise this case with the Egyptian and Israeli Governments and encourage them both to lift the illegal blockade and siege of Gaza. [41154/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 70 together.

As the Deputy is aware, I have consistently called for the end of the restrictive measures imposed on the border crossings into and out of Gaza, which impose many hardships on the people of Gaza but paradoxically strengthen the control there of Hamas and other militant groups. The terms under which the Rafah border crossing to Egypt operates are restricted by the agreement between Israel and Egypt under which the Sinai was returned to Egypt, but it has at times acted as an important safety valve when conditions in Gaza have demanded it. Unfortunately, due to the turmoil in Egypt, including serious security problems in the Sinai and a belief by the Egyptian authorities that weapons and fighters are entering Egypt from Gaza, controls on the Rafah crossing have tightened considerably in recent months.

The health system in Gaza, like all aspects of life, is affected by these various restrictions, inevitably resulting in greater risks to some patients. Medical supplies to Gaza, like all goods, must come in through crossing points whose operation is laborious and often interrupted, and the access of patients to treatments not available in Gaza is likewise complicated. The recent case of Mr. Abu-Sada is a particular example of this. As a Hamas official he would be unlikely to seek treatment in Israel, but it is not clear if this had any bearing on his ability to cross into Egypt. I have no independent details of the particular circumstances of his case.

It should be noted that numbers of patients from Gaza are treated in Israeli hospitals, which also indeed treat patients from the West Bank and even, recently, from the fighting in Syria. This is despite the fact that Israel considers both Gaza and Syria to be hostile territories, from which it is subject to attack. Some patients have also been transferred into Egypt.

I commend those actions. I call for the ending of all restrictive measures on entry into, and out of, Gaza of normal human, commercial and humanitarian traffic. And in the meantime, I would indeed appeal to all relevant authorities, Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian, to be as flexible and compassionate as they can be in providing for the treatment of persons in need in Gaza, trapped by the forces in conflict around them.

Human Rights Issues

Questions (29)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

29. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he in conjunction with his EU and UN colleagues may encourage the new administration in Iran towards a more secular society incorporating a modern attitude to human rights; if it might be found possible for the international community to respond positively in terms of reduction and-or removal of sanctions in return for the adoption of human rights principles and recognition for minorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41125/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Iran is an explicitly Islamic Republic with a guiding political role reserved for the clergy, and it is unlikely that its government would respond favourably to encouragement to become a more secular society. However, Ireland and our EU partners will certainly continue to do all we can to encourage a greater respect for human rights in Iran. It is encouraging that the new Government has made some positive signals in that respect. Ireland strongly urges Iran’s new President Mr Hassan Rouhani, who has received a strong mandate from the Iranian people, to improve the human rights situation in Iran.

I raised the issue of human rights in Iran in a bilateral meeting with new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on 26 September, in the margins of the UN General Assembly session in New York, following an earlier phone contact with him. I particularly expressed Ireland’s concerns about Iran’s use of the death penalty. In addition, while welcoming the release of several Iranian prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Iran this month, I strongly encouraged the release of more political prisoners. Indeed, many further practical steps are needed to mark a real change in the human rights situation in Iran. In particular, together with EU partners, I urge President Rohani to immediately end the house arrest of former Presidential candidates Mir Houssein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and to release all those imprisoned for non-violent political beliefs or for belonging to a particular religious minority, such as the Baha’i. Furthermore, in line with the EU's strong position of principle on the death penalty, I reiterate Ireland and the EU’s call on Iran to halt all pending executions, and introduce a moratorium on this cruel and inhumane punishment.

I am encouraged by the agreement in principle by HR Ashton and FM Zarif in New York last week to re-launch the EU-Iran Human Rights dialogue in the near future. I hope this renewed dialogue can lead to further actions by the Iranian government to improve the overall human rights situation in Iran.

In March 2013, following a review, the Foreign Affairs Council prolonged the EU restrictive measures against certain individuals in response to serious human rights violations in Iran by 12 months. The Council also added 9 persons responsible for serious human rights violations to the list of those subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze. This brings the number of persons targeted to 87. The Council also decided to subject one entity responsible for human rights violations to an asset freeze. The EU has also banned the export of equipment for monitoring internet and telephone communications. In addition, equipment which might be used for internal repression may not be exported to Iran.

The measures are now valid until 13 April 2014. In deciding whether to increase, maintain or reduce restrictive measures against individuals, the EU will consider the actions of these specific individuals with respect to human rights. These measures should not be confused with the sanctions related to the nuclear issue, which are a separate matter.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (30)

Gerry Adams

Question:

30. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the recent deaths of Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank in recent weeks; the knock-on effect this could have on peace talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41157/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have noted with deep regret the continuing toll of casualties in the Occupied Territory, including the deaths of Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers in recent weeks. I share the Deputy’s concern that there is always a risk that incidents on the ground can derail peace talks, either by sparking further violence or simply making it politically impossible for leaders to continue. Indeed, in both Israeli and Palestinian communities, some people have responded to these deaths by calling for an end to talks with the other side. And behind this perhaps spontaneous and emotional response, there are also, as the Deputy knows all too well from our own experience, some people on both sides who actively want the peace process to fail. It is the role of political leaders to dedicate their efforts to ending the occupation and winning a secure and peaceful future for their peoples. And it is essential that they do not allow themselves to be deflected by incidents whether accidental or malicious, and that they avoid any provocative actions on their own side.

Northern Ireland Issues

Questions (31, 59)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

31. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the loyalist violence which erupted during July in Belfast; if he has discussed this issue with political representatives and community representatives in Northern Ireland and his counterpart in Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41153/13]

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Robert Troy

Question:

59. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions he has had with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and members of the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to violence on the streets of Belfast during the summer months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41216/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 59 together.

I was deeply concerned at the violence experienced in Belfast this summer. I had direct and frequent contact with the Secretary of State and with the Minister for Justice David Ford over the period and reaffirmed my support on a number of occasions for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and for the Parades Commission. I visited Belfast on 29 August 2013 and had detailed discussions with community leaders in Ardoyne, Carrick Hill, Short Strand and in East Belfast who have faced the a particularly difficult situation this summer. I commended them for their leadership and support for a solution based on dialogue and respect. I commend all those who have shown constructive leadership within their communities in very difficult circumstances.

Work must continue to ease tensions at interface areas and to support the rule of law and the Police Service of Northern Ireland charged with upholding the law. The events of this summer, and the ongoing parades in Ardoyne, point to a need to progress meaningful dialogue further. A constructive starting point for any discussion is agreement that the broad consensus on the right to parade is, like all fundamental rights, subject to limitation and must be balanced against the right to freedom from sectarian harassment and discrimination. Meaningful, sustained dialogue between parade organisers and residents’ groups must be an essential aspect of achieving the right balance. Everything else flows from those principles.

I again urge the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, and all Loyal Orders, to promote and to engage in dialogue based on the principle of respect with residents’ groups. I welcome the talks which have now begun under the independent Chairmanship of Richard Haass and the commitment by the Orange Order to engage with that talks process.

Human Rights Issues

Questions (32, 82, 83)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

32. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his position in relation to the case of former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Ms Yulia Tymoshenko; the steps that are being taken with colleagues at international level to negotiate the release of Ms Tymoshenko. [41058/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

82. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community continues to monitor the observation of their human rights entitlements by the authorities in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41382/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

83. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community continues to engage with the authorities in the Ukraine with a view to ensuring the human rights entitlement in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41383/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 82 and 83 together.

I am on record in Dáil expressing concern over the ongoing detention of the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko and refer the Deputy to my statement of 26 June last. I raised the matter most recently with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Leonid Kozhara, during our bilateral meeting last week on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Concerns repeatedly expressed by Ireland and its EU partners were reinforced by the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 30 April 2013, which ruled that Ms Tymoshenko had been unlawfully detained. As the Deputy is aware, High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle issued a joint statement in response to this judgment, which urged the Ukrainian authorities to reconsider Ms Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and to implement fully all rulings of the ECHR. I fully support this statement.

The EU’s position is as set out in the Conclusions of the 10 December 2012 Foreign Affairs Council and in the joint statement of the EU-Ukraine Summit of 25 February 2013: that Ukraine must address convincingly three key areas including the issue of selective justice if progress is to be made towards signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. While Ukraine has taken some positive steps since, including the release of former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko in April, Ireland would very much like to see further progress made by the Ukrainian authorities that would make signature of the Association Agreement possible, including, crucially, on the issue of selective justice. A positive step on Ms Tymoshenko’s imprisonment would be extremely helpful and send a powerful signal in that regard.

The European Parliament’s monitoring mission to Ukraine, which is led by the former President of Poland, Aleksander Kwaniewski, and the former President of the European P arliament, Pat Cox, has been engaging actively with the Ukrainian authorities to resolve all areas where the EU has expressed concern, including the area of selective justice. The monitoring mission met with Ms Tymoshenko last month and is expected to report to the European Parliament later this month.