Skip to main content
Normal View

European Council Meetings

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 25 March 2014

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Questions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)

Gerry Adams

Question:

1. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55561/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

2. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013 on European defence capability and common security and defence policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55562/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

3. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013 on economic and monetary union and economic and social policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55563/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

4. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013; and if he discussed with her economic and monetary union, economic and social policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55564/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013 regarding bank recapitalisation, the ESM and the timetable for any progress on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55565/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

6. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013 on enlargement, migration and energy policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55566/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

7. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he had discussions with the British Prime Minister at the European Council meeting on 19 December 2013 regarding the issue of legacy matters and the way these might be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55570/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

8. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if the issue of US National Security Agency bugging of EU Governments was discussed at the 19 December 2013 meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55571/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

9. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if the disaster in the Philippines was raised during the European Council meeting of 19 December 2013; the aid Europe is providing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55572/13]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

10. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he had any bilaterals at the December European Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2178/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

11. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the Ukraine situation was discussed at the European Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2179/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

12. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has had discussions with President Barroso recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2180/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

13. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the European Council statement following the June 2012 meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2185/14]

View answer

Simon Harris

Question:

14. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Taoiseach if discussions have taken place at a European Council level on addressing the problem of youth unemployment across Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2193/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

15. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if youth unemployment was discussed at the December Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2199/14]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

16. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the December European summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2215/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

17. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meetings with European Council leaders prior to Christmas. [2228/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

18. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the exit of the Irish State from the EU-IMF bailout programme with European Council leaders during the meeting of the European Council on 19-20 December. [2229/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

19. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the issue of the retrospective recapitalising of Irish banks with his European partners in the European Council meeting on 19 and 20 December. [2230/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

20. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the impact of the European Union’s commitment to strengthening its common security and defence policy on Irish neutrality with his European partners during the European Council meeting of 19 and 20 December. [2231/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

21. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has met or had discussions with President Hollande recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2310/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

22. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has had discussions or met with the Prime Minister of Latvia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2311/14]

View answer

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

23. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Taoiseach the discussions that have taken place at European Council meetings since he became Taoiseach; the progress made towards the development of a common European defence policy; the co-operation agreed at these meetings on military matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4826/14]

View answer

Joe Higgins

Question:

24. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the discussions he held during the European Council in December. [7492/14]

View answer

Joe Higgins

Question:

25. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on meetings he had with European Council leaders in December. [7493/14]

View answer

Joe Higgins

Question:

26. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the issue of the exit of the State from the troika with European Council leaders in the European Council meeting on 19 and 20 December; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7494/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

27. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach his plans to meet the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. [8952/14]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

28. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the issues of growth and employment at the European Council meeting in December 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9169/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

29. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with EU leaders in Brussels on the Russia-Ukraine crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12754/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

30. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the bi-laterals he had while attending the EU summit on the crisis in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12755/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

31. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he met the German Chancellor at the EU summit on the Russia-Ukraine crisis in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12756/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

32. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the German Chancellor in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12764/14]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

33. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised with the Spanish Prime Minister the recent positive development in the Basque country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12765/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

34. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel; the issues they discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12782/14]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

35. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the European Council agreement of June 2012 was discussed with Chancellor Merkel on 7 March when they met; if there was a response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12785/14]

View answer

Oral answers (57 contributions) (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 35, inclusive, together.

I participated in the European Council on 19 and 20 December last. As Members will be aware, however, since then I have also participated in an extraordinary meeting of Heads of State and Government on Ukraine on 6 March, as well as the spring European Council on 20 and 21 March, where the deeply disturbing situation in Ukraine was again the dominant issue. I will start with our most recent meeting before I go back to the December Council. The extraordinary meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels on 6 March condemned the unprovoked violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and called on the Russian Federation to withdraw immediately its armed forces. We agreed on a three-phase roadmap of measures that would be taken against the Russian Federation, depending on its actions. The deteriorating situation and the Russian annexation of Crimea was, of course, a central focus at the spring European Council last week. In the absence of any steps towards de-escalation by Russia, the European Council took additional measures against Moscow. We decided to cancel the next EU-Russia summit and agreed to expand to 33 the number of listed individuals to be subject to a visa ban and asset freezes. In addition the European Commission was asked to evaluate the legal consequences of the annexation and to prepare possible targeted measures. The question of the nature and scope of measures is always a complex and difficult issue and, as I stated in Brussels, inevitably will have negative economic consequences for the EU, including Ireland, as well as for Russia. It is only right, therefore, that we prepare such decisions carefully. The political elements of the EU's association agreement with Ukraine were also signed at last week's meeting. We welcomed, in addition, the Ukrainian Government's commitment to ensuring that governmental structures are inclusive and reflect regional diversity and to ensure full protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities.

Of course, the agenda for last week's meeting was wider than Ukraine alone. It had an economic focus and covered the European semester, Europe 2020, industrial competitiveness, banking union, taxation, climate change and energy and external relations.

Banking union remains a clear priority for the Government. My colleagues and I were particularly pleased last week to welcome the agreement reached with the European Parliament on the single resolution mechanism, which will be a cornerstone of that banking union. We now must see the formal adoption of the mechanism before the European Parliament rises for elections. The European Council held useful discussions on the European semester, the planned review of the Europe 2020 strategy and industrial competitiveness. We agreed on the importance of ensuring the right overall framework to promote a strong and competitive industrial base to drive economic growth and jobs.

Leaders also held a first policy debate on the framework for climate and energy to 2030. We agreed on the urgent need to further analyse the implications for member states of proposals for emissions reductions and renewable energy. I made clear that for Ireland, account must be taken of the particular role of agriculture, and the President of the Council was reassuring on this aspect. The European Council will take stock of progress on these issues at its June meeting with a view to taking a final decision by October 2014.

The Council also tackled the issue of EU energy security, which has an added urgency in view of the Ukraine crisis. The Commission has been asked by June 2014 to prepare a detailed analysis of this as well as a comprehensive plan to reduce the EU's energy dependence. I will report to the House on the European Council tomorrow and I look forward to addressing the situation in Ukraine, as well as some other agenda items, in more detail.

I will return for a moment to the December European Council, the subject of a question here, which had a lengthy agenda. It covered Common Security and Defence Policy, CSDP, economic and social policy, economic and monetary union, migration, enlargement and energy. For the first time since the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, the European Council held a thematic debate on defence. Extensive conclusions were reached, identifying priority actions for stronger co-operation. I reported in detail to the House on January 21 on the outcome of this debate, as well as the broader discussions among leaders. I do not propose to repeat this in detail here. The December European Council reviewed the economic situation and progress on banking union, as well as in implementing the compact for growth, jobs and competitiveness.

The meeting identified the main features of the partnerships for growth, jobs and competitiveness to support structural reform, with a view to concluding discussions by October next year.

The Council also addressed some of the main foreign policy issues, including the situation in Syria and the Central African Republic, as well as the Eastern Partnership, the situation in Ukraine and the WTO. The allegations of US National Security Agency surveillance were also discussed.

There was no discussion at the December European Council of Typhoon Haiyan which had struck the Philippines in November 2013. However, the European Commission and EU member states have allocated more than €178 million in humanitarian and early recovery assistance to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Ireland was one of the first countries to respond to the natural disaster. Following an initial allocation of €4 million, the Government last week, through the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Joe Costello, announced a further contribution of €3 million. The additional funding will support local efforts to build shelters and re-establish people's livelihoods, particularly in fishing and agriculture, and protection activities for those traumatised by the disaster.

While at the European Council meeting in December, I also had informal contacts with a number of colleagues. The House will be aware that I participated in a remembrance event in Messines on the morning of 19 December with Prime Minister Cameron. Again, I have reported separately to the House on this event.

Many of my colleagues on the European Council and from the Commission were in Dublin from 5 to 7 March for the European People's Party meeting. I had informal contacts with them at this event, as well as at the 6 March meeting on the situation in Ukraine and at last week's European Council. I was due to hold a working breakfast with President Barroso on the morning of 6 March, but it had to be postponed owing to the meeting on the situation in Ukraine and it was not possible to find an alternative time.

I had a meeting with Prime Minister Rajoy of Spain on the evening of 6 March which, again owing to the meeting on the situation in Ukraine, was postponed from earlier in the day. We discussed the economic situation in Europe, especially the challenge of youth unemployment, as well as SME financing, banking union, the Single Market, trade and energy. The Basque country was not discussed at the meeting and, as the Government has stated on many occasions, we continue to follow the situation closely, including the recent statement by the international verification body. We have repeatedly said we support any development that can lead to definitive peace in the Basque country and welcomed the declaration by ETA in that context. We continue to hope for further progress.

As Deputies will be aware, I also held bilateral consultations with German Chancellor Merkel in Government Buildings on 7 March. Over a working lunch, I updated the Chancellor on the economy and we took stock of progress on banking union and the issue of legacy bank debt. We also discussed preparations for the March European Council and the wider jobs and growth agenda, including the transatlantic trade and investment partnership.

I ask for Deputies' co-operation because a number of issues have been raised in this group of questions. I suggest the first supplementary questions relate to the December Council meeting. If we get that issue out of the way, we can come back to it again. Is that agreeable to Deputies?

I was going to limit myself in this round to two supplementary questions. If I get a chance, I will come back in and ask another one.

Members would prefer to take everything together.

All right, if that is the way it is to be.

What numbers have been grouped?

Nothing has been grouped. The Taoiseach has answered Questions Nos. 1 to 35, inclusive, which are all related to European issues. The first few were about the December Council meeting. I am open to the House deciding on the matter.

I would like to ask supplementary questions on the situations in Ukraine and Crimea and in the Basque country. In regard to the situation in Ukraine, the Taoiseach has outlined the sanctions imposed, how these matters were discussed and how he is going to continue to work with his colleagues. The sanctions will have a very limited impact on the Russian state because of the extent to which the European Union is dependent on gas and oil supplies from Russia, as I think the Taoiseach acknowledged in his response, and that has its own economic dynamic. The Taoiseach will recall that the Russian ambassador pointed this out when he warned about the economic consequences for the State if it supported further EU sanctions against Russia. Perhaps the Taoiseach might give us his view of what the Russian ambassador said.

It is also very clear that the future of Ukraine is a matter for its people there, yet there is significant support in Crimea for unity with Russia. This concerns the issue of the application of the principle of self-determination which in the particular region has had some difficulties historically. Does the Taoiseach accept that the principle of self-determination and democratic choice must be at the heart of any solution - we cannot impose solutions, settlements or arrangements - and that dialogue is key in that regard?

That brings me to the recent development in the the Basque country. It is very disappointing and beyond me why the Taoiseach did not refer to it, given the success of the peace process here, even though there is still work to be done, as he has acknowledged. Ireland is in a position to speak with some authority on the business of making peace and not raising the issue with the Spanish Prime Minister was a missed opportunity. Again, dialogue is required. The Spanish state has not been as supportive of peace efforts as it should be. In February an international verification committee confirmed that ETA had taken the first steps towards complete disarmament, but members of the committee were then arrested and brought before a court to be integrated about what had occurred. That is because the law which is draconian and a product of the conflict in the country - it is a bad and an emergency law - was brought into focus. As we know from our own situation, that is no way to make democratic advances. There are the issues of prisoners, prisoners' families, the dispersal of prisoners in prisons across a very wide area and the imprisonment of Arnaldo Otegi, one of the leaders of the peace process in the Spanish state and the Basque country. What I am arguing for is for the Taoiseach to use his good offices, our international reputation and the experience we have gained to persuade, encourage and request the Spanish state and the Spanish Prime Minister to embrace the process in a positive way. I welcome the Taoiseach's welcome for the announcement that ETA has begun a process of disarmament, but I ask him again to use his influence to encourage everyone involved to respond in a positive way.

In respect of the situation in the Basque country, because of the situation in Ukraine, we did not have an opportunity to have the extensive bilateral meeting we would have wished to have had. The Spanish Government has stated it is committed to the unilateral and unconditional dissolution of ETA and that there is nothing to talk to the group about. The President of the Basque country has noted that ETA has begun to disarm in an unconditional and unilateral manner and that while this is an important step, it is not sufficient. The Deputy can take it that, through the Irish Embassy in Madrid which monitors all of these developments, we will keep in close contact with the Spanish Government and other connections and avail of any opportunity that presents itself to outline our experience in building, in a very difficult period, a fragile but lasting peace, which is of importance to everybody.

On the situation in Crimea and Ukraine, Ambassador Peshkov was called in again last week to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and told clearly that the Government and the Irish people did not recognise the illegal referendum held in Crimea, as a result of which Russia had annexed that part of Ukraine.

At the discussions that took place in Brussels, a three-phase approach was agreed. We discussed how the freezing of assets and the imposition of visa restrictions would impact on the individuals involved. Clearly, the United States was making arrangements to do something similar in parallel.

This will change the nature of the discussion in this country about Europe and about energy in particular. The European Union cannot continue in its dependence on Russia. The decision of the European Council meeting last Friday, in respect of climate change and energy, was to press ahead with the development of the southern corridor and with further interconnectors in the Mediterranean region in respect of gas, as well as an expansion of the possibility for gas from Spain and Portugal to be supplied to other parts of Europe, namely around the Pyrenees and onto the French system.

We have heard other leaders speak about their dependence on Russia for energy. The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mr. Yatsenuyk, made the point that Gazprom was about to increase the cost of gas per cubic metre from €200 to over €400 and that other countries were paying that for their freedom. That is why the political elements of the agreement with Ukraine were signed by all members of the Union on Friday morning in Brussels, reducing the impact of tariffs and restrictions on goods being exported to the EU from Ukraine. Some countries in the region which are members of NATO are completely dependent on Russia for equipment and spare parts. As the Danish Prime Minister remarked to me, it is a case of living with Russia. During the Danish-led effort in Syria to remove chemical weapons, for example, the first point of contact for the Danes was with a Russian frigate. It is a case of not closing off the options and of asserting the fact that we have no difficulty with the Russian people. The point is that the political leadership in Moscow has made a unilateral move in acquiring that part of Ukraine known as Crimea. As Deputies will know from history, this country lost 30,000 fighting men in the Crimean War in the 1850s.

There was a seriousness about the meeting and general agreement that this has gone too far. People were very anxious to take steps that would impact on Russia in a way that had never been done before. The European Commission was asked by the European Council to prepare a report on further and broader economic sanctions that might be applied which would be really hurtful. However, it must be said that economic sanctions cut both ways and can have an impact on this country too. There are 200 companies in Ireland which supply goods and materials to Russia and these are important considerations.

Countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Bloc and which border Russia are fearful of invasion and are acutely aware of their dependence on Russia for their energy needs. The nature of the debate on energy independence and energy dependence will change as a result of what has happened. We can only hope that the Government of Ukraine will hold the promised free and fair elections in May. Ukraine needs cash, however, and it needs it now - a sum of €2.5 billion is required to pay for gas as well as to meet wage bills and so forth. At the meeting in Brussels the EU High Representative, Ms Ashton, presented a list of the requirements of the Ukraine army, which included shoes and jackets and all of the other basics that a standing army would need, giving an indication of how ill-equipped the army is to defend the country. It was a serious meeting with serious people putting a strategy in place. It was agreed that if there is any more escalation of the situation, broader economic sanctions will apply and will be implemented.

We are dealing with questions Nos. 1 to 35, which address a broad range of issues.

After last December's meeting of the Council of Europe the Taoiseach said again that all of the agreements meant that the toxic link between sovereign and banking debt had been broken. What he has yet to do, however, is to explain how this is actually the case. It is a year and a half since the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste declared victory on this point and spoke about a seismic shift and so forth. I have asked the basic question on a number of occasions, namely, "what exactly is Ireland looking for?".

What exactly is Ireland looking for in terms of the debt situation and the breaking of the link between sovereign and financial sector debt?

Yesterday my party revealed letters from Mario Draghi to our finance spokesperson, Deputy Michael McGrath. Essentially, Mr. Draghi said that he does not agree with the Government's claim that everything is progressing fine with Ireland's banks. If one reads his letter, in response to Deputy McGrath, one sees that he is distancing himself significantly from the Central Bank's assessment of the capital adequacy of our banks. This followed a letter we wrote to him in the aftermath of his comments to the effect that the impaired loans in our banks needed swift and direct action. He implies in his correspondence that further capitalisation may be required. Can the Taoiseach explain how that sits with the Minister for Finance's claims, as well as his own claims, that Ireland will be reimbursed retrospectively for past recapitalisation. Furthermore, the banking union will provide enough money to cover less than 1% of the capital base of the covered banks. Does the Taoiseach believe that is adequate? Is he happy with that? Does he believe it is an adequate amount? I think it is ridiculously low and cannot, in any shape or form, be considered adequate in terms of a resolution mechanism into the future.

On the issue of Ukraine, I welcome the decision to go to stage three sanctions. Russia's behaviour effectively partitions a former colony and that cannot be let stand with what I consider to be very weak measures, diplomatically. I get the sense that the United States is leading the charge and that the European Union is divided between those who want tougher sanctions and those who want to delay the imposition of same for various economic reasons. The Taoiseach's comments about trade some moments ago suggest that the Russian ambassador's public warnings to the Government last week are hitting home already. What position did we take at the European Council meeting? Did we support those who were looking for stronger sanctions, those who advocated holding on and waiting or did we just wait for a final agreement to emerge and jump on that particular line? We did not take any public stand on it, to the best of my knowledge.

The Taoiseach referred to the issue of surveillance in his reply. At the time of December's European Council meeting, the bugging of European governments was a very big issue. Much of that surveillance was carried out by the British facility in GCHQ. Other countries have been far more direct than us in asking about bugging of conversations and in demanding transparency from the United States and others. Have we done the same and specifically, has the Taoiseach asked the British Prime Minister whether the British Government bugged Irish communications during sensitive negotiations on Northern Ireland? Did the Taoiseach have that discussion with David Cameron?

On Ukraine and the divisions at the European Council regarding sanctions, a range of views were expressed. Some were very forthright in saying that we should move to level three sanctions quickly, while others disputed that, particularly those countries which are close to and dependent on Russia.

Ireland supports the decision of the European Council in respect of the sanctions against Russian individuals and participated in the discussion about what areas might be included in a broader economic plain, be they economic or financial. There is a recognition, however, that no matter what sanctions one imposes, they work both ways in that they will impact on all countries involved. It would be far better to have a situation where Russian understands what it has done.

Another point made was that the winners should be the people of Ukraine in acting as a buffer between the East and the West. Over €11 billion in funds is on the table from the European Union and the Commission. The point made by several speakers at the Council meeting was that the conditions that applied to many of the IMF programmes for Ukraine could be very difficult. Obviously, one needs unity on this position to secure the overall unity of Ukraine. It is not true to claim Ireland did not take a position on this matter. We have been very clear about it - we support the sanctions.

Does the Government believe the sanctions should be stronger?

If they move to the next level, we will participate. Decisions were made the last day on extra individuals to be restricted, visa liberalisation and a paper being prepared on broader options if there was going to be a further escalation. Ireland is only a small country, but it has a trade figure of €1 billion with Russia where 200 Irish companies provide goods and services. Obviously, there are other markets that we have to go after.

Deputy Micheál Martin referred to GCHQ. When one is dealing with terrorists or subversives, there is, clearly, an understanding one has to have information available on what is necessary to prevent atrocities from taking place. The level of co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI is exceptionally high. The Deputy will appreciate that on several occasions in the past 18 months bombs and other potential threats have been thwarted.

I was referring to the bugging of European governments.

As far as I am aware, the United States stated it did not have any listening post in Dublin. I did not detect evidence of, as the Deputy called it, GCHQ bugging Government Buildings.

Did the Taoiseach ask the British Government if it had bugged us?

I cannot recall if I asked that specific question. However, I did raise the issue of surveillance, bugging and the protection of private data.

The Deputy also referred to breaking the link between sovereign and bank debt and what Ireland was looking for in that regard. He is aware that Ireland was first over the edge, with no tools or mechanisms to deal with it. We had to borrow €64 billion, half of it gone with the promissory note agreement, with the support of the European Central Bank. European banking union, with a single supervisory mechanism, SSM, and a single resolution mechanism, SRM, are all part of the process leading to the point where the Council decision of 29 June 2012 to break the link and the possibility of recapitalisation directly of banks can be followed through. Up to €80 billion has been left aside out of the ESM, European Stability Mechanism, to deal with the concept of direct recapitalisation. We cannot make any case on this until all of these facilities are in place, which should apply from November this year. The European Presidency and the Parliament came to an agreement on the single resolution mechanism, its regulation and the IGA, intergovernmental agreement, on 20 March. The text of the SRM was further refined in a trilogue on Friday, 21 March. The SRM regulation will be submitted to COREP, Common Reporting, on 26 March. It is expected that the IGA will be finalised through the intergovernmental conference as quickly as possible. Most people did not expect this to happen because they had doubts about how effective the Greek EU Presidency would be. Greece was commended for its diligence in getting it across the line.

Mutualisation will occur over eight years, with contributions also taking place over eight years, with 40% in year one, 20% in year two and the remainder in equal instalments over the remaining years. It is understood contributions will follow a linear trajectory from year one, 12.5% each year, until the target is reached at the end of eight years. it was originally meant to be over ten years.

The European Central Bank will be the supervisor within the SRM. The supervisory board should be able to assess whether a credit institution is failing or is likely to fail. Therefore, in its executive session it may determine whether resolution is required, but only after having previously informed the ECB about its intention and only if the ECB, in three calendar days after receiving such information, does not make such a decision.

There is also the role between the Council and the Commission in what is determined by the Meroni doctrine. The Council maintains a role, but it is limited to the existence of a public interest and the use of the fund. The Council can only approve or object to a Commission proposal without actually amending it. The role of the plenary session in the board has been limited, depending on a certain threshold being reached. The plenary session may only adopt a resolution scheme if in the support of the fund in that specific resolution action is required above the threshold of €5 billion for which the weighting of liquidity support is 0.5%. It can also evaluate the application of the resolution tools. The legal basis for this is Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Ireland is looking for the structure to be in place where we can make a case, based on the decision of 29 June, for recapitalisation of the banking system. This is still very much on the table. I was glad to see these other sections being put in place which will allow the complete structure for banking union to be followed through. It is expected that the Parliament will approve it in the next few weeks.

Banks in the member states will contribute to the SRM fund. This reflects the fact that in the integrated financial markets any financial support to resolve a bank issue benefits financial stability and the health of other banks in all member states. These contributions will be calculated in a way that reflects different types of bank and their business models. Contributions will be raised annually and will be pro rata through the amount of liabilities, excluding own funds and covered deposits of all the institutions authorised in participating member states. Contributions will also be risked-based, reflecting different risks inherent in different types of banking activity. Progress was actually made and we do expect it to be finalised, with the structures being in place by mid-summer. We can then deal with the negotiations on the decision of 29 June.

I have a brief supplementary.

It is actually our turn.

Give Deputy Micheál Martin one minute. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett will get in; do not panic.

The so-called banking union will only provide enough money to cover less than 1% of the capital base of the banks. Is that adequate?

Obviously, it was an agreed figure. We will be happy if the banks stand up to the stress tests which will take place later this year. We hope the fund in place will be adequate. However, these are matters that will need to be reflected upon as time passes. What is important is to get agreement on a structural fund and to make it work.

The European Central Bank will be responsible for the SSM and will begin to supervise all of the major banks in the eurozone and those member states which choose to join the mechanism.

The ECB, as the common supervisor will take over the responsibility for the banks from national central banks from late 2014. Those national central banks will continue to play an important role, but the ECB will have the ultimate responsibility for the system. This provides for a differentiated approach to supervision, depending on the size and significance of the banks. It provides for equal treatment for the euro area and the non-euro area and member states so as to allow banking union to be attractive to all member states, thereby protecting the Single Market.

While there will be varied views about the adequacy of the fund -----

Nobody thinks it is adequate.

The first thing is to get the structure in place and make it work. Then, these issues can be reflected on as time goes on.

In his discussions on the economic situation in Europe at the European Council, did the Taoiseach raise the issue of the property sector, housing and homelessness? The reason I ask this is that if we were to sum up in a few words the cause of the European and global economic crisis, it could probably be summed up as "property speculation in the area of housing". In the Taoiseach's consideration or in that of his colleagues in Europe, is there any awareness of issues about which I have been trying to ring an alarm bell for a year and a half, that with real estate investment trusts, rising rents, growing homelessness and so on, we are starting to do it all again. We are starting to repeat the mistakes we made in the area of property and housing that led to the bubble and the crash that beggared the people of this country and brought the European economy close to the brink.

I find it extraordinary that in the reports and discussions on the situation we talk about banking union, stress tests for the banks and the viability of the banking system etc. It is all about the banks. We all know the banks want property values to rise. It is in their interests that rents rise, because this increases the value of property and their balance sheets look good. The human consequence of inflating the property market again to benefit the banks is that people are being made homeless. This is not just an Irish problem, but the problem is particularly acute here because property was so central to what crashed our economy. This is happening in Greece, Spain and is starting to happen elsewhere.

As cynical as I am about the neoliberal dogma that dominates European political and economic thought, even I cannot believe that only six or seven years after the crash caused by this issue, it is being stoked up again. I must point out that the Taoiseach's comments, while in New York, encouraging American investors in the idea of making a killing on the Dublin property market were alarming and dangerous, because he was talking yet again about a crisis -----

I remind the Deputy this is Question Time.

-----as an opportunity for investors to make money. However, this is a human crisis that lies at the heart of our economic problems. In his discussion with our European counterparts, is there any awareness on the Taoiseach's part that treating property as a matter for speculation, particularly the area of housing, is dangerous? Is he aware there are dangerous signs a property bubble could be beginning to emerge again in this State, fuelled by the policy of wanting to restore the banks' balance sheets and by the narrow concept of what banking is about? Even in America, the Federal Reserve Bank has a wider mandate than the ECB to ensure that areas such as employment and keeping a roof over people's heads are considerations for banking policy. US banking policy is not a model one would want to follow, but even the US has some awareness that there must be a wider mandate.

On Ukraine, I agree the Russian invasion is unacceptable. The Russian empire has long been the prison house of small nations, particularly in the areas between Russia and Europe. I agree that carrying out referendums under the barrels of tanks and guns is not a legitimate manifestation of self-determination and should be condemned. However, I find it worrying in the extreme that the Taoiseach seems to be the most gung-ho on the European side in portraying this conflict as the bad guy Russians and the good guy Ukrainian Government with Europe backing it. The other of this equation is equally nasty. There is no doubt the former Ukrainian regime was rotten, corrupt, repressive, dictatorial and backed by a nasty regime in Russia under President Putin was pretty vicious to its population. However, we have also had sight of supporters of one of the elements of the Ukrainian Government as out and out fascists - attacking TV presenters in Ukraine.

Will the Deputy please put his question?

We seem to be lining up with dangerous people who have a history of corruption and dangerous far right wing political ideas and saying these are the good guys. We should not be doing this. We should be responsible and recognise this is a complex situation where big powers are manoeuvring for self interest and stirring up ethnic and national divisions which could be very dangerous and are reminiscent of what happened at the beginning of the 20th century leading to the First World War. I believe the Taoiseach is being irresponsible in presenting this as a simple black and white, good guy bad guy and is doing so in a way that could be quite dangerous.

Maybe the Deputy should apply to participate in the OSCE monitoring group. Some 500 civilians with expertise are required to monitor violence, human rights issues and aggression against Ukrainian people, whether minorities of different countries or not. There are Romanians, Poles, ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, a complete mix of people, in that country and the Deputy's stirring words might fit in very well. I am quite sure High Representative Ashton may be willing to consider an expert like the Deputy for this.

I agree that the attack on the television station and the television broadcaster was completely unacceptable. It was unacceptable to the government in the Ukraine also. Some people in this democracy certainly stray across the line at times. The Deputy may know some of them, but I do not know whether he does as I believe he is a pacifist at heart, despite his tendency to take part in marches. Ireland is not gung-ho -----

Please do not equate marching with what those thugs were doing.

I make the point that Prime Minister Yatsenyuk came to the European Council meeting twice in Brussels and made the point that when Mr. Yanukovych left Kiev, having privatised the presidential household, it was not burned or looted by the people of Ukraine, that there is no evidence of people being beaten up, raped, robbed or tortured across the country. The Ukrainian population was very civilised, despite the difficulties they faced.

It is not right for the Deputy to come in here and say that Ireland is the most gung-ho of all the European countries and that it sees this as a black and white issue. What we contributed to was a debate, where we were prepared as a member of the European Union to sign the political elements of the agreement with Ukraine so that the people operating in Ukraine could export at lower tariffs to the European Union and thereby create some semblance of economic activity and give some hope to the people.

The Deputy mentioned the United States and Europe in terms of banking and all the rest.

I mentioned housing.

Things have changed. We are no longer giving out 100% mortgages. We are acutely aware of the pressure in the housing area, particularly in the greater Dublin area and some of the cities and larger towns around the country.

It has not spread with the same momentum. That is why the Government has worked in recent weeks to put together a realistic, practical response to the construction sector, which is not contributing to job creation and the general economy to the extent it should. Deputy Boyd Barrett is aware that it used to contribute 25% of GDP when it was building 100,00 houses while only 30,000 were needed. It is now down at 6% or 7% and it is building 6,000 or 7,000 houses when we need 25,000 or 30,000. We need to get from where we are to where we want to be without creating a further bubble. As Deputy Boyd Barrett pointed out, it is a seller's market in certain areas of Dublin because demand exists there. I notice the property pages of some of the newspapers are expanding again with the houses that are available.

What is the Taoiseach going to do about it? He should build some council houses.

It is very important that there be a functioning banking system. That is why we have great regard for what the credit unions and smaller operators do. That is why there has been an increase in big firms applying for commercial banking licences so that firms that use their equipment can have access to credit. That is why the budget changed the regulations for thresholds for access to credit and VAT thresholds for small firms. That is why the motor industry is facilitating finance for vehicles which is coming from places other than mainline banking. That is why the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan has said he is open to suggestions for a third banking force in the country so there can be competition for the provision of credit.

We are acutely aware of the housing provision problem and the Government will respond to that in the next couple of weeks with a comprehensive response for the construction sector. Deputy Boyd Barrett knows how important it is; so do we. I know the pressures on people, many of whom have families and are living in apartments that are too small and want to get a detached house. They need space and the supply of houses is not there.

Do you think tax breaks for speculators-----

Would you please speak through the Chair, Deputy? Thank you. There are rules in this House and they apply to you equally as they do to everybody else.

I have a supplementary question.

I call Deputy Higgins.

So I do not get the same-----

No, you do not, actually. You had two questions. Deputy Martin had ten or 15 questions.

I will put in ten questions next time.

Tens of thousands of mainly working-class youths on this island were slaughtered in Europe as a result of the rivalry between major imperial powers jockeying for influence, territory and markets when that rivalry exploded into the First World War. Has the Taoiseach learned nothing from the history of our own people and of small nations in Europe? The Taoiseach fully supports the policy of the EU towards Ukraine. Is it not obvious to the Taoiseach that the EU was avariciously pushing its own selfish economic and political agenda in Ukraine to trump the equally avaricious Russian elite represented by President Vladimir Putin and company? Of course the ordinary Ukrainian people detested the rotten Yanukovych dictatorship but is that justification for the EU to collaborate to the hilt with right-wing, semi-fascist, repulsive, xenophobic and wholly anti-progressive political forces such as Svoboda and Right Sector? The EU is conspiring with these forces to be the cat's paw of European union to advance its economic agenda within Ukraine. Does the Taoiseach support that?

Russia should be condemned for its interference in Ukraine, but does the Taoiseach not recognise the hypocrisy of his Government and the EU in pushing for sanctions when they uttered not a word against the far more bloody intervention of the EU's allies, such as the United States and Great Britain, in Iraq for example? What sanctions did any Irish Government ever support against the United States or Britain, Mr. Blair and President Bush, for the bloody, criminal invasion of Iraq that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead? Is the Taoiseach satisfied the new Government in Ukraine, which he and the EU hail as a great and new democracy, has installed billionaire oligarchs as regional governors throughout Ukraine? How does it serve the interests of the ordinary Ukrainians, working-class, peasants and poor, to install oligarchs who robbed blind the resources of the country taking advantage of the collapse of the revolting Stalinist regime?

For the poor people of Ukraine, now in the tender embraces of the troika or its equivalent, what kind of future exists in terms of lifting them out of the poverty and hardship that exist for so many when an even worse neo-liberal economic regime is to be installed? Will the Taoiseach not recognise that the people of Ukraine have the right to be left alone from interfering imperial powers, whether Russia or the EU, to decide their own future without this type of meddling, behind-the-scenes string pulling, economic pressure and blackmail from both Russia and the EU? Would the Taoiseach not state those as principles in opposition to the hypocritical policy that is being followed?

Deputy Higgins should bear in mind that the people of Ukraine wanted to join with Western countries for the development of their economy. Mr. Yanukovych decided he should do deals with Russia over their heads and the people rebelled. Mr. Yanukovych left and his party in government changed its view. Therefore this is not meddling by the EU but the invitation of the Ukrainian people and the Government in Kiev to sign political agreements with the EU instead of with Russia. It is not a case of invasion or pressure by the EU to force them to look West. I agree with Deputy Higgins that the winners here should be the people of Ukraine. The question is whether they will be given the right to determine that in their forthcoming elections.

In Ossetia, Transnistria, Moldova and Chechnya, Russia has given passports to ethnic Russians and sent people in to take over at the equivalent of council offices and block the streets of the towns, provoking incidents and creating a need for protection. That is why protectorates have grown up, with President Putin's stated ambition of restoring the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, to its former glory. That is why the people of Ukraine said they wanted to open their doors and borders to the EU. I disagree with Deputy Higgins's argument that Europe was forcing the pace. Europe was requested, invited and encouraged, and in response it encouraged the people in Ukraine to do business with the West. The oligarchs Deputy Higgins mentioned are very favourable in the eastern Ukraine region towards the Kiev Government and have an interest in seeing their people are able to do business with the EU. We do not want any more situations of subsidised gas, which created billions of euro for particular people over the past number of years.

Deputy Higgins argued that Europe has meddled in the affairs of Ukraine, but a number of years ago the per capita income of Ukraine and Poland was the same, while now the per capita income of Poland is many multiples of that of Ukraine.

That is why the people of Ukraine aspire to getting out of the position in which they find themselves - so they can have greater prosperity, development of the economy and the right to live and have jobs.

Everybody has a right to be left alone, but that is not what happened in Crimea. I am well aware of the events of the First World War, what happened in Sarajevo and the slaughter of so many mainly young men in the so-called war to end all wars. If Lord Raglan, Lord Lucan and General Nolan had got their directions correct, we might not have lost the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in Crimea, over 130 of whom were Irish horsemen. The Deputy knows those names from history.

I do not accept that this is a case of Europe wanting to barge into Ukraine and argue that the country must join the Union. This was the wish of the people in Ukraine and it was not respected by the then President Yanukovych, so the popular revolution left him to flee to eastern Ukraine, with the government in Kiev focusing on the West. Russia clearly does not like this and it made its move into Crimea. As a response, the European Union and other countries are imposing various types of sanction. These are to counteract illegal action that is to the detriment of freedom of democracy. It is a response to the invasion of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This territory was handed over by Khrushchev in the 1950s and has now been annexed again by Russia. This matter will continue to be a source of much difficulty in the time ahead.

I call Deputy Adams.

I have a brief supplementary question.

Deputy Adams has 19 questions and I am obliged to allow him in again.

I bring the Taoiseach's attention to Question No. 7, which asks if the Taoiseach discussed with the British Prime Minister legacy matters and how they can be addressed. The talks with Dr. Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan concluded and although I very much welcomed the positive comments by the Tánaiste in January on these proposals, that was months ago, and there has been no progress whatever since. The Taoiseach may have heard at the weekend that the former Church of Ireland Primate, Robin Eames, warned politicians in the North and both governments that unless the issues of the past and the problem of parades and flags are dealt with, they will never be resolved. None of us wants to see that. It is my strong contention that the two governments must take a hands-on role in this matter, with the Irish Government acting as an equal partner with the British, or there will be a real danger that the potential and opportunity created by the Haass and O'Sullivan talks will be lost.

Is the Taoiseach conscious that there has been no progress whatever on these issues and that they need to be dealt with? We cannot wait until after the next local government elections or anything else. The governments must be very focused on the matter.

I share the Deputy's view. I went to the consular offices in New York to speak with Dr. Haass last week and I had a good conversation with him regarding his reflections on the talks and the efforts made by him and Professor O'Sullivan to make progress. Dr. Haass is coming to Tipperary for the peace prize later.

He intends perhaps to make a comment on his analysis of what has happened. I note former President Clinton's comments in Derry that we should finish the job. He clearly put the point that this is the responsibility of the leaders of the parties in Northern Ireland, of which there are five.

I met Dr. Haass and former President Clinton, but I am asking about the Government's role.

The invitation to Dr. Haass came from the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The Deputy's party endorsed and accepted all the findings of the Haass talks and wants them implemented, but others did not. It is now a case of leadership and focusing on where progress can be made and the differences arising. The Government has indicated it will actively support the parties in Northern Ireland in making progress, and the Tánaiste has been very active in this regard. I and the British Prime Minister at Downing Street have recommitted to this and we intend, in so far as we can, to support the goal visibly. Ultimately, as the Deputy knows, people may want to play some games before elections take place. The issue is far too serious for that. We will support the efforts of parties, including the Deputy's, to make further progress arising out of some of the platforms that the Haass talks brought about. There was some progress and he was reasonably satisfied that new platforms were built for some elements. It is not satisfactory that the process has not yet ended.

The Deputy is acutely aware that young people in Northern Ireland do not want to see a solid lump of older politics stuck in the rut of the past that does not allow people to focus on a new and exciting future. There are some very good things happening in Northern Ireland and, despite their differences, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have been around the planet seeking investment for jobs and so on in Northern Ireland. There are some very good opportunities arising in that regard, and we support that, along with cross-Border education, health, infrastructure, etc. We will continue to be supportive. The politicians and leaders of the day will say what further progress can be made and whether we want to continue being locked in the prison of the past, which will stunt the opportunities for young people in Northern Ireland to give vent to their flair and imagination. We will work in whatever way we can with all the parties to help them make progress.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.
Top
Share