Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Questions (31, 33, 39, 40)

Seán Haughey

Question:

31. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his address to the European Parliament on 17 January 2018; the meetings he attended; and the issues that were discussed. [3054/18]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

33. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his address and discussions at the Future of Europe meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. [3092/18]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

39. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the need for continued EU financial support for cross-border programmes at his recent meeting with the President of the European Commission. [3359/18]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

40. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the need for continued EU financial support for cross-Border programmes at his recent meeting with the President of the European Commission in view of the benefits that accrued to communities in Northern Ireland and the border region from such investment since the mid 1990s. [3360/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 33, 39 and 40 together.

I was honoured to be the first EU leader to be invited to take part in the European Parliament debate series on the Future of Europe. My speech to the European Parliament took place in Strasbourg on 17 January.

In my intervention, I spoke about the achievements of the European Union, the benefits for Ireland of EU membership, and my thoughts about how best the Union should evolve for the future. I also spoke in some detail about the Brexit negotiations.

I stressed the importance of our values and how we need to keep these to the fore as we respond to the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century.

I said that Europe needs a forward-looking agenda with ambition and direction. Rather than looking for great institutional changes, we should focus on implementing what we have already agreed. This should include completing the Single Market, the Digital Single Market, the Capital Markets Union and Banking Union, with a view to delivering concrete benefits for our citizens in areas that directly affect their lives.I outlined Ireland's 'Citizens’ Dialogue on the Future of Europe' which I launched last November and which will run until 9 May, Europe Day. Our aim with this is to facilitate an open and wide-ranging debate with our citizens.

On Brexit, I highlighted the unique challenges this poses for Ireland. I thanked the European Parliament for its strong support and solidarity in the negotiations to date, and stressed the need to ensure that the commitments and principles agreed in December are translated into the Withdrawal Agreement. I also noted our ambition for a close and comprehensive future relationship between the EU and the UK.

In their interventions, MEPs reiterated their support for Ireland in relation to Brexit. I welcome President Juncker's statement that "we are all Irish" as well as the Commission’s commitment to propose continued PEACE funding beyond 2020.

In addition to the debate itself, I had a bilateral meeting with President Tajani. I thanked him for his support for Ireland in relation to Brexit. We exchanged views about the future of Europe, and I expressed appreciation for his initiative in bringing forward the series of debates in the European Parliament.

I also had a bilateral meeting with the European Parliament’s Chief Brexit Coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt. We discussed developments since our last meeting in September and I expressed my sincere appreciation to Mr. Verhofstadt for his understanding and commitment to ensuring that Ireland's unique concerns are addressed.I also attended a lunch hosted by the First Vice President of the Parliament, which was attended by party group leaders and other MEPs.

I met briefly and exchanged a few words with Commission President Juncker and the Head of the Brexit Task Force, Michel Barnier, although I did not have a formal bilateral meeting with either.

I had a short bilateral meeting with Commission Vice President Katainen in relation to Mercosur. I emphasised our commitment to free trade generally but highlighted our strong concerns around the beef sector, and our views on what should and should not be potentially included in any agreement.

Question No. 32 resubmitted.
Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 31.
Questions Nos. 34 to 38, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 39 and 40 answered with Question No. 31.
Question No. 41 resubmitted.