Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (97)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

97. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will oppose cuts of up to 15% to the youth sector and youth programme budget of the Council of Europe when the matter comes before the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in the coming weeks; if the strong support of Ireland will be indicated for the work of the youth programme of the Council of Europe (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19773/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland, as a founding member of the Council of Europe in 1949, has always been and continues to be a strong supporter of the Council’s work on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

We fully support the work of the youth programme, which helps young people to become engaged and responsible European citizens who advocate human rights and participate fully in democratic life. The Council of Europe’s work with young people is aimed to empower them to engage in the development of democratic, inclusive and peaceful societies across our continent.

In 2019 Ireland’s total contribution to the Council of Europe, calculated on the basis of our GDP and population, was €3,908,197.41 . More specifically our contribution to the Youth Foundation in 2019 was €39,708.75, and to the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Youth Mobility through the Youth Card was €4,251.57.

Since 2013 Member States of the Council of Europe have implemented a Zero Nominal Growth policy for budget contributions, which has required the organisation gradually, but steadily, to reduce its budgeted activities. While initially envisaged as a means of driving reform, this policy's cumulative effect has been to create a challenging budgetary situation for the organisation which is affecting its capacity to deliver.

This has been compounded by enhanced financial difficulties since 2017, when one of the major contributors, Turkey, decided to change its status from “grand payeur” to ordinary contributor thereby reducing its contribution by almost €20m. At the same time Russia has suspended paying its contribution to the Council of Europe. The cumulative effect of this non-payment is an €87m budget reduction.

Against this challenging financial background, the Council of Europe is working on a number of financing options which have been presented as part of a Contingency Plan, and these involve cuts to a wide range of areas, including the youth sector. This plan and the issue of Council of Europe funding will be discussed at the Ministerial Session in Helsinki on 16-17 May 2019.

It is hoped that a political solution can be found to resolve the current difficulties and that it will not be necessary to implement the budgetary reductions contained in the Contingency Plan. A number of options are under consideration for the funding of the Youth Sector. However, at this stage it is not possible to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations underway that will culminate at the Ministerial meeting in Helsinki later this month.