Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Questions (80)

Thomas Byrne


80. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Taoiseach the rules under which he flew to Zagreb, Croatia, recently on a Government aircraft. [49194/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I visited Zagreb on 20-21 November. The programme for my visit included official meetings with President Grabar-Kitarovic, Prime Minister Plenkovic, and a reception hosted by our Ambassador, attended by representatives of the small and vibrant Irish community in Croatia.

Unfortunately, due to a technical issue that delayed my arrival in Zagreb, it was not possible for me to meet with President Grabar-Kitarovic at the scheduled time on this occasion. However, I look forward to meeting with her again on another occasion.

My meeting with Prime Minister Plenkovic was especially timely, as Croatia will assume the Presidency of the EU for the first time in January. During its term in office it will manage a number of files of particular importance for Ireland, including Brexit and the Union’s budget for the period 2021-2027, the Multiannual Financial Framework. Our discussions focussed on these issues and also on the future enlargement of the EU. Croatia as a country in the Western Balkans has important insights to offer on this matter, and it will host a Summit on the region during its Presidency.

As a fellow small Member State, with a similarly small administration, Ireland understands well the scale of the task involved in undertaking a Presidency, and I offered the Prime Minister my full support and cooperation.

Whilst in Zagreb I had the opportunity for an extensive range of valuable meetings and discussions with other European leaders principally concerning the next steps on Brexit and the future relationship with the United Kingdom - President of the European Council Donald Tusk, the incoming President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Michel Barnier, the European Union's Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union, President Anastasiades of Cyprus, President Iohannis and Prime Minister Orban of Romania, Prime Minister Borissov of Bulgaria, Prime Minister Karins of Latvi a, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Mitsotakis of Greece, Prime Minister Solberg of Norway and incoming Chancellor Kurz of Austria.

I used the Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS) to travel to Zagreb. The MATS provides the Government and the President with an independent, flexible and effective air transport service to assist in meeting national and international obligations.