Skip to main content
Normal View

Foreign Policy

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 19 November 2020

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Questions (183, 184, 185, 189, 190)

Neale Richmond

Question:

183. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the co-operation that exists between Ireland and Serbia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37676/20]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

184. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the co-operation that exists between Ireland and North Macedonia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37677/20]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

185. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the co-operation that exists between Ireland and Albania; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37678/20]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

189. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the co-operation that exists between Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37682/20]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

190. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the co-operation that exists between Ireland and Turkey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37683/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 to 185, inclusive, 189 and 190 together.

Ireland’s interaction and co-operation with the countries in the Western Balkans takes place primarily in the context of the EU enlargement process. Ireland remains a strong supporter of EU enlargement, viewing it as the most efficient foreign policy instrument the EU can deploy to anchor long-term stability and peace in the region. In meetings and phone-calls with my Western Balkan counterparts, I have communicated Ireland’s steadfast support for their respective EU reform agendas and our willingness to assist in any way. This was also communicated by the former Minister of State for Europe, Helen McEntee T.D., in her visits to the Western Balkans in 2018 and 2019.

Ireland’s focus remains on ensuring that the EU’s involvement in the region is fit for purpose, in particular the operation of the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA), which aims to prepare candidate countries for EU membership. IPA benefits all the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey, with funding for the upcoming budget period 2021-2027 in the region of EUR 14 billion. In addition, through the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument (TAIEX) of the European Commission, which facilitates the sharing of EU best practices, Irish experts have offered their expertise in a number of the Western Balkan countries in recent years.

Ireland has also provided EUR 300,000 to the Regional co-operation Council (RCC) which focuses on boosting regional co-operation in the Western Balkans. The RCC is a regionally led framework for co-operation in south-east Europe, and serves as the operational arm of the South East European co-operation Process (SEECP) - a forum for diplomatic and political dialogue set up in the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Our contribution assists the RCC with their aim of promoting regional co-operation across social and economic initiatives, with a focus on employment, energy and transport.  Ireland also sits on the Board of the RCC.

While our focus remains on the EU approach to the region, we are also working to strengthen our co-operation and bilateral relations with each of the accession countries, although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted these efforts.

In Albania, we have made a number of efforts in recent years to boost co-operation. Ireland has hosted a number of study visits in recent years, designed to share our expertise with Albanian officials. This has attracted high level visitors, including the Deputy Minister of the Albanian Ministry of Finance and Economy in 2019, the Minister of State for the Diaspora in 2018, as well as separate delegations from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In addition, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), in conjunction with Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI), were selected to support a capacity building project in the areas of food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary standards in Albania. The project, which is funded by EuropeAID, is valued at EUR 5 million, will run until 2023, and be carried out in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Evira ( the food safety Agency of Finland) and a local partner, Creative Business Solutions (an Albanian NGO). It is the largest tender won by SFSI to date. A study tour to Ireland by Albanian officials was a key factor in Ireland being selected as the lead partner for this project.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Embassy of Ireland in Ljubljana (which has responsibility for Bosnia and Herzegovina) collaborates regularly with the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably for the “greening” of the Museum in March 2020, an International James Joyce exhibition in September 2019, and the restoration of objects with Celtic connections for a preview in March 2019.  A number of cultural activities in BiH have also recently been supported by the Embassy. It should also be noted that Ireland actively participates in the UN peacekeeping Operation ALTHEA, the mandate for which was extended in recent weeks for another 12 months.

Ireland enjoys warm relations with North Macedonia and was pleased to offer our strong support on its EU accession path, leading to the official decision by the European Council in March 2020 to formally commence accession negotiations. In recent years there have been some official visits between our countries, including the visit of then Minister of State  for EU Affairs, Helen McEntee T.D. to Skopje last year for discussions on the opening of EU accession negotiations and assistance Ireland might provide with respect to attracting FDI and diaspora engagement.  

In Serbia, we have stepped up our efforts to boost engagement in recent years. In an effort to enhance Irish-Serbian collaboration in the digital sector, our Embassy in Athens hosted a Digital Creativity Conference in Belgrade in March 2019. The event received very positive feedback in relation to the potential for Irish companies in certain sectors of the Serbian market. One of the outcomes will be the establishment of a Serbian-Irish Business Association, led by Irish business interests in Serbia. On the cultural front, the annual Belgrade-Irish Festival which is supported by Culture Ireland and the Embassy in Athens (accredited to Serbia), celebrated its seventh year in 2019 and is a very positive vehicle for promoting modern Irish culture in Serbia. In recent years, Irish Aid has also provided funding for demining work in Serbia and developing demilitarisation capacity of the Serbian authorities.

In regards to Turkey, the situation is more complex given that the accession progress is essentially frozen. Ireland provides funding to the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI), an NGO established with international experts in conflict resolution and democratic advancement. DPI initiatives in Turkey aim to promote democracy through strengthened public dialogue and engagement with civic society. Through this work, Ireland hopes to contribute to knowledge-sharing and learning opportunities for co-operation on democratic advancement across all sectors of Turkish society. Ireland has provided funding to the value of EUR 25,000 in 2020 for projects in Turkey run by the Journalists Association, the Federation of Women Associations of Turkey and the SADA Women’s Cooperative. Our Embassy in Ankara cooperates on many local cultural initiatives, including support for Irish films at annual Turkish film festivals and “greenings” for St Patrick’s Day in 2019 and 2020. In the field of education, the Embassy cooperates with Hacettepe University in Ankara to support the annual Literary One Day Conference on Irish writers. Ireland welcomes Turkish graduate students every year under the EU Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme on research topics directly related to Turkey’s EU harmonisation process and the EU acquis.

Top
Share