Commemorative Events

Questions (406)

Neale Richmond

Question:

406. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Ministers who participated in Armistice and Remembrance Sunday services in an official capacity in 2020. [37759/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, participation in Armistice commemorations in 2020 was different to that of previous years. This included smaller and more restricted formats to most events, and the restriction of travel of Government Ministers to Armistice Day services.

On Sunday, 8 November, the Taoiseach attended the annual Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, as each Taoiseach has done since 2011.

The Government was represented at the Remembrance Day ceremony organised by Belfast City Council by the Irish Joint Secretary of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

Foreign Policy

Questions (407, 414)

Joe O'Brien

Question:

407. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will condemn the reported threats from a person (details supplied) in Belgium to influence and subvert their trial on terrorism charges. [37772/20]

View answer

Brendan Howlin

Question:

414. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the case of an Iranian diplomat charged in Belgium with planning to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France; if the matter has been discussed at European Council level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38063/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 407 and 414 together.

In relation to the case raised by the Deputy, I am aware of reports about it. I condemn in the strongest terms any attempts to commit violence or acts of terrorism. However, as the situation is subject to an ongoing criminal investigation in another jurisdiction, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on the matter.

Middle East

Questions (408)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

408. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions he will take in view of the destruction of the Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37784/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The demolition by Israeli authorities of private property is of grave concern. Demolition and confiscation of humanitarian assets, including education infrastructure, is contrary to Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law, and in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.

I was deeply dismayed to learn of the demolition by Israeli authorities on 3 November of more than 70 structures, belonging to 11 Palestinian families in the community of Humsa Al Bqai’a (also referred to as Khirbet Humsa) located in the northern Jordan Valley. These demolitions include residential, livelihood and sanitation facilities.

I issued a statement on these demolitions on 6 November in which I underlined that destruction of private property such as this is clearly prohibited under international humanitarian law. Israel, as the occupying power, has clear obligations towards members of this community, including the 41 children impacted by the demolitions.

On 6 November, Ireland’s Representative Office in Ramallah visited the site of the demolitions, along with other diplomatic representatives. Ireland, the EU, and the wider humanitarian community are ready to support those impacted and the West Bank Protection Consortium, of which Ireland is a member, is providing emergency shelter and support to affected families.

While my primary concern is the hardship and injustice that demolitions and confiscations cause for Palestinian families, it is important that the question of recompense for humanitarian relief funded by our taxpayers should be pursued. Ireland pursues this issue consistently through the West Bank Protection Consortium. It is the practice of the Consortium to raise this directly with the Israeli authorities and to date, the Consortium has sought compensation of over €625,000 in respect of confiscated or demolished assets.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (409)

Carol Nolan

Question:

409. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of contracts of €25,000 or more than have been awarded by his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines from 1 January 2019 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37798/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department operates in a number of locations in Ireland and approximately 90 locations worldwide. It comprises two Votes; Vote 27 International Cooperation and Vote 28 Foreign Affairs. The policy of the Department is to operate competitive tendering as standard procedure in order to achieve best value for money.

The Department is focused on good practice in procurement and that procedures are in place to ensure compliance with all relevant procurement guidelines. Procurement takes place in compliance with Directive 2014/24/EU and supported by Procurement Guidelines published by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP).

On occasion, a small number of Department contracts do not undergo a competitive process due to exceptional market conditions or other circumstances. Such contracts are recorded in accordance with DPER Circular 40/02. The majority of the contracts relate to provision of proprietary ICT services or to situations where there was a single suitable supplier available. These contracts are subject to regular review by my Department’s procurement team. Other contracts were extended beyond the original expiry date without a competitive process, or in some cases, contracts had previously been awarded but exceeded the relevant thresholds that now require a competitive process. The Department has already tendered a number of these contracts in 2020 and will tender the remainder of contacts shortly.

Details of contracts for 2020 are not available at this time. However, 2020 procurements are being monitored and managed by the Department on an ongoing basis.

Details of non-compliant contracts for 2019 are included in the following table;

Company Name

Title of Contract

Value – 2019

1

DHL

Outbound diplomatic mail service

€80,000

2

TNT

Inbound diplomatic mail service

€150,000

3

Funshog Office Fit Ltd.

Office furniture removals, maintenance and general services.

€99,391

4

Accent

Commercial Cleaning Services

€462,966

5

Grosvenor

Commercial Cleaning Services

€30,655

6

Eco support

Commercial Cleaning Services

€51,121

7

Sandfort Language Institute

Pre post foreign language training

€38,626

8

Alliance Francaise

Pre post foreign language training

€32,258

9

Cervantes Institute

Pre post foreign language training

€26,274

10

City Services

Security for Chancery and Residence Brasilia

€110,726

11

Nexia STT

Audit of Irish Aid funding under P135 program

€54,281

12

G4S

Security Contract Embassy - Riyadh

€70,449

13

733 Restaurant Corp

Catering Services for CG New York

€80,333

14

G4S

Security Services - Chancery and Residence Jakarta

€119,312

15

ARKHE Risk Solutions

Security Contract Embassy - Maputo

€28,236

16

CSU BV

Cleaning Services Embassy and Residence The Hague

€33,000

17

Starplus

Cleaning Services for Embassy, Consular, Passport Office and Visa Office London

€33,846

Total

€1,501,474

Election Monitoring Missions

Questions (410)

Paul Murphy

Question:

410. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recommendations of the Oireachtas Select Committee on Public Accounts in 2018 that the five year duration of the election observation roster should be reviewed as to whether it is excessive; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that EU countries refresh their election observation rosters every two or three years; the plans he has to replace the current roster; if officials in the audit unit examined the roster; if he will detail their findings and recommendations; the date on which it was decided to suspend the contribution by Ireland to international election observation missions of the OSCE; the basis upon which that decision was made; if other Departments were consulted in advance of the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37818/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland's current International Election Observation Roster, which is facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, is effective as of 1 January 2019 and will run through 2023. Roster members were selected on the basis of an open competitive application process in 2018. This process has ensured that 1) there is a suitably skilled, trained and security-vetted pool of volunteers who are available to participate in certain election observation missions (EOMs), which can arise at short notice; and 2) there is greater efficiency, as EOM calls are circulated to roster members who are pre-vetted and responsible for ensuring their online profiles with the EU and OSCE are correctly maintained as required. The roster consists of 199 volunteers and thus there is a large pool of high-calibre election observers available for nomination to international election observation missions (EOMs) organised by the EU and OSCE. By way of context, the average number of roster members participating in missions annually is fewer than 60. The number of volunteers on the roster compared to the number required annually allows for a sufficiently wide distribution of nominations among suitably qualified and vetted individuals over the lifetime of the roster, subject to fulfillment of any particular requirements set by the sending agencies (EU/OSCE). Nominating countries to international observation missions, including EU countries, follow a range of different modalities in managing their own rosters, which is a matter for each member State to decide on for themselves.

The Evaluation and Audit Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs has conducted a review, with independent input, of the International Election Observation Roster. That review will be presented to the Department’s Independent Audit Committee at one of their regular meetings and subsequently published and we will be happy to provide a copy to the Deputy upon publication.

The duration of the roster is one aspect considered in this review. While it is possible to reduce the duration of the roster this would also, logically, lead to a reduction in the membership of the roster which would reduce opportunities available to volunteers interested in applying for the next mustering. More frequent musterings would also generate increased overheads and opportunity costs to my Department, which would have to be weighed in the balance of any decision.

Ireland has not nominated observers to participate in international election observation missions (EOMs) of the OSCE/ODIHR and EU since March 2020. The decision not to nominate volunteers for EOMs was made on foot of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of measures to combat this unprecedented global public health emergency. The basis for the decision has been outlined in detail in response to Parliamentary Questions No. 396 of 6 October, No. 158 of 15 October, No. 655 of 3 November and No. 400 of 10 November. As detailed, the decision is based chiefly on considerations for the health and safety of all concerned. Factors taken into account include public health measures and overseas travel advice in Ireland; the COVID-19 incidence rate in Ireland and abroad; and the risk of observers being exposed and/or exposing others to COVID-19 through a) international travel, b) extensive in-country travel, c) close contact with residents as well as election observers from other countries, and d) contact with family and others on return to Ireland.

Furthermore, during the same period the OSCE suspended standard EOMs due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. An OSCE EOM to North Macedonia, which had commenced activities on 1 March 2020, was suspended due to the global health emergency and all election observation personnel already in place were withdrawn. Subsequently, the OSCE requested nominations for short-term observers (STOs) for elections in Montenegro, Ukraine, Georgia and Republic of Moldova but due to public health reasons reconstituted the missions as a Limited Election Observation Missions (LEOM). Department of Foreign Affairs officials continue to monitor and evaluate EOM requests as they arise in line with the very many health and safety factors to be taken into account, as outlined above.

As stated in the response to Parliamentary Question No. 400 of 3 November, the Department of Foreign Affairs, along with other concerned Departments and public bodies, participates in the COVID-19 Senior Officials' Group coordinated by Department of An Taoiseach. This working group is concerned with ensuring the operation and services of Departments and public bodies are aligned with the COVID-19 (Level 5) framework currently in place. In the event that the possibility of resuming nomination to international election observation missions is likely, that Group would be the proper forum for broader consultation to consider the risks to public health as outlined above.

Legislative Process

Questions (411)

Carol Nolan

Question:

411. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of all applications made by his Department to the Oireachtas business committee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation sponsored or initiated by his Department from 1 January 2017 to date; the outcomes of such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37895/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since 1 January, 2017, the Department has sought approval from the Oireachtas Business Commitee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny on two occasions, both in relation to Brexit legislation.

A request was made on 24 January 2019, in respect of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019, and a further request was made on 23 September 2020 in respect of the the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2020. Both these Bills were Omnibus Bills consisting of multiple parts under the remits of multiple Ministers. In both cases, the Business Committee agreed to waive the normal pre-legislative scrutiny procedure, subject to each of the relevant sectoral Oireachtas Committees being provided with a briefing by the relevant Minister and Department. Such briefings were, of course, provided.

The 2020 Brexit Omnibus Bill completed Second Stage in the Dáil on 12 November. Committee and Report Stages will be taken on 25 and 26 November. The 2020 Bill will support a number of the required Brexit readiness measures being put in place for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. It is necessary that the Bill is enacted as a matter of priority, so that it and associated secondary legislation can be commenced before 31 December.

Departmental Staff

Questions (412)

Patrick Costello

Question:

412. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the grade at which the chief data protection officer in his Department is employed. [37919/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I wish to confirm that the member of staff in my Department assigned to the role of Data Protection Officer is employed at the level of Assistant Principal Officer.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Question No. 414 answered with Question No. 407.

Questions (413)

John McGuinness

Question:

413. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of tribunals, inquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by his Department; the number that are in the process of being set up; the number in which the terms of reference are not complete or not agreed; the cost of all to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38041/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

There are no tribunals, enquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by my Department.

Question No. 414 answered with Question No. 407.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (415, 425)

John Lahart

Question:

415. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the war that has been ongoing in Tigray, Ethiopia, since early November 2020; the actions has he taken to assist the populace of Ethiopia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38443/20]

View answer

John Brady

Question:

425. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38589/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 415 and 425 together.

I am deeply concerned by the recent outbreak of armed conflict between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the regional authorities in Tigray and by reports of atrocities and targeting of ethnic groups. There are credible allegations of mass casualties, including civilian casualties, and of human rights abuses. There is a grave risk of a humanitarian crisis. Tigray is home to many refugees, displaced persons and local communities already coping with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. If not contained, this conflict could threaten the stability of Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, and have serious regional implications for the wider Horn of Africa, one of the continent’s most fragile regions.

Ireland is actively supporting the efforts of the EU and wider international community to de-escalate the situation, including through engagement with the African Union which has appointed three Special Envoys. Minister Coveney has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and the commencement of a national dialogue to de-escalate tensions. Minister Coveney has also condemned the reported atrocities and identity-based attacks. It is essential to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are upheld. I am gravely concerned by reports that Ethiopia’s federal military has said civilians should protect themselves from heavy artillery, in advance of a planned assault against the regional capital. I urge all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

The situation in Ethiopia was raised by HRVP Borrell at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on 19 November. Minister Coveney intervened calling for continued EU efforts to push for a resolution of the crisis, and stressed the need to act fast and collectively to call for unconditional, unrestricted access for humanitarian actors to affected areas.

Ireland’s Embassy in Addis Ababa is engaging closely with other EU Heads of Mission, the UN and other members of the international community in monitoring, reporting and advocating on the situation and in preparing for an emergency humanitarian response.

Ireland’s largest bilateral development cooperation programme is in Ethiopia. The Embassy of Ireland is in the process of providing €416,000 to the humanitarian response in Tigray, along with a projected €500,000 to support refugees in Eastern Sudan. My Department is actively looking at ways to address other critical funding needs in light of the escalating humanitarian situation.

Brexit Negotiations

Questions (416)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

416. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of Brexit negotiations regarding the protection of Irish fisheries and their fishing rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38463/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The issues of fisheries, along with governance arrangements and provisions for a level playing field, have been the most challenging issues in the EU-UK future relationship negotiations. Securing an overall future relationship agreement, including the best possible outcome on fisheries, is a priority for Ireland. I have repeatedly raised fisheries as a priority for Ireland in my bilateral political contacts, as indeed has the Taoiseach, Minister McConalogue and other members of the Government. In particular we, and our EU partners, are very clear that the issue of fisheries cannot be separated from the wider trade negotiations.

Ireland is seeking to protect the interests of the Irish fleet in relation to access conditions, quota shares and the traditional activity of the EU fleet, while insisting that fisheries issues are dealt with as part of an overall trade deal. It is vital that we do everything possible to protect our vulnerable coastal communities and fishers. In particular, it will be important to ensure no EU Member States are disproportionately affected by any new arrangements.

From the outset of the negotiations, Ireland and our EU partners have been clear on our level of ambition in this area and on the fact that progress on an overall economic partnership agreement on trade is linked to progress on fisheries.

The Brexit Stakeholder Forum, which I chair, meets regularly to discuss progress in the EU-UK Future Relationship negotiations, and is attended by representatives of the fisheries sector.

Clearly, the two sides are still very far apart even as we approach the final stages of the negotiations. The European Commission Task Force, led by Michel Barnier, is continuing to work towards achieving an overall agreement, and for a satisfactory outcome on this area. Affected Member States, including Ireland, are continuing our very close engagement with the Taskforce on the EU approach.

Brexit Issues

Questions (417)

Neale Richmond

Question:

417. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the engagement he has had with his counterparts on the General Affairs Council regarding Brexit being a factor in funds allocated under the Covid-19 recovery fund. [33505/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The July European Council reached agreement on the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and Recovery Fund, totalling an unprecedented €1.82 trillion. The aim of the Recovery Fund is to support the sustainable and resilient recovery of Member States’ economies from the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall MFF/Recovery Fund package is a fair and balanced outcome and is testament to the solidarity shown by Member States to deal with this once in a generation crisis and will assist us all in our recovery from the current pandemic.

As part of the final agreement reached on the MFF and Recovery Fund package in July, it was agreed to establish a new special Brexit Adjustment Reserve worth €5 billion to counter the unforeseen and adverse consequences in those Member States and sectors that are worst affected by Brexit. The European Council invited the European Commission to present a proposal for a special Brexit instrument by November 2020 at the latest.

Throughout the negotiations on the MFF and more recently in discussions I have had with my EU counterparts and with the Commissioner with responsibility for the Budget and Administration portfolio, Johannes Hahn, I highlighted Ireland’s unique vulnerability to Brexit, the exposure of key sectors of Ireland’s economy to trade with the UK, and the disproportionate impact on Ireland’s economy as a result of Brexit.

We continue to work closely with the European Commission to ensure that the Fund targets the sectors and Member States most disproportionately impacted by Brexit. In my discussions with Commissioner Hahn, I also indicated our support for a Fund that provides early certainty on the level of funding allocated to a Member State, ensures funds flow quickly so that beneficiaries can mitigate negative impacts early, and is flexible in recognition of national specificities as to the impact of Brexit.

Brexit Negotiations

Questions (418)

Neale Richmond

Question:

418. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of trade negotiations between the European Union and United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34982/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Negotiations on an EU-UK future relationship have entered an even more intensive phase since 21 October with negotiating teams working on a daily basis to close the gaps between the two sides.

The Deputies will appreciate that this process has reached a particularly sensitive point. It is clear that unlocking a deal will only be possible if appropriate arrangements are found on the key issues of the level playing field for open and fair competition, governance and on fisheries, a key national interest for Ireland.

Both sides agreed in intensifying the negotiations in October that regardless of progress in individual workstreams, nothing is agreed until an overall agreement is reached. Nevertheless we understand that progress has been made in recent weeks in a range of other areas of importance to Ireland, including on connectivity, as well as on police and judicial cooperation.

Any deal must involve compromises on all sides. However, a deal cannot come at any price. The EU cannot accept proposals that impact on the integrity of the Single Market or damage the long term political and economic interests of the Union. We recognise that the UK also has its red lines. The work of the negotiators is to find a set of arrangements that respects both the EU and UK’s values and interests, and that gives us a strong and sustainable framework for the vital cooperation between us.

Michel Barnier has our full support, and the support of the entire EU27, at this crucial moment in the negotiating process. As the EU’s Chief Negotiator, he has been central to the united, cohesive approach of the EU27 throughout the Brexit process, including during its most critical moments. The universal confidence and respect he inspires in EU capitals is testament to his efforts.

I and my colleagues in Government have remained in close contact with our European counterparts in the recent period. I would like to acknowledge the absolute support and solidarity that our EU partners have demonstrated unflaggingly throughout the Brexit process. They have always recognised the unique ways in which Ireland, north and south, is affected by Brexit. This concern has expressed itself through the EU mandate and draft legal text, and through the words and actions of our partners. I have no doubt that we will continue to enjoy their solidarity as we face the new challenges that will come with the end of the transition period.

Irrespective of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, the end of the transition period will bring substantial and lasting change. This means that business and citizens must take action now to be ready for the first of January. I would particularly emphasise that with or without a trade deal, any business that moves goods from, to or through Great Britain will be subject to a range of customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that do not apply to such trade today.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind the House that regardless of the outcome of the talks, the full, effective and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol, remains vital. The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is explicitly designed to operate regardless of whether an EU-UK Future Relationship Agreement is in place.

I look forward to further updating the House as developments in the negotiations arise.

Election Monitoring Missions

Questions (419)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

419. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the 2018 survey of the way in which other countries operated their election observation programmes; the objectives of this survey; the countries that returned surveys; the findings relating to politicians on the rosters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38578/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Information received in confidence from foreign Governments on their election observation programmes remains confidential, unless released publicly by the originating authorities in accordance with their own regulations or legislation. It would be a breach of the principle of trust in international relations with other countries or international organisations to release such information.

Human Rights Cases

Questions (420)

John Brady

Question:

420. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress his Department has made towards the release of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38584/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been monitoring this case concerning the detention of a human rights defender in India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Our Embassy in New Delhi has been engaged with the EU Delegation and other EU Embassies on this matter. The EU Delegation has contacted the National Human Rights Commission of India to enquire about the conditions of the detention of this human rights defender, and raised the possibility of his release on humanitarian grounds given his age and the risks posed by COVID-19 in prison. Regrettably, an application for bail on health grounds was rejected by a court on 23 October based on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The promotion of human rights, including the protection of human rights defenders, is a priority of Ireland’s foreign policy. We expect the authorities in India to have due regard for his well-being during his detention, in particular his personal requirements arising from his advanced years and ill-health. We also expect that the Indian authorities will fully respect the rule of law in this case, including the presumption of innocence. The Embassy will continue to monitor developments in this case in close liaison with the EU Delegation and other EU Embassies.

Foreign Policy

Questions (421)

John Brady

Question:

421. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the current state of the crisis in Belarus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38585/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am very concerned by developments in Belarus, which continue to deteriorate. We have seen mass and indiscriminate detentions, including of children, violence against peaceful protesters, evidence of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including reports of sexual abuse, internet shutdowns and curbs on media freedoms.

UN Special Rapporteurs have highlighted continued violations of children's rights and the persecution of women human rights defenders in the country. Ireland shares their concerns and we will continue to raise our voice on the appalling human rights situation in international settings.

Despite large-scale peaceful protests, members of the political opposition have been threatened, harassed, detained and forced into exile. We have also seen loss of life, including the recent death of a peaceful protester in police custody which was needless and shameful.

Ireland and the EU have repeatedly condemned the use of violence by the Belarusian authorities against their own people. We sent a firm message through the imposition of targeted sanctions against key figures in Belarus. So far 55 individuals have been sanctioned, including Lukashenko himself, and we stand ready to go further.

However, sanctions are just one element of a broader response. A review of EU-Belarus relations is underway and we will continue to work with our EU partners on redirecting EU funds towards Belarusian civil society and away from the authorities. Ireland has also committed €50,000 for two projects in Belarus through the European Endowment for Democracy that aim to protect human rights and media freedoms.

EU Foreign Ministers remain firmly engaged in trying to bring about a peaceful and democratic resolution to the crisis. We will continue to press the Belarusian authorities to end their campaign of violence against the Belarusian people, to unconditionally release those unjustly detained and to respect their international commitments.

We are unwavering in our support for the Belarusian people in their clear and simple demands that their elections to be free and fair and that their basic human rights be respected.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (422)

John Brady

Question:

422. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the deteriorating situation in the Western Sahara region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38586/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I was concerned by the reports of an exchange of gunfire between Polisario and Royal Moroccan Army (RMA) positions in the buffer zone at Guerguerat, on the border with Mauritania, on Friday 13 November. We have not seen any confirmed reports of any casualties.

The United Nations Secretary-General has made multiple contacts with the parties to avoid an escalation and to warn against violations of the ceasefire. The EU High Representative spoke to the Foreign Ministers of Algeria and Morocco on Sunday. He stressed the importance of complying with the terms of the 1991 ceasefire agreement and reiterated the EU’s support for the United Nations Mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which includes two members of our Defence Forces.

I fully support the efforts of the UN Secretary General and the EU HRVP in this respect. It is important that all parties avoid any action which may escalate the situation. We wish to see a swift resumption of UN-led talks. The appointment of a successor to Mr. Horst Kohler, who stepped down as Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Western Sahara, is needed as a matter of urgency to encourage the engagement of the parties in talks.

Ireland’s long-held position is that Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory. We support the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and do not have a view on the outcome of that decision – be it independence, integration, autonomy, or some other solution – so long as it is decided peacefully and in a genuine exercise of self-determination.