Written Answers. - Duty Free Sales.

Donal Carey

Ceist:

71 Mr. D. Carey asked the Minister for Finance the discussions, if any, on duty free sales which took place at the Berlin Summit; the progress, if any, made in deferring the date for the abolition of duty free sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10027/99]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

90 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance when duty free sales within the European Union will be terminated; and the steps, if any, he proposes to counteract the expected job losses. [10193/99]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

96 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he raised the issue of duty free with his British counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5967/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 90 and 96 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the decision to end duty free sales for intra-Community travellers has been enacted into European law and is scheduled to come into effect on 30 June 1999. Any alteration in this arrangement would require a proposal, in the first instance from the EU Commission, and unanimous agreement at Council. To date, the Commission has confirmed that it will not put forward such a proposal. I refer the Deputies to the Adjournment debate in this House on 11 February 1999 and to a priority question, which I answered on 25 February 1999, which dealt comprehensively with the issue of duty free sales.

Ireland raised this issue at all levels and at various EU Councils including at the European summits over the years. Other EU member states have done likewise but without success. While I have not raised the matter formally recently with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, I can inform the House that the matter was discussed, at some length, at the ECOFIN meeting on 15 March 1999. There the Council took note of the Commission's communication (COM (1999) 65 final, dated 17 February 1999) and requested the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine its contents and to report back at its next meeting. However the question of duty free was not raised at the Berlin Summit at the end of March 1999.