Written Answers - EU Presidency.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

164 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the preparations being made for the Irish Presidency of the EU during 2004; the issues he expects will be the priorities for the period of the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6428/03]

Preparation for the Irish Presidency of the EU started in late 2001 and is increasing in intensity as the Presidency approaches. It involves enhanced ministerial and departmental co-ordination, contacts with previous and future Presidencies and enhanced contacts at all levels with the EU institutions and with current and new member states.

Work on the development of the Presidency programme is taking place against the background of the decisions taken at the Seville European Council in June 2002 with regard to improving the functioning of the Council. In accordance with the Seville conclusions, a three year multi-annual strategic programme, drawn up by the six Presidencies concerned, will be adopted by the European Council in December. In the light of this an annual operating programme for 2004, drawn up jointly by the Irish and Netherlands Presidencies, will be adopted by GAERC in December. The Irish Presidency programme for the first six months of next year will be complimentary to these processes.

Work on Ireland's Presidency priorities is ongoing. While the process is still at an early stage we can already anticipate a number of key issues that will feature on the Union's agenda in 2004. These include: enlargement with the accession of the new member states on 1 May 2004 and the ongoing accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania and the development of relations with Turkey; the conduct and possible conclusion of the intergovernmental conference on the future of Europe, depending on decisions to be taken by the European Council in the light of the outcome of the Convention on the Future of Europe; progressing the Lisbon Agenda which is aimed at advancing economic reform and competitiveness at the spring European Council in March 2004 and the implementation of agreed commitments in the areas of freedom, security and justice by the treaty deadline of 1 May 2004. We can also anticipate a heavy agenda in the external relations area which includes Community policies such as trade, development and humanitarian aid and CFSP and ESDP which are intergovernmental in character.
Other issues will emerge in the coming months across the whole range of the EU agenda depending on the progress made during the preceding Greek and Italian Presidencies and in the light of the conclusions of the European Councils which will take place this year.
Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 113.