Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Ceisteanna (84)

Liz McManus


155 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her priorities for the Irish Presidency of the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3784/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

I have published a priorities paper for the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, which I will chair during the Presidency. The programme for the Competitiveness Council is firmly rooted in the ten year strategy for growth, economic reform and job creation agreed by the Lisbon European Council in 2000. A separate programme and priorities paper for the Employment Social Policy Health and Consumer Affairs Council, which covers policy areas across a number of Departments including my own, has also been published. Both priority papers are available in English, Irish and French. Copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library and they are also posted on the official Irish Presidency website at www.eu2004.ie and on my Department's website at www.entemp.ie.

The Lisbon Agenda of economic, social and environmental renewal of the EU is a key overarching priority for the Irish Presidency. Progress on the achievement of the agenda and measures to give renewed impetus to advancing economic reform, enhancing competitiveness and stimulating employment in Europe will be the focus of the spring European Council on 25-26 March 2004.

I will chair two formal meetings of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, which are scheduled to take place in Brussels on 11 March and 17-18 May 2004. Particular stress will be laid by Ireland on the need for the Competitiveness Council to focus on and develop its horizontal remit in line with the Seville European Council in June 2002 and the Presidency conclusions of the 2003 spring summit. It is important that there is attention at the highest political level on issues affecting the competitiveness of enterprise and I see the role of the Competitiveness Council as central to achieving this. The council will also discuss a range of issues in areas such as enterprise, research and innovation policies and the completion and effective operation of the internal market, particularly with regard to the services sector. Specific dossiers on issues relating to intellectual property, including the proposal for a Community patent, company law and consumer policy will also feature on the Council's agenda. I will also chair an informal meeting of EU and accession Ministers responsible for competitiveness, which is scheduled to take place at Dromoland Castle, County Clare on 26-27 April. The meeting will focus on industrial policy and innovation.

The Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, will chair the sessions of the Employment Social Policy Health and Consumer Affairs, ESPHCA, Council dealing with items on which my Department takes the lead such as the European employment strategy and other relevant individual dossiers. The ESPHCA Council is scheduled to meet in formal session on 4-5 March and 1-2 June 2004. The Irish Presidency will seek to promote closer co-operation with the two sides of industry in facilitating change and helping in the effective transformation of the European economy. To this end it will convene a tripartite social summit with the EU level social partners in advance of the 2004 spring European Council. On 16 January, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, co-chaired, along with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, an informal meeting of Ministers for Employment and Social Policy on in Galway. The theme of the meeting was, making work pay. On the previous day the Irish Presidency convened a Council Troika meeting with the social partners and the social platform of NGOs.

Both the Competitiveness and ESPHCA Councils will make significant contributions to the preparation of the spring European Council meeting next March.

My Department will also be responsible for EU Council work on European common commercial policy matters during the Irish Presidency. This will involve the organisation and chairing of Council meetings at ministerial and official level in Dublin, Brussels, Geneva, Paris and elsewhere. Among the substantive issues to be dealt with will be the World Trade Organisation negotiations and the European Union's trade relations with various countries and regions. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, will be closely involved in pursuing the EU agenda in the foregoing areas during the Presidency.

In addition to the formal Presidency agenda, my Department is organising a number of further Presidency-related meetings in Ireland. The calendar of such events, across all policy areas, has been deposited in the Oireachtas Library by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.