My main priority for the Presidency, in so far as arts, sport and tourism is concerned, is to ensure that normal EU business is conducted efficiently and effectively, particularly given the additional workload and complexities associated which the accession of ten new member states.
On 27 May, I will chair the Education, Youth and Culture Council for those items in the cultural and audiovisual spheres which fall under my remit. One of the main issues for discussion during our Presidency will be the Commission's proposals for post-2006 EU support programmes in the field of culture and film.
The main priority in the sports area is the European Year of Education through Sport which I launched, along with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, in Dublin on 29 and 30 January in Croke Park. As part of our national programme in this regard, we will use this year to promote the importance of sport within the education system, particularly in promoting social inclusion. I also took the opportunity of this launch to host a Troika meeting of Sports Ministers in Dublin.
Just this morning I launched the LEAPS project, Learning and Education through Activity and Participation in Sport, which aims to explore the benefits of using sport as a way of learning mainstream curriculum subjects. This initiative particularly targets potential early school leavers through the school completion programme. The project also heightens awareness and understanding of other cultures through a focus on multi-national sporting activities.
In advancing co-operation in the cultural field, there are three key events which I will be hosting as part of the Presidency: a seminar on cultural and linguistic diversity in Killarney on 11 and 12 March; a seminar on the music industry in Dublin on 19 and 20 April; and a meeting of the European Group on Digitisation of Heritage and Culture in Dublin which will be followed by a conference on digitisation on 28 and 29 June.
The key tourism event of our Presidency will be an international tourism conference on the theme of competitiveness and sustainability taking place on 5 April in Dublin Castle. The conference, entitled Charting Tourism Success, is being organised by Fáilte Ireland. It will bring representatives from the Irish and European tourism industry, together with representatives of the European Commission and other European policy makers, to identify and discuss issues of common interest which impact on the competitiveness and sustainability of the tourism sector in Europe and internationally.
In January, I formally launched the Presidency cultural programme. This extensive programme, which will see over 250 Irish artists and hundreds of European artists presenting work across the expanded EU, is one of the central features of the Irish Presidency. We have already had a very successful concert in Brussels to mark the start of the Presidency there.
The new member states will be officially welcomed into the EU by an Irish city or town in a special day of welcomes on Saturday, 1 May. This day will be at the heart of a national weekend of celebration that will involve each of the ten towns and cities hosting distinct and engaging 'European Fairs', while a fireworks extravaganza in Dublin from a leading European pyrotechnics company will commence celebrations in the capital on Friday, 30 April.
Dublin will also see Merrion Square transformed into a colourful bazaar with marquees, stands and stages making up 'The European Fair' on Saturday, 1 May. It is expected that over 100,000 visitors will pass through the fair over the weekend to enjoy the experience of unique and interesting produce from the new EU member states and participate in the fun cultural activity.
A major concert of Irish and international stars in the centre of Dublin will be a highlight of the weekend and will be produced by RTE and the BBC. It will be broadcast live throughout Europe. The line-up for this concert will be announced shortly.
From a cultural, sports and tourism perspective, the Irish Presidency promises to be both exciting and rewarding for all those involved.