Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Official Engagements.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 6 July 2004

Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Ceisteanna (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54)

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the agenda for the June 2004 meeting of the European Council in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17210/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

2 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he held on the margins of the forthcoming European Council meeting in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17235/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

3 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the outcome of the June 2004 meeting of the European Council in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18246/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

4 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he held on the margins of the recent European Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18247/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

5 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed and conclusions reached at the European Council on 17 and 18 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18254/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

6 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he held on the fringes on the European Council on 17 and 18 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18255/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

7 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EU summit in Brussels on 17 and 18 June 2004. [18306/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

8 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the details of meetings he had in the margins of the EU summit in Brussels on 17 and 18 June, 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18307/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

9 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the discussions conducted and conclusions reached as regards the proposed EU constitution at the European Council in June 2004. [18997/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

10 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the outcome of the June 2004 European Council meeting in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19001/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

11 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the bilateral meetings he held on the margins of the recent European Council meeting in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19002/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

12 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his participation in the negotiations to conclude an EU constitutional treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19281/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

13 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meetings with other EU Heads of Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17218/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

14 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach for the programme relating to the visit by the President of the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17230/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

15 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting with the President of the French Republic, Mr. Chirac; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17417/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

16 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meetings with the Heads of Government of Germany, France and Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17418/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

17 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent visit to the Netherlands and his discussions with political leaders there. [17473/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

18 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent visit to Belgium and his discussions with political leaders there. [17474/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

19 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent visit to Luxembourg and his discussions with political leaders there. [17475/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

20 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent visit to Germany and his discussions with political leaders there. [17476/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

21 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent visit to Denmark and his discussions with political leaders there. [17477/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

22 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if his pre-summit visits to other European countries have now been completed; if, in view of his meetings with EU leaders, he will now give his assessments of the prospects for agreement on the proposed constitution at the forthcoming EU summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17478/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

23 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance as an observer at the G8 summit in the United States on 8 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17602/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

24 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the G8 summit in Georgia, USA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17637/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

25 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he had bilateral meetings on the fringe of the G8 summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17640/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

26 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with Prime Minister Juncker in Luxembourg in early June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17641/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

27 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting on 4 June 2004 with German Chancellor, Mr. Gerhard Schröder, in Berlin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17642/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

28 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the French President, Mr. Jacques Chirac, on 2 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17643/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

29 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his attendance as EU observer at the G8 summit in the United States from 8 to 11 June 2004. [17644/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

30 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the moneys allocated to his Department for expenditure connected with the EU Presidency; the way in which these moneys have been spent and the amount which has been spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17717/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

31 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the recent G8 summit in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18245/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

32 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his most recent contacts with the US Administration. [18250/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

33 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the matters discussed and conclusions reached at the recent G8 summit in Savannah, Georgia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18251/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

34 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he held on the fringes of the G8 summit in Savannah, Georgia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18252/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

35 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the total additional expenditure incurred by his Department arising from the EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18308/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

36 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting with the President of France. [18993/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

37 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his recent visits to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. [18994/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

38 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to Germany. [18995/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

39 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to Denmark. [18996/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

40 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recent visit of the US President, Mr. Bush; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19003/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

41 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the outcome of the recent EU-US summit meeting which took place in County Clare in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19004/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

42 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the steps he intends to take to secure agreement on a new President of the EU Commission prior to the end of the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19072/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

43 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his participation in the EU-Japan summit. [19073/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

44 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his discussions with political leaders during his visit to Japan. [19074/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

45 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed and conclusions reached at his meeting between 25 and 26 June 2004 with the President of the United States, George W. Bush; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19177/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

46 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach when he next plans to meet the President of the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19178/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

47 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with US President, George Bush, in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19285/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

48 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EU-US summit in County Clare on 26 June 2004. [19541/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

49 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed at his bilateral meeting with President Bush in County Clare on 26 June 2004; if he raised with the President concerns regarding the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US forces; if he conveyed to the President the concerns of the Irish people regarding US policy in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19542/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

50 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed and conclusions reached at the recent Euro-Atlantic partnership council meeting in Istanbul; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19963/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

51 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the special European Council meeting held in Brussels on 29 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20069/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

52 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the recent meeting of the Partnership for Peace in Turkey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20070/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

53 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with President George Bush in Dromoland Castle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20232/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

54 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the outcome of the EU-US summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20233/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (57 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 54, inclusive, together.

As President of the European Council, I chaired the meetings of the European Council and Intergovernmental Conference held in Brussels on 17 and 18 June. The Council conclusions and the text of the European constitution have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. As Deputies are aware, I made a detailed statement to the House on the outcome of my meetings in Brussels last Wednesday. I will, therefore, be brief in my comments on these issues surrounding the European Council.

The European Council meeting was successful. We had a good discussion on the fight against terrorism, focusing in particular on the implementation of commitments in the Declaration on Combating Terrorism agreed at our last meeting in March. The European Council also adopted conclusions on a range of other issues including enlargement, economic and social issues, Iraq and the Middle East peace process.

Meeting in the Intergovernmental Conference, we succeeded in reaching agreement on the text of a new constitution. The agreement reached is good for Ireland and the European Union. There were 30 delegations at the IGC, if one includes member states, the applicant states which attended as observers, the European Parliament and the Commission. Each had their list of priority issues and bottom lines. I am sure the House will appreciate that it was not easy to reach consensus in such a context. However, the negotiations were conducted in a spirit of goodwill and mutual respect and we now have an agreement in which each member state sees its interests protected and which, I fully believe, should stand the test of time.

On the appointment of the President of the Commission, I undertook a round of telephone consultations with my colleagues the weekend before last to try to establish whether consensus could be achieved on this issue. Following these discussions, the Heads of State or Government of the 25 member states met in Brussels last Tuesday evening. At that meeting, we agreed the appointment of Portuguese Prime Minister, José Manuel Durão Barroso, to the post of President of the European Commission. Prime Minister Barroso possesses a wealth of experience at the highest level which will be invaluable as he seeks to steer the Union's complex and wide-ranging agenda over the coming years.

We also agreed to reappoint Javier Solana as Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and Pierre de Boissieu as Deputy Secretary General of the Council. Upon entry into force of the European constitution, Javier Solana will be appointed as the first Foreign Minister of the Union.

I have reported to the House in detail in recent weeks on the first three legs of my pre-European Council tour of capitals. Briefly again, I visited Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on the first leg from 5 to 7 May. The following week, from 12 to 14 May, I visited Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy, Portugal and Spain and, on 19 and 20 May, I visited Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. On 2 to 4 June last, I undertook the fourth and final phase of this programme, visiting France, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Denmark for discussions with President Chirac, Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Balkenende, Prime Minister Verhofstadt, Prime Minister Juncker, Chancellor Schröder and Prime Minister Rasmussen, respectively. I had a very productive series of meetings which focused on the agenda for the European Council held on 17 and 18 June. My meetings also provided an opportunity to discuss the IGC with key partners and were valuable in terms of our efforts to achieve a broad consensus on the main outstanding issues in the run-up to the European Council.

I attended the G8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia, USA, on 8 to 10 June. The EU is not a member of the G8 but, in my capacity as President of the European Council, I, along with European Commission President Prodi, was invited to attend as an observer. Discussions at the summit focused on current global challenges, including economic and trade issues, particularly the effects of the sharp increase in oil prices and the World Trade Organisation Doha development agenda negotiations; the Middle East peace process and north Africa; the fight against terrorism; Iraq; the fight against HIV-AIDS; and debt relief for the world's heavily indebted poor countries, HIPC. Key decisions from the summit include improved airline security measures; the extension by two years of the debt-relief programme for the world's poorest countries; agreement to pursue substantial relief of Iraq's $120 billion in foreign debt; and agreement to accelerate the development of a HIV vaccine.

I was pleased to announce at the summit that Ireland has joined the Global Partnership Against Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. Irish assistance will focus on the clean up of nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union, as well as investment in a chemical weapons destruction programme. I had informal discussions on the margins of the summit with President Chirac, Chancellor Schröder, Prime Minister Berlusconi and Prime Minister Blair regarding the then forthcoming European Council meeting.

I attended the EU-Japan summit in Tokyo on 22 June. The EU and Japan enjoy good relations — both politically and economically — and this facilitated a very successful summit. Our talks covered combating terrorism, disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the World Trade Organisation, environmental issues and ASEM. We also had the opportunity to discuss developments in Asia, particularly the Korean Peninsula and China, as well as a range of other international issues, including the ongoing situation in Iraq, the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan and the Western Balkans. Effective multilateralism was another key topic, as was the EU-Japan Year of People to People Exchanges in 2005.

The summit leaders reconfirmed the importance of forging a solid strategic partnership between them. In this regard, we agreed declarations on a number of issues where effective co-operation is of particular importance, including a Japan-EU joint declaration on disarmament and non-proliferation, a co-operation framework for the promotion of Japan-EU two-way investment, a Japan-EU joint initiative for the enforcement of intellectual property rights in Asia and a joint statement on co-operation on information and communication technology. The EU-Japan business dialogue round table highlighted the extensive trade and business links between the EU and Japan. Japan has very strong foreign direct investment and tourism policies that open up significant opportunities even for small countries.

I had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi prior to the summit. The Prime Minister and I reviewed the excellent bilateral relationship that exists between Ireland and Japan. We discussed trade and investment flows in both directions, together with the potential for increasing levels of tourism. The Prime Minister praised Ireland's success in attracting foreign direct investment and said he hoped to double the level of investment coming into Japan by 2007. He also said he wished to encourage more tourists to visit Japan and he would like to see greater contacts between our respective tourism organisations. I mentioned that a considerable number of Irish people had attended the World Cup in Japan and that it had been a positive experience in developing awareness of Japan in Ireland. We agreed to encourage airlines to consider the possibility of direct flights between Japan and Ireland. I outlined Ireland's interest in deepening co-operation with Japan in information technology, education, research and development.

During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet representatives of Japanese companies who have business and partnership agreements with Irish companies. These include Oak Lawn Marketing, a Japanese direct marketing company which has signed a five year partnership agreement with Bio-Medical Research Limited, BMR, the Galway-based medical devices and fitness equipment manufacturer. I also met representatives of Hitachi Systems and Services, a leading systems integrator in the Japanese market. Hitachi SAS has signed an exclusive reseller agreement with the Dublin-based software company Polar Lake. It is targeting sales of €25 million over three years.

The EU-US summit took place on 26 June in Dromoland Castle. It was a very useful and productive occasion. We had a wide-ranging and fruitful discussion which focused on strengthening the EU-US economic partnership, the situation in Iraq, the efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East region and the Mediterranean, and the fight against terrorism. The summit saw the adoption of seven important joint declarations, addressing many of the key challenges that face the world today. These declarations were on supporting peace, progress and reform in the broader Middle East and in the Mediterranean, Sudan, support for the people of Iraq, combating terrorism, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and strengthening our economic partnership.

I also had a bilateral meeting with President Bush on the margins of the summit. We had a useful exchange of views on a number of issues, including the current situation in Northern Ireland and Iraq. On Northern Ireland, I acknowledged the welcome support of the US Administration in trying to move forward the peace process. With regard to the undocumented Irish citizens living in the US, the President and I share the view that there are many who are making a valuable contribution, posing no security threat. I informed the President that we appreciate the humane approach framed in the initiative he put forward in January, as well as the other helpful proposal from Ted Kennedy and Chuck Hagel. I have no plans for a further meeting with President Bush at this time.

With President Bush and the leaders of more than 40 countries, I attended the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting in Istanbul on 28 and 29 June. At the meeting, President Karzai presented a report on the current situation in Afghanistan and we had an exchange of views on the future of Partnership for Peace.

I met the President of Croatia, Stjepan Mesic, on the margins of the EAPC meeting in Istanbul. The President conveyed his appreciation for the Irish Presidency's efforts in regard to Croatia's application for membership. Our discussions focused on Croatia's candidature for EU membership and the current situation in the western Balkans.

The estimated cost to be borne by Ireland arising from the Presidency is €60.23 million. This is the amount that was required by all Departments and agencies and includes the cost of official meetings, travel abroad, hospitality in Ireland, security arrangements, cultural presentations in Ireland and Europe, information services and the Presidency website. The Presidency has been managed with a view to economy and efficiency, while fully meeting the expectations of partners. The Irish Presidency has gratefully accepted sponsorship from Irish and European companies to reduce overall costs.

In my Department, approximately €2 million will have been required to meet costs such as these, although it is not possible yet to indicate total costs or their final distribution between the various Departments.

The Presidency has also provided an opportunity to reinforce Ireland's image as a committed European partner, making a meaningful contribution to the Union's internal debate and external relations. Every opportunity has been taken to promote Ireland as a tourism and business location.

Some 54 questions have been taken in one grouping, including questions on the European Council meeting, the European Union constitution, the European Commission Presidency, the G8 summit, meetings with EU member states' prime ministers and presidents, contact with the US Administration, the EU-US summit and the costs incurred in running Ireland's Presidency. These matters could have been separated.

I wish to raise a matter that has appeared in the national newspapers to put an end to it. The Taoiseach said he had a round of telephone conversations with the prime ministers and leaders of various governments about finding a suitable candidate as President of the Commission. I commend the Taoiseach on having found a very suitable candidate in José Manuel Durão Barroso from Portugal. Far be it from me to say that The Irish Times could ever be wrong or that somebody from the Department of the Taoiseach might have been a little loose with words. However, on 6 July The Irish Times clearly reported the Taoiseach’s words that he was tempted, when 21 of his colleagues around the table said he could have had the job quite easily. Therefore only three leaders did not support the Taoiseach. Either I am dealing with a bunch of leaders who do not understand what the truth is or somebody has become very imaginative with words.

The Deputy should ask a question.

I attended a number of EPP meetings with 11 prime ministers and with the greatest of respect to the Taoiseach, at no stage was his name mentioned. These leaders were quite adamant——

I ask the Deputy to ask a question. A number of Deputies are offering and time is limited. The purpose of Question Time is to elicit information from the Taoiseach or a Minister.

The question was asked but the Taoiseach is not answering.

I would be delighted to give the information.

These 11 prime ministers along with others were adamant that the candidate needed to come from the EPP to reflect the result of the European elections. Does the Taoiseach know the names of the three prime ministers who did not support him during the round of telephone calls and the other meetings he had?

May I answer that question first?

The Taoiseach may take two questions together as I have another one for him. The Italian Prime Minister recently announced that the agreed EU constitution would be signed in Rome on 20 November. At the EU forum the other day, I said that in view of the work the Government did and in particular the work of the Taoiseach in leading it, this should be known as the treaty of Dublin. Is it a concession to the Italian EU Presidency, which failed to get agreement, or is it because of the first Treaty of Rome that the Taoiseach agreed it should be signed in Rome in November? As the Irish Presidency brought this matter to conclusion, it could have been known as the treaty of Dublin. The Taoiseach might answer those questions, after which I have another one on a much more serious matter.

If I had not taken all these questions together, they could not have been taken until the end of September or October. Normally I would separate them.

I had a round of consultations during the week before last. As Deputy Kenny knows, at that stage it was a matter of trying to convince people that José Manuel Durão Barroso would be accepted. As the Deputy will know from working with his group, the wheeling and dealing went on after the European Council meeting. The Deputy will also know from the meetings he attended that José Manuel Durão Barroso was not in the first six candidates of his own group. With one exception the EPP group favoured me, as the Deputy knows.

I had made my position clear to my colleagues before the European Council and during the round of meetings I had with them individually. It was there that they clearly stated their positions. The one person from the EPP group who did not support me did so for a different reason as he had strong views in supporting a present Commissioner, who, by the way, is not part of the EPP group. So none of the Deputy's people pushed EPP members. The negotiator and leader of the Deputy's EPP group put considerable pressure on me, which I appreciated.

It is nice to be talked about.

The Deputy is confusing this with the round of telephone conversations, when matters had moved on.

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and his government and a number of others believe it would be a good gesture that Italy host the next meeting on the European Constitution in Rome as it falls close to the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Hosting EU meetings involves a great deal of disruption and a high level of security and we have hosted meetings on a number of occasions in 2004. The people do not need another such occasion. The demands on the security forces are considerable. At the last such meeting in Italy, they had 24,000 security staff. It will have symbolic importance for the Italians to hold the meeting in Rome.

I thank the Taoiseach for his reply on the persons who were privately supportive of his role as President of the European Parliament, but did not say so publicly. While it would have been——

Not at the meetings.

They said it in press conferences in their own countries and they could not have been more supportive.

It is a bit like what the former Deputy, the late Jim Kemmy stated about Deputy O'Dea, "Mighty mouse in Dublin and church mouse in Limerick."

Will Deputy Kenny confine himself to questions? There are other Members who submitted questions and they are entitled to time.

I appreciate that. I will be finished in a minute and the Chair will not have any trouble from me today.

I am not having any trouble from the Deputy. However, he should confine himself to questions.

It would have been a great honour for Ireland for an Irish person to be President of the Commission. I am glad the Taoiseach decided to stay at home, because——

A question please, Deputy.

——we will have a hell of a battle in the next period of time.

On a serious note, a humanitarian disaster is looming in Africa, where 3.5 million in eastern Congo and 2.5 million in Darfur, western Sudan face starvation, violence and death. The chief executive of a major Irish charity, Mr. John O'Shea states that these people need military protection now more so than humanitarian aid. Was this matter discussed at the G8 meeting? I know there was a proposal from Georgia that a trained force of 75,000 person would be sent in there. What is the outcome of that? Are we to stand by and see an obscenity on humanity perpetrated in western Sudan, as happened in Rwanda a decade ago, where scenes of starvation and needless death inflicted on people were shown across the world? How soon will the proposal from the G8 be put in place? Are we as a Christian nation influencing and working with our colleagues in Europe to prevent that happening?

I assure Deputy Kenny that the issue has been discussed at all recent meetings of the United Nations and the European Union. Both are very involved, having directed aid and logistics. I too share the view that it has the potential to be a major calamity. Decisions have been effectively made but as the Deputy stated, it is their implementation on the ground that will make an impact. To the best of my knowledge the aid programme has been moved to Darfur. It is a matter of major discussion and the discussion has been continuing at various levels during the weekend just past.

We have not been asked to contribute to the forces in the area, but we have already given funding to the humanitarian agencies.

How does the Taoiseach justify organising for Mr. José Manuel Durão Barroso to become President of the European Commission? He is an extreme right wing neo-liberal politician whose main distinction is to have led an attack of so-called austerity on the Portuguese working class over the past two years and who supported the Iraq invasion. In other words, he is at variance with the views of the vast majority of the peoples of Europe. Will the Taoiseach agree that of the €60 million he spent on the Presidency, perhaps up to €20 million was used for security? Does it not bespeak of a huge chasm between the elite of the European Union and the mass of the people he feels it must be defended from?

With regard to his discussions with President Bush in Dromoland when the Taoiseach said he was completely happy and satisfied with the answers the President gave about the prisoners being held by the United States in Guantanamo and various other prison camps, will he explain what he meant? Was he told that Guantanamo would be closed down or is the Taoiseach now happy with hundreds of prisoners being held without trial or charge or access to lawyers and relatives and with conditions of psychological and other forms of torture being imposed? How can the Taoiseach, as President of the European Union, justify endorsing to President Bush the fraudulent so-called sovereignty the United States has imposed on Iraq, with a Government of hand-picked bureaucrats and CIA agents?

In 1920, for example, would the Irish people or indeed the Taoiseach's predecessors have been satisfied and termed it "sovereignty" if the imperial power of Britain had hand-picked some "castle Catholics" and a few spies from around the empire, called them a government and put them in charge here with the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries——

That question does not arise out of Questions Nos. 1 to 54, inclusive.

The question does arise. I am finished the question, anyway, so the Taoiseach will get the point. Has the Taoiseach seen the film, "Fahrenheit 9/11" by the film maker, Michael Moore? If not, will he see it? Will he agree that it might point up the calculated deception of the Bush Administration, justifying its criminal invasion of Iraq and the corporate — criminal, indeed — interests that drove that particular initiative? In easy lessons it might educate the Taoiseach as to what he has refused to accept or perhaps did not want to believe up to now.

The film would have been shown in the Government jet on one of the long trips.

I was thinking to myself that when the House comes back for the winter and if a Kerry-Edwards team emerges victorious in the US presidential election, Members will hear the same thing again about them. It does not change, no matter who is in power. I answered the same questions when President Clinton and Vice-President Gore were in office in the United States.

It depends on their policies.

Deputy Higgins is against them all. Once they move or speak he is opposed. The Deputy will tell the House some day what he is for and give Members a shock.

The Deputy can then go easy for a while.

I will seriously try to answer some of the questions. Mr. José Manuel Durão Barroso was, finally, a unanimous choice of the entire European Council, including Ireland, after a process that has been well-documented. He has been involved in many posts over the years. Some of the issues he has been involved in have been mentioned by the Deputy. However, he left out some of those that he is known internationally for having been involved in, his work in Africa on which much of the consensus about his suitability for this job is based, his involvement in the East Timor peace process and his work in his own country to overcome the difficult economic circumstances that obtained there in recent years. These are all-important issues of Mr. Barroso's credibility.

I replied last week to questions from Deputy Ó Caoláin about my meeting with President Bush. As I said then, the EU-US summit gave us an opportunity for an exchange of views on a range of important issues of international concern. We did not agree on some of the issues, obviously, but it is important that we had an open and honest dialogue. We discussed many issues at the summit, including Guantanamo Bay and the general handling of prisoners by the United States. We were pleased and satisfied that the President said he would continue and escalate the release of people from Guantanamo, which is important.

The President said he was taking into account the concern expressed by Ireland and most countries about the handling of prisoners. He condemned, as wholeheartedly as the President of any country will ever do, the practices, methods and procedures of some of his security forces in their handling of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He said that it was a disgrace and that he was ashamed. We were happy, as people generally were, to hear him acknowledge such issues. It was helpful that he did so in this country. It has been noted in The New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers in the United States that the President’s comments in Ireland were far stronger and far clearer than those made on previous occasions. That was useful as well.

What about sovereignty?

I would understand the Deputy arguing a case in respect of sovereignty if the coalition forces had taken it from a regime that had the wholehearted support of the people of Iraq, but that was not the case. Regardless of what one says about what happened, one cannot deny that the coalition fought a dictator who caused his people to suffer. That is the past, however. We have welcomed the transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi Government. Ireland and its EU partners wish the new Government every success in its mission to govern Iraq. Mr. Allawi said free and fair elections should take place next January and that he is committed to ensuring that they proceed. That is important because people will not be happy until free and fair elections take place. I agree with such people. It is obvious that there has to be an interim period. The interim Government will cease to exist when the new Government is elected.

We have condemned the ongoing terrorist attacks in Iraq, which are prolonging the suffering of the Iraqi people. The European Union has finalised a medium-term strategy for Iraq that sets out the terms of engagement. All of these things must be followed through.

In response to the Deputy, by unanimously adopting UN Security Council resolution 1546 the international community has demonstrated clear support for the political transition to a secure, stable, united, prosperous and democratic Iraq. I hope we will see such a transition in the months directly ahead.

I did not mean to return to the issue raised by Deputy Kenny. The Taoiseach went on air on Sunday to speak about it. I am somewhat shocked by the behaviour of many members of the EPP. I thought the Taoiseach was a socialist — I thought he was one of us. I thought the PES would support the Taoiseach. Like Deputy Kenny, I could not find much of a trace of that at the meetings. It is obvious that there must be some prime ministerial protocol that says they should not report it back to their groups. That must be the basis of it.

Europe is full of closet "Fianna Fáilers", obviously.

I disagree with the Taoiseach's backbenchers because I think he would have made a great President of the Commission.

Will the Taoiseach say when he thinks there might be a constitutional referendum? What plans does the Taoiseach have for such a referendum in terms of an information and education campaign on the issues? We have already had an opportunity in the House on two occasions to express our congratulations to the Taoiseach in terms of the achievement of the Constitution. Against that background he will agree that the hard work, in a fashion, starts now in terms of bringing it through the disparate mechanisms of 25 different countries in that merely a single country defaulting would have the most serious implications. Will the Taoiseach indicate if thought is being given to the public education and information programmes the Government would sponsor or cause to be run, and is there an approximate date when this member state would be likely to have the matter put to the people?

On the first question, November 2006 is the final date. It appears that some time next year will be the appropriate date. I do not like to compare campaigns but we learned from the first Nice treaty campaign, and even those on the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties and the Single European Act, that a period of work, information and education in terms of the issues is required. People make up their own minds but we must ensure that takes place. We have already turned our attention to ensuring we get information to public libraries, schools and community bodies and groups in September. We will work closely with the National Forum on Europe in that regard but it is important that we set out the position. We have already put the full constitutional treaty on the website. I am aware that is already being downloaded and used by many groups but we must run a concerted campaign to ensure that what is contained in the constitution is broadly known. We will undertake that from now but particularly from the early autumn.

Particularly useful in the second Nice treaty campaign was the public debate and forum meetings held throughout the country which were facilitated by the chairman of the group, Senator Maurice Hayes. We should carry out all the good suggestions we picked up from that process but it will take some months. My view is that will need to run for some time. It appears some countries will move quickly in this regard. Spain has already indicated that it will go for an autumn or early winter campaign prior to Christmas, while other countries will start the parliamentary procedure directly after Christmas. Regardless of what they do, we need to move on the issues and the campaign immediately.

Is the Taoiseach satisfied about the capacity of the Portuguese Prime Minister, Mr. Barroso, to carry the nomination in the European Parliament, given the particular requirements there and some reservations expressed by the Party of European Socialists about the method of nomination of the president? Is the Taoiseach aware of the serious concerns expressed by the European Parliament about the decision of both the Council and the Commission to accede to demands from the United States for the provision, without any safeguards, of data on travelling passengers, the concerns expressed about that matter by the legal affairs committee and other organs, and whether it was raised during the EU-US Summit?

The US proposal on air passenger data was raised and the previous President of the European Parliament, Mr. Cox, made it clear that further discussions were required as the European Parliament would not agree to its ratification in its present form. Further discussions will have to take place.

This week Mr. José Manuel Durão Barroso will meet the parliamentary groups and the President and members of the European Council. He has not taken his ratification for the post for granted. He will have to work to convince the Council members. He must also satisfy a number of questions raised by the European Parliament groupings, particularly by the socialist grouping. We must wait until 22 July to see the outcome. Mr. Barroso understands it is not a given appointment.

I did not understand the answer to the question on air passengers' data.

The president of the European Parliament, Mr. Cox, presented a document at the EU-US Summit that the Parliament would not accept the US proposals in their present form. I reported that changes would have to be made——

Does it carry on into the Dutch EU Presidency?

——or otherwise it will not go through the European Parliament.

Two weeks ago, the Tánaiste indicated to the House that the Government was not likely to succeed in achieving full working and official language status for the Irish language in the EU. This is at variance with previous responses given by the Government, including the Taoiseach. Will the Taoiseach advise the House as to which, if any, of the EU member state governments that he has met with over the past six months has objected to full status for the Irish language? Did any of the governments raise objections with the Taoiseach? Did the Government even seek full official and working status for the Irish language during the six months of the Irish Presidency?

The Taoiseach led the House to believe that the Government was not seeking full recognition but some non-existent halfway house solution. Is the Taoiseach conscious of the procedures that must be employed for recognition? First, the Council of Ministers must be informed that the Government wishes the Irish language to be an official working language of the EU. Then it must request the European Commission to put the appropriate amendment to regulation one of the 1958 treaty. Will the Taoiseach follow this proposed course and acknowledge that there is no halfway house?

Tá suim mhór agam sa cheist seo ach tá ceann eile agamsa. Reports state that security costs for President Bush's recent visit ran severely over budget, ranging from between €270 to €1,000 for every hour of the visit. Will this have implications for future moneys available to the Garda Síochána for the rest of the year? The Taoiseach stated that the issue of the use of Shannon Airport by US troops is now dead and only for historians. Will he clarify that US troops still pass through the airport? Will he clarify that prisoners on route to Guantanamo Bay also pass through Shannon Airport? Are those prisoners held in violation of the Geneva Convention? If so, does it not mean that he is obliged to stop that practice?

What I stated was that Resolution 1546 now holds that countries must co-operate and support the actions——

Regardless of the Geneva Convention.

No, obviously not. The UN would not tell anyone to disregard the Geneva Convention. The argument was there and the Deputy knows my position on it. The situation has changed after Resolution 1546.

With regard to Deputy Ó Caoláin's point, provision is already made in the treaties for Irish. Irish is already listed in the treaties as one of the languages in which the text is authentic. In the case of the EU constitution there was not an issue. In our discussions on the constitutional issue there was not a difficulty. The Deputy is correct in saying that when we joined the European Union there was a Regulation No. 1 of 1958 which broadly speaking governs the EU's translation system. We would need to gain unanimous support from the member states for a change in the status of Irish.

All these issues require careful consideration. It is one thing to ask people if they support something in a particular form, but there are practical considerations. The issue of Maltese was raised in this House by Deputy Kenny many months ago. In Malta all of the parliamentary and legal work is carried out in Maltese. The position is not the same as it is here. A group has been working on the Irish language issue and support will be forthcoming for the changes envisaged.

The Government has not asked for the changes.

We must first decide what we are asking for.

The situation is in clear contravention of what was agreed.

Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

It is not in contravention, because to set up a translation unit with many staff takes time. When some countries sought staff to translate into German, French, Spanish and their native languages, they were not able to find sufficient people to do it. We must be careful how we proceed. One has to consider how we might have provided a translation service for European Council meetings over the past seven or eight years, and to what extent we might use it. The practical matter of what we need has to be considered in advance. Straight away it opens up problems. It was noted for example that while the Catalan language is spoken by nine million people daily, it is not an official EU language and they do not have a translation service. There are other groups of people in the same situation, groups proportionately larger than the numbers using Irish here.

We have been enhancing Irish language usage over the past 25 years and will continue to do so. People can write official letters in Irish and get replies in Irish. Movement and enhancement is going on all the time. There is support for that in Europe but we must be realistic regarding the usefulness of what we seek.

It is a question of full recognition for the Irish language.

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