Dáil Éireann - Volume 455 - 27 June, 1995

Written Answers. - Messina Group Deliberations.

19. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the results of the first meeting of the Messina Group to prepare the Intergovernmental Conference on which Ireland is represented by the Minister of State at his Department. [11232/95]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The reflection group, which is to assist in the preparation of the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference, held its inaugural meeting in Messina on 3 June in conjunction with the ceremonies commemorating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Messina Declaration. It is expected to have in all about fifteen meetings of the group before the Madrid European Council in December to which it is to report.

Its task is to clarify the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference and, where possible, to identify options in relation to the issues arising on the Intergovernmental Conference's agenda. [56] The reflection group is not a negotiating forum. It will be the task of the Intergovernmental Conference itself to negotiate the details of any Treaty amendments.

The inaugural meeting of the reflection group held a first discussion of the challenges facing the European Union in the coming years. Ireland's representatives at the reflection group, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Gay Mitchell, gave a detailed briefing to the Joint Committee on European Affairs on 6 June on the discussions, including on the approach he had taken.

The second meeting of the group on 13 and 14 June had a first wide-ranging discussion of the institutional balances in the European Union, including in the perspective of future enlargement. These institutional issues to which the group will return at future meetings of course, are of crucial importance to the European Union and to Ireland. At the meeting the Minister of State strongly emphasised the importance we attach to maintaining the broad institutional balances in the European Union which have served the Union well. He supported the prerogatives of the Commission under the Treaty and argued firmly against any proposals which would seek to deprive the smaller member states of their right to nominate a member of the Commission.

I would emphasise that the work of the reflection group is at a preliminary stage. The House will be kept fully briefed on the progress of the discussions.