Dáil Éireann - Volume 576 - 10 December, 2003

Written Answers. - EU Presidency.

  127. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of ECOFIN meetings he will chair during the Government's EU Presidency; and the locations, agendas and projected cost of each. [30194/03]

  Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):I will chair six meetings of the ECOFIN Council during Ireland's Presidency of the EU of January to June 2004. Five of these meetings will be formal meetings held in Brussels or Luxembourg. The sixth meeting will be an informal meeting in Ireland as the country holding the Presidency. The full list of meetings and locations are as follows: 20 January, 10 February and 9 March – all at Brussels; 2 to 3 April at Punchestown County Kildare, 11 May at Brussels and 2 June at Luxembourg.

  The agendas for these meetings are not finally decided until a few weeks before each of the meetings concerned. However, the Irish Presidency's programme for the ECOFIN Council meetings will be published shortly. Among the priorities in the programme will be preparation of ECOFIN's input to the Lisbon process and to the spring European Council to discuss that process, including the preparation of the ECOFIN Presidency's key issues paper; examination of member states' stability and convergence programmes under the Stability and Growth Pact; [1597]integration of the ten acceding countries into the EU's economic policy co-ordination multilateral surveillance and Lisbon processes; preliminary consideration of the post-2006 financial perspectives that determine the EU budget for the period 2007 to 2013, and of future regional policy in the EU; and pushing forward with legislation in financial services and other sectors. Certain other areas, most notably the initiative for growth proposed by the Italian Presidency of the second half of 2003 and economic and financial issues arising at the Intergovernmental Conference will continue as appropriate.

  I have held extensive consultations in the EU on the programme and have every confidence that the ECOFIN Council in the period of the Irish Presidency will make very substantial progress in pushing forward with this ambitious programme of work.

  The cost of the five meetings to be held in Brussels and Luxembourg is met largely from the EU budget. The estimated gross cost of hosting the informal meeting to be held in Punchestown is of the order of €750,000. However, the net cost of the event to the State will be significantly less than the foregoing on foot of sponsorship from the private sector.

  Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 48.