Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 26 May, 2004
Written Answers - EU Presidency.
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
114. Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will report on her Department’s endeavours in respect of Ireland’s EU Presidency; and her plans for the remainder of the term. [15749/04]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Ms Harney:At the start of the Presidency I published a priorities paper for the EU Competitiveness Council, of which I am the chair for the duration of the Presidency. The programme 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, was also published. Copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library. They are also posted on the official Irish Presidency website at www.eu2004.ie and on my own Department’s website at www.entemp.ie. The agenda for the Presidency trade programme was also circulated at the beginning of the year.
Particular stress has been laid by the Irish Presidency 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.
At the two formal meetings which I chaired in Brussels on 11 March and 17-18 May 2004, the Council discussed a range of issues in areas covered by its remit including: preparation for the spring European Council — following a policy debate the Council approved its input to the spring European Council which was held on 25-26 March; the Council, following debates on the issues concerned, adopted conclusions under the headings of stimulating entrepreneurship, competitiveness and innovation, better regulation, competitiveness of business related services and Europe and basic research; proposal for a Council regulation on the Community patent — this proposal was discussed at both Councils but despite strenuous efforts by the Presidency it was not possible to reach the necessary unanimous agreement on the measure and the matter will now be referred to the President of the European Council; draft directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights throughout the EU — the Council was informed that agreement was reached between the Council and the European Parliament on this proposal during the Irish Presidency; draft framework directive on services in the internal market — following presentation by the Commission there was an exchange of views at the March Council with an update on progress with the examination of the proposal provided at the May meeting; proposals on the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals, REACH — a policy debate on certain key aspects of this proposal took place at the May Council; space policy — exchange of views on a Commission White Paper and related communication, and an EU/European Space Agency agreement was separately concluded during the Presidency; patentability of computer implemented inventions — political agreement on a common position; mobility of third country researchers — exchange of views on a Commission communication and proposals for a directive and recommendations; consumer protection co-operation between national authorities in the EU — agreement on a proposal for a regulation; unfair commercial practices — political agreement on a common position; sales promotions — debate on the issues concerned; international thermonuclear experimental reactor, ITER, project — the Council was kept informed by the Commission of the ongoing international negotiations concerning the project; recognition of professional qualifications — political agreement on a common position; adoption of a proposal for a Council regulation  concerning a temporary defensive mechanism to shipbuilding; Community customs code — political agreement on a common position.
The Council agreed a top up of €2 billion for the 6th research framework programme funding to reflect the enlargement of the EU. In addition, work was successfully concluded on a number of other, mainly technical, dossiers in areas which fall under the responsibility of my Department. I also hosted an informal meeting of EU and accession Ministers responsible for competitiveness at Dromoland Castle, County Clare, on 25-27 April. The challenges facing European industry, including the concerns of many European leaders relating to trends in exports, jobs, lacklustre productivity performance and how Europe can address these problems, formed the focus of discussions at the informal meeting. The agenda for the meeting included two thematic areas. The first session addressed the issues of creating a culture of innovation — staying competitive in a global market. The second session looked at frontiers in innovation, converting knowledge into value and research and industrial development.
The structure of the meeting provided the opportunity for business leaders and Ministers to exchange ideas and explore strategies to improve European competitiveness. The proceedings of the meeting will help to inform and prioritise the work of the EU Competitiveness Council of Ministers. A summary of the proceedings in Dromoland is available on the Irish Presidency website.
The Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, co-chaired a formal meeting of the Employment Social Policy Health and Consumer Affairs, ESPHCA, Council on 4 March which dealt with items such as the European employment strategy and other relevant dossiers. The Council approved the 2003-2004 joint Council and Commission employment report, JER, one of the components on which the 2004 employment guidelines will be based. The JER was drawn up in line with recommendations from the employment task force established by the spring European Council in March 2003 and chaired by Mr. Wim Kok. By way of assisting the ongoing consultation process, the Presidency organised a political exchange of views among Ministers on the evolution of the regime applicable to the organisation of working time across the Union. The ESPHCA Council also made a significant contribution to the preparation of the spring European Council meeting on 25-26 March 2004 by way of an innovative integrated key messages paper covering the various policy strands dealt with by the Council.
On 16 January, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, also co-chaired, along with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, an informal meeting of Ministers for employment and social policy in Galway. The theme of the meeting was Making Work Pay: Exploring the interaction  between social protection and work. A lunchtime discussion was devoted to the topic of investment in human capital. On the previous day, the Irish Presidency convened a Council troika meeting with the social partners and the social platform of NGOs. Discussion was in two parts. The first part focused upon adaptability and change and was devoted exclusively to an exchange of views with the representatives of the social partners. In the second part, contributions were invited from representatives of the social platform, as well as the social partners, on the theme of making work pay. More detail on the outcome of these meetings is available on the Irish Presidency website at www.eu2004.ie.
The Irish Presidency has sought 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 convened, jointly with Commission President Prodi, a tripartite social summit with the EU level social partners in advance of the 2004 spring European Council. The final formal meeting of the ESPHCA Council during the Irish Presidency is scheduled to take place on 1-2 June in Luxembourg. Among the objectives of the Presidency will be to reach agreement on a Council decision on the 2004 guidelines for the employment policies of member states and on a recommendation on country specific measures in the area of employment policy.
My Department is also responsible for EU Council work on European common commercial policy matters. This involves the organisation and chairing of Council meetings at ministerial and official level in Dublin, Brussels, Geneva, Paris and elsewhere. Among the substantive issues dealt with so far have been the World Trade Organisation negotiations and the European Union’s trade relations with various countries and regions, including Canada and the US. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, is closely involved in pursuing the EU agenda in this area during the Presidency, including presiding over an informal trade Ministers meeting in Brussels on 25 January. He will also chair a further informal meeting of EU Trade Ministers in June, if this is considered necessary in the context of the WTO negotiations.
As Presidency, accompanied by Commission President Prodi, I represented the EU at a summit with its second largest trading partner, Switzerland, on 19 May. The summit reached political agreement on the extension of six existing bilateral agreements from the former EU-15 to cover the EU-25 and the adoption of nine new bilateral agreements covering the EU-25.
A wide range of legislation has been finalised under the Irish Presidency across the full spectrum of trade and trade related matters including regulations concerning the imposition of trade defence measures — individual anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard measures — across a full range of sectors and in respect of third countries in defence of Community interests. EU negotiating mandates were agreed in respect of negotiations with the EU’s World Trade Organisation, WTO, trading partners arising from commitments under the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, and the enlargement of the EU with the addition of the ten new member states from 1 May 2004. A range of legislation was finalised covering, inter alia, extension of existing EU Single Market legislative requirements to European Economic Area, EEA, members, that is, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Legislation was also enacted to extend, with effect from 1 May 2004, the EEA area from the former EU-15 and the above EEA-3 to cover the enlarged EU-25.
My Department has also contributed on an ongoing basis during the Presidency to the work of other EU Council areas, including the spring European Council meeting of heads of state or government, by way of input to debates and decisions and the development of relevant policy papers. In addition to the formal Presidency agenda, my Department has organised a number of further Presidency related meetings, seminars and conferences in Ireland covering a range of issues relevant to the EU agenda. The calendar of such events, across all policy areas, has been deposited in the Oireachtas Library by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The issues discussed and decided upon at Council of Ministers level were prepared in the relevant committees, working groups and informal meetings chaired and hosted by officials from my Department. For the remainder of the Presidency, further work will be taken forward in such fora with a view to progressing the various dossiers for which my Department is responsible and with a view to a smooth handover to the incoming Dutch Presidency on 1 July.
Dáil Éireann 586 Written Answers EU Presidency.