Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade

EU Presidency: Discussion with Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

5:30 pm

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the Tánaiste to the meeting. What new actions will be taken during the Irish Presidency on youth unemployment? Foreign and security policy is the main focus but I ask him to deal briefly with this topic. The Tánaiste stated previously that youth unemployment is a priority issue across the EU.

The Tánaiste has stated that Ireland will continue to pursue the issue of the Middle East peace process in the coming months. How does the Tánaiste plan to push this agenda? What has been the effect of the outcome of the Israeli elections on the peace process? The settlements were an issue during that election campaign.

The Tánaiste referred to human rights in Syria. He made the case for accountability and a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Will the outcome be successful?

The Tánaiste spoke about sanctions on Iran. He hopes for a more positive attitude in the next round of negotiations to be held in the coming weeks. Is it known how the sanctions are impacting on the Iranian people, particularly the poor? There are reports about an economic downturn in the country. The difficulty seems to be that the Iranian Government admits it is involved in uranium enrichment but not for weapons production. On the other hand, the EU and others are of the opinion that the opposite is the case. There seems to be very little information but we know that the sanctions are having a serious impact.

Will Irish personnel be involved in the establishment of an EU training mission to Mali? I refer to the event that occurred in Algeria. We send our condolences to the families of those who died in those circumstances. Will the Tánaiste revert to the committee with a report on what happened in Algeria? I refer to Stephen McFaul's account of how he escaped. The response of the Algerians to the crisis is worrying.

Herman Van Rompuy proposed a cut in the EU aid budget by 11%. What is the Irish response to this cut? Will this matter be raised at the next Council meeting in February? The Tánaiste referred to the negotiations on an arms trade treaty. He said that he hopes also that it will be possible to include ammunition within the scope of the treaty. I ask about spent uranium shells and the effect of same on populations in many of these regions. He also said that as this review cycle proceeds, Ireland will look increasingly to the nuclear weapons states to demonstrate that they are serious about fulfilling their commitments to disarm. Will the Tánaiste recommend that the Israeli Government be asked to sign up, considering the favourable status it enjoys within the EU on this matter?

I ask the Tánaiste to elaborate on the point in his opening contribution about conflict prevention and mediation:

Building on our successful chairmanship of the OSCE last year and on our national experience of conflict resolution in the Northern Ireland peace process, we have plans to highlight this issue in various ways during our Presidency of the EU.
Perhaps the Taoiseach might elaborate on that area.