Tuesday, 19 January 2016
European Council: Statements
On the question on whether the decision that will be taken by way of referendum, possibly in June, by the people of the UK is democratic or undemocratic is very subjective. It is not for us to comment. We are more than aware of the various break-ups of the UK with Northern Ireland and Scotland. It is not for us to comment on how the different elements of the United Kingdom may or may not vote. The reality is that there will be a referendum and all the people of the UK will have their say on it. It is a decision for the people of the United Kingdom to make. Of course, what comes following that and how different parts of UK will vote will be part of the debate that will take place after the vote. Our position remains absolutely categoric, however. We want the people of the United Kingdom to vote to stay in the European Union. We believe it is fundamentally in their own best interests. Clearly for Ireland, it is the case that we will be the most affected outside of the UK should it vote not to remain in the EU. It will also affect all the member states as well as the European Union itself.
On the question raised by Deputy Clare Daly about the number of people who have come into the country so far for both resettlement and relocation, it is fair to say, particularly with respect to relocation, that the pace across the European Union has been disappointing. Between both measures, we have committed to bringing in 4,000 people to Ireland. To date, only with respect to resettlement, we have not seen any significant numbers. We are optimistic, however. We have people located in the hotspots trying to assist and ensure a significant number of people will come through to this country over the next couple of months. With respect to resettlement, which is coming from outside, I must correct a point made by Deputy Clare Daly. It is possible for people to apply for asylum outside of the European Union. That is our preferred way for people to come in. We hope, under resettlement over the next few months, to see more people, again in the hundreds, coming to this country. We accept the points raised by the Deputies that the system is nowhere close to being as efficient as it should be. The European Union collectively needs to ensure the target of achieving 160,000 people, who can come properly into the European Union through both measures, starts to happen quickly.
With respect to the Deputy's question about Turkey, on which Deputy Wallace commented, we must remember that Turkey is a very important partner for the European Union, especially in the current context of the migration crisis. Notwithstanding some of the criticisms, we must continue to work with Turkey. An EU-Turkey joint action plan, agreed on 29 November, is designed to help Turkey in providing for the refugees in its territory and also to prevent uncontrolled migration from Turkey across to the European Union. There is a €3 billion fund for supporting Syrian refugees who are based there. Again, implementation of this will be key both for Turkey and the European Union. There have been some positive moves since 29 November, including the opening of Chapter 17, which is with respect to Turkey's EU accession. Many of the issues that have been raised and some of the concerns will be addressed through the various chapters of the ongoing Turkish accession negotiation. Frans Timmermans, the First Vice President of the Commission, recently met the Turkish Ministers for foreign affairs and justice to discuss the need to speed up some of these measures, which will address some of the concerns that have been raised.
With respect to comments made by Wolfgang Schäuble, I would hazard a guess that they have not been discussed at Cabinet. The Deputy will be aware that taxation remains a national competence in any event. I am aware of the media reports about his comments with respect to various taxation measures, but I am not aware that it has been considered or discussed at Cabinet. The Deputy will be aware that I am not a member of Cabinet.