Tuesday, 16 January 2018
European Council: Statements
I am sharing time with Deputy Clare Daly. Looking at the agenda from the EU summit, we noticed that security and defence played a big role. I know we have had a debate on PESCO. Those of us who have reservations and criticisms about PESCO aired those views. I hope those reservations and criticism do not come back to haunt us because I believe we are playing with our neutrality. I do not believe we are respecting it and it has already been undermined by the misuse and abuse of Shannon airport. We have a significant reputation from our humanitarian role and also our work in securing agreement on the sustainable development goals. No matter what is said, PESCO is about military capabilities and projects. How will this be managed? What will the role of the Dáil be when it comes to these operations? What sort of say are we going to have? We have a different role and different relationship with the countries in Central and South America, in Africa and in south-east Asia. It is different from the relationship that other European countries have with them because many of those European countries were colonial powers and we have to recognise that.
We also see a greater link between security, defence and migration. We know we have an unprecedented migrant crisis in Europe and a global refugee crisis. At present, there are 65 million refugees and displaced persons across the globe, the largest number since the Second World War. President Tusk was talking about preventing new arrivals at external borders and tackling the root causes of migration. The latter is a very long-term goal but in the meantime we have migrants who are totally at the mercy of unscrupulous traffickers and they are still being returned to detention centres in Libya. Is there an update on what is happening in those centres in Libya?
Culture and education were discussed. I would make a particular plea for those migrant young people living in European countries, many of whom are disaffected, and for there to be a way to bring them into the education system because many are not engaging. The EU is committed to the two-state solution but while it is stating that commitment, as we are speaking here, there is more encroachment with the building of settlements. The viability of a Palestinian state is being further encroached upon. I know there were talks and reconciliation is going on between Hamas and Fatah. I would like to see the EU supporting that and doing more than saying that it is committed to a two-state solution.
Ireland played a role in the Colombian peace process, as did the EU, and I want to bring up the issue of Honduras. I know it has been brought to the Minister, Deputy Coveney's, attention. The EU has a delegation in Honduras and there is an EU electoral observation mission there. It is due to release its report but not for some months and there is much violence in the meantime. The presidential candidate and Opposition Alliance leader, Salvadar Nasralla, is shown by official data, backed up by considerable evidence, to have had an insurmountable lead prior to the electronic vote management system going offline. The EU electoral observer mission noted irregularities in the conduct of the election but is not releasing its official report. Unfortunately, some countries recognise the result even though there were irregularities with the election. The Organization of American States is calling for fresh elections.
While it was relatively calm over Christmas, violence has resumed. There has recently been very heavy-handed tactics from the state forces and militias.
I know that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade called on all sides to be respectful, but one side definitely is not. Recently eight regional leaders, with one Jesuit who is working with them, were called "an axis of evil". There is the intimidation and harassment of civil society, peasant leaders and environmentalists. Can Ireland be a progressive voice at EU and UN level in supporting democracy - there was an EU election observation mission - and the citizens of Honduras?