Dáil debates

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Ceisteanna - Questions

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

4:05 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, together.

Since taking office I have spoken by telephone with several leaders, including German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, and the President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda. I attended a special July meeting of the European Council in Brussels, the focus of which was the budgetary package for the European Union for the next seven years, the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, and a new recovery proposal, Next Generation European Union, NGEU.

I am pleased to inform the House that earlier today the European Council reached agreement on a €1.8 trillion package to drive Europe's economic recovery and the climate and digital transformations. These were especially challenging negotiations, lasting for more than four days. With a significant number of other leaders I supported an ambitious approach, capable of meeting the scale of the challenges we are facing and equipping the European Union well for the future. That is what was agreed.

I met with my counterparts both formally and informally over the course of the meeting. I set out Ireland's position directly in my discussions with President Charles Michel, including in a joint meeting that the Prime Ministers of Belgium and Luxembourg and I had with him and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

As the House knows, protecting the Common Agricultural Policy was a priority for Ireland. The outcome delivers that, including a special allocation of €300 million to reflect the challenges facing the sector here. In further support for peace and reconciliation, the European Union will provide €120 million for the PEACE PLUS programme, an additional €20 million to what we had secured prior to the meeting. Together with funding from the Irish Government, which will match this contribution, and the UK Government, which has made a commitment in this regard, this paves the way for a very substantial fund to support valuable projects on the peace and reconciliation front.

The European Union has stood shoulder to shoulder with Ireland during the Brexit process. The package we agreed includes a €5 billion Brexit adjustment reserve which will help to support those member states and sectors most affected. The Government will now work hard to maximise the benefits available to Ireland. In addition, funding for competitive funds such as Horizon Europe has been substantially increased through the MFF and NGEU. We will work to ensure that Irish researchers and enterprises can access them.

Our discussions took place in the context of one of the most serious situations the European Union has faced. Covid-19 will continue to challenge our health systems and disrupt our economies for the foreseeable future. Governments across the Union are spending and borrowing significant amounts of money to drive economic recovery and get people back to work. Later this week the Government will announce an important stimulus package of our own. The agreement reached in Brussels on the MFF and NGEU will complement and support these efforts. It will also send a message to the world that the European Union has risen to the challenge and is united in facing it.

I look forward to briefing the House in more detail in my statement tomorrow.


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