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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item European Council Meetings

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan] Some of them become impregnated as a result of that violation and they will still have to travel to England or present themselves as being suicidal. I consider that to be inhuman in 2013.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The answer to the question is "Yes". I have spoken to women who have had abortions. I understand the circumstances they explained, how they were feeling, and what it has meant in terms of the life they have to live. I have also spoken to women who have been raped inside marriage. Last week I attended the launch of a programme on domestic violence which includes short videos produced by Safe Ireland, in which so-called macho men said they take what is theirs by right by domination, force or whatever. These are arguments and issues that can be discussed during the course of the debate on the Bill when it comes back here after it is drafted.

Deputy Halligan raises very important issues that people make choices about, in many cases in circumstances of great duress. It is now 30 years since 1983 and this Administration has agreed unanimously a set of heads for a Bill dealing with what the Constitution now means in terms of the law as determined by the Supreme Court. The Government has set that process in train and I hope the Bill can be enacted before the House rises for the summer. It does not deal with the issues Deputy Halligan raises, and there are a range of other views around the House and throughout the country about what might or might not be done, but in so far as our duty as legislators in a republic is concerned, we must deal with what our Constitution means in terms of the law as set out by the Supreme Court, and that is what we will do.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

European Council Meetings

 1. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will circulate any papers and-or proposals for the European Council summit on 14 and 15 March 2013.  [9920/13]

 2. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the issues he will prioritise at the European Council meeting on the 14 and 15 March 2013 in Brussels. [9921/13]

 3. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will raise the issue of bank debt at the European Council summit on the 14 and 15 March 2013. [9922/13]

 4. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will raise the issue of the Middle East peace process at the European Council summit on the 14 and 15 March 2013. [9923/13]

 5. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will be distributing any documentation prior to the March EU Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12331/13]

 6. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the priorities he will set for the European Council meeting on 14 and 15 March. [12518/13]

 7. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he held any bilaterals when attending the EU Council meeting in March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14639/13]

 8. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he has spoken to or held a bilateral meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [15985/13]

 9. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the recent contacts he has had with the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. [15996/13]

 10. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if the Cypriot crisis was discussed at the EU Council summit on 14 and 15 March 2013. [15997/13]

 11. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he has spoken or written to Mr Mario Monti since the recent election in Italy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16006/13]

 12. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he has spoken to or had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [18350/13]

 13. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he circulated any papers at the most recent EU Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18354/13]

 14. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on his attendance at the European Council meetings on 14 and 15 March 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18600/13]

 15. Deputy Dara Murphy Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will give an outline and update on EU Council meetings. [20183/13]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 15, inclusive, together.

I attended the meeting of the European Council on 14 and 15 March in Brussels. As I have previously informed the House, the meeting was firmly focused on the key challenges facing Europe - those of generating growth and creating jobs. We brought the first phase of the European semester process to a conclusion. During Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we provided a report of deliberations in various Council formations, which informed the discussions. The European Council reiterated the priority areas for attention listed in the Commission's annual growth survey published in November of last year.

The European Council had a comprehensive discussion on the economic situation in the EU, including the competitiveness challenge, and agreed that the focus should remain on implementing decisions already taken, particularly with regard to the compact for growth and jobs and the completion of the Single Market. I briefed the meeting on the work we are doing in our Presidency and I thanked colleagues for their co-operation in areas in which we have already had good outcomes, such as the two-pack, the youth employment initiative and the youth guarantee. President Barroso gave a presentation entitled Growth, Competitiveness and Jobs: Priorities for the European Semester 2013. In the subsequent discussion, leaders focused on the continuing impact of the economic crisis and the steps required to move beyond it.

In our conclusions, we placed specific emphasis on addressing unemployment, especially among the young, the Single Market, and reducing unnecessary administrative burdens, especially on small and medium-sized enterprises. We also took stock of progress on the legislative proposals relating to the integrated financial framework, or banking union, as it is known. Leaders reiterated the imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns. I briefed the meeting about the progress we are making in our Presidency in regard to the single supervisory mechanism and the recovery and deposit guarantee, and stressed that we remain committed to delivering on the timetable set in December.

While the multi-annual financial framework, or budget, was not on the agenda for this meeting, President Schulz of the European Parliament, in his presentation at the beginning of the European Council meeting, informed the meeting about the outcome of the vote on the MFF in the Parliament, and I updated colleagues on the work we are doing in our Presidency. In this regard, I had a meeting with Presidents Barroso and Schulz in the margins of that meeting and we agreed to continue to work closely together for early agreement.

Later on the Thursday evening, I attended the Euro summit meeting. The president of the European Central Bank, Mr. Draghi, briefed leaders on the economic situation in the euro area, pointing to three vital requirements - confidence, credit and competitiveness. There was a shared view around the table that we need to maintain our efforts to achieve sustainable finances, but that we also must step up our efforts on growth. While we welcomed the new Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, to the table, we did not discuss the situation in Cyprus in detail as it was to be discussed by the finance Ministers in the Eurogroup on the Friday afternoon.

On Friday morning, 15 March, the European Council had a useful, free-flowing discussion on the EU's relations with strategic partners, with a particular focus on Russia. Leaders also had a discussion on the evolving situation in Syria. It was agreed that EU foreign Ministers would be asked to consider this matter further at their informal ministerial meeting in Dublin on 22 and 23 March. The UK Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, updated leaders on preparations for the G8 summit, which will take place at Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, in June. We are co-operating closely with the British authorities with regard to this important event.

While I had no formal bilaterals with President Anastasiades or the then Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Monti, I had discussions with many of my colleagues in the margins of the meeting, including a bilateral meeting with Mr. Cameron. I also met with Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso ahead of the meeting of the European Council on 14 and 15 March, as is customary for the Presidency, and, as I have already stated, I had a separate meeting with Presidents Barroso and Schulz which focused on the MFF.

The agenda for this meeting of the European Council was prepared in the normal way. President Van Rompuy submitted an annotated draft agenda to the February meeting of the General Affairs Council. He then circulated draft conclusions of the European Council, which were discussed by ambassadors in Brussels and subsequently by Ministers meeting at the General Affairs Council, which the Tánaiste chaired. In the usual manner, at each step in the process, Ireland conveyed its comments on the draft conclusions, as appropriate.

The issue of the Middle East peace process did not arise as a separate item at this meeting.

On 28 and 29 April, in the course of a visit to Spain and Portugal, I had separate meetings with the Prime Ministers, Mr. Rajoy and Mr. Coelho, as well as with German finance Minister, Mr. Schäuble. We discussed a range of major EU and Presidency agenda items, including the MFF negotiations; economic and monetary union, including progress towards banking union; trade, particularly prospects for an EU-US trade agreement; progressing the Single Market agenda; and developments in the euro area. I also updated both Prime Ministers and Mr. Schäuble on progress made during the Irish Presidency and on ambitions for the rest of our term.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I am sure the Taoiseach appreciates the difficulty that arises from the fact that some of these questions were tabled prior to the European Council meeting on 14 and 15 March, in that we are now, almost two months later, trying to deal with them. I do not know how we can resolve that problem. However, the Taoiseach may recall that prior to that Council meeting he agreed in response to a question from me to raise the Jerusalem report, which was published by European diplomats. I was very pleased when the Taoiseach agreed to do that, yet in his reply he states that the Middle East peace process did not arise, which is another way of saying he did not put it on the agenda or he did not raise it. The Taoiseach may recall that these diplomats raised serious concerns about the actions of the Israeli Government in building settlements and excluding Palestinians from their land.


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