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Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] These, in turn, form the basis for the Commission's proposals for country specific recommendations in May.

Effective management of the third European semester process will be an important focus of next year's Irish Presidency. The October European Council invited the incoming Presidency to submit a roadmap for the organisation of this work in 2013. This was presented by the Tánaiste to yesterday's meeting of the General Affairs Council in Brussels and will inform this week's discussions. It sets out in practical terms a response to the key recommendations made in the recent synthesis report from the Cypriot Presidency on lessons learned from the 2012 European semester. The key objective will be to ensure all relevant Council formations work in a co-ordinated and consistent manner towards a thorough preparation for the March and June European Councils. This will include a strong focus on appropriate streamlining of committee work, building also from the Commission's proposals for more regular and ongoing dialogue with member states. This should support a deeper political discussion within the Council based on a shared assessment of common challenges and more constructive engagement on the development and implementation of jointly agreed priorities. Our hope is that country specific issues can be settled to the greatest extent possible through stronger bilateral dialogue and, where appropriate, more effective multilateral surveillance within the relevant committees.

We welcome the European Parliament's efforts to enhance parliamentary involvement. Parliamentary week in January will see debates with members of relevant committees from national parliaments. I understand the Ceann Comhairle has accepted an invitation to participate as Speaker of the Presidency Parliament. I warmly welcome such an engagement, whether it involves the Ceann Comhairle or the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Further ways to reinforce parliamentary involvement are also being explored.

The European Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy, CSDP. The conclusions will cover the CSDP on missions, capabilities and preparations for a discussion on defence issues at the European Council in December 2013. Leaders are expected to task the High Representative and relevant EU bodies to develop further proposals and actions aimed at strengthening the CSDP and improving the availability of military capabilities and to report on these initiatives by September 2013. The issues to be covered in the report will include increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of the CSDP; enhancing the development of defence capabilities; and strengthening Europe's defence industry. This item will be essentially of a preparatory nature at this week's meeting.

The European Council will endorse the conclusions on enlargement agreed at the General Affairs Council yesterday. Given that the conclusions have now been agreed, lengthy discussion is not expected at the European Council. No specific decisions were made that would require agreement at European Council level. However, the conclusions will shape the agenda in the six months of Ireland's Presidency and it is likely that we will have to consider such issues as granting candidate status to Albania and opening negotiations with Serbia and, possibly, Macedonia during that time. In particular, it is the intention that the Council will review progress on the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in the spring with a view to considering whether to open accession negotiations with Serbia and negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement between the European Union and Kosovo. We also expect to consider a report from the Commission on Albania's progress in meeting various reforms with a view to deciding on whether to grant candidate status. The Council will examine progress made by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the possibility of opening accession negotiations, provided there is a resolution of the name issue. We welcomed the reference in the conclusions to regaining the momentum in the accession negotiations with Turkey, on which we hope to make progress in the next six months. We also intend to advance the accession negotiations with Iceland and Montenegro. Ireland will oversee consideration of the final monitoring report on Croatia's preparations for accession and we look forward to welcoming Croatia as the 28th member of the European Union on 1 July.

It is expected that the European Council will adopt short conclusions on foreign policy issues. These will draw on the conclusions which emerged from the Foreign Affairs Council earlier this week, at which the Tánaiste represented Ireland. Discussions at the Foreign Affairs Council focused principally on developments in the Middle East and Syria.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This week the European Council is meeting at a time when the economic situation in Europe is taking a significant turn for the worse. The growth projections for all major economies and the eurozone as a whole have just been cut. Within the eurozone unemployment has increased by over 170,000 since leaders last met and now reached the unprecedented figure of 18.7 million people out of work. A familiar pattern of rising bond yields and threatened credit ratings has begun to return. Yet again, however, the agenda adopted by Europe's leaders is nowhere near ambitious or urgent enough to tackle the crisis. The summit will be entirely taken up with matters which should have been dealt with long ago. Banking union, an essential foundation for recovery, has been delayed. The draft conclusions for the summit state leaders understand the urgent need for radical reform of Economic and Monetary Union and that they might get around to doing something in two year's time.

In terms of Ireland's needs, there is a lot of misleading ministerial bluster. As usual the Government is providing little or no information, but the evidence suggests it is no longer even seeking the scale of adjustment to the promissory notes which Ireland deserves. In advance of every summit President Van Rompuy publishes a short letter to leaders which contains a bland summary, mainly intended for the media. It has been the habit of the Taoiseach to limit what he says to the House in these debates to what has already been published in these summaries. This debate is unusual in that we have more information to work with because the detailed draft conclusions were leaked last week.

The core of the summit will be the issue of addressing the flaws in Economic and Monetary Union. I will address the wider part of this agenda later, but for the moment I will concentrate on the most urgent parts of it, namely, banking union and Ireland's bank related debts. The need for a strong banking union within the eurozone is obvious to everyone. No part of the existing system is as broken as financial regulation. There is no middle way between national and eurozone regulation. Trying to construct a middle way is what caused so much of the trouble in recent years. In June agreement was reached in principle to create a banking union and the eurozone leaders announced that proposals would be fully agreed by the end of the year. The core of the proposal, the single supervisory mechanism, was agreed to as the necessary first step before any money for bank recapitalisation from the ESM could be allowed to be paid.

Many meetings have been held since, but nothing has been agreed. Every significant target has slipped. Finance Ministers have repeatedly made matters worse by staking out positions which seek to undo the substance of a banking union. Germany's position is that it is in favour of a banking union as long as it does not cover most of its banks and has no shared system for winding up banks or guaranteeing deposits. The non-eurozone countries, particularly Sweden and the United Kingdom, have raised reasonable points about having a say in all decisions which affect their banks. Ireland's only reported impact on negotiations has been to insist that nothing should be agreed which might need to be voted on by the people. According to the draft communiqué, legislation concerning bank resolution and deposit guarantees are not to be agreed to until next March at the earliest and no date has been given for when the single supervisory mechanism will take effect. This is a signal that Europe's leaders are rolling back on what they described in June as their determination to do everything possible as quickly as possible. There is serious uncertainty about whether real reforms will be adopted. Whatever emerges will, of course, be hailed by leaders as visionary. In reality, however, people no longer listen to their rhetoric because experience has taught them to wait to discover the substance.

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