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Snippet Contents:

Tá áthas orm seasamh os comhair an Tí le labhairt faoi chruinniú an Chomhairle Eorpaigh na míosa seo, a bhí ar siúl sa Bhruiséal Déardaoin agus Dé hAoine seo caite. Ar an Déardaoin, rinne an Chomhairle Eorpach plé ar inimirce, an Eoraip dhigiteach, cúrsaí slándála agus cosanta agus an caidreamh seachtrach. Ag bricfeasta ar an Aoine, phléamar todhchaí an Aontais Eorpaigh. Bhuaileamar i bhformáid Alt 50 gan an Bhreatain ina dhiaidh sin le dul chun cinn sna cainteanna maidir leis an mBreatimeacht a phlé.
In advance of the meeting, along with the Dutch Prime Minister, I was invited to join the leaders of the Nordic and Baltic countries, who meet regularly ahead of European Council meetings. Ireland is not part of a formal group in the EU, but as a small northern European nation and a trading country with an open economy, we have similar positions to the Baltic, Nordic and Dutch Governments, particularly economic issues. I was very pleased to have been invited to attend their meeting and to have the opportunity to share our views, especially on the future of Europe debate and on Brexit. I was delighted to have received such strong support for our position from all the Prime Ministers gathered there.
The formal meeting began on Thursday with an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Tajani, MEP. There was also a short discussion about natural disasters. I took the opportunity to inform leaders about Storm Ophelia. I suggested that flexibility in the EU Solidarity Fund might be a way to bring Europe closer to its citizens. I also thanked President Macron of France and the British Prime Minister, Mrs. May, for the help we received from Scottish, English and French electricity teams.
Migration was the issue for the first working session. On this, there has been a fall in the number of migrants coming from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. Crucially, there has been a significant and welcome decrease in the number of lives lost at sea. I drew attention to the distressing human rights reports from Médecins Sans Frontières on the reception facilities in Libya. I also raised the question of support for Africa more generally, and what needs to be done to remove the root causes of migration. I confirmed that Ireland would double its commitment to the EU Trust Fund for Africa over the next few years, taking it from €3 million to €6 million. France and Poland also pledged to increase their support for the trust fund.
As I signalled here last week, the issue of Digital Europe was one of the most important agenda items from our perspective. The language we agreed for the European Council conclusions had been substantially proposed by Ireland and a group of like-minded countries. These include a high level of ambition for completing the digital single market, including the free flow of data and agreeing a future-oriented regulatory framework.
There is a challenging timeline for agreeing proposals in this area, but we have to be ambitious if we are to deliver practical benefits for our citizens and businesses, and ensure Europe remains globally competitive. There was a good exchange on the issue of taxation of digital companies. I emphasised that in a globalised world, a solution on tax must be global in nature.