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Snippet Contents:

Regarding Deputy Haughey's question on climate action, it will not be a problem to provide the information to which the Deputy referred and I will engage with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on that. As the Deputy said, the Minister, Deputy Naughten, represented Ireland at the One Planet summit in Paris on 12 December, the second anniversary of the conclusion of the Paris Agreement. He reaffirmed Ireland's commitment to the global objectives of that agreement and supported the call for ambitious contributions to managing global emissions from the international shipping sector. This was reaffirmed at the European Council meeting and member states reaffirmed the implementation of the Paris Agreement. We are happy to provide the relevant information to the Oireachtas committee.
In response to Deputy Boyd Barrett's questions on PESCO, involvement in various projects is on an opt-out basis. It is not that we are specifically tied to any of the programmes or projects; we can opt in or opt out. As I mentioned earlier, cybersecurity is an area in which we feel we can contribute in the context of combatting terrorism. We know that terrorism has changed in its format and is not what is was 20 years ago. There is a lot of terrorist activity happening online through cybersecurity attacks, through YouTube videos aimed at brainwashing people and so forth. We feel that we can co-operate and work with various member states in that regard.
On the question of expenditure, we are looking at a 2% increase of each individual member state's defence expenditure but that is an overall figure. Ireland will not necessarily have to increase its budget by 2%. If France, for example, were to increase its budget by more than 2%, then Ireland could increase its expenditure by less than 2%. However, we would seek to ensure that any money expended on our behalf is spent in areas that we feel fit with Ireland's profile, that such spending does not impact on our neutrality and that it is in line with what we have already agreed in signing up to PESCO.
I accompanied the Taoiseach to Brussels for the December European Council, as he indicated earlier. I will focus my concluding remarks on social, educational and cultural co-operation and migration, which were all discussed on Thursday, 14 December. Following on from the social summit in Gothenburg in November, discussions continued at the European Council on social, educational and cultural co-operation between member states. These are areas in which member states have primary responsibility but where the Union plays an important role in co-ordination, co-operation and sharing best practice while fully respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. This debate is central to Europe's future. Education and culture are key to building inclusive and cohesive societies and to sustaining our competitiveness. The aim is to ensure that as we continue to develop and co-operate economically we also protect and promote social standards and labour rights. The Taoiseach intervened in the European Council on these issues, including to express his view that the social pillar allows us to go back to the founding principles of the social market economy. He highlighted several elements, including pension rights and student cards, noting the need to focus on specific initiatives, to set timelines for them to happen and to monitor implementation. President Macron of France has also been very vocal in this debate and the Taoiseach supported the President's proposal for a network of European universities. The European Council will come back to these matters in March 2018 to ensure that there is a follow up.
Migration was discussed over dinner and there was a useful exchange on the internal and external dimensions in an effort to explore how best to achieve and effect a substantial policy which would respect the concepts of responsibility and solidarity. Key to this is working with countries of origin and transit in Africa and the Middle East and building on our development assistance in order to do this. As intended, this was an open ended discussion with no conclusions but it was agreed to come back to this issue with an ambition to be able to take some decisions by June.
The leaders also discussed President Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and agreed to restate the EU's common position, with which the Taoiseach agreed, that EU embassies will remain in Tel Aviv. The European Council also expressed its opposition to actions that undermine the viability of the two state solution. There was also a quick exchange about Russia and Ukraine, with the leaders agreeing to a roll over of the sanctions on Russia. These will now be renewed when they fall later this month.