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06/27/2018 12:00:00 AM


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Dialogue and meetings

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European Council

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Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe)

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Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe)

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Snippet Contents:

I thank everyone who contributed to this debate on what will be an important and wide-ranging meeting of the European Council over the next two days.
While Brexit is clearly the priority for Ireland, migration is a crucial issue for the Union as a whole, and it is likely to be a major focus at the meeting. As the Taoiseach stated, we will seek to continue to play a constructive role in the discussions on this issue and to make a positive contribution. We volunteered yesterday to take in some of the migrants on board the MV Lifeline that is currently stranded off the coast of Malta.
I pay tribute to the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann, specifically those in our Naval Service, whose actions have saved more than 17,500 lives in the Mediterranean Sea in recent years. They continue to perform vital functions as part of Operation Sophia. I commend them on their professionalism and service to our great country.
The European Council is expected to take decisions on strengthening external border controls and working with countries of origin and transit, with only incremental progress likely at this stage on reform of the common European asylum system.
We anticipate unity on jobs, growth and competitiveness around the Commission's proposed responses to the US steel and aluminium tariffs. Ireland fully subscribes to the EU position that these tariffs are unjustified and in conflict with WTO rules.
Digital taxation may be discussed. We strongly agree that all companies should pay their taxes. However, the challenges of taxation in a globalised digital world are such that only the widest international response is likely to be effective.
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Helen McEntee, has outlined our approach to the multi-annual financial framework. We want continued support for the programmes that work well and deliver European added value, including the CAP and Cohesion Funds. At the same time, we are open to spending new money on new priorities if there is a clear rationale for doing so at European level.
Discussions at the European Council on the issues within my areas of responsibility, namely, security and defence, will provide a welcome opportunity to review progress across a number of fronts. As on previous occasions, the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Stoltenberg, will have the opportunity to address the European Council. He is likely to emphasise the importance of complementarity between the EU and NATO and the need for strong European defence co-operation.
Ireland is one of six member states that are not members of NATO. This, along with our military neutrality, is a foreign policy strength. It enhances our position as an honest broker and as UN peacekeepers in Lebanon with UNIFIL and UNDOF as well as all our missions overseas. This does not mean we do not support appropriate co-operation with NATO. Such co-operation is set out in the EU global strategy and is welcome. I anticipate there will be a call for a new joint declaration by the President of the Council, the President of the Commission and the Secretary General of NATO on EU-NATO co-operation to update on progress since the declaration in 2016.
Work has moved forward within the EU with the launch of PESCO. Ireland is a founder member and is participating in two projects, namely, a centre of excellence for EU military training missions and the upgrade of maritime surveillance systems.