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 Header Item European Union Accession (Continued)
 Header Item European External Action Service

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 803 No. 3

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Deputy Patrick Nulty: Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty I thank the Tánaiste for his response and welcome his comments. He will be aware there is a strong and vibrant Bosnian community in Ireland. It is important to note that morale within that community is very low. There is much concern about the future of their fledgling state and country. The Bosnian state is coming out of a bloody and dreadful conflict where more than 100,000 people have been killed and it needs the complete attention of the European Union. Given that from July there will be a border with Bosnia when Croatia joins the European Union, it is essential that the challenges facing them are addressed, particularly the judgment to which the Minister referred. Essentially, there is a sectarian straitjacket in Bosnia where one must identify oneself as Bosniak, Croat or Serb in order to run for President or the Upper House. In other conflict resolution areas, such as Northern Ireland, at the very least one has the opportunity not to accept the label of Nationalist or Unionist. The fact that has not been moved on requires action. What steps will the Government take in the short time remaining of the Irish Presidency to advance the issue?

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore As the Deputy has said, Croatia will accede to the European Union on 1 July. Progress has also been made in respect of Serbia and Kosovo, and High Representative Ashton brokered a significant agreement between the two Prime Ministers a number of weeks ago which will allow for progress to be made on their accession. Progress has been made in respect of all the countries in the Balkans with the exception of Bosnia-Herzgovina. The aim of the European Union is to support and embed a stable and viable Bosnia-Herzegovina, co-operating with its neighbours and irreversibly on track towards EU membership. EU membership for Bosnia-Herzegovina is firmly tied to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country. The EU strategy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina was set out in the European Council conclusions in March 2011 and the successive reinforcing conclusions. Since September 2011, we have installed a reinforced and comprehensive presence in the country, combining the assets of the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the European Union Special Representative office, while the European Union military force, the EUFOR ALTHEA, remains present in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Great efforts have been made to encourage the political leaders of Bosnia-Herzgovina to move forward with reforms. Those reforms have not happened. There were hopes last year, following the agreement to form a government and the passing of two laws to move ahead with the stabilisation and association agreement, that Bosnia's leaders were at last putting the interests of the country first and doing what was required to move forward on EU accession.

Deputy Patrick Nulty: Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty There is the view among international observers and civil society representatives in Ireland that there is an unhealthy relationship between business leaders, political leaders and organised crime within Bosnia and that the elite which is running the country is not acting in the best interests of the broad citizenry. I ask the Tánaiste very specifically if he would be prepared to meet representatives of the Bosnian community in Ireland and listen to their concerns. The issues in Bosnia pale into insignificance the debates in this House in terms of the back and forth of politics because it is still a very fragile state. The community in Ireland, which has contributed so much, wants reassurance that the Irish Government is treating the conflict resolution issue and the Bosnian state as a priority.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith May I ask the Tánaiste about another issue that has been brought to my attention by the Bosnian community, that is, the major difficulty for Bosnian farmers when Croatia accedes to the European Union on 1 July? Apparently, it is very dependent on that particular market to sell its products. The Bosnian community here will argue that in the partnership agreement to date with the European Union, Croatia has met the competences and the standards required. With the Single Market, I do not know whether a particular trading arrangement is feasible. It is an issue that should be raised if a community is living in very difficult circumstances where that important source of revenue is cut off, and perhaps some arrangement can be reached to try to soften that blow.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I am conscious that there is a significant Bosnian community in Ireland. I am always willing to meet people and discuss their concerns. I share the concern about what is not happening in Bosnia. Membership of the European Union and the process of accession is conditional on a country reaching certain standards in respect of its democracy, human rights issues and rule of law. These are critical values of the European Union on which we cannot compromise. The authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina are aware of what they have to do to meet the standards required for European Union accession. There is a pathway, the stabilisation and association agreement, towards accession which addresses some of the economic and trading issues. The problem, however, is that sufficient progress is not being made in Bosnia on the reforms required in order for the accession process to be progressed. There are hopes that the accession of Croatia and the closer engagement with the European Union of other states in the Balkan region would encourage political leaders in Bosnia to move forward. Unfortunately, we have not seen that progress, and it is worrying. That is one of the reasons we need to have a renewed look at the European Union approach to the situation in Bosnia.

European External Action Service

 7. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the number of his Department staff, or staff from other Departments or agencies, that are seconded to the European External Action Service; the proposals there are to extend this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23198/13]

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The European External Action Service, EEAS, is the European Union’s diplomatic service created to promote an EU-wide common foreign and security policy. It is staffed by officers from the European Commission, the EU Council Secretariat and the Foreign Ministries of EU member states, including my Department. The recruitment of diplomats from member states to serve in the EEAS enhances the links and interaction with the diplomatic services of the member states. Currently, six members of staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are on assignment to the EEAS. A seventh officer is due to take up a position with the service in early June 2013.

The Government is committed to ensuring Ireland is adequately represented in the EEAS and in all EU structures. My Department takes all reasonable steps to support the candidacies of Irish applicants for EEAS posts. Officers who are offered positions in the EEAS have been and will continue to be granted special leave for the duration of their assignments.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I thank the Tánaiste for his reply. I welcome the fact that officials from his Department are working in the European External Action Service. It is always important that there are Irish people working in the various institutions of the European Union. On a slightly different issue, following the accession of the ten countries in May 2004, recruitment to the EU institutions was confined largely to those new member states. This is a time when we want to renew more candidacies for positions within the European Union institutions.

Given that Ireland holds the Presidency of the Council, has the European Parliament raised with the Tánaiste its severe criticism of the European External Action Service?

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