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 Header Item Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Cabotage Regulations

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 825 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] The EU is currently conducting a total of 17 missions, 13 of which are civilian and four are military. Ireland, as the Taoiseach mentioned, is currently contributing to six civilian and three military missions.

After ten years in existence it is generally accepted among member states that the CSDP needs to be reinvigorated. The European Council is likely to suggest ways in which this can be achieved. In order to increase the effectiveness of and impact of the CSDP, it will important for the EU to adopt a comprehensive approach to crises as they arise. The EU must work closely with its partners, such as the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, NATO and the African Union is this regard. It needs to be able to plan and deploy the right civilian and military assets rapidly and effectively. We continue to place great emphasis on partnership between the EU and the UN in the area of crisis management. In order for CSDP to remain as an effective and credible tool, the EU will also need to continue to improve and develop the capabilities to be used in future CSDP missions. In that regard, the European Council is likely to highlight ways in which this can be done. The European Defence Agency, EDA, plays an important role in this regard and the European Council is likely to prioritise certain co-operative projects between the EDA and member states, such as air-to-air refuelling capacity, satellite communication and cyber- and remotely piloted aircraft systems.

The final area the European Council is expected to discuss is the strengthening of Europe's defence industry. In the context of the Commission communication which I referred to earlier-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Frank Feighan): Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan The Minister of State is running out of time.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I will wrap up in a moment. It is likely that the European Council will request the European Commission and the European Defence Agency to bring work forward in areas such as research, standards and certification, small and medium enterprises and security of supply.

I will briefly refer to other matters raised by a number of colleagues, particularly Deputy Crowe, who mentioned enlargement, Syria, etc. I acknowledge the progress made by High Representative Catherine Ashton with regard to efforts to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo over the past six months. I look forward to seeing continuing progress on the Serbian accession negotiations and also the outcome of the negotiations between the EU and Kosovo on a stabilisation and association agreement. On another positive note, the European Council is expected to confirm that we can look forward to a decision on the granting of candidate status to Albania in June 2014, and I will visit that country in January.

The conflict in Syria was mentioned by colleagues. Ireland has been doing all it can to help, providing over €14 million in assistance since the crisis began. We are currently examining future support for Syria and preparing for the second pledging conference due to take place in Kuwait on 15 January. This pledge will represent an increase on Ireland's pledge made at the Kuwait conference last January. The Government is also supporting international efforts to find a sustainable political solution to the crisis. We have called for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access and urged all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilians.

I conclude by thanking everybody for their contributions. Perhaps some of the more detailed points that I could not refer to because of time can be dealt with at the next meeting of the European affairs committee. I wish everybody a good Christmas.

Topical Issue Debate

Cabotage Regulations

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this issue, which, as the Minister is well aware, is of great concern to the road haulage sector. It certainly appears that Irish authorities have barely policed the cabotage legislation, which has resulted in the awarding of haulage contracts worth millions of euro to foreign haulage firms that pay no taxes in Ireland and employ no people here. The Road Safety Authority is responsible for the enforcement of legislation, along with the Garda, and its figures reveal that from 2012 to July 2013 only 78 vehicles were checked in Ireland and only a single breach of the regulations was uncovered. That is too little investigation. In comparison, the UK Department of Transport made over 43,000 checks relating to cabotage legislation, with 310 offences detected.

The legislation allows every haulier to perform up to three deliveries or cabotage operations within a week, starting the day after the unloading of international cargo in the country of destination. This was introduced by the EU to avoid an influx of drivers on lower wages flooding the EU markets. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport previously indicated that it was monitoring the level of investigations carried out by the relevant authorities. The head of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Mr. Eoin Galvin, has previously had meetings with the Minister, who promised to clamp down on breaches of the law. I accept that to some extent this falls outside the Minister's remit, as it is a matter for the Garda and the Department of Justice and Equality; nevertheless, he will have to use his influence to protect the road haulage sector because of what has been happening in the summer and is continuing even now.

As the Minister knows, the issue came to light over the summer after a number of foreign hauliers were found to be operating out of Foynes Port, forcing the Irish Road Haulage Association to resort to a blockade when local hauliers had to lay off drivers after contracts were given to foreign firms. In my view, which is shared by many, these firms were acting illegally and flouting the cabotage laws as applied here. At least four haulage companies from Germany, Holland, Scotland and the North appear to be flouting European cabotage legislation, which bans foreign hauliers from doing more than three journeys in a country before they leave. The firms have been involved in the transport of parts for wind turbines being imported by Siemens through Foynes Port. The legislation signed into law by the Minister in January 2012 allows every haulier to perform up to three deliveries or cabotage operations within a week, starting the day after the unloading of international cargo. However, it is illegal for haulage vehicles to enter the State empty and then carry deliveries. I have had the opportunity to visit Foynes port and see what is going on down there, and it appears that trucks and specialised moving equipment are being brought in without any loads and then being used to take heavy, outsized equipment from the port to various destinations, particularly where wind turbines are being placed. It is clear that this is being done in breach of cabotage laws. What is most surprising is that most of these wide loads, because of their nature, get a Garda escort. These people appear to be breaking the law, but they are being escorted in their work by the police, who are acting from a road safety perspective.

Within the past month the Irish Road Haulage Association has alleged that UK-registered trucks have entered the State and carried out deliveries for the ESB to the Carrickmines site from Dublin Port, again with the escort of gardaí. I am not making any allegations against gardaí, who are carrying out a job in travelling with these loads to protect other vehicles on the road, ensure traffic is not delayed, etc. In essence, these companies are breaking a law of the State, which is regrettable, and the issue needs the involvement of this Minister and the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Garda should also review its actions in this regard.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. As he is aware, the area of cabotage is not straightforward and there can be confusion as to what is covered by the cabotage regulations. Furthermore, the continued existence of cabotage restriction with the European Union is to a large extent an anomaly in the context of the free movement of goods and services.

Cabotage is the national carriage of goods for hire or reward carried out by non-resident hauliers on a temporary basis in a host member state. Haulage cabotage operations are governed by Regulation (EC) 1072/2009. In accordance with this regulation, non-resident hauliers are permitted to conduct up to three cabotage operations within a seven-day period after the inbound international carriage of goods from another member state or a third country. Advance permission is not required for a non­resident haulier to carry out the cabotage operations in accordance with the regulation. However, there are conditions which must be met. The first is that the non-resident haulier must hold a community licence qualifying him or her to operate internationally; and the second is that the non-resident haulier must produce clear evidence of incoming international carriage and of each subsequent cabotage operation carried out in the host member state, to a maximum of three operations.

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