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Written Answers. - Intergovernmental Conference.

Tuesday, 8 October 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 469 No. 5

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 78. Mr. Dempsey Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Dick Spring Zoom on Dick Spring  the agenda and issues discussed, as well as all decisions made and decisions proposed, by the Intergovernmental Conference working group which discussed environmental issues on 23 and 24 September 1996; and if he or his nominee attended, representing Ireland in its role as president of the EU. [17823/96]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring Zoom on Dick Spring The Intergovernmental Conference was launched at the Turin European Council on 29 March and has been meeting regularly since then. Negotiations take place at the level of Foreign Ministers who are assisted by a group consisting of their personal representatives. Mr. Noel Dorr, former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, is my personal representative at the Intergovernmental Conference. During the Irish Presidency, I chair meetings at Foreign Minister level and Mr. Dorr chairs meetings of the Representatives Group. As is normal, a national delegation also represents Ireland at meetings at both levels.

The Florence European Council requested the Irish Presidency to bring forward for the Dublin European Council in December a general outline for a draft revision of the Treaties. The European Council indicated it expects that its meeting in December will mark decisive progress in the negotiations so that the Intergovernmental Conference will be able to complete its work as envisaged by mid-1997.

[1506] With a view to helping Foreign Ministers to fulfil this mandate, the Intergovernmental Conference Representative Group meets on a weekly basis to discuss the various issues under consideration at the Conference. The Representative Group met in Brussels on 23/24 September to discuss a number of issues including the environment. Due to lack of time, however, discussions on the environment issue were postponed to the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference Representative Group which took place on 30 September in Luxembourg.

Under the general heading of bringing the Union closer to its citizens, the Florence European Council asked the Intergovernmental Conference to address, among other things, the question of making environmental protection more effective and coherent at the level of the Union in order to secure sustainable development. The Irish Presidency tabled a Presidency Introductory Note on the environment dated 17 September which was forwarded to the Oireachtas Library as are all other Presidency papers submitted to the conference. The Presidency Introductory Note formed the basis for discussion on the environment by the Intergovernmental Conference Representative Group on 30 September.

The Presidency Introductory Note suggested that the environmental provisions of the Treaty could be enhanced in two main ways:

— first, by including in the Treaty an explicit formulation of the Union's commitment to sustainable development; and

— second, by including in the Treaty a strengthened horizontal provision to ensure that environmental considerations are integrated in the sectoral policies of the Community.

Ireland has supported both of these proposals and this was made clear by the Irish delegation on 30 September.

While the attitude of partners to [1507] strengthening the Treaty provisions on the environment on the lines identified above has been generally positive, a key consideration is that all Treaty amendments must be approved unanimously by the member states at the Intergovernmental Conference. It is too early to predict definitively what the final outcome will be on issues under consideration at the Intergovernmental Conference. At the present stage of the conference no decisions as such are being proposed or made.

The Presidency Introductory Note on the environment also identified a number of other issues for consideration which has been brought forward by delegations. One of these was a discussion document which had been tabled by the Irish delegation concerning the possibility of strengthening the nuclear safety provisions of the EURATOM Treaty in the context of the future enlargement of the Union. This discussion document was presented by the Irish delegation at the meeting on 30 September.

Apart from the environment, the Intergovernmental Conference Representative Group on 30 September also considered a number of other matters including flexibility and a range of issues on which proposals had been brought forward by delegations.


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