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European Council Brussels: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] This process will include giving a definition to what is meant by "legacy assets". It was also made completely clear that this process would ultimately allow the European Stability Mechanism, ESM, to recapitalise banks directly. The specifics remain to be considered, but this is clearly an important development of our consistent position over the course of this year.

The deal on a single supervisor means we can now move on with the next elements of banking union, which include the harmonisation of national recovery and deposit guarantee schemes. For these measures the European Council confirmed an ambitious timetable, with the Council to agree in March and co-legislators to agree by the end of June. Ensuring these deadlines are met will be a key task for our Presidency.

It was agreed that, after a single supervisor mechanism, SSM, is in place, the next logical step is the creation of a single resolution mechanism, SRM. On this, the Commission has been asked to submit a proposal next year with the aim of it being adopted before the European Parliament elections in 2014. The mechanism is to be based on contributions by the financial sector and will feature effective back-stop arrangements. Taxpayers will not carry the cost. It will have the necessary powers to ensure a resolution for any bank in participating member states.

In keeping with our clear and consistent position, the European Council also agreed that the immediate priority was to complete and implement the measures that had been agreed, including the six pack, the stability treaty and the two pack, alongside adopting the SSM and other related banking legislation. In particular, it called for the Council and the Parliament to ensure the two pack was rapidly adopted.

Last week's European Council meeting also made important progress on mapping out the way ahead on economic and monetary union, EMU. I set out the background to the discussion of this issue in the pre-Council statement of last week, in particular highlighting President Van Rompuy's report, the blueprint by the European Commission and the draft European Council conclusions, which at that stage included a sequence of structured steps for the strengthening of EMU.

The outcome of last week's meeting mainly focuses on the short to medium term and ties in directly to Irish interests and concerns. In his report to the meeting, President Van Rompuy set out an ambitious programme for developing EMU that extended beyond the European Parliament elections in 2014. It fuelled an important and interesting discussion on what is one of the most pressing issues facing the Union. Deepening economic and monetary union is necessary if we are to underpin the euro as a stable and credible currency, which the Government strongly supports as a vital national and European interest.

However, as I said to the House last week, it was clear to me that there were elements in President Van Rompuy's report that required greater explanation and elaboration. These issues were at the heart of what was discussed last week, where my assessment was widely shared, and it was agreed that further work was required in the period ahead before we would be in position to take concrete decisions on the way forward. This was especially true of the possible creation of agreements of a contractual nature with member states and of solidarity mechanisms for the eurozone.

Following our discussion, therefore, President Van Rompuy will now consider and consult further, and will present a time-bound roadmap on the following four issues to the June 2013 European Council: co-ordination of major economic reforms in the member states; the social dimension of EMU; the feasibility and modalities of contracts for competitiveness and growth between governments and EU institutions; and solidarity mechanisms to enhance the efforts made by states that enter into these arrangements.

On the first of these, co-ordination of economic reforms, the Commission is to bring forward a proposal in the context of the European semester, building on Article 11 of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. Clearly, new steps towards strengthening economic governance need to be accompanied by stronger legitimacy and accountability. I will be pressing to ensure the involvement of European and national parliaments in this matter.

We also agreed that, to improve governance within the euro area and building on the provisions of the stability treaty, the Heads of State or Government of the euro area will adopt rules of procedure for euro summit meetings in March of next year.

To help shape the ongoing work in the immediate period ahead, the European Council welcomed the annual growth survey recently published by the Commission, which launches the 2013 European semester process. Ensuring this is handled efficiently and effectively will be a key priority for our Presidency. The growth survey will now be considered in the various relevant Council formations, with a view to the Council providing its views to the March 2013 meeting of the European Council, which will agree on the guidance to be given to member states on the preparation of their stability and convergence and national reform programmes. We also asked the Commission to include an assessment of labour and product market performance in its next annual growth survey with a view to promoting growth and jobs.

The European Council also gave close consideration to completion of the Single Market, which is a key priority for the Irish Presidency. Last week's conclusions called on the Council and Parliament to conclude the remaining Single Market Act I files as a matter of urgency, in particular those on professional qualifications, public procurement, posting of workers and e-signatures. These are complex issues. They also called on the Commission to present all key Single Market Act II proposals by spring 2013 and for the Council and Parliament to assign them the highest priority.

As President, Ireland will prioritise these Single Market and digital single market actions. The untapped potential of the EU's Single Market has an important contribution to make to delivering jobs and a growth agenda. We will work very hard to advance this agenda.

The European Council also called for consideration of the Commission's recent youth employment package, including early adoption of the recommendations on the youth guarantee schemes. This is also a priority objective for the Irish Presidency. It clearly matters to the young people of Europe, in particular young Irish, who are unemployed. We will aim to make significant progress with a view to adopting the recommendations at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, EPSCO, on 28 February next. Youth unemployment will also be the main focus of the informal meeting of EPSCO Ministers taking place in Dublin earlier that month.

On enlargement, the European Council made good progress and welcomed and endorsed the conclusions agreed at the General Affairs Council last week. These will shape the enlargement agenda over the six months of Ireland's Presidency and it is likely we will have to consider such issues as granting candidate status to Albania and opening negotiations with Serbia and possibly Macedonia.

We welcome the reference in the conclusions to regaining the momentum in the accession negotiations with Turkey, where we would hope to progress over the next six months. We also intend to advance the accession negotiations with Iceland and Montenegro, and will oversee consideration of the final monitoring report on Croatia's preparations for accession. In this regard, we look forward to welcoming Croatia as the 28th member of the Union on 1 July.

The European Council adopted conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy, CSDP, which includes CSDP missions and capabilities, and preparations for a discussion on defence issues at the European Council in December 2013. The European Council tasked the High Representative and relevant EU bodies to develop further proposals and actions aimed at strengthening CSDP and improving the availability of civilian and military capabilities and to report on these initiatives by September 2013. The issues to be covered in the report will include increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of CSDP, enhancing the development of defence capabilities, and strengthening Europe's defence industry.

We also discussed the deteriorating situation in Syria and the ways in which the EU could try to end the current violence and hasten the emergence of a negotiated solution. The Council reiterated very strongly its view that only a political solution could end the current nightmare for the Syrian people. It also restated that Assad had no place in a new, democratic Syria where human rights and the rights of all minorities should be both promoted and protected.

The Council considered the outcome of the most recent meeting of the Friends of Syria, which took place in Marrakesh on 12 December and at which Ireland was represented by the Minister of State, Deputy Costello. The Marrakesh meetings allowed many participants to meet the leadership of the new Syrian opposition coalition, and the Minister of State extended an invitation to the chairperson of the coalition to meet the Tánaiste to develop our contacts with the new body further and to explore how Ireland and the EU could best be of support.

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