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European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan] We cannot allow this terrible pressure of the Brexit negotiation. I appreciate the pressure the Government is under in this regard. The Government will be judged by this in the forthcoming general election, whenever it happens. It would be reprehensible to use the pressure of Brexit as a lever to rush us into a federal European state dominated by Germany, France, Spain and Italy, despite the comments of the new Italian Government.

  During our most recent debate on European affairs, I drew attention to our record as a net contributor for the past five years. We are one of only nine net contributors among the 28 member states, which is striking. The EU budget between 2021 and 2027 totals €1.27 trillion or 1.1% of gross national income. The EU Commissioner, Mr. Hogan, wanted a higher percentage. Anyway, it means that a major contribution is being made by this country year in, year out towards the maintenance of the EU. We must ensure this organisation to which we contribute so much is au fait with our needs and that emerging from Brexit we will not be placed in a terribly disadvantaged situation.

  Last year, I was one of 45 Deputies who voted against the Government proposal to join the PESCO. I remain deeply opposed to any attempt to engage Ireland in an EU army. We have heard of Macron's military force, the European intervention initiative, which, apparently, will include Britain.

  I wish to refer briefly to the migration crisis. The new Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, recently stoked anti-immigration rhetoric by turning away a migrant ship carrying 629 people. Malta then refused the ship but made a separate decision to accept the ship. I appreciate our Government's action in this regard. Clearly, we need a pan-European approach to migration that is fair to everyone.

  I appreciate being able to make these comments, in particular on Brexit, which is now at such a crucial point in the negotiations.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny I welcome the news from the Tánaiste today that the Government has given extra funding to the UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. I understand Ireland will give €250,000. I am raising the issue because UNRWA has stated that it is experiencing its worst funding crisis of the past 70 years. The agency was set up because of Israel's expulsion of Palestinian people from Palestine. Many Palestinian refugees are in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, Syria and Jordan. It is welcome that the Government has tried to address some of the shortfall. There is a shortfall because Donald Trump's Administration has withdrawn 80% of the funding. It is small beer compared to the funding the US gives Israel, but it will have profound effects on the many Palestinians in refugee camps. These people rely on the funding for schools and so on. The head of the agency says that if the funding is not met by other donors, people will suffer. It is probably in the interests of the Israeli Government that Palestinians suffer even more. This is about collective punishment by another means on the part of the American Administration, including Mr. Trump. He is probably the greatest Zionist of them all.

I am unsure if the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach will attend the European Council but I hope he will raise the issue. One startling aspect of the crisis in Palestine is the UN reckons that in 2020, one and a half years from now, the Gaza Strip, where 1.2 million people live, will become unliveable. That will have profound effects for those people.

As Deputies and citizens of this country, we have always had a pro-Palestinian view. We saw Palestinian people being driven out of their homes and discriminated against on a daily basis. The general tone of this State and of the people who live here is pro-Palestinian.

It is welcome that the Government has granted a further €250,000. That brings our contribution up to €6 million to the fund. However, the crisis will continue. We have run out of adjectives to describe what Donald Trump is about. He is a maniac who will destroy many of the people who he believes are against his policy. Our solidarity is always with the Palestinian people. I welcome the new funding. I call on the Minister of State to raise the matter at the European Council during the week.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe 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.

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