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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 393-407
 Header Item EU Migration Crisis
 Header Item Northern Ireland
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Election Monitoring Missions
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Military Aircraft
 Header Item Military Aircraft
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Conflict Resolution
 Header Item Irish Aid
 Header Item Irish Aid
 Header Item EU Enlargement

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 393-407

EU Migration Crisis

 393. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the support being offered to assist with the fallout following the fire at Moria refugee camp; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28534/20]

 401. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the engagement he has had with the Greek authorities in relation to the Moria camp in Lesbos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28817/20]

 402. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent to which he and the international community have engaged with the situation in Lesbos with the objective of addressing the issues arising from the destructive fire there and consequent homelessness in respect of the refugees; if he and his EU colleagues can identify a formula to address the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28818/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 393, 401 and 402 together.

I am deeply saddened by the fire at the Moria camp on Lesbos and the impact this has had on the refugees and migrants based there. The very sudden displacement of thousands of people has caused great suffering to those in the camp, as well as posing a huge logistical challenge for the Greek authorities in the midst of the pandemic.

My colleague, the Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, spoke with his Greek counterpart immediately after the fire to offer Ireland's full solidarity and support. The Greek authorities requested assistance from EU Partners in dealing with the immediate humanitarian needs arising from the fire. My Department, through our Embassy in Athens, is in contact with the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy and has confirmed Ireland’s readiness to provide assistance from emergency stocks which we have in place at the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy. The Greek authorities have thanked us for this offer of assistance, and we stand ready to work with them regarding the deployment of the emergency supplies.

In terms of the situation within the camp, Greek authorities have started to transfer refugees and migrants to the Greek mainland in order to reduce overcrowding. In addition, the European Commission has now established a dedicated Taskforce with the aim of resolving the emergency situation on Lesbos effectively and humanely. The Taskforce will work closely with the Greek authorities to build new reception facilities in the coming months, which will be of a European standard and will provide access to healthcare and adequate sanitation.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have repeatedly urged the need for greater solidarity and burden-sharing among Member States in dealing with the wider issue of migration. The migration crisis continues to be one of the major challenges confronting the European Union and it needs to be urgently addressed. We must find more sustainable solutions involving consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility. I am committed to continuing to work with our EU partners to resolve these issues and to ensure that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met.

On 23 September 2020, the Commission published a major new proposal on reforming the EU migration and asylum system - a “New Pact on Migration and Asylum”. I welcome this initiative by the Commission. The publication of the Migration Pact proposals represents an opportunity to renew and intensify efforts to agree a common approach and put in place more effective and humane arrangements to manage the considerable migratory pressures that Europe continues to face.

We in Ireland are endeavouring to do our part, having already received 1022 asylum seekers (including six unaccompanied minors) from Greece under the first phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

In the context of the very difficult situation now arising from the destruction of the Moria refugee camp, the Government has decided that Ireland will welcome refugee families from Greece under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Up to 50 people in family groups will be resettled following displacement due to the fire. This is in addition to the four unaccompanied minors, to be taken as part of our overall commitment to take 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece.

Officials from the Department of Justice and Equality are liaising with the European Commission on the detail of this commitment, and along with An Garda Síochána will travel to Greece in the coming weeks to make the arrangements.

Northern Ireland

 394. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will he meet with victims and survivors of the Glenanne gang. [25602/20]

 400. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will meet with the victims and survivors of the Glenanne gang. [28468/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 and 400 together.

The victims of the so-called Glenanne gang, as with all victims and survivors, must have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice in accordance with the law. There is also a clear need for the Stormont House Agreement to be implemented as a comprehensive framework for dealing with the legacy of the past, as well as a need for progress on the all-party motions of the Dáil on the Dublin Monaghan bombings and related cases.

The implementation of the Stormont House Agreement forms part of the Programme for Government. The Government also continues to actively pursue the implementation of the all-Party Dáil motions which call on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and the murder of Seamus Ludlow.

The Government welcomed the announcement by the PSNI on 30 November 2019 that former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher will head an Independent Police Team to conduct an analytical report on collusion in what has become known as the Glenanne Gang series of cases. We are conscious that this work by Chief Constable Boutcher is very relevant to a number of cases of the utmost concern for victims’ families and survivors, both North and South, who suffered in the murderous attacks by the so-called ‘Glenanne Gang’. It is to be hoped that the report being conducted by Chief Constable Boutcher will contribute to the process of justice, truth and acknowledgement of what happened in these awful cases, where collusion is a feature.

The Government will be supportive of facilitating this investigation, subject to the requirements of the law, as we have other investigative processes in Northern Ireland, in relation to the attacks conducted by the Glenanne Gang and of course other cases from the Troubles.

In any scenario, we will continue to engage with the British Government, to pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on these issues, consistent with the all-party Dáil motions, until a satisfactory resolution is found.

In relation to the request for a meeting to discuss these cases, I have asked my officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs who lead on legacy issues to meet with representatives of the victims and survivors as soon as possible, and as current circumstances and restrictions allow, for a full discussion of their concerns.

Brexit Issues

 395. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the progress with the UK Government regarding the UK customs preparations for Brexit. [26652/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney From 1 January 2021, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, the UK will no longer be part of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. This means any business that moves goods from, to or through Great Britain will be subject to a range of new customs formalities, checks and other regulatory requirements, that do not apply in any form today to such trade.

However, it is important to note that due to the provisions in the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland no new checks or controls will apply to goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland in either direction.

From 1 January 2021 UK customs preparations are a matter for the UK Government. On 13 July 2020, the UK Government published its Border Operating Model, outlining plans for the introduction of border controls on exports to Great Britain from the EU. These plans indicate that UK controls will be implemented in three phases, from 1 January 2021 and with full controls implemented by July 2021. I understand an update of the Border Operations Model will issue shortly.

The Government continues to monitor the progress of the UK's customs preparations for the end of the transition period. Our Embassy in London maintains ongoing contact at various levels with officials from the UK Government on customs matters, including in relation to goods moving in transit via the UK landbridge. This includes ongoing engagement with officials from the Border Protocol and Delivery Group at the Cabinet Office, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In addition, Embassy officials have visited a number of points of entry and exit to the UK to review UK preparations on the ground.

It is important that businesses trading with Great Britain, or using the landbridge across Great Britain, make themselves aware of their responsibilities in relation to UK customs and regulatory checks and controls.

Election Monitoring Missions

 396. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if Ireland is sending observers to monitor elections under the auspices of the OSCE this year; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28566/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel to most overseas destinations due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is based on official public health advice and is in place to protect people's well-being, which is our first priority. In the case of election observation missions in particular, the risks posed by overseas travel at this time are compounded by factors such as extensive in-country travel and interactions with observers from a significant number of other countries, potentially exposing not only election monitors but those with whom they come into contact in the host country to COVID-19.

In light of this, in our role as facilitators of the volunteer roster participation in the EU and ODHIR election observation missions, we have taken the decision not to nominate volunteers for election observation missions at this time. My officials are keeping the situation under ongoing review in accordance with Government policy 'Living with Covid', as well as keeping abreast of developments with EU and OSCE focal points for election observation missions. As mission requests arise, we will evaluate (taking into account our overall health and travel advice as well as Covid-19 measures implemented by mission organisers as well as host countries) whether participation would be safe for Irish observers, as well as for the host country and other participants, and will decide on nominating volunteers accordingly.

We look forward to Ireland’s return to full participation in election observation missions, under conditions that balance this invaluable contribution to safeguarding democracy with the exigencies of the pandemic. Ireland remains as committed as ever to upholding democratic values, the rule of law, and human rights, and will continue to promote these through all other diplomatic means available.

EU Directives

 397. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the cost to his Department to date of all fines paid by Ireland for non-transposition of EU directives into Irish law; the breakdown, by directive, of the lump sum cost and the daily cost of each fine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28612/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Department of Foreign Affairs has not paid any fines for non-transposition of EU Directives into Irish law.

Military Aircraft

 398. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of diplomatic clearances sought from Ireland by embassies in advance for overflight of Irish sovereign airspace by foreign states and military aircraft in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; the number of diplomatic clearances granted for foreign state and military overflight of Irish sovereign airspace for the same period; the countries seeking clearance; and the foreign military aircraft that were seeking clearance and subsequently granted clearance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28642/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Permission for foreign military aircraft to overfly the State is subject to strict conditions. These routinely include stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question must not form part of military exercises or operations. Overflights by US military aircraft are permitted without prior notification, on the basis that the aircraft are unarmed, carry only cargo and passengers and comply with navigational requirements.

  The table below provides details of the overflights that took place from 1 January 2017 to 31 August 2020. In addition, from 1 January 2017 to August 2020 a further 92 requests were refused or cancelled.

Country 2017 Country 2018 Country 2019 Country Jan-August 2020
Australia 5 Angola 2 Angola 1 Australia 1
Bahrain 1 Australia 6 Australia 3 Belgium 8
Belgium 17 Bahrain 3 Belgium 15 Canada 4
Bolivia 1 Belgium 26 Canada 36 Colombia 1
Brazil 1 Canada 14 China 1 Congo 1
Cameroon 2 Colombia 2 Congo 2 Czech Republic 1
Canada 16 Cuba 1 Cyprus 2 Egypt 12
Czech. Rep 6 Cyprus 2 Czech Rep. 5 France 19
Colombia 1 Czech Rep. 2 Egypt 14 Germany 16
Cyprus 2 Egypt 17 France 36 Hungary 16
Egypt 19 France 52 Germany 46 Italy 18
France 36 Germany 50 Greece 4 Kuwait 1
Germany 53 Greece 6 Honduras 1 Jordan 5
Greece 7 Honduras 2 Hungary 22 Nigeria 1
Hungary 7 India 1 India 2 Qatar 15
India 2 Italy 17 UAE 7 Russia 1
Italy 20 Japan 2 Italy 9 Serbia 1
Iran 2 Jordan 18 Japan 8 Slovak Republic 2
Iraq 6 Lebanon 2 Jordan 21 Switzerland 2
Ivory Coast 1 Luxembourg 2 Lebanon 2 Tunisia 2
Jordan 31 Malaysia 3 Luxembourg 2 USA 307
Lebanon 2 Mali 1 Malaysia 3 Netherlands 1
Luxembourg 1 Mexico 1 Morocco 1    
Malaysia 2 Morocco 5 Netherlands 10    
Mali 1 Netherlands 9 New Zealand 1    
Mexico 3 Nigeria 1 Oman 6    
Netherlands 9 Oman 6 Pakistan 4    
Nigeria 1 USA 724 United Kingdom 2    
Oman 2 Vietnam 4 Portugal 1    
Pakistan 4 Poland 1 Qatar 16    
Poland 3 Qatar 9 Romania 2    
Rep. of Ghana 2 Republic of Ghana 1 Slovak Rep 12    
Slovak Rep 15 Slovak Rep 8 Spain 3    
Switzerland 8 Switzerland 8 Switzerland 3    
Tunisia 6 Sweden 1 Togo 1    
Turkey 4 Tunisia 5 Tunisia 5    
Ukraine 1 United Kingdom 4 Turkey 6    
UAE 1 UAE 2 USA 734    
UK 5     Colombia 1    
US 1419            
Vietnam 1            
Total 1726 Total 1020 Total 1050 TOTALS 435

Military Aircraft

 399. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has held discussions with the Minister for Justice and Equality on diplomatic clearances sought from Ireland by embassies in advance for overflight of Irish sovereign airspace by foreign states and military aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28643/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In advance of the provision of diplomatic clearance for overflight of Irish sovereign airspace by foreign State and military aircraft, my officials seek the views of the Department of Justice and Equality and other stakeholders.

  The procedures for the granting of diplomatic clearance are kept under review and my officials consult with the Department of Justice and Equality and other relevant parties as the need arises.

  Question No. 400 answered with Question No. 394.

  Questions Nos. 401 and 402 answered with Question No. 393.

Brexit Issues

 403. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent to which progress is being made between the European Union and the UK in the context of Brexit; the extent to which alternative preparations are being made to facilitate industry here in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28820/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The ninth round of negotiations in the EU-UK Future Relationship concluded on 3 October. While some progress was made, there is still some distance to go on key issues including fisheries, a level playing field for open and fair competition and governance. Unlocking these issues is key to moving towards a more intensified phase of the talks. President von der Leyen spoke to PM Johnson on 3 October to take stock of the negotiations. Contacts between the EU and UK will continue in the period ahead with a view to making further progress.

Given the limited progress we have seen in the EU-UK negotiations to date, the Government decided on 29 May that we should plan our readiness work on the basis of two scenarios: (i) a limited trade deal (including fisheries), or, (ii) a hard Brexit with the UK and the EU trading on WTO terms from 1 January 2021.

While Ireland continues to support the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK, prudence dictates that we now plan on this basis.

The Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan was published on 9 September which sets out in detail preparations and mitigation measures across a wide range of sectors. A key focus of the Action Plan is to assist business in preparing for the significant changes that will arise on 1 January 2021.

The July Jobs Stimulus includes a €20 million “Ready for Customs” package which allows business to claim grants of up to €9,000 per employee hired or redeployed to a dedicated customs role. Further support for new customs requirements is available from Clear Customs Online 2020 - Skillnet’s free customs training programme, which was also launched on 9 September. Both these customs-focussed programmes were put in place in response to a need highlighted by the business sector.

The Brexit Readiness Action Plan sets out the range of measures business will need to take to prepare for the new trading arrangements with Great Britain from 1 January 2021, regardless of the outcome of the future relationship negotiations. Subsequently, the Revenue Commissioners have written to over 90,000 businesses that have traded with the UK since 2019, enclosing a Brexit Readiness Checklist. These letters provide a checklist of issues that need to be addressed including customs procedures, supply chains, import duties, cashflow, logistics, accreditations and certifications and, where relevant, information from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on exporting animals, plants and products of animal and plant origin. Since then, Revenue has contacted 2,500 businesses by phone and will continue its direct phone contact with up to 14,000 businesses over the coming weeks. Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices continue to provide upskilling and advisory supports, while Departments and agencies are organising a range of briefings on an ongoing basis for specific sectors, including agriculture and food, construction, retail, transport and logistics.

Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, the end of the transition period will mean substantial and lasting change. The UK will be outside the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union from 1 January 2021. This means that any business that moves goods to, from or through Great Britain will be subject to a range of customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that do not apply today.

I would encourages business and citizens to to take steps now to prepare for the end of the transition period.

Conflict Resolution

 404. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent of the discussions taking place at EU and UN level to address the situation at various war zones worldwide including the Armenian Azerbaijani strife; if particular initiatives are contemplated to address the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28821/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney At EU level the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region was discussed at the European Council on the 1st of October, where leaders called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and urged parties to recommit to a lasting ceasefire and the peaceful settlement of the conflict. The European Council stated that there can be no military solution to the conflict, nor any external interference and called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to engage in substantive negotiations without preconditions. Leaders expressed its support for the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and asked the EU High Representative to examine further EU support for the settlement process.

The UN Security Council members expressed support for Secretary-General Guterres’s call for an immediate halt to the fighting, and for the central role of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Ireland will continue to support these efforts, including when we join the United Nations Security Council in January of next year.

Ireland joins those calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to the negotiating table, and we welcome and support the statements of the European Council and the OSCE Minsk Co-Chairs calling for this. I am deeply concerned by the recent clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in particular along the line of contact, which have regrettably led to the loss of life and severe injury, including civilian casualties.

Ireland urges both sides to de-escalate tensions by refraining from inflammatory rhetoric and strictly observing the ceasefire. Only through negotiation, can there be a sustainable resolution and eventual reconciliation. The road to a peaceful resolution can be long and complex, as Ireland knows well, but progress grows from dialogue. Ireland fully supports the Minsk Process and we thank both the High Representative and the Co-Chairs Group for their efforts to de-escalate tensions over recent months.

We will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely.

Irish Aid

 405. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the degree to which bilateral and multilateral aid from Ireland continues to find the destination for which it was intended; the exceptions to the rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28822/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy Ireland's international development policy, A Better World, has as its overarching objective the commitment to reach the furthest behind first. Peer Reviews by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) have consistently found Ireland's development cooperation to be of the highest quality, commending our poverty focus and commitment to Least Developed Countries.

Ireland works with a variety of partners in order to reach those in greatest need, using a combination of bilateral and multilateral aid channels. The partners we work with are considered and measured on the extent to which they can deliver against this overarching objective and the policy priority areas as set out in A Better World.

Both bilateral and multilateral aid play an important and complementary role in ensuring that Ireland’s ODA is directed to where it is needed most and has the maximum impact on the lives of those furthest behind.

Ireland's multilateral partnerships, including our work through the EU and United Nations, give Ireland a significant global presence and footprint, including in fragile states and conflict-affected contexts. This enables Ireland to direct vital assistance to people living in challenging, insecure and difficult to access environments.

Our bilateral partnerships, which includes partnerships with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), focus on our thematic and geographic priorities, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Partnership with civil society is one of the hallmarks of Ireland's development cooperation approach. We are one of the leading OECD DAC donors is providing support to and through CSOs.

These partnership enable us to deliver support to vulnerable communities across the globe.

Irish Aid

 406. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent to which Ireland continues to live up to international commitments in terms of overseas aid, bilateral and multilateral; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28823/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy Ireland's development cooperation has maintained a strong reputation for targeting and delivering support to countries and communities in greatest need across the globe. Our Official Development Assistance (ODA) is delivered with, and through, a wide range of bilateral and multilateral partners.

  The OECD Development Assistance Committee's recent peer review (May 2020) found that Ireland 'walks the talk' in allocating ODA to least developed countries and fragile states, priority partners and sectors. Ireland is noted as a constructive and reliable partner to multilateral organisations, with funding that is of high quality. In terms of our bilateral partnerships, Ireland is one of the leading DAC donors in providing support to and through Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), with the OECD peer review finding that these relationships are characterised by mutual trust, quality funding, and an open culture for substantive and regular dialogue.

  In Our Shared Future, the Programme for Government, the Government committed to making incremental, sustainable progress towards achieving the UN target of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 2030. In making this commitment, the Government recognised that reaching 0.7% will require a significant expansion in ODA volumes over the next decade and that, at times, difficult choices would be required between competing priorities. Reaching 0.7% would mean sustained, substantial increases during and beyond the lifetime of the current Dáil.

  Progress is being made toward the 0.7%. target. From 2014 to 2020 Ireland's allocations to ODA grew from €614 million to almost €838 million, the sixth consecutive year allocations to ODA were increased. On Budget day October 2019, it was predicted that the GNI/ODA percentage this year would be in the region of 0.31%.

Further sustained, managed increments will be required to deliver on the 0.7% commitment by 2030, taking into consideration the range of demands across Government and the capacity of the public finances to meet them. Growing the ODA programme in a steady, measured and graduated manner will ensure that we protect and nurture the good reputation and quality of Irish Aid's work into the future.

EU Enlargement

 407. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the degree to which discussions between the EU and countries in the western Balkans continue in the context of EU enlargement; the level of agreement reached to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28824/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In March 2020, Member States agreed an enhanced accession methodology, which seeks to make the accession process more credible and dynamic, by clustering together negotiating Chapters and phasing in participation in EU programmes and policies. The enhanced methodology also recognises the need for more decisive measures proportionally sanctioning any serious or prolonged stagnation or even backsliding in reform implementation.

In terms of the progress of individual Western Balkan countries, Serbia and Montenegro are both currently negotiating Chapters of the Acquis with the EU. Serbia has opened negotiations on 18 Chapters, with two provisionally closed. Montenegro has opened all Chapters and provisionally closed three. The European Commission is expected to publish its Annual Enlargement Package and country reports on 6th October 2020. The country reports for 2019 assessed both Serbia and Montenegro as having both made progress, but there remain areas for improvement. Serbia needs to make significant progress in alignment with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and the normalisation of relations with Kosovo, while Montenegro must address shortcomings in the areas of media freedom, fight against corruption and trafficking, and turn its attention to the closing of Chapters.

Kosovo is a potential candidate for Membership of the EU. The Commission’s report on Kosovo in 2019 noted that the political situation in Kosovo remains challenging. Rule of law, judicial reform, public administration reform, organised crime and normalisation of the relationship with Serbia are just some of the areas that must be comprehensively addressed in order for Kosovo to advance on its European path. It will be some time before Kosovo can qualify as a candidate country.

Regarding North Macedonia and Albania. It was agreed by the European Council in March 2020 to open negotiations with both countries. The draft negotiating frameworks are currently being discussed by Member States. Once these are agreed, we can proceed to the first Intergovernmental Conference. Ireland warmly welcomes the opening of accession negotiations with both countries and looks forward to the first Intergovernmental Conferences taking place at the earliest opportunity.

In relation to Bosnia-Herzegovina, we await the annual report due to be published on 6th October. In 2019, the Commission set out 14 recommendations in the areas of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights, and public administration reform that need to be implemented before the opening of accession negotiations with Bosnia-Herzegovina can be considered.

Ireland will continue to support all of the six Western Balkans countries on their path towards Europe.


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