Question No. 25
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he formally raised the expansion of illegal settlements with the Israeli Prime Minister during his recent visit to the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
I propose to answer Questions 25, 41 and 43 together.
Earlier this month I undertook a four-day working visit to the Middle East, with meetings in Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Gaza. In my visit to Israel and Palestine, I met with key representatives of the Government of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority, as well as leaders of other Israeli political parties, our partners in UN agencies, and non-governmental organisations. In all of these meetings I conveyed the importance the Irish people attach to the resolution of the Middle East Peace Process, something that has been a priority for me personally since I took office.
In my meetings with the Israeli authorities, I expressed Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the continuing occupation, including settlement construction. I had a frank discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the prospects for returning to negotiations between the parties, and how Ireland and the EU can play a constructive role in the MEPP. I set out the urgent need to break the downward spiral of the situation in Gaza, which is clearly unsustainable, and talked about ways in which it could be alleviated. I put on record my view that to bar individuals from Israel, on the basis that they hold views critical of the Government's policies, is not the way to deal with criticism.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Foreign Minister Malki, with whom I discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian people, and the prospects for reinvigorating the effort towards peace in the Middle East. I also heard about work to restore the Palestinian Authority to its role in Gaza, giving Palestinians a unified Government, an effort that I encouraged and supported. The Irish Government has for many years consistently supported the objective of Palestinian reconciliation. I also met with the UNRWA Commissioner General, Pierre Krähenbühl, and with representatives of OCHA, and to hear first-hand about their work and the challenges they face.
I was very pleased to be able to meet in Gaza with the Palestinian Authority Minister for Public Works and Housing, as a sign that efforts to restore the Palestinian Authority role in Gaza are underway. I also met there with officials from UNRWA and the OHCHR, as well as representatives of civil society. I saw at first hand the effects of the blockade, and the effects that this is having on young people's prospects and hopes, leading to a dangerous sense of despair. I reaffirmed Ireland's commitment to working to end this situation.
To ask the Minister for Business; Enterprise and Innovation the trade missions that are scheduled for 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Proposals for trade missions are developed by Enterprise Ireland in consultation with my Department on the basis of priority markets and specific interests of Enterprise Ireland client companies. Enterprise Ireland’s proposals for 2018 are currently under consideration and have not yet been finalised. Once finalised, Enterprise Ireland will submit the proposals to me for approval and the planned schedule of trade missions and events will be made public.
The extensive trade mission list will focus on enabling Enterprise Ireland client companies take advantage of global growth opportunities. The Enterprise Ireland Strategy 2017-2020 ‘Build Scale, Expand Reach’ is about strengthening Irish enterprise, across all regions, and expanding their reach in diverse global markets. In the context of the significant international economic challenges facing Ireland, most notably the United Kingdom decision to leave the EU, it is imperative that Irish companies build new and stronger trade links around the globe. Ministerial-led trade missions and international events are essential to supporting Irish companies expand their global footprint and realise their full growth potential.
Enterprise Ireland has delivered an impressive programme of international trade events to date in 2017, giving Irish companies the opportunity to meet with potential buyers and network with key influencers in countries around the world. In total, 57 internationally focused trade events were organised by Enterprise Ireland in 2017 including ministerial-led trade missions to Canada, Singapore and Japan, the UAE and Oman, and a major trade programme as part of the State visit to Australia.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of recent EU efforts to address issues in relation to the rule of law in Poland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 16th January, 2018.
Ref No: 1504/18
Dialogue has been ongoing between the European Commission and Poland regarding the Rule of Law since January 2016.
The Commission on 20 December 2017 adopted three complementary measures (i) a proposal to the Council under Art. 7(1) TEU on the risk of a serious breach by a Member State of EU values (ii) a 4th rule of law recommendation identifying concrete actions Poland should take including two new measures relating to recently adopted laws, (iii) referral to the Court of Justice of the EU the law on the ordinary courts which introduced different retirement ages for male and female judges and gives the Minister of Justice discretionary power to extend their retirement ages. The Commission has invited the Polish authorities to address the issues within three months. The Commission has also said that it is ready to pursue a constructive dialogue with the Polish Government to this end.
Commission President Juncker and Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki met in Brussels on 9 January last where they addressed a broad range of issues of common interest, including the Rule of Law. They agreed that they will meet again to pursue the discussion with a view to making progress by the end of February.
I hope that a solution can be reached through this further dialogue.