MoS McEntee concluding statement on European Council
Speech26 June 2019
A Cheann Comhairle,
I would like to thank Deputies for their statements and questions regarding the June European Council.
As the Taoiseach indicated earlier, I will focus my wrap-up remarks on enlargement and the external relations items that were discussed last week.
The European Council discussed a range of issues under external relations, including developments in Russia and Ukraine, and Turkish activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, as well the Eastern Partnership; recent developments in Moldova; the EU’s relationship with Africa, including with Morocco and Libya; and the 5th anniversary of the downing of flight MH17.
Leaders agreed to roll over the sanctions against Russia in light of the ongoing situation in Eastern Ukraine, and the fact that the Minsk Accords have not been fully implemented.
Ireland has been unwavering in its support of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine, which Russia continues to breach through the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, and we fully support this decision.
Leaders also discussed Turkey’s ongoing illegal drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, and called again on Turkey to cease such activities and to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus. From Ireland’s perspective, we stand in full solidarity with Cyprus. Together with our EU partners, we will continue to monitor developments closely and to respond appropriately.
The European Council noted that 17 July will mark the fifth anniversary of the tragic downing of flight MH17, which claimed 298 lives, including an Irish citizen. Leaders welcomed the announcement by the Joint Investigation Team on 19 June that criminal charges will be brought in the Netherlands against four individuals.
Leaders also took the opportunity to mark the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership, and agreed that work should proceed on a further set of long-term policy objectives in advance of the next Eastern Partnership summit.
Ireland supports this programme, which has matured in a challenging geopolitical environment, while helping to promote security and prosperity in the region. Indeed, in advance of the European Council, I hosted an event in Government Buildings to mark the anniversary.
I am pleased that leaders also agreed on the importance of the EU’s strategic partnership with Africa, and committed to further developing these ties. Ireland has been active in calling for this, and we highlighted it as a priority in discussions around the next EU Strategic Agenda. It builds on the positive engagement at the first EU-African Union meetings that took place at ministerial level, and the EU-African Union Summit, held in Abidjan in November 2017.
Given the EU’s focus on ensuring Libya’s peace and long-term stability, I am also pleased that leaders reiterated our support for the UN-led political process to bring about a peaceful resolution and a political transition there.
The European Council also welcomed the renewed impetus in EU-Morocco relations ahead of the EU-Morocco Association Council, which will take place in Brussels tomorrow, 27 June.
From Ireland’s perspective, our own bilateral relations with Morocco are also strengthening, and we intend to open an Embassy in Rabat in 2020. As Deputies are aware, we welcomed Mr Habib El Malki, Speaker of the Moroccan Parliament, to the Oireachtas last week. He also met with a number of Government Ministers during his time in Dublin.
A Cheann Comhairle,
I attended the General Affairs Council on 18 June where we adopted conclusions on the enlargement and stabilisation and association process. Leaders endorsed these conclusions at the European Council last week.
From an Irish perspective, we welcome the findings of the Commission’s Annual Enlargement Package, including the recommendations to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania.
North Macedonia has made significant progress on key reforms. While the situation is more complex in Albania, it has made progress across all chapter areas, and the comprehensive justice reforms are a significant achievement.
Due to its importance, leaders agreed to return to this issue in October and I hope that they will be able to give these countries a positive signal at that stage. It is important that the EU maintains credibility in the region. We must follow through on commitments, and reward candidate countries for reforms that they have undertaken.
As the Taoiseach has said, this was a lengthy series of meetings of the European Council, with a wide range of issues being discussed.
I wish to thank all Deputies for their statements and assure them that the Taoiseach will continue to report to the House in advance of, and following the regular meetings of the European Council.