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Minister Flanagan briefs Foreign Affairs Committee on Tunisia, the Middle East Peace Process and migration
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, this morning briefed the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade on global issues, including migration, Tunisia and the Middle-East Peace Process.
Minister Flanagan addressed the situation in Tunisia saying EU Foreign Affairs Ministers would consider what actions the EU could take at its next meeting:
“In light of the recent tragic events in Tunisia and the appalling attack on tourists, which took the lives of three Irish holiday-makers, it is expected that at the forthcoming July Council meeting Foreign Ministers will consider what actions the EU can take.
“ISIS is trying to undermine the emergence of a pluralistic society in Tunisia, and by killing tourists, to undermine the Tunisian economy in the hope of creating hardship and instability. We need to strengthen Tunisia’s democracy and security, and to ensure that the safety of our citizens is not at risk from further terrorism.”
The Irish Ambassador to Tunisia had provided consular assistance to those affected on the ground in Tunisia, supported by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials in Dublin.
Addressing the current migration crisis, Minister Flanagan said: “I want to reiterate my horror at the recent events which have taken place in the Mediterranean, along with our determination to find solutions jointly with our EU partners to address a humanitarian crisis on this scale.”
“The European Union recognises that the response to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean and to migration in general terms has to be a comprehensive one. This is the clear message that has emerged from the European Council. In the immediate term, lives have to be saved and this is happening. In the longer term the root causes of irregular migration need to be addressed, particularly in partnership with countries of origin and transit. These issues will be addressed comprehensively at a Summit between the EU and the African Union taking place in Malta in November of this year.”
Minister Flanagan called for greater urgency in the Middle East Peace Process which will be the subject of discussion at this month’s Foreign Affairs Council. He said: “The two state solution requires renewed attention and effort, starting with the EU.”
Minister Flanagan also commented on post-2015 negotiations saying that “Ireland was honoured to be appointed, along with Kenya, to co-lead the intergovernmental negotiating on the SDGs at the UN.”
7th July 2015
Minister’s Statement to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
Review of the Foreign Affairs Council
8 July 2015
Chairman, Members of the Committee,
I welcome the opportunity to address you here this morning on recent developments at the Foreign Affairs Council.
My statement will focus on the Foreign Affairs Council meetings held in April, May and June, along with the Joint Foreign Affairs and Justice and Home Affairs Council, also held in April. In addition I will look ahead to the Council meeting later this month.
During the period under review a large number of issues have been addressed by the Council on which I will provide an update to the Committee here this morning.
Following this I would be more than happy to address any questions the Committee may have, and hear your own perspectives on the foreign policy challenges we face.
The first topic I would like to address is Migration, which was discussed by the Council at an extraordinary Joint Meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Justice and Home Affairs Councils in April. The foreign policy aspects of the crisis were considered further at the Foreign Affairs Council meetings in May and June.
Members of the Committee are all too aware of the migrant crisis that has been unfolding in the Mediterranean. Instability and conflict across the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East have led to unprecedented numbers of people being displaced from their homes. The chaotic situation in Libya since 2012 has led to that country becoming a point of departure for migrants from several countries seeking to enter Europe by sea, with often tragic results.
Almost 2,000 people have drowned so far this year attempting the crossing, compared to less than 500 over the same period last year. Arrivals are also up significantly on last year.
In light of the tragic events in the Mediterranean over the weekend of 18-19 April, which saw over 700 migrants drown, the High Representative convened a Joint Foreign Affairs and Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 April, in order to consider the EU’s response. At the Joint meeting Minister Fitzgerald and I reiterated our horror at the recent events which had taken place in the Mediterranean, along with our determination to find solutions jointly with our EU partners to address a humanitarian crisis on this scale.
Discussions on Migration continued at the May meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. The crisis has also been discussed extensively in others formats most notably, the Justice and Home Affairs Council, as well as meetings of the European Council on 23 April and again on 25-26 June.
The European Union recognises that the response to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean and to migration in general terms has to be a comprehensive one. This is the clear message that has emerged from the European Council. In the immediate term, lives have to be saved and this is happening. In the longer term the root causes of irregular migration need to be addressed, particularly in partnership with countries of origin and transit. These issues will be addressed comprehensively at a Summit between the EU and the African Union taking place in Malta in November of this year.
An element of the EU’s comprehensive response is the Common Security and Defence Policy Mission in the Southern Central Mediterranean, EU NAVFOR MED, which was established at the May Foreign Affairs Council and subsequently launched at the June Foreign Affairs Council. The aim of the Mission is to disrupt the business model of people smugglers and traffickers, and ultimately to contribute to saving lives at sea.
The Mission will implement its mandate in phases. The first phase will focus on the detection and monitoring of migration networks through information gathering and patrolling on the high seas, in accordance with international law. A second phase will involve the boarding, search, seizure and diversion of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking. A third phase provides for taking measures against such vessels including through disposing of them or rendering them inoperable.
As a result of the decision by the Foreign Affairs Council in June, phase one of the Mission can now commence. The Council will decide on when to make the transition between the different phases, taking into account any applicable UN Security Council Resolution and consent by the coastal states concerned. Ireland has continued to highlight the importance of UN Security Council Resolution support for transition to later phases of the Mission.
A separate discussion on Libya took place at the April Foreign Affairs Council and was given added priority by the role instability in Libya is playing in the ongoing migration crisis.
Our discussions in particular focused on the political process within Libya. While the failure to reach agreement by the June target date set by the UN is a matter of regret, the Council expressed its hope that further negotiations, under the leadership of United Nations Special Representative Bernardino Leon, can lead to an accommodation between the parties,.
Latin America and Caribbean
The April Foreign Affairs Council held its first strategic discussion on relations with Latin America and the Caribbean since 2009. The exchanges were timely in preparation for the EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit which was held on 10-11 June.
The Council agreed that the Latin America and Caribbean region is a key like-minded partner for the EU. Together we hold almost one third of votes at the UN and we constitute almost half of the G20, as well as together representing the highest number of democracies in the world.
At the Council, I welcomed the discussion, stressing the importance of re-energising the relationship. I welcomed the ongoing negotiations towards a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba and the fact that Human Rights were at the heart of these negotiations, as well as highlighting the importance of the re-engagement of the US with Cuba. I also stressed the importance of the changing development co-operation relationship which must ensure that the new approaches to development meet the current needs of the Latin American communities, particularly with regard to the post-2015 development agenda.
I remain very concerned about the worsening situation and the escalating humanitarian crisis situation in Yemen which was also discussed at the April Council meeting.. Since the beginning of the attempt to depose President Hadi, the humanitarian, political and security consequences have become draconian for the Yemeni people and threaten the stability of the Gulf region. . I call on all parties inside Yemen and regional stakeholders to support the UN-led efforts for agreement on the formation of a Government of national unity and an end to the violence.
Common Security and Defence Policy
At the May Foreign Affairs Council, Ministers accompanied by Defence Ministers, adopted a comprehensive set of conclusions on Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in advance of the June European Council at which a discussion on CSDP was to take place.
The conclusions adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council were subsequently endorsed by EU Heads of State and Government at their meeting in June.
At the Foreign Affairs Council, Ministers also reviewed progress to date in implementing the work programme emanating from the December 2013 European Council discussion on CSDP and identified areas where further work needs to be undertaken.
The conclusions highlight the fact that the EU and its Member States, through CSDP and other policy instruments, have a strong role to play in preventing and managing conflicts and addressing their causes. The aim is to enhance the effectiveness of the EU’s contribution to international peace and security and ensure that the capabilities required for that purpose are provided.
Ireland is a strong supporter of CSDP and we believe that it has been strengthened in the past 18 months through the implementation of the work programme emanating from the December 2013 European Council.
We were satisfied with the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council and the subsequent European Council discussions which we believe renewed the commitment of Member States to developing a more effective, visible and results orientated CSDP.
At the May Foreign Affairs Council, Ministers, in the presence of Defence Ministers, received a presentation from the High Representative on her proposal to develop a new European Foreign Policy and Security Strategy in consultation with Member States. Many Member States, including Ireland, have in recent years conducted reviews of their own national foreign policy strategies and I believe it is timely that a similar exercise is conducted at EU level.
It will be important for this exercise to look at all areas of EU external action in a coherent and comprehensive manner. We also wish to see the new Foreign Policy and Security Strategy continue to emphasise the global role of the EU, and that the EU’s values, such as human rights, continue to be strongly reflected in the external action of our Union.
Members will be aware of the concern I have been expressing that the Middle East peace political process, has effectively been suspended since early last year.
The need to urgently address a succession of crises elsewhere in the region has undoubtedly reduced recent international attention on the Middle East Peace Process. I have made clear my view that the deteriorating situation on the ground and the threats to the two state solution require renewed attention and effort, starting with the EU. I believe that existing EU policies have not been sufficient to advance or even protect the two state solution, and we need to seriously re-examine our positions and actions.
I set out these views in detail to open a discussion on the Middle East Peace Process at the May Foreign Affairs Council, the first such discussion for some time on the overall issue, rather than specific aspects like political talks or Gaza. That discussion will be continued at future Councils, including the coming meeting in July.
I will not pretend that it will be an easy discussion – many partners are concerned about the viability of any initiatives in the current unstable environment in the Middle East. But I look forward to hearing the views of my colleagues, and working to reanimate the peace process.
In June the Foreign Affairs Council had a strategic debate on Asia focusing on promoting multilateral security structures, especially in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the strategic partnership with China; and better connectivity with Asia.
Ireland is supportive of stepping up engagement with multilateral Asia particularly ASEAN. On security I said that it would make sense for the EU to continue to deepen its security cooperation with the countries of the region, encouraging reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of all territorial disputes in the region in accordance with international law. The EU should also focus on clear and consistent advocacy in non-traditional security challenges such as climate, energy and migration.
On the EU-China relationship, I said that Ireland is supportive of regular review of priorities to ensure they take account of developments in China and its rapidly growing global profile. Ireland supports exploring synergies between European networks policies and China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative; advancing our investment agreement and market access agenda, fostering convergence on views on global challenges; as well as promoting human rights.
On connectivity, I emphasised that improvements in this are key to the next stage of development in the Asian region. Infrastructure could be transformative for the achievement of the post 2015 sustainable development agenda as well as poverty reduction. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as ambitious ASEAN plans for improving regional connectivity could make a useful contribution in that regard.
The Council also adopted conclusions on the forthcoming elections in Myanmar/Burma, and on EU-ASEAN relations, welcoming the new momentum in EU-ASEAN relations and underlining the EU’s commitment to supporting ASEAN regional integration and to further deepening relations.
EU- UN Cooperation
The June Council meeting also saw an exchange of views with UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon on EU-UN cooperation.
This year marks both the 60th Anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the UN and the 70th Anniversary of the UN itself. I was delighted to welcome the Secretary-General to Ireland in May to celebrate these milestones with us and to reaffirm once more, Ireland’s commitment to a strong and effective United Nations.
At the Council, the UN Secretary-General spoke very warmly of the current level of EU-UN cooperation, highlighting in particular this year’s Financing for Development, Post-2015 and climate change negotiations.
In June the Council held a discussion with Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič focussed on the EU’s Energy Union and the increased inter-linkage between the EU’s energy and foreign policies. The overall objective of the discussion was to consider how foreign policy actions can support and advance EU energy priorities. One example of this is in relation to the diversification of EU energy supplies which can be advanced through the development of strategic partnerships with key international partners.
I believe there is a compelling case for greater international cooperation to respond to the challenges associated with energy. Global energy demand will continue to increase during the next decade and supply is likely to continue to be concentrated in regions afflicted by political instability.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The worrying situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council in June. The discussion continued the next day at the General Affairs Council, which adopted Council Conclusions on the subject.
Along with our European partners, we have been concerned about the political instability in the country for some time. We have consistently said that it the responsibility of both government and opposition to ensure that political debate takes place primarily in parliament and called for a full investigation into allegations of wrong-doing.
We have called on the leaders of the political parties to work to find a resolution to the political crisis, and we welcome all efforts, including those of Commissioner Hahn and a number of MEPs, to redress the situation and restore stability. In this regard, we were pleased to see the agreement reached on 2 June, brokered by the EU. We believe it to be a first step on the path to addressing the political crisis.
Chairman, Members of the Committee,
I would like now to turn to the upcoming July Council meeting, which in addition the Middle East Peace Process, will also discuss the Post 2015 Agenda, Climate Change, and Iran. The situation in Tunisia is also expected to be discussed.
The timing of the July Council is very opportune for a discussion on the post 2015 agenda, as the Addis Conference on Financing for Development, the first of the three major interlinked processes that will define the new global development agenda for the next fifteen years, will have just concluded.
Following Addis the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are at the heart of the post 2015 development agenda, will be agreed at the September Summit in New York, and the new agreement on Climate in Paris in December. Success in Addis is critical to success in the other two processes.
As you are aware, Ireland was honoured to be appointed, along with Kenya, to co-lead the intergovernmental negotiating on the SDGs at the UN.
Negotiations on Financing for Development and on the SDGs are ongoing and making progress. We remain optimistic that there will be a successful outcome in the Financing for Development track, which aims to establish the means of implementation for the new Sustainable Development Goals. The contours of an agreement on the means of implementing the SDGs will need to be broad, going very significantly beyond Official Development Assistance and focusing strongly on domestic resource mobilisation for development, improving tax-raising capacity, curbing illicit financial flows and tax evasion/corruption, and the role of the private sector.
In advance of Addis, Ireland helped broker the agreement by EU Development Ministers at their May meeting to reconfirm the EU’s collective commitment to reaching the 0.7% target within the timeframe of the post-2015 development agenda (i.e. 2030), and on the need to direct more aid to the Least Developed Countries, and especially to the poorest African countries.
Agreement in Addis is very important in order to finalise the agreement on the SDGs. We will then have to agree on how to fit the Addis agreement with the agreement on post-2015 goals.
July will be a good opportunity to ensure the highest possible level of political participation by the EU and its Member States at the Summit in September. I am delighted that the Taoiseach will lead the Irish delegation, and will deliver the national statement on the first day, 25 September and that President Higgins has agreed to participate in events on 26 and 27 September.
Preparations for the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties or COP 21, taking place in Paris later this year, will also be discussed at the forthcoming July Council. This is third element of the interlinked processes leading to a new global development agenda.
COP21 is charged with agreeing a “protocol, legally-binding agreement or other outcome with legal force, applicable to all Parties”.
The EU negotiates as a bock in these discussions and Ireland inputs at EU level through a national delegation, led by the Department of the Environment, and which includes a range of Government Departments and Agencies.
Ireland will play its role as part of the EU contribution to the global effort. The EU has submitted a joint Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDC for all 28 member states which commits to a binding target of at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, to be fulfilled jointly, as set out in the European Council Conclusions of October 2014.
Ireland encourages all countries to submit ambitious INDCs as a crucial means of allowing all to see what is on the table before we go to Paris. Support for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change continues to be a key issue in the negotiations.
In light of the recent tragic events in Tunisia and the appalling attack on tourists, which took the lives of three Irish holiday-makers, it is expected that at the forthcoming July Council meeting Foreign Ministers will consider what actions the EU can take.
Tunisia has made real progress towards democracy since the overthrow of the Ben-Ali regime in 2011. ISIS is trying to undermine the emergence of a pluralistic society in Tunisia, and by killing tourists to undermine the Tunisian economy in the hope of creating hardship and instability.
We need to strengthen Tunisia’s democracy and security, and to ensure that the safety of our citizens is not at risk from further terrorism. Our discussion will also clearly have to address how best the EU can support the appropriate balance between the competing needs of security, and democracy and openness.
Finally the July Council is expected to reflect on the outcome of the Iranian nuclear negotiations, which we very much hope will be a positive one. As you know, the deadline for the negotiations was extended for a week to 7 July, and now again with another very short extension to 10 July. As Secretary Kerry has said, the negotiations are clearly at a knife edge: very close to success, but also teetering on failure if Iran cannot make the final steps to secure the agreement. We all know the potential importance of this agreement for removing a source of serious danger and instability in the Middle East, and we encourage all parties to persevere and succeed.
Chairman, Members of the Committee,
Thank you for your time and your patience in allowing me to review what I think you will agree has been a very varied and diverse agenda which the Foreign Affairs Council has faced over recent months.
I would be happy to address any questions that you may have and look forward to hearing your own perspectives on these issues and others which you might wish to raise.
Tel: +353 (0)1 408 2032
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Tel: +353 (0)1 408 2274
Tel: +353 (0)1 408 2276
Tel: +353 (0)1 408 2280