Tuesday, 11 March 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
45. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of the Government's and the EU's response to the request made by the Aboriginal Northern Land Council that a human rights clause be included in the EU and Australia agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6599/97]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I am aware that on 17 February, the chairman of the Northern Land Council, a statutory authority established in Australia's northern territory sent a human rights dossier to the representative of the European Commission in Canberra in the context of ongoing discussions concerning a proposed EC-Australia Framework Trade and Co-operation Agreement.
Over recent years, the European Union has progressively expanded the scope of provisions relating to respect for human rights in agreements with third countries. In May 1995 Council decided that all subsequent agreements of this nature should contain a suspension mechanism to be used in the event of non-observance of essential aspects of the agreements, particularly human rights.
Ireland supports the negotiating directives for the EC-Australia Framework Trade and Co-operation Agreement approved by the General Affairs Council on 21 April 1996 which stipulate that common respect for democratic principles and basic human rights will constitute an essential element of the Agreement.
Discussions between the European Commission and the Australian authorities aimed at concluding an EC-Australia Framework Trade and Co-operation Agreement are ongoing. The question of a human rights clause is among the issues being discussed. Ireland hopes that these negotiations will produce an outcome which is satisfactory to both parties.
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