Thursday, 29 June 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
37. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of Turkey’s bid for EU membership in view of the ongoing failure of Turkey to recognise the economic, maritime and navigational rights of fellow EU Member State Cyprus, and all other Member States trading or communicating with Cyprus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25204/06]
88. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the ongoing failure of Turkey to recognise the economic, maritime and navigational rights of fellow EU Member State Cyprus and of all other Member States trading or communicating with Cyprus; and the steps he has taken to help reverse the situation. [25197/06]
Accession negotiations are underway with two countries — Turkey and Croatia. Negotiations were opened with both countries on 3 October 2005 and an extensive screening process is currently ongoing, which scrutinises the compatibility of Croatian and Turkish legislation with that of the EU. The fact that this screening process is running in parallel with both countries does not mean that the pace of their progress towards membership is linked. Each country will be judged on its own merits.
After a negotiating chapter has been screened the EU can decide, on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, whether the negotiations in that sector can be opened. The June 2006 European Council reviewed progress made to date and welcomed the opening — and provisional closure — of substantive negotiations with both countries on the “Science & Research” chapter. In all, there are 35 chapters that form part of these negotiations.
The European Council reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to supporting both countries’ efforts to comply with the Union’s membership criteria. It encouraged Croatia to continue its reform efforts and to achieve sustainable progress towards the fulfilment of EU standards. It called on Turkey to intensify its reform process, implementing it fully and effectively so as to ensure its irreversibility and sustainability.
The Council recalled the need for Turkey to fulfil its obligations under the Association Agreement and its Additional Protocol, which takes account of the accession of the new Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey’s progress in fulfilling these obligations, which include the need to recognise the economic, maritime and navigational rights of all EU Member States, as well as its implementation of the revised Accession Partnership, will be evaluated later this year.
The European Council also addressed a number of general questions on enlargement. It reaffirmed that it would honour existing enlargement commitments, while protecting the cohesion and the effectiveness of the Union. The Union’s capacity to absorb new members is seen as an important consideration in future enlargement decisions. If EU membership is to be further extended, the Union will need to ensure that it has the economic, political and institutional capacity to make this possible. It is already understood that, as Turkey’s accession could have substantial financial consequences, its negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the Union’s financial framework for the period beyond 2013.
Heads of State and Government undertook to hold a further debate at the December 2006 European Council on all aspects of further enlargement, including the Union’s capacity to absorb new members and improving the quality of the enlargement process. The Commission is to prepare a special report on the Union’s absorption capacity. This report will also deal with the perception of enlargement by European citizens and the need to explain the enlargement process adequately to the public within the Union.
Ireland has always been supportive of the process of EU enlargement from which we have consistently benefited. It has been our policy to consider each candidate on the basis of its own merits and this principle will continue to underpin our approach to the negotiations with both Croatia and Turkey.
26. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Bulgaria has dealt with issues relating to judicial reform in order to meet the criteria for accession to the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25126/06]
41. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union will take place on 1 January 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25150/06]
83. Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the outstanding issues to be dealt with by Bulgaria before that State may become a member of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25152/06]
97. Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the outstanding issues to be dealt with by Romania before that State may become a member of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25151/06]
101. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the accession of Romania to the European Union will take place on 1 January 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25149/06]
The June European Council confirmed that it is the Union’s common objective to welcome both countries as members on 1 January 2007. The EU could, however, postpone the accession of either or both countries for up to one year if the Commission considers that either country would be unprepared to meet the requirements of membership in 2007.
On 16 May 2006, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn presented the Commission’s Comprehensive Monitoring Reports on Bulgaria and Romania to the European Parliament. He confirmed that their accession on 1 January 2007 remains an achievable goal for both countries. They need to make progress in addressing the outstanding issues highlighted in the monitoring reports. A final decision on the date of accession will be taken in light of the Commission’s next monitoring reports which are due in October.
Some of the problem areas that remain are common to both countries, particularly in relation to putting in place the necessary arrangement for the disbursement of EU funds. In the agricultural area, both countries need to set up a proper, integrated administration and control system.
While both countries need to sustain their efforts in reforming the judiciary and fighting corruption, Bulgaria has been urged to devote special attention to this area. In its most recent report, the Commission stated that “Bulgaria needs to complete the reform of the judiciary, ensure tangible results, and take the additional steps to guarantee its independence”. The Bulgarian Government has formulated an Action Plan aimed at addressing the remaining problem areas highlighted in the Commission’s report. This includes further measures aimed at improving the independence of the judiciary. Their progress will be further assessed in the next Commission report.
Ireland believes that both Bulgaria and Romania need to make full use of the time available to address the remaining issues so that they can join the Union, as planned, on 1 January 2007. We hope that they will succeed in their efforts. Ireland very much looks forward to working with both countries as partners in a successful Union of 27 Member States.
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