Irish Presidency priorities as presented in EP committees
Here is a summary of the priorities of Ireland's Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, as presented by Irish ministers to European Parliament committees. These presentations were all made in the week of 21-25 January, except for agriculture (31 January).
The Council Presidency's top priority will be to reach a political agreement with Parliament by the end of June on the future shape of EU farm policy, Minister for Food, Agriculture and the Marine told the Agriculture Committee on Thursday. (The committee itself approved a draft negotiating mandate on 21 January).
But to achieve such an ambitious aim in so little time, heads of states and governments must agree soon on the EU's long-term budget, and the Council must lose no time in agreeing on its negotiating position and opening negotiations with Parliament and the Commission, he added.
Many MEPs welcomed the Presidency's determination to strike a deal soon, but several stressed that even if the deal is done fast, it must result in less bureaucratic, more competitive and sustainable agriculture which ensures food security for EU citizens.
In the chair: Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT)
The Presidency's priorities will be common farm and fisheries policy reform talks, the animal and plant health proposal, food and feed expenditure legislation, honey, the non-commercial movement of pets, and forestry, Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney, told the Environment Committee on Thursday.
Health Minister James Reilly, said the Presidency would focus on the tobacco directive, legislation on cross-border health threats, in vitro medical devices, clinical trials, and the 2014-2020 "health for growth" programme.
Environment, Community and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan said he would work to secure a first-reading agreement on the EU carbon trading scheme "backloading" and aviation "stop the clock" proposals, CO2 emissions from cars and vans, priority substances in water, ship recycling, and the the batteries directive. The Presidency would also focus on the seventh environmental action programme, he added.
The Presidency is already in touch with Parliament's rapporteurs on the "public procurement package", Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton told Internal Market Committee MEPs on Wednesday. Mr Bruton stressed the importance of the Professional Qualifications Directive and promised to deliver to deadline on the Customs Code. He also promised to look into the implementation of the Services Directive, which is closely followed by MEPs.
In the chair: Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK)
Industry, Research and Energy
Trans-European guidelines for telecommunications, completing the Digital Agenda, legislation on the re-use of public information, the European Network and Information Security Agency's future role in countering cyber-attacks, the "Connecting Europe Facility" and the law on the safety of offshore oil and gas activities are the key files on which the Presidency hopes to conclude work, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pat Rabbitte told the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on Wednesday.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton stressed the need to small firms help SMEs access to finance, by adopting the COSME enterprise competitiveness programe. Research and Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock stressed the importance of research to economic recovery. He hoped the Council would achieve a deal on the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, but said this would depend on progress in negotiating the EU's long-term budget.
In the chair: Amalia Sartori (EPP, IT)
Employment and Social Affairs
Making progress on the posting of workers directive is a priority for the Irish Presidency, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton told the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Social Protection Minister Joan Burton added that the Presidency wants the Council to adopt the youth guarantee schemes proposal at the informal meeting in Dublin in February.
EU social programmes that rely on the European Social Fund, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), the Programme for Social Change and Innovation and the Fund for Most Deprived Persons are also among the Presidency's priorities, but will depend on the EU's long-term budget decision, stressed the ministers. MEPs voiced concerns about the future of the EGF and stressed the need not to scale down social measures in the current crisis.
In the chair: Pervenche Berès (S&D,FR)
The Presidency hopes the Council will agree in April on EU cohesion policy and conclude negotiations with Parliament by the summer, so as "to provide legal certainty to all players and allow for partnership agreements and programmes to be in place by the start of 2014", Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin told the Regional Development Committee on Wednesday.
MEPs voiced concerns over the tight timetable for negotiations on the 2014-2020 cohesion policy, due to delays in the long-term budget talks.
In the chair: Danuta Huebner (EPP, PL)
Opening talks on free-trade deals with the USA and Japan, completing trade talks with Canada and Singapore, talks on an investment agreement with China and doing a balanced trade deal with India will be the Presidency's key trade priorities, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton told the International Trade Committee on Wednesday.
MEPs raised many trade concerns, including breaches of anti-dumping rules by China and non-respect of WTO obligations by Russia.
In the chair: Vital Moreira (S&D, PT)
Humanitarian aid needs to be better coordinated, and relief more closely linked to long-term development, Development Minister Joe Costello told the Development Committee on Wednesday. The European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps is a "wonderful tool" for broadening perspectives on humanitarian aid, he said. MEPs welcomed his enthusiasm for it.
Justice and home affairs
Data protection, Schengen issues including the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the border-free area, and the asylum package are high on the Irish Presidency agenda. Presenting its priorities to the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday, Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter said he would also press for progress on Passenger Name Records (PNR), confiscation of proceeds of crime, seasonal workers, intra-corporate transferees and right of access to a lawyer.
In debate, MEPs raised questions on the Schengen governance package, fundamental rights, the integration of Roma people, trafficking of human beings, smart borders and access to documents.
In the chair: Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES)
"We want to see concrete progress in the accession process for all candidates", Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Eamon Gilmore told the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The Presidency will strive to open new negotiating chapters with Montenegro but also with Turkey and Iceland, despite the latter's decision to slow down the talks. It will also explore the scope for starting accession talks with Serbia and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Fresh impetus is needed for a "credible enlargement policy based on the principle of conditionality" said the minister.
In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)
The Presidency's top priority is to reach a political agreement on Common Fisheries Policy reform by the end of June, Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney told the Fisheries Committee on Tuesday. MEPs confirmed that it is vital to have the reform signed and sealed before 2014. They urged Mr Coverney to press his Council colleagues to break the deadlock on multiannual fisheries plans, two of which have been stuck since 2010 due to a legal dispute between the institutions, as member states want to exclude Parliament from decision-making on certain key elements of these plans.
MEPs raised the problem of Iceland and the Faroe Islands fishing growing shares of mackerel, and called for sanctions based on an EU regulation voted last year. Mr Coveney added that he also wants progress on EU fisheries partnership agreements with third countries, especially that being negotiated with Morocco.
In the chair: Gabriel Mato Adrover (EPP, ES)
Culture, education and sport
Finding agreements on programmes such as Erasmus for all, Creative Europe or Europe of Citizens and ensuring that they are properly funded is the Presidency's key aim, ministers Deenihan, Ring et Fitzgerald told the Education and Culture Committee on Wednesday. The Presidency means to combat illegal practices in sport and back dual careers for sports people. For young people, teaching systems, and particularly teacher training must be modernised to promote employment.
In the chair: Doris PACK (EPP, DE)
A "Justice for Growth" agenda will guide the Presidency's justice and home affairs work, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter told the Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The Presidency will give priority to instruments that can improve business and consumers confidence and thus boost growth. Specifically, it will try to make progress on the EU account preservation order (to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters), the new insolvency proposal and EU common sales law. It also hopes that the EU protection order will be finally adopted.
In the chair: Evelyn Regner (S&D, AT)
The statute and funding of European political parties, committees of inquiry and the redistribution of seats in the European Parliament with a view to the 2014 elections are among the priority issues for the Presidency, Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton told the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday. She assured MEPs that the Presidency will seek both deeper involvement with the European Parliament and dialogue with national parliaments.
In the chair: Carlo Casini (EPP, IT)
"Our top priorities in the transport area will be TEN-T and the 'Connecting Europe Facility' - I will try to protect as much of the budget as possible,” Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar told the Transport Committee on Monday.
MEPs welcomed his wish to "show citizens that the EU is working for them", by strengthening air passenger rights and improving cruise-ship safety. The Presidency will also push for deals with Parliament on improved digital tachographs and harmonised technical checks on vehicles.
In the chair: Dominique Riquet (EPP, FR)