Trade and enlargement talks figure high on agenda
Ireland’s agenda for its presidency of the European Council will include trade negotiations and enlargement talks as well as advancing key elements of the State’s foreign policy, including overseas development, human rights, disarmament and non-proliferation.
The EU-US trade relationship will take on a particular priority during Ireland’s six months at the helm. Officials hope to work towards a formal council mandate for the start of negotiations on a new comprehensive EU-US free-trade and investment agreement.
The Irish presidency will also focus on finalising free-trade negotiations between the EU and Canada and Singapore, as well as looking at investment protection and market access in terms of the EU’s relationship with China, Japan, India and the 10 southeast Asian countries that comprise ASEAN.
Ireland’s presidency coincides with the 40th anniversary of the State’s accession to the EU. Irish officials say they will continue to prioritise a credible enlargement policy based on the principle of conditionality.
Ireland will oversee consideration of the final monitoring report on Croatia ahead of its accession to the EU on July 1st. It will also work to advance the ongoing accession negotiations with Iceland and will seek to restore momentum to the accession process with Turkey. Turkish officials say they are hopeful progress can be made during the Irish presidency.
Ireland’s term will also see the EU work on moving forward the recently launched negotiations with Montenegro in addition to discussing the next steps to be taken in fulfilling the accession aspirations of Serbia, Macedonia and Albania.
The issue of overseas development, already a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy, will be to the fore during Ireland’s presidency. The EU and its member states provide more than half of global development aid. Ireland will have the opportunity to help shape future policy to ensure assistance is as effective as possible and that it is sustained and evolves to address new crises and challenges.
The presidency comes at a critical juncture ahead of the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals. The linkages between hunger, nutrition and the impact of climate change will be the subject of a high-level international conference in Dublin in April.
The Irish presidency will also focus on promoting implementation of the EU’s human rights strategy shaping EU positions in key disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations, and helping strengthen the EU’s capacity in the areas of conflict prevention and resolution. Officials will draw on the experience of both the Northern Ireland peace process and Ireland’s chairing of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe last year to bolster the latter. Ireland’s three-year term at the UN Human Rights Council, which began on January 1st, will complement its efforts at EU level when it comes to human rights policy.