Minister for European Affairs, Dick Roche Outlines Ireland's advanced preparations for Presidency
Dick Roche, the Minister for European Affairs, today announced a range of meetings and events that will be held in Ireland during the Presidency. Roche also pinpointed the enlargement of the EU, the Intergovernmental Conference, and progressing the Lisbon Agenda as the main issues arising in our Presidency.
"Ireland will hold the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2004. During these six months over one hundred meetings will be held in Ireland. Thousands of visitors will come here to attend these meetings. The spin-off of good-will for Ireland and for future tourism is likely to be quite significant," the Minister said.
The Minister continued: "Counties hosting events and meetings include Dublin, Kerry, Waterford, Offaly, Wicklow, Kildare, Galway, Cork, and other counties. Each meeting can involve hundreds of people many of whom will be visiting here for the first time."
"The Government - Commission meeting in Dublin Castle on 6 January begins the programme. Informal Ministerial meetings will be held throughout the country including in Galway, Kildare, Tullamore, Killarney and Waterford. Other venues hosting meetings include Shannon and Cork."
The Minister outlined developments in preparation for Ireland's Presidency:
"Work is very advanced. We are holding a range of preparatory meetings in the period leading to 1 January. The Taoiseach, for example, plans to meet his counterparts on the European Council prior to the Presidency. He has already visited a significant number and further meetings are planned in the autumn. Ministers, including myself, are travelling extensively to meet our counterparts and discuss with them their priorities for the period
There are undoubtedly certain issues which are going to dominate our term at the helm of the EU. The historic enlargement of the EU will take place on May 1st. We will have the honour of presiding over the reuniting of a continent after so many years divided by conflict and dictatorships. A major celebration is planned to welcome the 10 new states into the EU.
The Government are particularly keen to make steady progress on the Lisbon Agenda. Transforming the EU into the leading knowledge-based economy will be a priority of our Presidency.
We plan to launch the Presidency website in the autumn. The website will be user-friendly and accessible. It will include an element of interactivity such as e-voting."
On whether the Intergovernmental Conference will be finalised under the Italian or Irish Presidencies, the Minister said:
"It is too early to say whether the IGC will be completed in December as the Italian Presidency has indicated. If the IGC extends to our Presidency we will be prepared for that. Indications of how long it is likely to take will only emerge sometime into the IGC itself. With an IGC launch date of 4 October, it is still too early to predict the completion date."