Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen T.D., to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, 31 May 2000
The institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement have the capacity to demonstrate conclusively that politics can work and that the elected representatives of both communities and both traditions on the island can co-operate together with common purpose and to the benefit of all.
We are committed to the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in July and to the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights by October.
The British Government has undertaken to enact the legislation necessary to implement the Patten Report by October. The draft legislation in this area was published on 16 May. There are some aspects of it which give cause for concern and we will be stressing to the British Government that it is vitally important that the legislation and its implementation give full effect to the Patten recommendations. The outcome must be a police service which is effective, representative and acceptable in all parts of the North.
Progress must also continue to be made on the question of arms. The IRA's statement of 6 May was a major step forward and it is important that the commitments in it are now honoured. I look forward to an early report from Mr Ahtisaari and Mr Rampahosa on the proposed confidence-building measure. The de Chastelain Commission will also be continuing its work and will be reporting to us. I very much hope that the loyalist paramilitaries will also find ways to build further confidence.
The British Government has undertaken to progressively take all the necessary steps to secure as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements. The programme of prisoner releases will continue.
We have two major objectives:
- to pursue Ireland's economic interests abroad, making full use of our diplomatic and consular network; and
- to promote and protect Ireland's interests in the EU as it deepens its level of integration and as it prepares for Enlargement.
Over the past year, the Government has developed an economic strategy for Asia, which is aimed at augmenting Ireland's foreign earnings in the increasingly important
markets of the Asia / Pacific region. Towards this end we have opened new missions in Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney and we are expanding our missions in Beijing and Tokyo.
The trade agreement which was successfully negotiated recently between the EU and China was very significant and will facilitate China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). China's participation in the international global trading system will be a major boon and I expect that Ireland's exporters will benefit significantly from easier access to the vast and developing Chinese market.
Our priority for the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) is to ensure that in equipping the Institutions of the Union to respond effectively to enlargement, the essential balances at the heart of the Community are not undermined. In this regard we are committed to ensuring that each member State retains the right to nominate a Commissioner. While not convinced of the justification for re-opening the issue of the weighting of the votes of each member State, we would likely be prepared to consider some modest adjustment in return for a willingness by the larger member States to forego their second Commissioner, and an assurance that the right of each member State to nominate a Commissioner would be maintained into the future.
The recent outcome of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York represents a major achievement - a new unequivocal commitment from the nuclear weapon States to eliminate totally their nuclear arsenals. At the conference, I set out the strong views which we, together with the other members of the New Agenda Coalition, share on the necessity to revitalise the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The final document reflects, to a large measure, the demands of the New Agenda Coalition making fully explicit what up until now had only been implicit and vague in the Treaty. However, there should be no room for complacency on this issue: the nuclear weapon States must now implement the commitments which they have given.
The political agenda of the Council of Europe during our Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council was dominated by the situation in Chechyna . I held a number of meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov and conveyed to him the Council's concerns about the ongoing situation there. Ireland was able to secure a consensus decision in the Committee of Ministers instructing the Secretary General, in cooperation with Russia, to develop proposals for the Council of Europe contribution to resolving the crisis.Top