Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche T.D., attends first official meeting of the Czech Presidency in Prague
The Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche T.D., attended
the official opening ceremony of the Czech Presidency in Prague
yesterday evening. Today he attended the informal General
Affairs Council meeting, at which institutional issues, energy
security and transatlantic relations were discussed.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Roche said:
“I was delighted to attend the official opening ceremony of the Czech Presidency and I wish the Czech Government every success in its first term as Presidency of the EU. It is a fitting way to mark the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet system.
As we look ahead to the coming year, I had a fruitful meeting with my colleagues from around the Union. We discussed a number of important issues, including energy security, the Russia/Ukraine gas dispute and transatlantic relations. I also briefed colleagues on the follow up work necessary on the guarantees which were offered to Ireland at the December European Council. Once they are finalised, these guarantees will represent a substantive response to the concerns about the Lisbon Treaty that emerged during our referendum.
A concerted effort will be required to finalise the content of these guarantees. The Government looks forward to working with partners and the Czech Presidency over the coming months to achieve this. Only when we are fully satisfied with these guarantees will we be in a position to proceed with the ratification of the Treaty. The conclusions of the December European Council set out what needs to be done and the timeframe for this work.
The position regarding the composition of the next European Commission is completely clear. If Lisbon is ratified this year, future Commissions will contain nominees from every EU country. If the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified, then the Nice Treaty provisions, which we ratified in 2002, will apply. This would mean that the Commission to be appointed in November will have fewer than 27 members. This means that some EU countries will lose the right to nominate a Commission member. This is one reason why it is so important that the Treaty be ratified by all Member States this year. All 27 countries are committed to that goal. We all want to avoid having to reduce the size of the next Commission as required under the Nice Treaty.
Throughout 2008, we saw example after example of the benefits that Ireland derives from our full participation in the European Union, in particular during the global financial crisis. The December Conclusions offer us a framework for maintaining our position at the centre of the EU. This is where Ireland belongs and it is where our interests can best be served in the years ahead. Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is essential if we are to continue our tradition of positive, highly productive engagement in Europe.”
8th January 2009