Preparations for Ireland’s presidency of the EU are well under way, with a special website planned to go live this autumn as well as more than 100 meetings of member state heads of government, ministers and dignitaries planned throughout the State.
The minister with special responsibility for European affairs, Dick Roche TD, said that the presidency gives Ireland a chance to showcase its attractiveness to European visitors besides dealing with affairs of State. “The spin-off good will for Ireland and the future tourism is likely to be quite significant,” Roche said.
The minister also said there a strong chance that the first EU treaty bearing an Irish name could be signed next year when he indicated that talks on an EU constitution could conclude during the presidency.
It is believed Esat BT has won the tender to design and support www.eu2004.ie, the special website for the Irish presidency that will be launched in the autumn (the URL currently links to the Department of Foreign Affairs). “The website will be user-friendly and accessible. It will include an element of interactivity such as e-voting,” Roche added.
Among other issues to be addressed during the six-month term will be making the EU a knowledge-based economy and EU common security policy. Among the knowledge-based economy meetings planned are: E-Business and Support Network meeting in February; Competition and Innovation Ministerial Conference scheduled for April; and the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy conference in July.
One historic event certain to occur during the Irish presidency is when 10 accession states will formally join the EU on 1 May and a “major celebration” is planned, according to Roche.
Coincidently, senior government ministers will host important EU meetings in their home counties when Ireland takes up the presidency at the start of next year. Finance ministers will meet in Co Kildare, foreign ministers will meet in Co Offaly and health ministers will meet in Co Cork. The biannual meeting of EU finance ministers will be held in April in Punchestown, Co Kildare, which is in Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy’s constituency. The meeting of foreign ministers will take place in Tullamore, Co Offaly, the hometown of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen. Deputy for Cork South Central and Minister for Health Michéal Martin will host a cardiovascular health conference in Cork.
By Lisa Deeney