Sunday 22 September 2019

More overseas missions to tap into new global markets


Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney. Photo: PA
Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney. Photo: PA

Colm Kelpie

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said there are "no funding impediments" to preparing his department to deal with Brexit, as he announced five new overseas missions will be rolled out over the next year.

"We're in expansion mode again, and we've got the money to do it," the Minister said.

An extra €23m is being provided to the department to boost its global footprint as well as provide increased Brexit supports, including to the passport service as well as money for public debates and events.

More staff will also be taken on in key European capitals, including Brussels.

The new overseas missions include new embassies in Santiago, Bogota and Amman, as well as consulates in Vancouver and Mumbai. A new Ireland House development will also be rolled out in Tokyo bringing together Ireland's various agency representatives in one site.

"As part of the Brexit response and extending our international footprint, for the first time in many, many years we're going to be opening quite a few embassies in the next 12 months," Mr Coveney said. "All of the areas of the world where the EU has made strategic alliances on trade, we're building a presence now. This is very much linked to what we need to do on Brexit." Mr Coveney said his department was "very clear" with the Department of Finance that resources were required.

"The stakes that we're negotiating here in the context of Brexit are really enormous, in terms of Ireland's future relationship with Britain and the EU's relationship with Britain. So there are no funding impediments here in terms of resourcing to prepare our department for what it needs to do on Brexit."

The minister said that over the last 12 months, staff numbers at Irish embassies across Europe had increased by 13. He said that figure could double over the next year, but the department will add staff as it needs them. Separately, the minister said he didn't accept a report from financial newswire Bloomberg that Ireland was preparing to lose out on getting both the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority to rival cities.

But he said the Government would have to make a decision as to which one it wanted, as pursuing both would undermine Ireland's chances of getting one.

"We think that Ireland is very well placed for either of them," the minister said.

Meanwhile, he said UK and EU negotiators had made "very good progress" on the Common Travel Area, as the latest round of Brexit talks continued in Brussels yesterday.

But he said it was "unlikely" that Michel Barnier would announce next week that there is sufficient progress in the talks to move on to the second phase on the UK's future relationship with the EU.

Outside of Brexit, the Government has allocated the Department of Foreign Affairs just over €707m for Official Development Assistance, an increase of €26m. Irish Aid got an extra €13.5m, bringing its budget to more than €500m for the first time since 2012.

Irish Independent

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