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    Taoiseach flies in to Prague for summit on how Europe keeps warm this winter

    October 6, 2022 - Senan Molony


      Taoiseach Micheál Martin flew into Prague today for a summit focussed on how Europe keeps warm this winter.

      He stressed on arrival that energy and the cost-of-living were key concerns for Ireland.

      The leaders of 44 countries are brainstorming ideas in the capital of the Czech Republic, focussed on power security, supply and price.

      The Taoiseach will raise the potential for Ireland to supply renewable wind energy further afield, with the benefits that has on future energy security and climate action.

      He is also urging deeper European coordination, by such means as electricity interconnectors to France and Wales.

      Mr Martin may encounter British Prime Minister Liz Truss on the margins of the European Political Community, a new forum inspired by French President Emmanuel Macron.

      But he indicated he would not press her on the Northern Ireland protocol just yet.

      Ms Truss arrived politically bruised by recent events and an openly divided Tory conference in Birmingham, in need of international exposure to burnish her battered image.

      “I met with her three weeks ago with a substantive meeting then. And subsequently the prime minister met with the president of the commission (Ursula von der Leyen),” the Taoiseach said.

      “My understanding is some technical interactions are happening at that level.

      "It's my view that there's a genuine wishing on all fronts to negotiate a resolution of all of these issues.

      "But I do believe we need to create space for that to happen as well.

      "That doesn't, in any way understate the difficulties involved in arriving at a resolution but I do think there's good faith.”

      Asked if the UK, as an act of good faith, should pause the progress of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through the House of Lords, Mr Martin said: “In situations like this is that to have daily commentary around any process can be problematic to say the least.”

      He added: “Certainly my view is that at this stage that to engage in that sort of approach would be unhelpful. But a window of opportunity is there. I think we should create space to allow people to work out.”

      The Taoiseach told the Dáil this week that Ms Truss was “adamant” fresh elections will have to be held in Northern Ireland if there is no resolution of the Stormont impasse.

      Conservative figures have made soothing noises in recent days, enraging the DUP – who still refuse to re-enter devolved government until the protocol is “scrapped,” in the words of former leader Edwin Poots.

      Mr Martin’s position, however, is that the people’s verdict in the May elections – they made Sinn Féin the largest party for the first time – has yet to be vindicated, and this should be done by a return of the Assembly and Executive.

      “The Taoiseach will have between three and four arranged bilaterals with other leaders,” his spokesman said of the summit today, without confirming names.

      But it is thought the engagements pencilled in are with leaders of similar-sized countries in Eastern Europe, such as Albania and Moldova.

      It is known he is anxious for an exchange tomorrow, at an informal EU summit in the same city, with President Macron of France and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, another key European ally.

      Both are from Brexit borderline countries with similar trade issues to Ireland, although not as deeply affected.

      Here’s one way of assuring a true legacy, Micheál

      The first European Political Community meeting today, which involves 44 leaders across Europe, is hosted by Czech PM Petr Fiala and EU Council President, Charles Michel.

      Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky will dial in via video conference, and there will also be contributions by British PM Truss, PM Jonas Store of Norway and PM Edi Rama of Albania.

      All talks are being held in the context of solidarity with Ukraine, although the Taoiseach will not attend a “Peace & Security” meeting to discuss ways to enhance security and stability in Europe.

      Countries present will pledge to work together to end the war in Ukraine and to “impose” a return to the rules-based multilateral order.

      Mr Martin arrived at the Giants Gate of the castle, where he was led along a red carpet to join his fellow leaders for a lunchtime plenary session in the Spanish Hall.

      After a later family photo of leaders, he will hold his series of bilaterals, followed by a working dinner.

      The new forum includes UK, Turkey, Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine and others, besides the EU 27.

      Topics for discussion will be how to secure energy supply, tackle rising costs, and ensure a longer-term switch to renewable energy.

      The Taoiseach will outline what Ireland is doing to support people through measures like the energy credits, fuel allowances and moves on energy taxes, as well as support for potential windfall taxes for energy companies.

      He will raise the potential for Ireland of renewable wind energy, and the benefits that has on future energy security and climate action.

      He will speak on Energy, Climate & the Economy, alongside the Greek PM, President of Switzerland and the leaders of Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Norway, Serbia and Liechenstein.

      Here’s one way of assuring a true legacy, Micheál


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