Politics

Martin to attend EU summit as he exits Covid quarantine


Taoiseach Micheál Martin will attend the two-day EU summit in Brussels which opens on Thursday where the Ukraine war and inflation will be among the top items for discussion.

In a statement on Wednesday, his spokesman said: “The Taoiseach will attend an important meeting of the European Council in Brussels tomorrow which will discuss Russian military aggression against Ukraine, security and defence, energy, economic issues, Covid-19 and external relations.

“He has now received two successive negative Covid tests ahead of his departure from the US, and he will fly home from Washington DC this evening.”

It is understood that the Taoiseach’s camp consulted with Aer Lingus, Irish public health officials, Belgian authorities and the European Union, and was advised that they follow the same advice of waiting seven days from a positive test.

Mr Martin is said to be feeling well and is symptom free and will be wearing a mask while in Brussels.

Had he been unable to travel, Mr Martin would not have been able to nominate a deputy or an official to attend in his stead, as European Council rules stipulate that only heads of Government can attend the sessions.

US president Joe Biden is also travelling to Brussels for the summit to discuss the west’s next moves in reaction to the Russian invasion.

Ahead of the two-day meeting, there have been calls from the Opposition and lobby groups for a cut in the VAT rate on fuel, a move the Government has resisted out of concern at losing a derogation for the current Irish rate from the EU.

Asked if a VAT cut could happen, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “I think any further actions like reduction in VAT would have to be something that we do on a European level.

“We’ve already reduced excise considerably and I think that has helped to mitigate the increase in the price of petrol, the price of diesel.”

On whether he expected the issue to come up at the European Council meeting, he said there would certainly be discussion about further action that the EU could take to reduce the cost of energy and fuel and electricity in particular.

The summit of leaders of EU member states takes place in the buildings of the Council of the European Union in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.



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