That a sum not exceeding £2,354,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the period commencing on the 1st day of April, 1974, and ending on the 31st day of December, 1974, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and of certain services administered by that Office, including certain grants-in-aid.
Eighteen months have elapsed since I first came before the Dáil to present the Estimates for my Department and for International Co-operation. At that time I set out the general lines along which the Government proposed that our foreign policy should be conducted, having due regard both to our ideals and to our interests. Much has happened in the sphere of foreign policy since that time; there has been ample opportunity to test in a practical way the basic principles put before the Dáil at that time.
Before coming to deal, however, with the main developments of the past 18 months and with Ireland's response to these events, I should like to say something first about the practical organisation of the Department of Foreign Affairs as they have been evolving in response to increasing demands upon them. Just how much these demands have increased in very recent times is not, perhaps, generally realised. Since 1968 there has been the emergence of the Northern Ireland crisis which at times has imposed strains on our relationship with the United Kingdom and which at other periods, especially for a period after March, 1972, involved very close co-operation with the United Kingdom Government in seeking a constructive solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. Since January, 1973, our membership of the European Economic Community, and our involvement in the political co-operation work of foreign policy consultation between the nine member states of that Community, has involved a new order of magnitude of external activity on the part of the Government and the public service; inevitably much of the brunt of this has fallen on the Department of Foreign Affairs because of their coordinating role in EEC matters, and because of their responsibility for Irish participation in the political co-operation work of the nine.
As it happens, this past 18 months has also been a period of unusual activity in the sphere of international conferences. Among the more important of these has been the work of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has been continuing—one might indeed say dragging on—ever since July of last year; there has been the work of the high-level energy group which since February of this year has been preparing an International Energy Agreement which will be brought before the House for approval in a few days' time; there has been the preparation for and the early stages of the Law of the Sea Conference which is of particular importance to this country; and most recently we have had the initiation of the Euro-Arab dialogue in which Ireland as a member of the nine has to play its part. There has also been a special session of the United Nations devoted to economic problems arising from the increased cost of oil and raw materials. All these have been superimposed on top of the normal but demanding routine of our work as members of such bodies as the United Nations, UNCTAD, the OECD, the Council of Europe, the GATT.
While the staffing and organisation of the Department of Foreign Affairs had been expanded during the years prior to 1973 in response to the needs of the Northern Ireland crisis and negotiations for EEC membership, this expansion was in no way adequate to meet the scale of activity demanded by events since the beginning of last year. A substantial and rapid further expansion of staff and facilities to meet these needs has had to be undertaken at short notice and under great pressure. During the course of the present year the diplomatic staff of the Department will have been increased from 143 to about 190, with commensurate increases at other staff levels. The number of resident embassies abroad has been increased by five, from 20 to 25, and arrangements are in train for a very marked expansion of our diplomatic relations by means of multiple accreditation. This is an arrangement which has been employed sparingly until recently but which enables a small country like Ireland to extend very considerably the range of its diplomatic contacts without involving itself in the very considerable expense of additional resident embassies. In order to achieve this expansion of the Department's staff rapidly enough to enable its work to be carried on without a serious breakdown, it has been necessary to adopt special recruitment procedures including, exceptionally, recruitment of eight first secretaries from outside the Department.
The recruitment of third secretaries this year has also been on a large scale than ever before; 25 have been appointed already this year and appointments have been offered to a number of others. I may add that the increase in the number of third secretaries recruited has reflected no diminution in standard. On the contrary, the standard has been, in my view, particularly high.
Recruitment at both first secretary and third secretary levels was facilitated by the making of new temporary arrangements in respect of the Irish language requirement for entry, in anticipation of more general changes in these requirements for the public service generally to be introduced shortly by the Government. First secretaries were not required to have a knowledge of Irish but were given credit in the competition for a knowledge of Irish. In the case of the third secretaries, special provision was made for the first time for applicants who had been educated outside the State. I am glad to say that this had the desired effect of attracting a number of excellent candidates from Northern Ireland, most of the residents of which had hitherto been precluded from entering the Irish diplomatic service by virtue of the Irish language requirement and the absence of opportunities for learning Irish in many Northern Ireland schools.
The need to gear the Department of Foreign Affairs up to the scale of the problems now facing this country in its external relations has been given a particular urgency during the present year by virtue of the fact that for the first six months of 1975 Ireland will, in rotation, hold the presidency of the European Communities. This is no honorary office. The country of the presidency has the obligation at ministerial level to chair all meetings of the Council of Ministers and, in the person of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to represent the Community as a whole in certain aspects of its external relations to the rest of the world. Moreover, at Civil Service level about 160 Community committees and working groups have to be chaired by civil servants from the country of the presidency—not merely I should emphasise from the Department of Foreign Affairs, but also from many other Departments of State.
There is a further burden which is particularly onerous for a small country. The mechanism of political co-operation or foreign policy consultation which has emerged in recent years, and which has developed with remarkable rapidity during the last two years, is a particular responsibility of the presidency. There is no political secretariat, equivalent to the secretariat of the Council of Ministers, or the European Commission. All the preparatory work, and followup work, in relation to political co-operation has to be carried out by the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the country holding the presidency. This involves almost 50 meetings at official level in the capital of the presidency, as well as meetings of Foreign Ministers, and also responsibility for co-operation of the position of the nine in international institutions and conferences. To the admittedly limited extent to which the members of the Community act jointly in their external political relations, or seek to co-ordinate their positions in respect of these matters, the capital of the country holding the presidency becomes the political capital of the nine for this period of six months. Moreover, in the event of a crisis developing which concerns the interests of the nine, the process of "crisis management", involving the co-ordination of the reactions of the nine to such a problem, has to be carried out in the capital of the presidency, in consultation with the ambassadors of the other eight member states. This was, in fact, the process adopted by the nine during the Cyprus crisis last summer when the presidency of the nine played an active role that involved intensive consultation with the other member countries through the ambassadors of the other eight countries accredited to France.
A small country like Ireland cannot, of course, afford to recruit staff especially for a short period of this kind. We have to cope with these problems with the normal staff available, though in many cases "borrowing" from missions abroad or otherwise. But while no additional diplomatic staff had been recruited to cope with the problems of the presidency it was clearly essential that the belated recruitment process of 1973 and 1974, rendered necessary by the general addition to our responsibilities arising out of membership of the Community, should be completed before the end of this year so that the additional staff would be available for the critical period of the presidency.
Before concluding my remarks about the organisational arrangements of the Department, and turning to questions of policy I should like to say something about two particular aspects of the Department's work— cultural relations and information.
Cultural relations with other countries have been something of a Cinderella in Ireland for many years past. The sums of money provided for this purpose have always been extremely small and on several occasions when the country faced economic difficulties there have been severe cutbacks—on one occasion of four-fifths and on another occasion of 60 per cent of the amount previously provided. I am glad that it was possible in the first budget introduced by the present Government to make provision for a substantial increase in the sum provided for this purpose, albeit to a figure which is still by any standards very small, namely, £38,000 for the year 1973-74 as against £20,000 for each of the two preceding years. This figure was maintained in the current year, subject to an appropriate adjustment to allow for the fact that the present financial year is one of nine months, and it would be my wish that it should be at least maintained next year also, despite the economic difficulties we face.
Owing to the dedicated work of the Cultural Relations Committee, which recommends to me how this money should be employed, we get extraordinarily good value from the very small sums that we provide for this purpose. In the current nine-month year, even with several months to go, I can say that Irish artists have been able to show their works in the United States, in France, in The Netherlands; the Irish settlement in Iceland has been appropriately commemorated by a stone pillar designed by Robert Ballagh and executed by James Murphy and Sons; Irish musicians and singers have been helped to display their talents in the USSR, Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Wales, Belgium, the United States and Sweden; lectures and poetry readings have been organised in France, Germany, Austria and Britain; scholarships have been provided to summer schools; and donations of Irish books have been made to institutions in many parts of the world.
I am particularly grateful to members of the cultural relations committee, including those from Northern Ireland, for the work they have undertaken in relation to these matters where their varied experience and dedication have enabled much better use to be made of limited sums of money than could be done were the matter left to be decided departmentally or, may I say, at ministerial level.
I turn now to the information service of the Department. The additional resources available for information activities have made it possible to produce a new departmental bulletin to replace that which had to be suspended in March, 1973, owing to staff shortages. The new bulletin will be issued fortnightly and will circulate to some 12,000 people abroad including the media in many countries, foreign offices, embassies, institutions and individuals. A school facts sheet on Ireland intended for use by schools abroad is in course of production in a number of languages. A significant fraction of the budget of the information section of the Department is devoted to the organisation of visits by journalists from other countries to Ireland. I should like to pay tribute to the willingness which Deputies, from the Opposition benches as well as from this side of the House, and officials of State enterprises and of bodies in the private sector have shown to meet such journalists and to help them to get a more rounded view of Ireland as it is today.
I refer now to the sphere of foreign policy. The dominant theme in world affairs during the past year has been economic—the growing world economic crisis, deriving from a sudden and massive transfer of claims on resources to oil-producing countries and to a minority of developing countries possessing particular raw materials, the prices of which rose several times over. This transfer has been at the expense of the industrialised countries and the rest of the Third World. In laying emphasis on this, rather than on the development of détente between the super-powers, I am not diminishing the importance of the latter, but nothing that has happened in the sphere of world détente during the last 12 months compares in significance with what has happened on the economic front.
The problems posed by this transfer of claims on resources are two-fold. First, there is the problem of adjustment for the countries whose import prices have been thus sharply raised and whose power to command the resources necessary to maintain and expand living standards has been thus significantly reduced. Secondly, there is the problem, an even more serious one, posed by the inability of the countries to whom this claim on resources has been transferred to spend more than a fraction of the amounts involved, and the failure to achieve any adequate system of recycling the remaining funds. This failure has had the effect of reducing world demand, thus threatening a fall in employment in many countries.
Even without this problem of recycling financial resources the difficulties posed by the suddenness and scale of the increase in prices of oil and other raw materials would have posed serious problems in any event for the countries adversely affected. Coming at a time when inflationary pressures within these countries were already stronger than for a long time past, the additional burden of import price increases would have created difficulties which, as at present organised, the economic system of these industrialised countries is not prepared to cope with. However, had the additional financial resources accruing to the oil-producing countries been fully spent by them on the purchase of additional goods and services, which because of the tiny populations of some of the major oil producers is in practice impossible, this would have tended to maintain total demand in the industrialised countries and to have avoided a serious recession. There would still have remained the critical problem of the poorer developing countries, which lack raw materials or oil, and whose terms of trade have been seriously hit by this development. This would have required emergency action, organised by the oil-producing countries and by the industrialised countries.
But the failure to recycle about half of the financial resources involved has complicated the already difficult problems posed by the suddenness of these oil and raw material price increases and has faced the industrialised world with a significant drop in total demand for its goods and services just at the moment of greatest economic difficulty, when it was already struggling to cope with the inflationary effects of the oil and raw material price increases.
Ideally, this potential world economic crisis should have been nipped in the bud by agreement between the industrialised countries themselves and between them and the oil producers to ensure the full recycling of the financial resources transferred from the first group to the second, and ideally, the two groups should have joined together to provide the assistance necessary to maintain and improve living standards in the poorest countries of all. However, neither of these two things has happened. Industrialised countries have been divided and uncertain in their approach to the oil-producing countries. One view is that the main effort should be concentrated on achieving a reduction in the price of oil and that a successful joint effort between the industrialised and oil-producing countries to resolve the problem of recycling of financial resources would if anything tend to reduce the pressure towards such an oil price reduction. Another view, widely held amongst European countries, is that any reduction in the price of oil would be unlikely to be on a scale significant enough to resolve the fundamental underlying problem of maintaining world demand and that priority should be given accordingly to this latter task.
There are also divisions among industrialised countries in respect of the relative weight they attach to the holding down of the rate of growth of domestic inflation as against the maintenance of economic activity and employment. The United States and Germany both appear primarily preoccupied with the problem of inflation whereas many other countries, especially in Europe, would prefer to give priority to the maintenance of economic activity and employment, and to preventing the disruption in world trade that can follow from the pursuit by individual countries of economic policies designed to preserve their domestic situation even at the expense of a further setback to the flow of trade.
The divisions between the industrialised countries on these issues, which have had a fatal effect in so far as efforts to resolve the underlying economic problem are concerned, are paralleled by a similar division with regard to the problem of helping the poorest developing countries which face the prospect of economic collapse and famine as a result of the sharp deterioration in their terms of trade following the increase in the prices of oil and raw materials. Certain oil-producing countries, such as Iran, and some of the industrialised countries, most notably the members of the EEC, have felt that this urgent problem could be tackled only by creating a new emergency aid fund for these countries, in which the other major industrial powers such as the United States and Japan, and the other oil-producing countries should be pressed to join. This proposal, involving the creation of a fund of the order of £1,250 million in the years 1974 and 1975, has not however got off the ground because it has not received sufficient support from a number of key countries. Faced with this situation, the EEC has gone ahead to subscribe its share of the smaller fund that would result if those still holding back failed to contribute, but this would clearly be inadequate to meet the desperately grave needs of these very poor countries.
This gloomy world situation has produced certain other responses to which I must make reference. First, a number of industrialised countries, those which are members of the EEC and others who are members of the energy group of OECD, met together in Washington in February on the proposal of the United States to consider action to meet the crisis caused by the increase in oil prices. Out of this has emerged an energy co-ordinating group, comprising all those present at Washington other than France, which decided not to participate further in this exercise. Out of the work of this group has emerged an energy-sharing agreement designed to protect individual members of the group, or others who subsequently join it, from the adverse effects of an embargo directed against one of their number. Ireland has participated in this exercise, whose results could be useful, especially to a country like ourselves which to a very high degree is dependent for its energy requirements on imports of oil. This agreement will be brought before the Dáil next week with a view to approval, so as to enable this country to adhere to it on Monday, 18th November.
It must be recognised however that this agreement copes with only some aspects of the problem. The oil embargo problem loomed large this time last year when Denmark and the Netherlands found themselves threatened in this way, although in the event the embargo did not prove seriously disruptive to their economies, at least little more so than in the case of other neighbouring countries. But the problem of the future is unlikely to be a selective oil embargo of this kind—the problem is the impact on the world economy of the massive increase in oil and raw material prices, and the failure to recycle the funds of the oil-producers.
Another response to the crisis was the calling of a United Nations Special Assembly in New York in May. This meeting was proposed by Algeria and was orientated towards the problems of the Third World and its relationship with the industrialised countries. Great emphasis was placed on the exploitatory character of this relationship, as it still exists even after the end of the colonial period. Proposals were made for radical changes in the relationship which produced somewhat divided reactions amongst industrialised countries. Some of these countries, especially those with heavy investments in the developing world, reacted strongly against certain of the more radical proposals put forward at this meeting. Others, including Ireland, recognised the basic justice of the case presented by the Third World countries and, while not being able to accept all the propositions put forward by these countries, were generally sympathetic towards their case. In my speech to that Assembly and, again in my speech to the General Assembly last September, I expressed such an Irish viewpoint, which I hope will command the support of Deputies in this House. Copies of these speeches have been placed in the Dáil Library.
In our approach to all these problems, and indeed to world affairs generally, we act as a member of the European Economic Community, and a participant in its members' political co-operation mechanism, of which I shall have more to say later. On the economic side, where the Rome Treaty applies, we are of course bound to act in concert with other member countries, taking decisions with them in accordance with the decision-making mechanism laid down in the Paris and Rome Treaties. Within this decision-making system our voice is generally raised in favour of more liberal policies vis-á-vis developing countries. As a country which was itself effectively a colony not long ago, and as a country which within its own corner of the world is poorer than its near neighbours, we have a particular and instinctive sympathy with the developing world, as it faces the problems of the post-colonial era, and as it tries to drag itself up from a poverty unimaginable to us. Our perception of the relationship between industrialised and developing countries tends to be somewhat different from that of some of our neighbours, most of whom have considerable investments in developing countries.
Of course we ourselves have our own material interests to preserve and protect, and as a country whose industrial sector is at a relatively early stage of development, we have a number of economic activities here which are particularly vulnerable to competition from those developing countries which are starting to industrialise. We also have an interest in preventing the European market from being flooded with agricultural products which we produce, or which are close substitutes of those which we produce. Because few of the developing countries are situated in temperate zones, where the range of agricultural production is similar to our own, this is not however a major issue for us.
I mention these matters however in order to illustrate the fact that in our foreign relations we must necessarily be concerned not merely with the pursuit of our ideals, but also at times with the harsh reality of the need to preserve our material interests. And at times these two can be in conflict with each other. When this happens we are sometimes faced with very difficult choices and it would be dishonest to obscure the fact that where vital material interests of ours are affected, we, like other countries of the industrialised world, are sometimes inhibited from pursuing our ideals as wholeheartedly as we would like to think of ourselves as doing. It is important that we recognise this fact, lest we delude ourselves into thinking that because we have less material interests in the developing world than some of our neighbours, we are on that account more moral than they, and proceed to lecture them on deficiencies in their attitudes towards these countries. It serves neither our ideals nor our interests if we obtain for ourselves a reputation for hypocrisy in this way.
Nevertheless, that said, the fact remains that in general our policies towards these countries are more liberal than those of some of our neighbours and that both within the EEC decision-making system, and in our consultations with our eight Community neighbours within the framework of political co-operation, we have shown more sympathy and understanding for the developing world than some others have felt able to do. I believe that this is recognised amongst the developing countries, many of whose political leaders are highly sensitive even to nuances of difference in the attitudes of the industrialised countries towards them and their problems.
What is still perhaps not fully recognised in Ireland is the extent to which our membership of the EEC has brought us into a new and direct relationship with countries throughout the world between whom and ourselves until last year there was virtually no political or economic contact. Thus, during the current year the Community has been negotiating trade arrangements with what it describes as the Mediterranean group of countries—namely, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Israel and Malta.
At the same time it has been renegotiating the Yaoundé Convention which has hitherto governed the relationship of the original six members of the Community with their associates— mostly former colonies of members of the six—and with members of the Arusha group, former British colonies in East Africa which have become associates of the Community. This negotiation has, moreover, been extended to a group of countries known as the "Associables", which are former colonies of the United Kingdom. In all, 46 developing countries are involved and the Community, ourselves included, is seeking to establish a new and more favourable basis for the trade relationship between the Community and these countries, as well as to make provision for new forms of aid to help their development.
The Community has also been pursuing its association agreement with Turkey and reviving its association agreement with Greece, which was "frozen" during the period of the Colonels' dictatorship. It is preparing to discuss with Portugal an improved economic relationship with that country. There are discussions also with Canada. Trade agreements have been signed with countries such as Brazil and India—which I had the honour to present to the relevant committees of the European Parliament on behalf of the Danish Presidency at the end of last year.
The international economic ramifications of the Community are indeed wide-ranging and in the development of these relations we have to play our part—from January next for six months in our capacity as the country holding the Presidency of the European community.
An important new development, now imminent, is the implementation of the provisions of the Rome Treaty with regard to common commercial policy under which the Community will, as from 1st January next, deal, for example, with State-trading countries on a Community basis, rather than through trade agreements negotiated by individual members. In view of the importance of this new arrangement and certain problems it has posed for us, I should like to dwell for a few minutes on this particular aspect of the Community's external relations.
Unfortunately, arrangements for the new contractual relationship between the Community and the State-trading countries are not as far advanced as they should be and it now seems clear that there will be a hiatus between the termination of the existing individual bilateral trade agreements which we and other member countries have with State-trading countries, and the entry into force of the new arrangements. We are very concerned lest this should lead to any interruption in the development of our trade with the State-trading countries, especially as at this particular time their economies are relatively immune from the effects of the world economic crisis and therefore provide expanding markets for our products. Our trading relationship with the USSR and countries in Eastern Europe is somewhat different from that of other member states. Whereas the other eight members of the Community have had diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and with other countries in Eastern Europe for many years past, and have long-standing agreements and treaties on commerce and navigation, some of them going back 40 years with the Soviet Union, for example, we have only just opened diplomtic relations with the USSR and have yet to do so with other countries in Eastern Europe. Moreover, we do not have long-standing agreements and treaties of commerce and navigation but only trade agreements of relatively recent origin; that with the USSR dates only from the end of 1973.
The position of the USSR in relation to trade is that that country requires a juridical framework for the development of trade with other countries, and although the other members of the Community, like Ireland, have denounced their trade agreements in preparation for the new arrangements to be entered into by the Community with the USSR, that country takes the view that, nevertheless, so far as the other eight members of the Community are concerned the provisions of their earlier agreements and treaties on commerce and navigation continue to provide most favoured nation treatment to the USSR on a contractual basis.
We raised this problem at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on October 15th and proposed that the difficulty thus posed for Ireland, which resulted from the fact that we had not in the past had diplomatic and trade relations with the USSR, should be met by a unilateral statement by the Council to the effect that the Community has always granted the State-trading countries most favoured nation treatment and that in present circumstances, particularly in view of the possibility of new negotiations with these countries, it does not intend to alter this treatment. On the basis of this Community statement we are seeking to devise a formula which will ensure the continuation of most favoured nation treatment in our relations with the USSR while at the same time not breaching the Community requirement that individual bilateral trade agreements should not subsist between member countries and countries outside the Community after 31st December next.
Another lacuna in our relationship with State-trading countries is the absence of co-operation agreements with these countries. Such agreements are not inconsistent with the requirements of the Community commercial policy. A number of State-trading countries have indicated an interest in the conclusion of such agreements with Ireland—notably Rumania, Poland and Bulgaria, and negotiations with Rumania are, in fact, under way at the present time. The Government is concerned to overcome as rapidly as possible the problems posed by the absence until recently of a commercial and diplomatic relationship with the State-trading countries, so as to provide Irish industry with easier access to these markets and to ensure that there will be no disruption of this trade as from the end of this year when our existing trade agreements have to terminate.
In the time available I do not feel that I can dwell in more detail on the manifold ways in which the Community's external economic relations affect us in Ireland. I have, however, said enough, I think, to indicate the enormously wide range of economic relationships into which we have been brought by membership of the Community and I should be happy to develop in more detail any of these aspects should Deputies wish to discuss them further.
I now want to deal with the question of the Community's political co-operation procedures, under which the nine member States seek to coordinate their foreign policies in a separate forum from the Council of Ministers. This practice goes back for some years but it has notably developed during the past 18 months or two years. This imposes a considerable strain on our limited diplomatic resources, and this strain will be particularly evident during the first six months of next year owing to the fact that the work of organising political co-operation is not undertaken by the European institutions or by a separate secretariat, but by the member state which at any given time holds the Presidency.
For a small country like Ireland, this political co-operation mechanism has, however, considerable value. It enables us to further our own views on major issues throughout the world so as to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes, the pursuit of détente and easing of tension, and the improvement of the relationship between the industrialised countries and the developing world.
Of course, the corollary of having this opportunity to influence the external political attitudes of a group as powerful as the European Community is that in arriving at common attitudes we ourselves must also be willing to give and take. No one need have any illusions that the other eight are going to adopt a position just because Ireland holds a strong view on the particular matter in question. But Ireland can, in conjunction with other like-minded members, exert some pressure in favour of the adoption of its viewpoint on matters of external political policy, at any rate where the vital interests of major member states are not concerned.
In recent months the nine have, in fact, been able to reach a common position on a number of important international issues—in particular the Cyprus crisis, and the evolving political situation in Greece and Portugal. Indeed, in the Cyprus crisis last summer the Community played a significant and distinctive role. The "crisis management" procedure was put into effect— this meant that the ambassadors of the other eight countries in the capital of the Presidency—then as now Paris— were in continuous consultation, and reporting back to their Governments as appropriate, with a view to agreeing on approaches to the Greek and Turkish Governments that might help to secure peace on the island.
The support given by the nine to the evolving democratic régimes in Greece and Portugal has also been significant.
The latest manifestation of European political co-operation is the Euro-Arab dialogue. The purpose of this dialogue is to establish a new basis for relations between the member States of the European Community and the Arab states. The dialogue will embrace a wide area of practical co-operation in the economic and technical fields between Europe and the Arab world. Agreement to open a dialogue between the European Communities and the Arab countries was reached in June of this year and, following a luncheon meeting of all the Foreign Ministers of the nine in New York during the UN General Assembly five weeks ago and with the Foreign Ministers of the Arab countries work will shortly start at the level of the Commissioners appointed for this purpose by participating countries. The Deputy Secretary of our Department, Mr. Seán Kennar, has been appointed to represent Ireland. It is envisaged at present that there will be five working committees in the fields of agriculture, industrialisation, equipment, financial co-operation, cultural and technical co-operation.
The relationship between the affairs of the European Economic Community, properly speaking, and the political co-operation mechanisms of the nine members of the EEC, is an evolving one. The Community's system of decision-making, on the basis of proposals by the European Commissioners, does not, of course, operate in the sphere of political co-operation, where decisions are taken by unanimity but without the European Commission playing any formal role—although the President of the Commission is now present throughout these meetings.
Meetings of Foreign Ministers dealing with political co-operation and meetings of the same Ministers acting as the Council of Ministers of the EEC in the past have taken place quite separately. For several years past the practice has been that the European political co-operation ministerial meetings have taken place four times a year—two during each Presidency in the capital of that Presidency. However, the development of European political co-operation has been such that the need for discussions more frequently than four times a year has become felt during the current year, and the practice has grown up of holding additional meetings on European political co-operation before or after, or even in intervals during, meetings of the Council of Ministers in Brussels or Luxembourg. Moreover, with the development of this process an increasing number of topics are handled which have both European Community and political co-operation aspects. The presence of the President of the Commission ensures that discussion of political co-operation does not stray over into the European Community area without those present being alerted to this, so that, where necessary, discussions can be continued in the Council of Ministers on EEC aspects of the matters concerned.
The parallel arrangement for Community decision making and political co-operation is, of course, to a certain degree cumbersome and at times confusing. Perhaps for this reason and, perhaps, also because of a desire to be seen to be making some progress with the institutional development of the Community at a time when there is general concern at the lack of progress in this and other areas, proposals have recently been put forward for a closer co-ordination of the two decision making mechanisms and for the participation of heads of Government on a number of occasions each year. These proposals are currently under consideration, together with a number of major policy issues such as regional policy, inflation, employment and energy policy, with a view to establishing whether sufficient progress can be made by agreement among member states on these issues to warrant the holding of a summit in Paris before the end of the year. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Community will review progress in these matters at a meeting in Brussels next Monday prior to the next Council of Ministers.
The Irish position on these matters can be briefly stated. We are conscious of the damage to confidence in the Community caused by the failure to implement the decisions of the last Paris summit, held shortly before enlargement of the Community, and by the notable failure at the Copenhagen summit held under a year ago. We would not wish there to be a repetition of these failures and we feel, therefore, that a summit or Presidential conference should not be held unless it is adequately prepared, and unless it is clear that important and constructive decisions will be taken—and carried through in the period after the meeting of heads of Government.
Secondly, we are concerned that any new arrangements for decision making in relation to political co-operation and the European Economic Community should not be such as in any way to threaten the existing Community decision making system, by weakening it or by reducing the vitally important role of the European Commission as the initiator of proposals for consideration by the Council of Ministers. For a small country like Ireland this role of the Commission, however much from time to time we may criticise the way in which it is carried out, is of vital importance in maintaining a balance between the smaller and larger countries within the Community.
I should, perhaps, add that after the bitter experience of the failure of the Community to take decisions about regional policy at the end of last year and in the early months of the present year, we would regard regional policy as a crucial test of success or failure. We have already indicated to the other member States our concern in this matter, which has not been lessened by the emergence from the European Commission in the last few days of a proposal for the regional fund which in the view of the Government has not provided an adequate basis for such a fund.
The essential elements of a successful regional policy and adequate regional fund are in the view of the Irish Government the following:—
1. The policy, and the provision of resources from the fund, should be concentrated particularly on those parts of the Community where the need is greatest—namely, Southern Italy, Ireland and Greenland. This does not necessarily preclude the allocation of some resources from the fund to other areas of lesser need in different parts of the Community, including parts of Great Britain. It would indeed be desirable, if the fund is to have the full support of the peoples of the Community, that disadvantaged areas in most member countries should be seen to benefit from its operation.
2. There should be concrete recognition of the special problem that this country faces as a result of the absence of any region—even in the Dublin area—whose output and incomes per head are large enough to permit a substantial transfer of resources to the less well-off parts of the State.
3. The fund itself should be of adequate size to make a real impact on the problems of underdevelopment in the less well-off parts of the Community and should be designed to expand in a manner and on a scale that will make it possible for countries which have severe regional problems to contemplate movement towards economic and monetary union in the years ahead.
The original proposal of the Commission was for a fund of 2,250 million units of account to cover the three years 1974, 1975 and 1976, out of which Ireland would receive 4 per cent. For Regional Policy purposes there are 2.4 units of account to the £. Allowing for Ireland's contribution to the fund this would have meant a net receipt of 80 million u.a. or £33 million over this three-year period— namely £7 million in 1974, £11 million in 1975 and £15 million in 1976.
We made it plain at the time that this proposal was put forward that we regarded such a fund as inadequate to achieve the objectives of the Paris Summit and the aims of the Community as set out in the preamble to the Rome Treaty; that the proposed distribution involved the great bulk of the fund returning to the countries which had contributed to it so that the net transfer would be extremely small in relation to the size and urgency of the problems facing the Community; that the proposal that funds should aid areas covering over half of the Community and containing one-third of its population was in contradiction to the Commission's own report, which related the regional policy to "problems linked to certain limited geographical areas"; that we could not accept proposals that took no account of the varying intensity of need in the regions so designated; that the proposals were also unacceptable because of the failure to take any account of the relative ability of member States to finance their own regional aid programme—a special problem for Ireland, as I have already mentioned; that the proposals failed to implement the Commission's own suggestion of retaining a proportion of the fund for certain particularly intractable regional problems; and that no account was taken of Protocol No. 30 of the Accession Treaty on Ireland.
Discussion of regional policy and the regional fund was temporarily abandoned in March when it became evident that there would at that time be no agreement on an amended proposal of the Commission. This amended proposal involved a much smaller fund of 1,450 million u.a. and would have given Ireland a similar sum to that originally proposed, representing 6 per cent of the total fund. We made it clear at that time that neither the amount proposed for Ireland nor the share of the fund allocated to Ireland were acceptable, but the failure of this suggestion to secure acceptance was primarily due to disagreement between Britain, France and Germany in respect of their relative contributions to, and benefits from, the fund.
The latest proposal of the Commision involves a fund which is slightly smaller even than the reduced figure which the Commission had in mind last March. Moreover this figure appears to relate to a period comprising the years 1975, 1976 and 1977, so that the actual amount available from it for the three years 1974-1976 originally contemplated by the Commission would be only 780 million u.a., as against 1,450 million u.a. for these years in the Commission's suggestion of last March and 2,250 million u.a. in the Commission's original proposal. The share allocated to Ireland remains at the unacceptable figure of 6 per cent.
Deputies will, I feel, agree with me that the Government have had no alternative but to indicate that proposals along these lines could not be acceptable to them and, indeed, that if there is no willingness to improve on these proposals, the seriousness of member States' commitments to regional policy, and through regional policy to the achievement of economic and monetary union, must be questioned.
The desirability of holding a presidential conference or summit in these circumstances is clearly questionable, as a summit which failed to reach agreement even on regional policy might only serve to undermine confidence in the Community and could indeed weaken the commitment of its member States to the achievement of its objectives.
Another aspect of Community policy in which Ireland has a vital interest is the common agricultural policy. Our long experience of an unequal economic relationship with a major industrial country, Great Britain, has taught us that Ireland's economic interests can be protected only in a situation where it has guaranteed free entry for its agricultural products to major markets on terms no less beneficial than those available to farmers in these countries. It is these features of the common agricultural policy which are of such vital importance to us, and which indeed provide the strongest economic arguments for Irish membership of the Community.
We recognise of course that the particular way in which these principles are applied may not always provide satisfactory conditions for our farmers, and the common agricultural policy obviously needs to be kept under review with a view to making sure that it is achieving the objectives set out in the Rome Treaty. Clearly in sectors of agriculture as sensitive as the livestock industry, where the problem of holding surplus stocks of livestock or meat can be very great, it is not sufficient to provide for an intervention mechanism without at the same time ensuring guidance to farmers, through the price mechanism or otherwise, with a view to preventing the emergence of surpluses on a scale that may overstrain the system.
It is because we recognise the need to improve aspects of the operation of the common agricultural policy that we have agreed to a review of this policy to be completed by the Commission by February next, but in agreeing to this we have made it absolutely clear that we cannot accept any proposals that put at risk the basic principles of the common agricultural policy, which offer to an agricultural country like Ireland the only possible guarantee of fair treatment in external markets.
A major issue within the Community at the present time, and one clearly of vital importance to Ireland, is that which has been described in Britain as the "renegotiation" of the United Kingdom membership of the Community. The phrase "renegotiation" is, of course, a misleading one. There is no question of terminating the Rome Treaty or the Accession Treaties and negotiating a new legal framework for the relationship between member countries. What is involved—and all that can be involved is consideration of certain proposals by the United Kingdom for modifications in existing policies which, in the view of the Government of that country, operate unfairly to the disadvantage of the UK.
It is the hope of the Government that the discussions between the United Kingdom and other member countries on these matters will reach a successful conclusion—and will reach that conclusion speedily. The further development of the Community has already been held up significantly as a result of the uncertainties arising from the British request for further consideration of these policy issues.
Clearly continued British membership is in the interest of this country. Our interests are obviously best served by membership, and it does not appear that even if Britain left, it would be in our interest, economically, or politically, to follow suit, although of course a situation in which Ireland was a member and the UK was not would pose some problems for us. Were Britain to leave the Community unilaterally and in breach of her Treaty obligations, it is not at all certain what trade régime would operate as between the United Kingdom and the Community thereafter. While industrial free trade arrangements have been made by the Community with certain other countries, such as Sweden, it is not clear that similar arrangements would necessarily be made with the United Kingdom, a major industrial competitor of the other Community countries, if it withdrew from the Community. Were the Community to impose a common external tariff on industrial goods from Britain, this could clearly prove disruptive of trade between the UK and Ireland as a continuing member of the Community.
It now seems unlikely that the question of Britain's relationship with the Community will be settled before the end of this year, but it seems probable that it will have to be settled before the middle of next year. This means that this problem, as well as the general review of the common agricultural policy, is likely to fall to be settled within the period of the Irish presidency, thus imposing a very heavy responsibility on this country.
At this point, referring to our position in relation to the British "renegotiation" and the review of the common agricultural policy, I must make reference to the situation that exists at present in respect to the export of cattle and meat to and through Great Britain. The problems of the British farmers, which have led to the present agitation, derive from the failure of the United Kingdom government to implement its obligations under the common agricultural policy to operate the intervention mechanism.
Hitherto, in view of the arrangements that had been made to ensure that our farmers do not suffer from this, we have not pressed the question of the implementation by Britain of this obligation. However, if the Irish cattle and beef industry, both in respect of export of cattle to Britain and exports of beef through Britain to the Continent, suffer as a result of a combination of the failure of Britain to observe her obligations under the common agricultural policy, and her failure to prevent the obstruction of free movement of goods through her ports, this country could not be expected to continue to acquiesce in the unilateral derogation by the United Kingdom from her Community obligations.
I should like to turn now to other aspects of international relations which do not specifically involve the European Economic Community. I have already, when speaking of political co-operation amongst the nine, referred briefly to the emergence of democratic régimes in Greece and Portugal. I should like to say how warmly we welcome these developments. I have had the opportunity to congratulate personally the Foreign Ministers of both these countries on these developments and have offered to them our best wishes for their efforts to complete the democratisation process and to ensure against any reversal of it by totalitarian elements of the Left or Right. Ireland has strongly supported the return of Greece to the Council of Europe, and the reactivation of the EEC association agreement with that country.
With regard to Portugal, our pleasure at the restoration of democracy and freedom in that country has been all the more wholehearted because of the new Portuguese Government's determination to end colonial involvement in Africa and to give freedom as soon as possible to the former Portuguese colonies there. Portugal does not at this stage feel that its economy is ready for full membership of the EEC but it may be possible to strengthen the Community's economic relations with Portugal. Ireland will give the fullest support to any proposals along these lines.
Deputies may be aware that for some years past we have been represented in Lisbon not by an ambassador but by a chargé d'affaires, as an expression of our concern at the failure of Portugal to take action with regard to its colonial territories. In recognition of the change in situation we have decided to appoint an ambassador to Portugal again and have sought the agreement of the Portuguese Government to the diplomatic officer we propose to appoint.
The developments in Portuguese Africa clearly have profound significance for Southern Africa as a whole. Thus, for example, Rhodesia's ability to break through the international blockade has largely depended upon access to the outside world via ports in Portuguese Africa. Moreover, the decolonisation of Mozambique and Angola will bring about the emergence of independent African states close to the borders of South Africa, Rhodesia and Namibia. Already there have been some indications of a modification of South African policies in response to this new situation. It is not yet clear how significant are the moves being made by South Africa in relation to Namibia but we shall give the fullest support to the High Commissioner for Namibia, Mr. Seán MacBride, in his efforts to secure South African agreement to a peaceful transition of Namibia to independence. It is intolerable that this country, a League of Nations mandated territory which is now under the trusteeship of the United Nations, should continue to be occupied and controlled illegally by South Africa.
We were particularly happy to welcome to Ireland during the year the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid. Deputies are aware of this Government's strong commitment to the elimination of the apartheid system and we were glad to have had the opportunity of this visit to demonstrate our particular concern about this matter. This visit marked, I believe, a recognition by the UN Special Committee of Ireland's particular commitment in this matter, and also marked their recognition of the excellent work undertaken by the Irish anti-apartheid movement which continues to gain strength.
As a general comment on these developments in Greece, Portugal and Southern Africa, it is, perhaps, worth saying how heartening it is to find that the desire for freedom cannot be suppressed even by a régime in power for as long as that which ruled Portugal for almost half a century, or as brutal as that which controlled Greece for a number of years. Too often in recent years democratic systems in various countries have been overthrown and replaced by dictatorships of the Right or Left. Now we can see that this is not a one way process and that all these dictatorships and totalitarian systems remain under constant threat from the freedom of the human spirit.
It is also worth commenting that much of the tension in the world derives from the lack of freedom of many peoples and from their desire to recover lost liberties. South Africa and Rhodesia are cases in point. The intransigence of their ruling groups threatens peace in that area and also threatens the long-term survival of these groups themselves.
Another part of the world which is suffering from an oppressive régime is Chile where in September 1973 a military coup d'etat overturned the democratically elected President Salvador Allende. This coup was preceded by considerable unrest and class conflict, for which neither Government nor the Opposition were blameless. The régime of oppression which emerged from this coup showed itself, however, to be one of the most brutal in the world. Many thousands of people were murdered by the new régime. Even today vast numbers of the population are suffering from deprivation and want as a result of continued oppression. In so far as interference from outside Chile contributed to this situation it must be deplored by all who are concerned with human freedom.
The concern of Irish people for the fate of the Chilean people has been shown by the work undertaken here to receive refugees from Chile and to help them make a new life in our community, integrating themselves into our society. I should like to congratulate all those who have been concerned with this work which the Government has been glad to facilitate. I should like to tell the Chilean families who have arrived here how warmly welcome they are to our shores.
The repression of human freedom in countries like South Africa, Rhodesia and Chile brings home to us how important it is to establish a universal code of human rights. We in Western Europe are fortunate to have such a human rights code, which transcends national sovereignty, and gives to the citizens of many Western European countries a right to appeal against their own governments should their own governments act unjustly towards them, and which gives to governments power to ensure that the enjoyment of these rights is secured by other governments. The Strasbourg cases are examples of this process which, however slow moving, is, nevertheless, unique in the world.
Unfortunately, no similar system to preserve human rights exists outside Western Europe. The United Nations code of human rights is clearly inadequate and has far too many loopholes. The fact is that many countries outside Western Europe still reject the concept of human rights transcending national sovereignty. This is particularly true, for example, of the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe and represents a significant part of the fundamental difference that exists between the two parts of our divided continent.
This is relevant to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe which was launched at Helsinki in July, 1973 and which has continued to drag its way along ever since at a depressingly slow pace. It is true that progress has been made there in respect of some issues. But in the area of the so-called "third basket", the humanitarian field involving such matters as human rights, personal movement, wider access to information and so forth, progress has been extremely slow. This reflects the very deep difference in philosophy between Western and Eastern Europe and the strong emphasis in Eastern Europe on the social obligations of the individual rather than on his personal human rights to which we in Western Europe attach primary importance.
There are two other major areas of tension to which I must refer—the Middle East and Cyprus. The progress made by Secretary of State Kissinger in securing separation of the Israeli and Arab forces on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts was a great breakthrough and one welcomed throughout the world. But the problem remains of getting these countries and other interested parties to the Geneva Peace Conference which has yet to get off the ground. Ireland's position in regard to this whole issue has been made clear in the United Nations at various points over the decades, and in its endorsement of Resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council on 6th November, 1973, jointly with other members of the nine.
The Irish position with regard to this whole question can be summarised as follows:
1. The State of Israel has a right to exist, within secure and recognised borders, a condition of security which it has never hitherto enjoyed.
2. The territories occupied by Israel since 1967 must be evacuated.
3. The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people must be taken into account.
This matter has recently come before the United Nations in the form of a resolution giving to the Palestine Liberation Organisation the right to present their case at the plenary session of the United Nations. While we had reservations about this method of procedure—hitherto such bodies have been heard in committees of the United Nations rather than in plenary session, and we are not committed to recognising the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole representative of Palestine people—we voted in favour of this resolution making these reservations clear. Because the committee process had been by-passed, it was only by permitting the PLO to be heard in plenary session that a voice on behalf of the Palestine people could be heard at the United Nations. Four countries voted against the resolution—the United States, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia as well as Israel.
It is the Government's hope that peace negotiations may start soon and that they may yield a just solution— just to Israel, which has had to live in a state of virtual siege since its establishment, and just to the Palestinian people, many of whom have been exiled from their homeland and have been forced to live as refugees for decades.
Another area of serious tension is Cyprus where the coup organised with the connivance of the dictatorship then in power in Greece disturbed a highly delicate internal situation and precipitated the invasion of the island by one of the three guaranteeing powers, Turkey. It is extremely disturbing that the situation has remained frozen since the second Turkish attack which brought a large proportion of the country, including many areas traditionally inhabited by Greeks, under Turkish control. The plight of the refugees, of whom there are several hundred thousand, is terrible and the lack of progress in resolving the problems created by these events during the summer, is deplorable. The adoption by the United Nations General Assembly on 1st November of a resolution on Cyprus which was accepted by both Greece and Turkey may, we hope, be a step forward and may provide a basis for progress towards an equitable solution. In the Government's view it is vital that the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus be preserved, that partition be avoided and that the return of hundreds of thousands of Cypriot people to their homes be secured at the earliest possible date.
In the course of my speech I have had occasion to refer to a number of important conferences concerning political or economic problems. There is one other conference which, as I mentioned at the outset, is of particular importance to this country—the Law of the Sea Conference, which held its first substantive session at Caracas in the summer and is due to reconvene in Geneva in March next year. There has been a certain amount of comment in the Press and elsewhere that the Caracas session was in some sense a disappointment. That is not the way the Irish delegation saw it. It was essential that all proposals should be put on the table before negotiations could begin. This was done at Caracas. The way is now open for significant advances towards a generally agreed Convention.
This conference is of the most vital importance to Ireland as it will determine the principles in accordance with which our maritime jurisdiction will be determined. This could well cover an area larger than Ireland itself, potentially rich in mineral and living resources. Its development could dominate the whole future economic structure of the country. The Government marked their appreciation of the importance of the conference by sending the Attorney General as their special representative to outline their policy. At the conference the Irish delegation played an active role tabling specific proposals on the high seas, on the Continental Shelf, on fisheries jurisdiction of coastal states and also for special provisions on exploitation of anadromous species, such as salmon.
It is, in our view, of the greatest importance that agreement should be reached at this conference. It would be sad and indeed dangerous if the seas of the world were to be divided up on the basis of unilateral claims and strong-arm activities. We shall work to avoid this; we shall work to encourage a spirit of compromise in the interest of an orderly agreed settlement which is in the long-term interest of all countries participating in the conference. Accordingly we have abstained from making claims of a sort which might anticipate the results of the conference and we deprecate the actions of those who have acted otherwise.
Before concluding my remarks on Foreign Affairs and turning to the International Co-operation Vote, I should like to refer to the problem of Northern Ireland in the context of Anglo-Irish relations and indeed in the context of foreign policy generally.
First, I should like to say that during the past 18 months I have been greatly impressed by the degree of interest and concern in the Northern Ireland problem expressed informally on behalf of governments throughout the world on the many occasions when I have had the opportunity to meet my opposite numbers. We should not underestimate either the extent to which other countries are informed about this problem or the concern and sympathy that exists in relation to it. I am conscious of the fact that at an earlier period, when British policy in relation to Northern Ireland was inadequate or negative, other countries sought informally to help towards a constructive solution by stressing their concern to the United Kingdom Government. I have every reason to hope that should the occasion arise we could expect similar useful expressions of concern from our friends.
Secondly, I want to say that a significant part of our role with regard to Northern Ireland is exercised through the medium of our relationship with the Government of the United Kingdom. This is so because, as the state exercising jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom Government has primary responsibility for the situation in Northern Ireland, and for working towards a solution that will provide peace and justice for the people of that part of the island. If that Government failed to show the necessary imaginative insight into the problem, or to show the necessary determination to resolve the problem constructively, damage would be done which it would be difficult to retrieve.
The Government have been concerned since last May at the evident drift in the situation in Northern Ireland towards deadlock and despair, and, as I mentioned at the time when the Constitution Convention was first proposed, we share the doubts expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom as to the likelihood of a constructive outcome from this initiative.
What must be of particular concern to everyone who has followed the situation in Northern Ireland during this current year is the vulnerability of this society to violence from relatively small groups of people in either section of the community and to the disruption of essential services there by groups of workers from one section of the community who, as a result of past policies of governments of Northern Ireland or inaction by governments in the United Kingdom, appear to have control over these essential services.
It is clear now in retrospect that no adequate preparation had been made for the contingency of an organised disruption of the life of the province such as took place six months ago. It might be argued that this failure in preparation can be explained by the fact that the contingency had not been foreseen; this argument could not however, explain a failure to prepare for a repetition of these events, which could threaten the economic life of the province and the lives of its citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable—the minority in east Ulster. The United Kingdom Government are well aware of our concern about these matters.
The United Kingdom Government are also aware of our continuing concern at the impact of security activities in Northern Ireland on the two sections of the community there. The minority section of the community feels that the scale and intensity of security activities in their areas are clearly disproportionate to the volume of violence generated within these areas by comparison with that generated elsewhere.
There is another aspect of the activities of the security forces in Northern Ireland which has caused us direct concern. This is the number of Border incidents during the past 18 months. No less than 174 of these incidents have been recorded since I last presented my Estimate in this House. A small number of these have been of a particularly serious character, involving assault on members of our security forces or threats against them. We have constantly pressed the United Kingdom authorities to ensure against a repetition of these kinds of incidents which clearly render much more difficult co-operation between the security forces on either side of the Border against illegal organisations.
These many problems affecting relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom, arising from the situation in Northern Ireland, have absorbed much time and attention during the past 18 months. As an indication of this there have been no less than 16 meetings at political level between representatives of the two Governments as well as many other meetings at official level. Throughout these discussions the Government have consistently adopted a constructive approach and have sought to avoid anything which would exacerbate relations between the two sovereign powers. Any enduring solution of the Northern Ireland problem will require the closest co-operation between this state and the Government of the United Kingdom. It is upon the just and effective exercise of that Government's responsibilities in relation to Northern Ireland that progress towards a solution primarily depends.
I should like to turn now to the International Co-operation Vote. Deputies will be aware that a large part of this Vote is devoted to development aid but that the sums voted here include only part of our development aid programme.
When this Government came into office 18 months ago Ireland's total development aid, under this and other Votes, and from the Central Fund totalled only £750,000 or .035 per cent of GNP. This was one-twentieth of the target set by the United Nations and was one of the lowest figures in Europe.
Since then the Government have quadrupled the amount of development aid, doubling the necessary provisions both in our first and again in our second budget. As a result, the amount provided in the current year is of the order of £3 million, although in the event this may not be fully spent because some of the sums provided for may not be called upon during this year.
Much of the increase has of course been required of us as a result of our membership of the European Economic Community, within which however we have consistently pressed for more liberal provisions in respect of development aid, even though this must increase our contributions to the Community. We recognise that every extra hundred thousand pounds which we are willing to contribute, and which is matched by equivalent contribution from other members, will yield a total of £22 million of extra aid to countries in need.
Deputies should be aware however that the increase in our development aid provision has not been confined to the very large expansion required by EEC membership and by membership of other international organisations. Despite the increased burden imposed by these requirements, the Government have gone beyond these minimal obligations and have created a new sector of development aid—a bilateral aid sector. This has meant that the Government provide aid directly to countries suffering from disasters, they finance projects by Irish interests for aid to particular developing countries, and through the Agency for Personal Service Overseas they finance Irish people serving in developing countries and helping with the social and economic development of these countries.
Under the heading of disaster relief in the current year, we provided assistance both to Bangladesh and Cyprus.
Under the heading of bilateral aid, the interdepartmental committee, which deals with these proposals under the chairmanship of my Department, have recommended the financing of courses in training techniques, in hospital administration and in the administration and development of industrial free trade zones. These have been organised by the Institute of Public Administration and the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. Finance has also been provided for a two-week development programme for African owners and managers of small businesses of the Nairobi Industrial Estate in Kenya which will be organised by the Irish Management Institute within the next couple of months.
A number of other projects are under consideration and it is hoped that next year the scale of our bilateral aid for projects will be significantly increased.
In this connection I should like to pay particular tribute to the enthusiasm and dedication of the managements and staff of a number of our State enterprises which have worked together to prepare a programme of development aid activities to be financed by bilateral aid.
With regard to the Agency for Personal Service Overseas, in the short time this has been in operation it has already sponsored almost 100 people who are serving in nine African countries and five Asian countries. Almost a score of bodies in this country, both lay and religious, are involved in this programme and the range of skills provided is impressive—ranging from people with expertise in agriculture and fishing, through such professions as engineering, medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and pharmacy, to social workers, teachers, youth workers, community development workers and laboratory technicians. This is an excellent start and the Government are indebted to the board of the agency for the speed with which it has got off the ground.
At the present time the arrangements for the organisation and administration of bilateral aid are adequate to the limited amounts involved. However, with the expansion of the Government's development aid programme, which over the next few years is likely to involve a disproportionate growth in the bilateral element of the programme, it will be necessary to consider how best to organise the system of allocating bilateral aid, how best to co-ordinate the different development aid activities being undertaken by various agencies and interests in this country and how best to secure the widest possible basis of public support for this programme through the involvement of organisations and individuals throughout the country. During the next year this whole question will be reviewed. I have already indicated, at a recent conference on development aid, my willingness to consult with the various interests involved with a view to ensuring that the permanent arrangements which we make for the organisation and administration of the bilateral aid programmes are effective and command the widest possible basis of public support.
The Government are determined that the progress made in the sphere of development aid will be maintained in the years ahead. Accordingly, they decided in July to commit themselves to a medium-term programme for the expansion of development aid. It is the aim of the Government that, taking one year with another, the volume of development aid will increase annually by the equivalent of .05 per cent of GNP in the years ahead. In the year immediately ahead however it may be difficult because of the particularly serious financial and economic situation facing the country, to achieve this latter aim, but the Government's commitment to increase the aid in absolute terms and as a share of GNP will be maintained.