When the debate was adjourned I was referring to the speech of Deputy Blaney. He made some very wild statements. I had the feeling that his contribution was one of posturing. He made allegations against the attitude of the Government in respect of matters which were relevant to the North of Ireland and it was only in the last few sentences that he brought it into the context of dealing with the British Government, when it was then more a matter for Foreign Affairs. I do not agree with his approach in treating the subject of the North as a matter for Foreign Affairs. I will, instead, deal with other matters which I consider more proper to this debate.
One matter that is relevant to the whole of Ireland is that of a regional policy or the lack of one on the part of the EEC. I believe the message is now getting through to the Commission in Brussels that Ireland stands to gain a great deal from a properly structured and properly planned regional policy. I always thought the prime intent of the EEC was to move to economic and monetary union. It seems to me that a proper regional policy is the only way imbalances can be removed in the EEC.
A British politician, Mr. Heath, said in a newspaper recently that the EEC appear to have failed to deal with the problems affecting the daily lives of ordinary people.
That is possibly a fair comment to make. The EEC started with great hopes and a certain amount of structural planning, but it now seems to have got into a state of bits and pieces. Mistakes appear to have been made, particularly in relation to the beef situation. This country can claim that we warned the EEC Commission and the Council of Ministers of the difficulties that would arise if the importation of beef continued the way it was planned. Unhappily we now have to relate that the advice and the warnings given by Deputy Mark Clinton, our Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, to the EEC have been proved only too right and too correct.
The main criticism, I suppose, in relation to the EEC is the disorganisation of markets, rising prices and inflation, lack of a common regional development policy—and for that matter a common energy policy but I think this is now beginning to take shape—and a very serious watering down of the principles of the common agricultural policy. These matters naturally weaken the Community, first, in the eyes of its own members and, secondly, in the eyes of communities outside the EEC. It is very hard to point to any particular aspect of the activities of the EEC as giving rise to this rather justifiable criticism and judgment of the EEC. In the eyes of many, and in my view also, it seems that the Community is organised for discussion but its weakness for some time has been, and still is decision making. This is a long standing criticism by European parliamentarians and possibly it has been brought about by the unwritten but over-riding ambition to get unanimity on every point before a decision is made.
Unfortunately, the passage of time has also had the effect of changing the attitudes of member states to the EEC. When I was in Brussels in June, as a member of the committee of this House which deals with secondary legislation from the EEC, it was freely expressed by the EEC Commission members that there was originally a scale of priorities in dealing with EEC matters, that the first point was economics, the economy of member States and of the EEC. Only as a very poor second the political aspect came into the picture. That being so, it seemed to be always possible to find a compromise in a situation of differing views.
It is only right, when looking at this problem, to say that the change has taken place in parallel with thinking in political circles in Germany. Up to fairly recent times Germany has been prepared to compromise and give a bit. I do not say that she is not still prepared to compromise and give a bit but her attitude on EEC problems has greatly hardened. This was brought to light in the new discussions concerning agricultural prices, the lead up to the green £. We know the delay that occurred there but it was ultimately accepted. I suppose every country has a certain political conscience in regard to its past history; that might have had something to do with the change of attitude; and it is quite freely said that Germany felt that she had expiated her sins of the last war and was now entitled to hold up her head, free from blame and could be an equal partner. I may be wrong in this but I have heard it said more than twice or three times.
It is right that, when looking at EEC matters, we should realise that we must now fight for every inch we want in the way of benefits and concessions in the EEC. When we went into the Community many people thought it would be a wonderful bonanza, a sort of Utopia. We have just had a debate on unemployment but many people forget that at the time the referendum was being held on entry to the EEC it was pretty clearly stated by the politicians who advocated joining the EEC that there would be those who would fall by the wayside and that businesses would find themselves in difficulties because they had not made any attempt to adjust to the changed economic circumstances in which they would find themselves, that they would no longer be looked after by protective tariffs and would have to stand on their own economic feet, that they would have to prove that they were individually viable enterprises. If my memory is correct, those who would suffer were estimated to be nearly 20 per cent of our business sector but we hoped by an on-going policy in the IDA and the Government that we would be able to meet this difficulty.
Any impartial judge, looking at the work that has been done since we joined the EEC, will have to concede that the IDA and other organisations, the CII, the Federated Union of Employers and the unions have all put their shoulders to the wheel and it can be fairly said that they have all combined to do a very good job. They have avoided the difficulties that were anticipated. Nobody, of course, anticipated a year ago that we would have this colossal difficulty of the fuel crisis—some may have, but generally the public did not realise that outside the EEC there were countries that lived by exporting what I might call primary, unmanufactured products, that they had been at the wrong end of a belated mercantilism, a doctrine that was applied with considerable success by what were the colonial powers.
When the EEC was created many of the members still seemed to think in the days of mercantilism when they had colonies or states outside Europe where they had cheap sources of raw materials. In an effort to compensate for that loss, through the evolution of the world and the emergent nations, they naturally seized on the principles embodied in the Treaty of Rome. However, in doing so many of them have failed to shake off the old fever or disease and their thinking became translated into a watered-down nationalism, but a nationalism that was not compatible with the true principles of the Common Market. There was a lack of a full will to co-operate in a common design and purpose. When difficulties and stresses appeared there was evidence of individual thinking and an unwillingness to work as a team.
The energy crisis brought this very much to the fore. We had a prior warning of this in relation to the regional policies as adumbrated by the Commission. It is regrettable that this has been so, but is is a fact with which we have to live. The pity of it is that there are other countries outside the EEC, the emerging nations, who, like all new nations, are having somewhat of a struggle to build their own economic viability, and the energy crisis has come as a far greater blow to them than it has to the well-developed nations. This is the corner stone of the Minister's speech to the House when he deals with the world economic crisis. I as an Irishman take satisfaction in the attitude that has been adopted to these new nations by our Government in the various meetings that have taken place following the difficulties of the energy crisis.
I do not know if there was any Member of this House who saw a programme on BBC television two or three nights ago which dealt with the question of food and the world food shortage. For those who did not, let me say there was a very obvious and interesting message conveyed by the Prime Minister of Jamaica when he was discussing the question of sugar or some other raw material that they were exporting. He said their price for this raw material had not increased, but for the purpose of tilling and harvesting their crop they had to import machinery and, whatever the price was, something like £600, it had been increased recently to £900; yet the world expected them to produce their sugar or other raw material at the same price. It said they had not much to give but that this was their lifeline.
It is in that light one has to view the world situation. We are no longer considering the strength of the dollar. There are far more people in the world than those in the United States, and there are now far more causes for inflation. One does not hear so much about financial illiquidity in the world. One hears the new word "recycling". This has arisen because the money is now freely flowing back to the oil-producing nations, and some of these nations have not got the population or the demand to utilise the money they are making. Some of these are comparatively small States and sheikdoms, but colossal amounts of money are now coming in because of the increase in the price of crude oil. During the summer the English money market had to take precautionary measures to deal with the movement of this tremendous amount of money in Europe. I would agree with the Minister when he says the problem is one of recycling, so that the world can utilise this money if the nations who make it cannot utilise it for their own home purposes.
I think the proper description of the present world difficulties is that we are very near an economic war but that good sense is prevailing in all quarters to avoid that situation. People previously thought of war as guns, bullets and bombs. There is a far more deadly weapon, and that is that of hunger, starvation, lack of vital economic resources. On the same programme to which I referred earlier there was a gentleman from Bangladesh who was involved in trying to obtain sufficient food to prevent death from starvation in his nation. I think he said that at the time of speaking he had filled half his requirements but another half was left to be filled. I am glad the Minister came back again and again to the difficulties of those countries. We are at a time when we cannot say: "I am all right, Jack, hump you." We are all involved. We regard ourselves as a Christian and a democratic nation. In those circumstances it behoves us to get ourselves very closely involved in world problems.
Allied to this, I suppose, is the fact that you can only give what you have got, what you do not require for yourself. Of course, views differ as to what a nation requires for its own purposes. Much depends on national attitudes. I would imagine the Irish nation, taken as a whole, would be more a giver than a taker. We have a very fine tradition in the mission fields. That was certainly one-way traffic both in manpower and in money and it still continues today. When there is a world tragedy the Irish people are quick to subscribe and quick to recognise the plight of the people involved. I suppose our past history has taught us what it is to suffer hardship. We can possibly better understand the hardships those countries are now undergoing than might be the case with other countries who have better resources, higher standards of living and have had easier times.
Inherent in any consideration of international difficulties is a difficulty created by inflation. The great fear in the world today is that the stronger nations may over react in their efforts to produce deflationary policies. I am concerned at the attitude being adopted by the American and German governments. Taken in relation to other countries they are regarded as strong, viable nations, indeed, extremely strong and extremely wealthy nations. Because of their strong position they must realise that their strength can only continue if the rest of the world can be kept on an even keel economically. I do not know but I would imagine a cure for home inflation in both those countries might be to give a little more. It would take wealth out of circulation and it could be given to countries that require it. I am talking about the poorest developing countries and countries that are particularly hit by the energy crisis, to tide them over a period of re-adjustment. The first panic in relation to the fuel crisis was that one must cut down consumption by 10 per cent. This has already been achieved by most member countries of the EEC and has, in some cases, been greatly exceeded. A criticism of the suggestion that consumption should be cut by 10 per cent was that this was not enough and that countries could easily cut by more without affecting their productive capacity. This seems to have been proved by the course of events.
Undue emphasis has been placed on keeping relations happy between Germany and France. The attitude of France to some matters in the EEC leaves much to be desired. She has been far too fond of taking an independent line and not regarding herself as part of the European club. I would not view her attitude to efforts to produce a common energy policy with any degree of happiness. She is now making a suggestion that we should get together around a table the heads of state. I have great doubts about this meeting of heads of state. I think our Minister for Foreign Affairs has the same doubts.
I do not think there is any point in having a meeting of heads of state unless there is a definite will to come out with a common policy, with a common agreement. We know what happened in Stockholm. Nothing came of that. We know that France failed to join in certain discussions dealing with the energy crisis. When a country adopts that attitude it is about time she laid down what she thinks is the way to deal with it and show her good will and show what she is prepared to do. It is not my function to attack governments but I am entitled, as an Irish Deputy, to point to things that cause concern in the minds of the Irish public. Ireland has abided by the rules of the EEC. She has done her level best to assist others to do likewise. One would expect the larger countries to give good example in times of crisis. Nobody can say that the stronger countries are free of blame for their failure to regard their responsibilities in the community.
We must not forget that certain countries have more votes, that there is a weighted voting system in the EEC. Why were these people given those votes? Having the greater strength when it comes to voting, they have also got a greater responsibility to the Community. One must guard against the Community being used as a plaything to be pushed and used as the larger countries might like to use it, for their own purposes.
Just because there is inflation it does not mean that a country like Germany should be entitled to indulge in a heavy deflationary policy that will interfere with European employment. One must remember there is mobility of labour in the EEC and every decision that is made must be looked at in the context of how it will affect not alone your own country but the other EEC member countries. This is a large part of the criticism of the EEC, why there is dissatisfaction with the EEC. I quoted the statement made by Mr. Heath in relation to the disenchantment people felt about the EEC. He said:
The EEC appears to have failed to deal with the problems affecting the daily lives of ordinary people.
Further on in his statement, which appeared in a supplement to the London Times on 5th November, he did not refer to agriculture until the very end when he referred to the so-called renegotiation.
England's record is very poor in relation to CAP. She has failed and refused to work intervention. We and other countries in Europe have worked it. This is coming back to the old nationalist principle that these countries will use at the wrong time. There must be a little more give and take by all EEC member countries. People talk about political attitudes hardening towards the EEC forgetting that it is primarily an economic community and there will have to be a dropping of rigid attitudes.
I referred already to the failure to produce a regional policy. If the larger or better-off countries fail to agree and refuse to face fundamental facts, one must call in question the honesty of their approach and their real intent to get to economic and monetary union. One can readily instance how CAP was very nearly wrecked by the revaluation of currencies. If one wanted to ride a coach and four through CAP, that was the obvious and the easy way to do it, and, in effect, that has happened and that has been a large part of the trouble in European affairs. You start on a certain basis with a unit of account, you start with currencies at a certain ratio to each other. Then a country can come in unilaterally and revalue its currency. This makes a dog's dinner of the agreed targets and policies. It is unilateral variation.
There is one matter that came before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. They furnished an interim report dealing with the matter of tax harmonisation. This, in turn, is referred to in the third report, dated June, 1974, issued by the Department of External Affairs, at paragraph 14, page 105. I am glad to note that a working group has been set up and that the functions of that group have been limited to fact finding. The Oireachtas committee voiced some concern at the implications of the preliminary proposals of the Commission. The working group have already reported and stated that the policy cannot be implemented by the Commission at the target date of 1st January, 1975. This is due to the complexity of the proposals, the serious problems involved and the necessity for detailed discussion.
I should certainly like to underline the words "necessity for detailed discussion" in the Irish context. There is not much point in aiming for tax harmonisation, which is necessary for the purpose of providing money for the EEC budget, if you are to have a complete up and down, in and out sort of performance on the relativity of the European currencies to each other. You will have considerable difficulties and there will be a rather unreal situation arising if the tax is applied as I have seen it proposed. For instance, one of the proposals would mean that food would have to be taxed, and that is of no assistance, particularly in this inflationary period we are going through.
I note that there are more optimistic reports coming in relation to the several economies in Europe from the point of view of inflation—it seems to be stabilising somewhat—but I should much prefer to see a proper stabilisation of the inflationary situation before going into the realms of a new tax structure where the currencies are not updated in relation to the unit of account. I appreciate that we have the green £ which makes some effort to compensate for inequalities in relation to the unit of account. This in turn has other implications in relation to prices of imported goods. We as a country very open to the effects of outside affairs have to think very hard before we make serious decisions in this field. We had no option but to press for the green £ in the circumstances in which we found ourselves having regard to the mess made by the agricultural section of the Commission in Brussels.
I mentioned that some outside countries require financial assistance in the hope that some of this money obtained by the oil exporting countries would be recycled in the proper direction, but the same can be said for the countries in Europe who are suffering very badly as a result of the increase in the price of fuel. The Community will have to look carefully at its approach in the matter of loans to members of the Community. The giving of loans will have to be looked at in the light of the real resources of the Community as a whole. This has been advocated by M. Monet as desirable and I have noticed that M. Guiscard d'Estaing, the French Premier, is going to have discussions with M. Monet and, arising out of those discussions, something may come of that aspect of Community activity. This is all the more necessary now where large sums of money will have to be made available to deal with the aftermath of the present situation arising out of the fuel crisis. I do not believe the fuel crisis should be any reason for pessimism. We have suffered a good deal as a result of the increase in fuel prices; these are washing through all branches of our economic activity. But the Government have managed the whole problem very well. It is interesting to throw one's mind back to when the fuel crisis first broke and the sort of panic that was being generated by some people who actually advocated rationing. Fortunately, our Minister for Transport and Power held out against the pressure and he has been proved right.
In much of our economic activity we are inclined to be somewhat parochial in that our sights are set somewhat short. In this respect the fuel crisis has taught the country an unwelcome but necessary lesson. We must realise that this country is just part of the entire world community of nations and our economic activities are not just related to the United Kingdom or the European Economic Community; we must have regard for our relationships with the wider world.
When the Estimate for Foreign Affairs was before us on the last occasion I made a small contribution to the debate and one of the matters I mentioned was that of physical aid in human terms, in the sense of individual know-how, professional know-how and so forth, which could be useful to emerging nations and nations in difficulty. Apparently the Minister was working along the same lines. He had already put in train this very desirable objective and it has produced very valuable assistance to these emerging nations. There are now 100 souls working in different activities for these nations. The reference in the Minister's opening speech shows the need for this kind of assistance and proves that such assistance is availed of when it is offered.
With regard to grants or loans available under certain headings, an applicant for a loan likes to know fairly early on where there is a fairly large capital commitment involved what his chances are of qualifying. I have in mind the situation in relation to FEOGA. I understand the practice is not to say whether an applicant qualifies until the full investment has been made by the particular applicant. It would be of considerable assistance if there was some expression of intent: "Look, if you do so and so, you will qualify". Two constituents of mine are applicants for loans. They are engaged in the fishing industry. There is, as we all know, a very heavy capital investment in the building of trawlers. I am talking now about deep sea trawlers, not offshore trawlers. Apparently these applicants are not told whether or not they qualify; they are told only when they have involved themselves fully. The Minister might drop a word in the ear of FEOGA about this because it is a matter of some little concern when one is running into £1 million or £2 million.
The Minister referred to staffing difficulties and how they had been overcome. We were totally unprepared from a staffing point of view where the European Economic Community was concerned. We had made no real provision until membership became a fait accompli. This placed a great strain on the public service. In this context, it is a little odd that a great many countries do not put a great deal of meas on public servants. They require a Minister of State to be present. In one instance a mission constituted of civil servants went out and nothing came of it. On the other hand, when a Minister accompanied the mission quite a bit came of it. All the Minister had to do was to be there. My predecessor in my constituency told me that, when it came down to negotiations in Europe and elsewhere, it is the political point of the mission that is regarded as of vital importance. We have had evidence of this in two instances recently. One instance was the trips made by the Minister for the Gaeltacht and the other was the trips made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. These two trips were well worthwhile. It is hard on Ministers, but I would like to put it on record that trips made by Ministers have produced real results and real dividends from the point of view of trade and contracts.
I welcome the reopening of the Suez Canal. This is a really great move and it should assist considerably in trade and communication. It will, of course, have the effect of reopening one half of the world to the other half. Something will come of that. I should like to make one suggestion to the Minister and, through him, the Government. I do not think we have an ambassador to Israel. We should, as we have an ambassador to another nation in the Middle East. This is an area where it is very necessary that we should have high diplomatic representation.