I propose to take Questions Nos. 2, 12, 15 and Priority Question No. 20 together.
The Single European Act has now been signed by all the member states and the question of seeking further amendments to it does not arise. As Deputies are aware, there will be a full debate on the Act when the necessary legislation to permit ratification of the Act is brought before the Oireachtas in due course.
Both the Taoiseach and myself have previously pointed out in this House that the provisions on Co-operation in the Sphere of Foreign Policy contained in Title III of the Single European Act pose no threat to this country's sovereignty, neutrality or ability to take independent decisions on foreign policy matters. I wish to take the opportunity of the Deputies' questions to reiterate this.
An integral part of our foreign policy has been the pursuit of international peace and security. In the 14 years of our involvement with European Political Co-operation successive Irish Governments have not felt constrained from working actively for peace or from undertaking appropriate initiatives. This Government will continue the policy of supporting concrete measures aimed at disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, and of supporting and contributing to the maintenance of international peace through UN peace-keeping activities.
The principal effect of Title III of the Single European Act will be to formalise existing practices and procedures governing European Political Co-operation — EPC. Under this process which has been gradually evolving over the past 16 years, the member states of the Community, operating on the basis of consensus, agree to adopt as far as possible common policy stances on issues of foreign policy which are of general concern.
In regard to the question of security, Ireland's particular interests and concerns have been fully met in Title III of the Single European Act. Provision is made in paragraph 6 (a) of Title III for closer co-ordination of positions on the political and economic aspects of security. So as to take account of the fact that Ireland is not a member of any military alliance, it is specifically provided that those member states which wish to co-operate more closely on security matters, that is on military and defence questions, may do so within the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance.
Paragraph 6 (b) of Title III records the determination of the member states to maintain the technological and industrial conditions necessary for their security. This is in the context of the specific commitment in Article 6 for the co-ordination of the positions of member states on the political and economic aspects of security within the framework of European Political Co-operation. There is absolutely no commitment involved of a military or defence nature.
Deputy Bell has also raised the amendments to the Treaty of Rome contained in Title II of the Single European Act. Let me say that there is no question of the operation of the so-called "Luxembourg Compromise", that is the entitlement of a member state to invoke a vital national interest and to veto a proposal by the Council, being affected by these Treaty amendments. As a country so dependent on foreign trade, we have a very considerable national interest in the early and full achievement of a genuine single internal market in the Community. Therefore, we welcome the limited but nonetheless significant improvements which have been provided for in the Council's decision-making procedures in the Single European Act by means of substituting qualified majority voting in certain areas where unanimity is now required, notably to facilitate completion of the internal market by a target date of 31 December 1992.