Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Discussions with Austrian Foreign Minister.

11.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in view of his recent discussions on the Austrian consideration of a relationship with the EC, whether it is his intention to prepare and publish a substantive statement on the principles and practices of Irish neutrality.

18.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to Austria's decision to seek membership of the EC in July, 1989; if, having regard to fears expressed by some member states concerning Ireland's position of permanent neutrality, he will indicate whether Ireland has spoken in favour of Austria's application at the Council of Ministers meetings which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

29.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the matters covered during his recent discussions in Dublin with the Austrian Foreign Minister, Dr. Mock; the Government's attitude to any possible application for membership of the EC by Austria; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 18 and 29 together.

While I understand that the Austrian government have taken a decision in principle to apply for membership of the European Community, no application has yet been made nor has the matter been discussed by the Council of Ministers.

It is open to all democratic European countries which respect human rights to make application for membership of the European Community. Austria clearly qualifies under these headings to make an application for membership. After an application is made, set procedures have to be followed, involving an opinion by the Commission and the consent of parliament, before the Council gives a view. It would not be appropriate for the Government to express a view at this stage on possible future membership by Austria or any other country.

During the visit of the Austrian ViceChancellor and Foreign Minister, Dr. Mock, to Ireland, the question of a possible Austrian application for membership of the European Community was discussed. There was also an exchange of views on international affairs, in particular East-West relations. The Minister for Foreign Affairs also availed of the occasion to brief Dr. Mock on developments in relation to Northern Ireland.

The Government's position regarding the policy of neutrality was restated by me in the Seanad on 12 April. I refer Deputy Higgins to that statement.

I am grateful for the Minister's reply and for the offer of a copy of his speech in the Seanad. However, my question referred not to an Austrian application but to consideration of an Austrian application. Would the Minister not agree in view of the often stated position particularly from this side of the House that Ireland's position of neutrality has not been clearly articulated, that in the event of there being a new applicant, with a different approach towards neutrality, it might be useful, educationally and publicly for a clear policy statement to be published on the Irish position of positive neutrality, for example?

It would be inappropriate before an application has been lodged, for the Government to make any commitment one way or the other. The Austrian Foreign Minister sought our Government's support for an application for EC membership. We said that it was open to all democratic countries which respect human rights, and this quite obviously included Austria, to apply for membership. We assured him of our understanding and of our constructive approach in negotiations which would follow any Austrian application.

Deputy Proinsias De Rossa——

A Cheann Comhairle——

Sorry, I will call the Deputy later.

Will the Minister state by way of general principle that the application of states which are neutral would be welcomed by the Irish Government, from the point of view of strengthening our position within the European Community as a neutral country?

It would not be useful for me to express an opinion on any state's application for membership. As a neutral country we will be happy to be joined by anybody else, but we are not in the position to state, nor should I state, a preference for any particular country.

Does the Minister of State accept that successive Fine Gael Taoisigh have consistently supported the position on eventual Irish involvement in European defence set out by Taoiseach Lemass in 1961, endorsed by Taoiseach Jack Lynch in 1967, contained in the White Paper on EC membership in 1970 which was the basis of our negotiations on membership and subsequently endorsed in March 1981 by the present Taoiseach, namely, that the logical corollary of the evolution of the Community into its final form will be Irish participation in European defence?

Deputy FitzGerald has broadened the question considerably. As he is well aware, a number of states, including ourselves, do not discuss all aspects of security, including defence or military matters. As he is also well aware, the scope of European political co-operation as set out in the Single European Act excludes discussion on the military aspects of security.

The question I asked was whether the Minister of State accepts that successive Fine Gael Taoisigh have supported the position adopted by all Fianna Fáil Taoisigh on eventual Irish involvement in European defence and arising from that would he give consideration to the question of whether Irish interests would be necessarily served by the admission of another country, at present neutral like ourselves, but not accepting the same ultimate position with regard to the Community on defence, which might create a second tier in the Community to which we could then be demoted to our disadvantage?

It is a pity that the people were not told that.

Austria is in a similar position to ourselves. We are committed to European Union the extent of which, as the Deputy well knows, has not been defined. It has to be defined with the common accord of all member states.

Question No. 12.

Would the Minister of State not accept that our position is different from that of Austria which is not committed to ultimate European Union as we have been, as stated by all Taoisigh since 1961?

I have stated my position.

A Cheann Comhairle, I have tried——

A very brief question, Deputy. I have dwelt over long on this question.

To follow on what Deputy FitzGerald has stated, does it not show our supposed neutrality to be a bit of a sham when we, as a supposedly neutral country, can have no view whatsoever about a country of neutral status applying for membership of the EC?

No, it shows some sensitivity and commonsense on our part. I will also forward to Deputy Kennedy a statement I made in the Seanad which clearly sets out our position on neutrality.