We resume on the European Affairs motion. Deputy Owen has some eight minutes remaining.
Maastricht Summit: Motion.
In beginning my contribution last evening I had made the point that the electorate of this country will be faced with two choices in our approach to the Maastricht Summit when we get rid of all the Eurospeak and Eurojargon to which Deputy John Bruton referred yesterday. The first option is to embrace fully the huge opportunities and challenges opening for us as a small country in a non-whingeing, begging bowl at the ready way. Alternatively we can pretend to ourselves that the EC and membership of it can be treated like a large cash and carry business out of which we take all the cash we can and for the rest of the time we are carried along by our wealthier partners.
For me there is only the first choice, and I submit if they are properly informed and fully aware of the implications of the changed face and relationships in Europe and in the wiser world, then the people of Ireland will take the first choice I outlined and any referendum should be carried overwhelmingly.
Last week I attended a meeting of the European Movement in London which was addressed by a number of pro-European speakers, including an Irish MEP, Mary Banotti, but also was addressed by an anti-European MP, Richard Shepperd. I saw and heard at first hand how easy it was to make a strong anti-European case. One can appeal to all those who feel that they did not benefit personally and monetarily out of membership. They can appeal to the farmers for whom the gravy train is drying up and appeal to the deep emotionalism of patriotism and sovereignty, as if somehow one will be forbidden and denied such feelings and denied the opportunity of declaring "I am an Irishman" or "I am an Irishwoman" as well as being a European.
The move to cohesion, convergence, the Single Market and single citizenship will not progress one centimetre until the individual citizens of Europe begin to be emotionally grabbed by the whole concept. How many times have Members of this House said to their colleagues or their MEPs "When are you going to Europe next?", as if we in Ireland were not part of Europe. I heard one British MEP say he was tempted to answer this perpetual question by saying "Well, actually I thought I might take a walk to the end of my garden this evening".
The idea of Community citizenship is not a Utopian concept. The factors which seem to determine citizenship involve the idea of belonging and the need to move away from the concept of the individual as subject. In modern times citizenship is defined as belonging to a nation-state.
The EC for many people means either farm subsidies and grants or economic business transfers. At Maastricht one of the challenges will be how can the new proposed constitution embrace the citizens one by one so that their hearts and minds are part of Europe and not just the outstretched hand looking for subsidies. Clearly this challenge has not been answered in this country. Although the Visitors Gallery is a little fuller today then yesterday, it is virtually empty. If we were discussing the potential new Fianna Fáil Leader — I see the benches opposite are empty so perhaps they have no Leader at all——
They are not.
I beg your pardon. The usual place of the Taoiseach is empty.
Perhaps there was an instruction after the dinner last night that nobody is to take his place just in case he might begin to feel comfortable in it. If we were discussing a new Fianna Fáil Leader or some other local issue, I have no doubt that the Gallery would be packed tight. Thus far in the debate on Europe the citizens have not realised how significant the role of Europe will be in their future lives and until they grasp that significance the debate will of necessity be superficial, elitist and select in nature.
Already our membership of the EC has opened up many opportunities, particularly for our highly educated young population and it has stimulated our educational system to broaden our language training. But this is not enough. It does not embrace true Community citizenship, which comprises three basic rights: (1) Full freedom of movement; (2) Freedom to choose one's place of residence; and (3) The right to political participation at the place of residence. There are still a number of restrictions which prevent these basic rights from being fulfilled: (1) The lack of mutual recognition of professional qualifications, although some progress is being made and (2) the non-uniformity of social welfare provisions. Clearly this will remain on the agenda for a long time because the actual amounts of payments will remain a national consideration, depending on the budgetary constraints or otherwise in individual countries. However, we must reach a stage where benefits accruing in one EC member state must be transferred to other member states if the person holding those benefits decides to change location.
There are also restrictions on voting rights in different countries. For example, even the most basic right of voting in your own country is denied to people who wish to work, perhaps six months, in another EC country but cannot have their vote, by way of postal vote, transferred despite the advances of computers etc.
There is one area of EC citizenship which I warmly welcome and endorse and that is the right to petition a committee of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. Many people are not aware that they have the right by way of a simple letter to write to the European Parliament if they feel they are being denied some rights of European citizenship in their own country. One can recall vividly an example of success when a number of old age pensioners who were denied their pensions here wrote to the European Parliament and subsequently had their pensions restored by the former Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Woods.
One of the aims of the strengthening of the institutions of Europe must be to institutionalise democratic rights. Until this happens there can be no thought of expanding the EC to take in some of the Eastern European countries where democratic rights have been virtually unknown for many decades. This strengthening of democracy will involve the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament taking on board the best and strongest democratic rights in all the member countries. For example, if one member state allows non-nationals to vote in their national elections, then this democratic right should be available throughout the Community.
People will not begin to feel European until they perceive the advantages. Unfortunately, those who fear most are more strident and I believe the time has come for pro-European people to become more vocal and come out into the open. We must create a climate of loyalty towards each other as Europeans. We must, as I heard it put recently, "stir the hearts of Europe", much like football and other sports are able to do at a national level. None of this kind of emotional attachment to Europe will come about unless some of the structures open up and expose themselves to scrutiny. I refer specifically to the meetings of the Council of Ministers and the operation of the Commission. There is no obligation on any Minister in this country to bring proposals to this House before they are put on behalf of the people at the meeting of the Council of Ministers. That is wrong. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the EC can discuss directives, but the Minister can thumb his or her nose at them. The Commission is like some secret club out of which rules are handed down. It is extremely disappointing to get messages from the Government, either tacitly or loudly from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that this country, meaning Fianna Fáil in Government, does not agree with assigning more power to the European Parliament.
When one discusses European citizenship one must recognise that the current situation is complicated by mass emigration. We must ensure that our society continues to uphold certain essential values such as I have outlined and we must recognise the need to apply these values to aliens who come to live lawfully in the European Community. The real test of strength of citizenship is its degree of heterogeneousness, by which I mean a common respect for basic rights among people of different culture and origin and belonging to different civilizations or beliefs. I commend to this House a new report hot off the press, the Bindi report, which outlines the full aspirations of the European Parliament with regard to European citizenship.
In the past this House has discussed many important issues, reviewed many Treaties and debated our international commitments at critical stages, be it our stance during the Second World War to our first application to join the EC in 1961, but few of these issues can outrank in importance this current debate on the Maastricht Summit and the future of the European Community.
In hindsight it may appear that some of our actions in the earlier years were concerned with establishing our sovereignty, in demonstrating our individual existence after the establishment of the State and to a certain extent in reassuring ourselves of our self-determination. However, as a nation we have passed this introverted stage of early adolescence and I am confident that we have demonstrated our political and national maturity through our ability to work in close harmony with others. From the time we joined the Community we have shown ourselves to be willing Europeans and the 1987 Referendum on the Single Market clearly demonstrated the continued support that our membership of the EC has among our people.
At this stage we now face major challenges both as Europeans and as Irishmen. Even since the Referendum of 1987 fundamental changes have taken place which have radically altered the political and economic sphere in which Europe finds itself. The collapse of the Communist and centrally planned regimes of central and Eastern Europe, the disintegration of the USSR, and the reunification of Germany have all generated new pressures and presented us with new challenges to which Europe must now respond. These revolutionary events, coupled with the inevitable thrust towards closer Economic and Monetary Union resulting from the Single European Market, bring us to Maastricht.
Maastricht represents a crossroads both for Europe and Ireland. Our overriding concern in this debate must be our future as a small island on the periphery of Europe. If in the past we had the luxury of dissociating that future from events abroad, that option no longer exists. Even more surely than we recognised when we first applied for membership of the EEC in 1961, our future now is inextricably bound up with that of the European Community. Therefore, in discussing Maastricht and the future development of the Community, we discuss our future also.
Our attitude to the Community has at times revealed a political distancing from Europe which politicians and some commentators alike seem keen to maintain. Often the EC is alluded to as some external organisation on which we can lay the blame for whatever particular woe we are addressing.
The Progressive Democrates have a different vision of Europe. It is one of a supranational tier of government in which we share a valued place. It is one which we can participate in and contribute to as well as benefit from. We have indeed much to offer our European neighbours — our cultural richness; our social values, which are reflected in our caring society and liberal policies which respect the rights of the individual; our solid defence of the right to self-determination; our well educated and vibrant youth, and, perhaps collectively, our Irishness.
Similarly, we have much to gain from our membership of the Community. We gain, for example, from its technical excellence, resources in terms of market place and supports, fiscal and monetary stability, cultural diversity and its common heritage which has shaped the world through its mistakes, failings and ultimate triumphs in terms of political stability and economic development.
The test of Maastricht will be the ability of the Community to respond to its inevitable enlargement and to its changing position within both the European and global contexts. Last month in Luxembourg the European Community agreed with the seven EFTA countries to create the European Economic Area, an expanded area where the Single Market would apply and which encompasses a single market of 380 million people involving 19 nations and covering 40 per cent of world trade. The creation of the European Economic Area will be a forerunner to these EFTA countries joining the EC in the medium-term.
This widening of the Community to the EFTA countries coupled with the applications for membership by some central European countries will create enormous strains on the institutions of the Community. Unless the union is deepened and its institutions strengthened now subsequent expansions of the union may reduce its scope for adjusting its structures and thereby dilute its effectiveness, reducing the Community to a loose confederation rather than the federal unit which the Progressive Democrats support.
While some of our neighbours would clearly favour a wider and shallower union, it is our conviction, and I hope that of this House, that our common future can best be secured if this union is deepened now. Equally, if the Community's decision making process is limited by unanimity rules in too many areas it would render dynamic change almost impossible.
For this reason the Progressive Democrats believe that we must press now for the deepening of its structures and for ensuring that those which we adopt and the path of integration which we define at Maastricht are clear, forward looking and capable of continuing to provide the unity of purpose which a federal union of states needs in order to be self sustaining and to prevent the growth of divisive tensions.
Federalism, as the Progressive Democrats interpret it, encapsulates the doctrine of subsidiarity and is parallel to systems of local democracy except that it refers to a higher tier of government. In his Encyclical Letter, Quadragesimo Anno in 1931, Pope Pius XI gave the principle of subsidiarity its classical formulation when he wrote: “It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher association to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies”.
This is a concept which underpins the Progressive Democrats' call for increased powers to local government. It is on this foundation which we suggest we should retain significant powers for our national Parliament and it on this basis which we accept and welcome the increased competence which European Unity should entail. The Progressive Democrats strongly advocate the inclusion of a specific treaty article defining the principle of subsidiarity.
However, the corollary to this principle must also be adopted realistically by us. While the lowest tier should be responsible for those activities which it can perform itself, it is disingenuous for any lower tier to attempt to carry out functions or to retain sovereignty or a veto over areas of common good which it cannot claim competence on its own. A clear example of this is in the area of monetary policy. We in Ireland have always accepted that our currency could not exist on its own and, while we broke our link with Sterling, we replaced it with a link to the common currency management system of the EMS in March 1979.
The Progressive Democrats welcome the moves towards currency union and believe that we should take every measure to ensure that our economy and our Exchequer position are ready to meet any criteria necessary to join the full Economic and Monetary Union when it reaches its final stages in 1997. We expect rich rewards from such union as the scarcely known Irish punt is replaced by a common European currency which will match internationally the US Dollar. This should lead to lower interest rates than would otherwise apply as the penalty for currency risk is eliminated. This move will also eliminate the psychological and sometimes real economic barrier that trading with other European and more importantly non-EC countries can generate due to the near invisibility of our currency on international money markets.
Security and defence is another area which we will have to come to terms with. Ireland has never had a real and sustainable defence policy. We are too small as a nation to have any say in the event of some foreign aggressor attacking us. Because of our position we have enjoyed the protection of our neighbours; yet we constantly refuse to bear any of our common defence burden. In the past, and in the absence of any common defence institution which we felt able or committed to participating in, our policy was restricted to the valuable peace keeping efforts of our Army and Garda. If that was appropriate for the time however, for how much longer can it be so? The process of closer European Union and the increased solidarity of the member states carries responsibilities as well as opportunities for the participants.
Equally, we must be concerned about the possible deterioration in the political stability of the emerging democracies of central Europe and the disintegration of the USSR. These events will produce unpredictable results and generate unexpected pressures. It is the duty of western Europe and the EC, in particular, to offer a solid unit of purpose to counteract the potential destablising impact of such uncertainty in the East.
From a geopolitical perspective the new Europe must have its own common defence system and one which is not subservient to that of the US. We in Ireland should be involved in the determination of this common security and defence structure. Indeed we are singularly well disposed to such a role never having been involved in a military offensive and our historic commitments having been firmly of a peacekeeping and defensive nature.
However, any commitment to security and defence must surely wait until a common foreign policy process is put in place and proven. This will be the acid test for our European partners who have different traditional allegiances because of historic or colonial ties, or are influenced by religious, cultural or economic relationships. A common foreign policy is a necessary precursor to any common security policy. The Community's failings in this area seem self-evident. Who, for example, can be satisfied with the failed response of the Community to the horrific plight of the peoples of Croatia, Serbia and their neighbouring states?
We in the Progressive Democrats are clear in our view that the competence of the Community should be expanded in a number of areas including security and defence. As I have said, we are committed to a federal form for the Community. However, it is in Maastricht that the key decision on the form of this federalism will be decided. The Progressive Democrats are concerned that in too many areas federalism and its parallel majority voting procedures will give way to intergovernmentalism. The stronger the reliance on unanimous voting in the Council, the less well-equipped the future union will be to cope with the complex reality of enlargement. As the Community is enlarged, unanimous voting may even threaten the achievements already made.
True federalism carries with it a budgetary responsibility involving revenue and expenditure control. The proposed treaty however threatens to displace the concept of federalism with intergovernmentalism. One has only to compare the clarity with which the economic and monetary union proposals are set out against the vague aspirations under the proposed solidarity and cohesion amendments where unanimity is required and the goals and measures are vague.
A sustainable federal state cannot exist unless these issues are faced. While offtext commitments may be considered welcome and reassuring in the short term, these issues are so fundamental that they require specific and binding constitutional provision.
The objectives which the Progressive Democrats believe should be pursued are: firstly, an increased budget through which real change can be achieved; secondly, a system of progressive Community taxation which falls most heavily on the richer member states; and, thirdly, a commitment to use these resources in such a way as to ensure that the gap between the rich and poor states is narrowed. The model for such a process is already there with Germany's Finanzausgleich, which reallocates money from rich to poor Lander, and I am convinced if offers a model which the Community would benefit from.
As a member of this national Parliament I wish to show solidarity with my fellow members in the European Parliament. As competence is increased, as the role of the Commission is enhanced and as the Council takes more decisions affecting every member of the Community, the need for a democratically elected body to watch over this work is increased. While some may worry about our representation on this body when compared with our position in Council it must also be recognised that the European Parliament does not work exclusively on national lines. In reality the opposite is more the rule. The parliamentarians are often more disposed towards particular principles of equity, social concern and economic rationality where national interests are subsumed in the cause of the greater good.
The Progressive Democrats have faith in the Parliament and its representatives to take account of the greater needs of Europe. For this reason and because effective parliamentary control is part of the necessary constitutional checks and balances of any similar institution, we believe that this body should be given increased powers of co-determination.
The Draft Treaty on the Political Union and Economic and Monetary Union includes an Energy title. The purpose of the title is to provide for the continuity of the Community's policy of ensuring security of energy supply under satisfactory economic conditions, devising and ensuring suitable reaction potential in the event of an energy crisis in the oil sector and promoting the rational use of energy including the use of new and renewable energy sources.
There has not been an agreement by the member states on the energy proposal. At the meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers on 13 November certain members states suggested that the new Chapter was not necessary so as to avoid the risk of excessive regulatory measures. In the event that the new Treaty does not include the draft energy title, the existing Treaty and the new Draft Treaty on the Union provides for a legislative basis under which energy measures have been and can in the future be adopted by Council.
Energy measures adopted in the Community already include oil stocks directives, transparency of electricity and gas prices, thermie programme for promotion of energy technology and, more recently, the directives on the transit of electricity and gas. There are also proposals under consideration such as the updating of existing regulations in regard to the handling of oil stocks to cope with oil crises, closer co-operation with the International Energy Agency and the far reaching proposals for greater liberalisation of the electricity and gar markets, including third party access and the whole question of monopoly positions. Also there is the controversial proposal for an energy/CO2 tax.
As the political and economic integration of the Community progresses this progress manifests itself at the practical levels of policy and administration within our respective countries. In the area of energy there have been policies of increasing integration and interdependence in the energy field. These policies have overlapped and embraced areas of policy which each of the countries of Europe were carrying on, or would have carried on themselves, but the very fact that they were embraced within a greater and indeed largely common framework has added very considerable strength and effectiveness to them.
As well as being able to contribute to the ongoing energy debate in Europe, dealing with such important areas as conservation, new energy taxes, the nuclear debate and renewable energy sources, this country has benefited enormously from the contribution made by the Community to energy development in Ireland. The development of our indigenous energy resources has been significantly boosted in recent years by funding received under the European Regional Development Fund Valoren programme. To an expenditure programme of approximately IR£35 million to date the Community has contributed over IR£19 million. This programme has enabled considerable progress to be made in assessing and developing the potential of energy resources such as hydropower, windpower and geothermal power and has assisted in the further development of our peat resources.
Similarly support from the REGEN programme is making possible the gas interconnector project which will link natural gas supplies in this country to those of the greater European grid securing the long term future of the important gas supplies for this country.
There are many other examples of important EC aid contributing to the development of our energy resources. It is an example of the benefits which this small country enjoys from membership of the community and of the positive contribution which we can make to that Community.
Our experiences of the Community to date should not blind us as we prepare for the crucial decisions of Maastricht, but neither can they be ignored. In ten days' time we will not be discussing the future of some strange and foreign entity but a Community with which we are deeply familiar.
That Community is now moving to a critical stage in its development and is preparing for the difficult years and the tough decisions that lie ahead. The Progressive Democrats believe that we in this country must give our full support and assistance to the further development of the Community so that future generations of Irishmen and Europeans will see Maastricht not as an obstacle that had to be negotiated but as a landmark to be celebrated.
The European Community has been described as an economic giant, a political pygmy and a military insect. Even though the EC is the largest trading bloc in the world, at present it does little to contribute to peace and stability on a broader European or global basis.
What began as the Common Market and developed into the European Community is now to be developed into the European Union. We have not here in Ireland addressed the consequences of this momentuous change. In another context Chancellor Kohl spoke of seeking a European Germany and not a German Europe. As one would expect, there is nobody raising the issue of an Irish Europe. The real problem is that virtually nobody is raising the issue of a European Ireland either. I have no doubt that Ireland's future is firmly welded to the future of Europe.
I should like to say a few words on the implications for Northern Ireland. Not least among the medium term consequences of European Union is that it will ultimately render largely meaningless the divisions in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland. According to Paul Gillespie and Rodney Rice in their recent Institute of European Affairs booklet, it is likely that cross Border co-operation will become a much more prominent feature of EC policy in Ireland over the next few years. They also point out that the new European economic area cohesion fund is to be applied to "the Island of Ireland". At a very minimum we can hope and expect that European integration will erode the barriers to economic and political co-operation in Ireland.
Living together in future in a Europe without internal frontiers will require us to reach agreement with our partners over a whole range of issues in the foreign policy area but let us also remember that decisions will also be needed in the key fields of domestic and judicial policy. We must even at this late stage be clear on the issues and the options. For instance, do we support the proposal to establish Europol, a European police force proposed by our friends in Germany with cross border powers in the fight against organised crime, the drug mafia and terrorism? I do. Where stand the Government on this issue? I still do not know. Similar questions arise on the proposal to establish a uniform European policy on questions of immigration and asylum.
All these developments will have implications for our relations with Northern Ireland and developments within Northern Ireland.
Only when Europe speaks with one voice on foreign policy and acts collectively will we adequately face up to our political responsibilities. We must, therefore, seek to ensure that foreign policy will be strongly anchored in Community institutions and we must accept that a common foreign policy without qualified majority voting is a formula for inertia.
I appreciate that much of the debate so far has focused on the major issues of joint foreign and security policy. As yet, however, we do not have here a clear statement of objectives of that joint foreign and security policy.
The joint foreign and security policy of the European Community must clearly go beyond mere political co-operation and increasingly find expression in joint action. The measures for implementing joint action must be capable of being determined by qualified majority to strengthen the union's capacity to act in view of the growing challenges in Europe and in the world. The evolution of the European Community into a European Union with the ultimate goal of a united states of Europe calls for the development of a genuinely European security and defence identity.
On neutrality how constrained are we in adopting this approach in the light of our traditional policy of neutrality? Earlier this week I issued a comprehensive discussion paper on this very issue. My conclusion is that the policy of neutrality evolved out of conditions that no longer pertain. Ireland should contribute fully towards the evolutionary process leading to political union so that Ireland can have a part in the shaping of that union. It would be disastrous for Ireland's interest to stand on the sidelines while other EC member states shape the Europe of the future.
In order for Ireland to play a full role on the European and world stage our foreign policy must evolve without being spancelled by outdated concepts of neutrality.
The absence of a White Paper has meant that we have had no clear idea of the policy of the Government on the different aspects of European union or indeed the objectives of the Government in the negotiations to date or in the run up to Maastricht and beyond.
The absence of a foreign affairs committee has meant that there has been no informed debate at parliamentary level on the different possibilities, challenges and options that have arisen from time to time since the Intergovernmental Conferences got underway in December of last year. A major disappointment of this debate is that the Taoiseach has yet again failed to put in motion the establishment of such a committee.
Is it any wonder that the Irish public is largely uninformed and indeed indifferent to the major questions being addressed at EC level?
It will not come as a surprise that the lunatic fringe will have a field day next year in the run up to the referendum because they will be able to beat emotional drums to an audience unburdened with the facts of the European debate. This may lead to huge problems for whatever Government will be in power, in successfully piloting through the necessary referendum in 1992.
It is necessary to have a clear presentation of views on what Ireland should be seeking in the run up to Maastricht and beyond. It is also necessary to have an honest debate on that sacred cow of Irish foreign policy, neutrality.
Without the former, we will merely be reacting to events with a perpetual begging bowl whinge. Without the latter, the great decisions on political union will be taken without our full participation or input.
For many months now I have sought the publication of a White Paper outlining Government policy and objectives in relation to the Intergovernmental Conferences. The last time I raised the matter in the Dáil by way of parliamentary question I was told that the reason for not publishing a White Paper was because, in a changing negotiating situation within the Intergovernmental Conference, it was not possible to predict the final outcome and that for this reason it would only be possible to publish a White Paper when the terms of the Treaty had been elaborated in full.
Rather predictably, the Government have not explained how they can set out policy objectives in relation to the Intergovernmental Conferences after the final negotiations have been completed. The only conclusion one can draw, is that the Government in fact have no clear view on where they stand or, more importantly, on where they want to go in relation to Europe. As a consequence, I do not expect to see a result in Maastricht which will bear much of an imprint from an Irish input.
In any event, I see the present Intergovernmental Conferences as merely being part of an evolutionary process and irrespective of the result at Maastricht it will be necessary for us to have a vision and a view on further EC developments thereafter.
The Government have focused on the Structural Funds as being the instrument through which cohesion will be achieved. I reject that approach. I do so on two grounds. The first is because, in so far as one can deduce Government policy, the objective was to obtain legally binding commitments to a doubling of our share of the Structural Funds to £6 billion over the next five year period. It now seems very clear that moneys of this kind will not be on the table and also that the Taoiseach is apparently prepared to be fobbed off with vague political statements rather than legal commitments. My second objection however, is much more serious. Very simply, it is clear that merely relying on improved structural funding will not achieve the goal of economic and social cohesion. We must seek a much bigger Community budget with automatic regional transfers on a scale that applies in advanced federations. There will be a further round of bargaining about the final stages of European Monetary Union and this will provide a further opportunity to press this case, post-Maastricht.
While I strongly favour the principle of European monetary union, I have real concerns that the effects of European Monetary Union have not been fully analysed by the Government and a case has not been made in Europe to take into account the likely effects. A recent study completed by Mr. Barry Eichengreen, an Economist at the University of California at Berkeley, has compared the correlation of supply shocks across European countries with the correlation across US regions. His conclusion is that it is the peripheral European countries that are most likely to suffer regional output shocks that differ from those in other European countries. These are the countries which will have more frequent swings in output and employment in European Monetary Union. He concludes that the US regions are more economically integrated than the EC, that therefore they suffer smaller regional shocks and that these shocks disappear more rapidly. The US also uses its federal tax and transfer system to soften the blow for troubled regions.
Another recent American analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research measured the importance of this federal cushion. It concluded that, on average, more than one third of the fall in regional pre-tax income per head is offset, largely by lower federal taxes.
At the moment the peripheral European countries including ourselves cannot count on a similar European federal insurance scheme. Clearly there are warning signals there which require those of us who support European Monetary Union to insist on a legally enforceable guarantee of adequate continuing financial support for poorer regions and states.
But a realistic assessment of the debate on cohesion as analysed by Professor Laffan of the Institute of European Affairs is that the Community does not have the political cohesion required for the automatic regional transfers on a scale that characterises advanced federations.
To me the message is clear. It is in Europe's interest and also in Ireland's interest that we reject the minimalist approach of our Government to political union. Very simply the greater the political union the more entitlement we will have to regional transfers on a scale that will genuinely help us to bridge the gap with the wealthy centre of Europe.
We must use every opportunity to make the European case for an adequate Community budget. At the moment it is only about 1 per cent of GDP or about 3 per cent of total public expenditure in the Community. Such a figure would be derisory in the context of European Union.
The debate about the efficiency and effectiveness of Community institutions is part of a continuous debate about the role and functions of each institution and the institutional balance.
Regarding the Council, the central issue is the extension of majority voting. I support the view that Eurosclerosis of the Community is not in Ireland's interest. I therefore believe that as part of a balanced approach to changes in the Community institutions generally Ireland should favour majority voting as the norm with only occasional exclusions for constitutional issues. This would involve majority voting in areas such as judicial co-operation and foreign policy. Too much caution in this regard is a recipe for indecision. In particular I do not think that any one member state should be able to veto the provision of new means of finance which will be the case if unanimous voting is required on the matter of the establishment of new funds. We cannot have our cake and eat it. We are either for it or against it and if we are for it, we should be for it across the board.
Regarding the European Parliament, the democratic under-pinning of the Community must be reinforced. I favour increasing the role of the European Parliament. I am not one who accepts the view that merely because we have only 15 seats we are powerless as opposed to our position on the Council. In realistic terms we are one of the "featherweights" on the Council and it would be very unwise indeed for us to assume a position of strength there which in fact is not a reality.
Furthermore, in terms of qualified majority voting our vote counts for much less than the bigger member states. In addition, the Parliament has in broad terms favoured those areas of policy which are in our interest and largely acts on the basis of European wide parties such as the Christian Democrats to which Fine Gael belongs rather than on the basis of nationality.
We should be quite clear in our minds as to what our objective is. I have no doubt that despite the opposition of the existing Parliament the creation of a second House with equal representation from each of the member states along the lines of the US Senate is what is in our best interest. We should accordingly establish as a policy an agreement to the power of co-decision between the Parliament and the Council — but on the basis of a second chamber being established in due course. A major concern in relation to the proposals on co-decision in the Luxembourg Draft Treaty is that they may actually amount to veto on progress because of the complexity of the arrangements proposed.
In the main the Commission has been protective of the rights of smaller member states. It makes common sense for the numbers to be reduced to one per member state although it is worth commenting that our support for this particular proposal is easily given in the light of the fact that it is the bigger member states which have to give up one of their two Commissioners.
I am one who believes that the Commission is quite a unique creation. It does not correspond to any traditional institutional body in any other system of Government. I believe that it has a role which should be enhanced — and given democratic legitimacy.
Here is where I recently floated a radical proposal for which I have not had much support. The way to do this I believe is to have a direct election for the President of the Commission. I appreciate that a radical proposal of this nature would not have a chance of acceptance at Maastricht but we have to look beyond Maastricht and the evolutionary process in which we are involved. Accordingly, our objectives, targets and policies should not solely be confined to what can be achieved at the Summit in Maastricht.
On the Common Agricultural Policy, I do not think that a country such as we are with an enormous dependence on agriculture can let the Summit in Maastricht go by without raising our concerns about the current proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. There must be a clear expression of concern — not least for the approximately 15,000 PAYE workers who will lose their employment as a result of the proposals and who will not receive one penny compensation. Furthermore, we must seek to ensure continued support for those forms of agriculture which by using locally produced raw materials guarantee the security of European food supplies in all contingencies. An approach along these lines would, I believe, help to secure the future for a vast majority of our own farmers.
In the few minutes left I want to say a word on jobs. Ireland is the only member state of the Community that experienced a net loss of jobs between 1980 and 1990.
The step by step realisation of economic and monetary union and thus ultimately the introduction of a single currency in the European Community will be one of the most momentous turning points in the history of the EC since its foundation. Each country of the Community will then give up its national currency — with all its importance, tradition and symbolic value — and adopt a common currency instead.
All this will mean very little to the 20 per cent of the Irish workforce who are on the dole. It is grand to talk about the dignity of European citizenship but difficult to sustain that dignity on an empty belly. Ireland must above all put the question of jobs at the centre of the European agenda. Furthermore, we must seek to ensure that the European Treaty contains a commitment to the goal of full employment and a commitment to provide the means of achieving it. Hopefully, in addition, the disciplines of the European Union will at long last force us to make the necessary changes here in Ireland to remove the anti-job bias from our system.
At long last some of the members of the Dáil in a limited two day debate have been able to express our views on the future of Europe. I hope that the Government will learn a number of lessons from this exercise. Let them firstly take on board that with all the talk of the democratic deficit in Europe we have a real democratic deficit here at home. Our ramshackle system of democracy has never been found so wanting as over the past 12 months since the Intergovernmental Conferences on European Union got underway. Let us make the strongest case we can for the development of European Union and for a place within that union of an Ireland of which we can be proud. If we argue our case at European level with firm conviction and with a European wide vision we will be listened to. Our efforts at European wide level will be further reinforced if we introduce the necessary changes at national and regional level here at home which are totally within our own control to reinforce our own democratic structures.
I agree with Deputy O'Keeffe that it is not possible in a short 20 minutes contribution to this very important debate to deal with all the major issues that arise and that will rise for decision, agreement and, hopefully, conclusion at Maastricht between the two conferences, one on economic and monetary union and the other on political union.
I will confine myself to economic and monetary union first because it is the one that I had most experience with in the past 12 months as Minister for Finance and, secondly, because the economic and monetary union conference has made much more progress along the lines of its own objectives than has the one on political union. There was better preparatory work done for the Intergovernmental Conference on European Monetary Union which started well ahead of time. In fact I chaired the first ECOFIN Ministers of Finance Meeting at Ashford Castle which set the scene for the preparatory work. This was followed on by the Italians and, consequently, the Intergovernmental Conference on European Monetary Union has been in operation for the last 12 months.
There are about eight key issues spread across the whole range of policy areas and they range from social and economic cohesion and how it is dealt with in the new Treaty to the choice between a federal Europe or an intergovernmental structure, the objections of the UK along those lines, the area of citizens of Europe, the areas of community institutions, the democratic deficit which was mentioned by Deputy O'Keeffe. Is the whole question of the two speed Europe raising its head again? It is not possible to go into all those areas in such a short time.
I will confine myself to looking at European Monetary Union, where it is at, what it has to offer for the future development of this country as a nation and indeed for the welfare of our people. I think that is what most people would be interested in.
There are genuine fears about economic and monetary union because of the lack of clout that Ireland would have in the formation of policy in regard to the acceptance of a single currency, on the question of fixed exchange rates, ensuring price stability and all the other criteria that are laid down for countries to move on to stage three.
In response to that I would say that we were members of economic and monetary union when we were part of the British system right up to the year 1921. We had no say, no input. The transfers took place on a federal basis. Up to 1979 we had a monetary union in which we had no say either.
I am delighted that Britain has joined the ERM since then and that we are now all part of one great family in integrating Europe. While we did not have a say then we will make an input now and have a seat at the table. We will also have a representative at the European Central Bank. Consequently, despite the genuine fears and concerns which have been expressed by some speakers in this debate, it has more to offer to us now.
What can it offer? While we have adopted a supportive role in moving with European Monetary Union we have also tried to exert influence. I believe it can lead to low inflation and low interest rates — two prerequisites for the further development of the economy. The adoption of a single currency with fixed exchange rates and a single monetary policy, under the direct control of a European Central Bank, can lead to increased growth in the European Community economy, big savings in trade and financial transactions, price stability, a more certain business climate and to Ireland becoming a more attractive location in which to invest. In adopting a single monetary policy we would be giving up exchange rate control but in turn we would have to look at what we would be getting in return — in other words, when we balance the pluses and the minuses, unquestionably we must continue to support the establishment of economic and monetary union. Genuine and legitimate fears and concerns will be expressed along the way not alone in Ireland but in the three other less well off periphery member states as against the strong central block.
We must be wary of a two speed Europe, which seems to be raising its ugly head again. At Maastricht we must continue to battle very hard to ensure that not less than eight countries commence Stage III of economic and monetary union. I would have my fears if the figure selected is either six or seven and I think eight is a safe bet. For quite a considerable period of time I had to fight this battle very strongly and I must acknowledge the great support I received from the Italian Government in this battle. I have a suspicion that it may raise its head again and, if it does, it will have to be met with the same force of argument which eventually led to its defeat within the Council of Finance Ministers. We should fight that battle again if it has to be fought at Maastricht when, I hope, it will be fought as successfully as before.
I would look with some suspicion at the opt out clause contained in the draft treaty. As we are all aware, it has been included to facilitate the British Government in coming to a decision; but I think it is too wide ranging and should be more confined and narrow. If we take it to its logical conclusion, as presented in the draft treaty, Germany, for instance, could for one reason or another in the future decide to opt out. What effect would this have in moving towards economic and monetary union? Would it not destroy it once and for all? Therefore there are matters which should be looked at very closely and with some suspicion before we finally come down one way or the other.
Ireland will have to make sure that it is among the first participants who participate in Stage III of economic and monetary union. It is essential in this regard that we keep to our medium term budgetary and borrowing targets and ensure that they are not softened in any way. Only today we learn that last year the country enjoyed a growth rate of 7.5 per cent, unheard of during the past 25 years. That is the success that has flowed from the discipline maintained during the past few years in the economic management of the country. We must maintain this discipline in the future if we are serious about participating in European Monetary Union, reaping the rewards which will flow from it and ensuring that our economy is well prepared.
We are lauded throughout the European Community as being one of the countries which has made considerable progress in achieving the objective of convergence in regard to low inflation, balance of payments and narrowing the margin in interest rates. The biggest problem we face of course is the level of our debt-GNP ratio. From a figure of over 130 per cent a few years ago it has been reduced to approximately 107 per cent at present. It is only by maintaining discipline that we can ensure continuous progress right up to 1 January 1997 when the Stage III of economic and monetary union will commence, provided enough countries are ready to participate. As I said, I believe the number should be eight rather than six.
The single most important objective which we must concentrate on at Maastricht and in the days leading up to the summit — the negotiations have not been concluded at this stage, they never are in Europe until the famous clock has to be stopped at 11.55 p.m. — is social and economic cohesion. The debate on social and economic cohesion was initiated by Ireland in the first week of January this year when we made the first submission on the draft treaty in which we indicated that it was vital that we achieve cohesion from our point of view. The other member states later put forward their own proposals and approaches. We all have expressed the same legitimate concerns which we are entitled to have allayed at Maastricht, if not before. It is true to say that up to 60 per cent of the demands made in our submission which was presented at the beginning of January this year have been met, but more has to be got.
If we have to take as tough a line as the Spaniards appear to be taking, so be it. They appear to be looking for direct budgetary transfers from the European Community budget to their Exchequer; but perhaps what they are really looking for is renegotiation of the terms by which their contributions are arrived at, because even though they are one of the periphery regions they will become a net contributor to the Community next year. It may well be that an agreement will be reached to accommodate them. The Portuguese appear to be softening on this issue in recent times. They will next hold the Presidency and perhaps they are satisfied from backroom talks that their legitimate concerns can be allayed during their Presidency.
It has to be asked why did President Delors back away from the commitment he gave at the Luxembourg Summit when he said that he would put on the table at Maastricht a financial package for the Community in which he would outline the increases we could expect in Structural Funds to narrow the gap between the richer and poorer nations. It is true to say that the gap is only being narrowed at a snail's pace. When we joined the Community in 1973 our standard of living was approximately two-thirds of the European average. Now almost 20 years later the gap has been narrowed by a little over 2 per cent. It is true to say also that the Structural Funds, of which we have received over £3 billion, will make an impact. An evaluation is to be carried out to assess their impact on the economy by the end of this year or early next year. I must pose the question why, having given that solemn commitment to the heads of state in Luxembourg, the Community will not deliver at Maastricht? One must have a suspicion that the real problem lies in the question of whether it can deliver on economic and social cohesion.
Each of the four peripheral member states have the same legitimate fears, but these can be allayed in different ways. We are entitled to look for a clear cut commitment at Maastricht to double our Structural Funds, as mentioned in the earlier part of the year, which would bring total Structural Funds post-1993 to a figure in the region of £6 billion. We must also look for greater flexibility in regard to the additionality requirements. It is nonsensical for the Commission to suggest that we are getting £3 billion in Structural Funds and that we must meet the additionality requirements, given that this would leave us worse off in regard to convergence.
It is time the Community made up its mind. It cannot enforce contradictory economic and fiscal policies giving different results when we all want to move closer to convergence, take up the benefit of Structural Funds and narrow the gap and disparities between us, as the only island nation, and other member states. That is why the application of the Structural Funds is important as far as we are concerned and I want to see movement in that regard as a result of Maastricht.
Community policies must be cohesive and an urgent action programme is required. As we go through the process of economic and monetary union, if the gap is not narrowing it should be monitored at specific intervals. If the disparity continues I will be calling for an action programme which can be triggered to accelerate closing off the gap between the rich and poor nations, otherwise progress will continue at a snail's pace, which has been the case up to now. We need a practical action programme which can be implemented if we are falling behind.
This brings me to the future financing of the Community. Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy worry about what will happen in the future when the cost of German reunification has to be met. There are also increasing demands from Central and Eastern Europe. I support the efforts of the Community in trying to help those centrally planned economies in their move to market economies because the EC has a legitimate interest in seeing that the transition period is as smooth as possible. The "under-consumed" parts of Europe should be brought into the whole market economy process and, consequently, make their own significant contribution to growth within the economy in the years ahead.
The financing of the Community must be faced and I do not know whether that will be discussed at Maastricht. If not, it will have to be discussed very soon after because there will, inevitably, be an enlargement of the Community. If future financing is not tackled in a meaningful way there is a danger that countries like Ireland will lose because we will be getting a smaller slice of the cake. Chancellor Kohl said that the cost of German reunification would not be at the expense of the peripheral nations of Europe and that the commitment of Germany to the EC would not be lessened. However, we all have serious doubts in that regard. I was proud to initiate a debate on this matter and I hope it will be successfully concluded at Maastricht. I hope that there will be a successful outcome in regard to social and economic cohesion.
When the Maastricht Summit is over a cost-benefit analysis must be carried out to inform the Irish public of the pluses and minuses in the ever-changing area of the EC. We are engaged in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which will have repercussions for the agri-food industry and agriculture and the major part they play in our economy, not alone in the jobs area but in overall economic development. The negotiations in regard to GATT will also have an effect on this country. We have benefited more than any other member state in the Community as a result of joining the EC. Fine Gael Members have accused Ministers of having a begging bowl attitude to Europe. I have been accused of this and I am sure the same will apply to my successor. I reject that because the Treaty of Rome is a contract between the member states of Europe and lays down responsibilities and entitlements. I have never apologised for looking for our right and entitlement as part of the contract within the member states. As long as we fulfil our responsibilities we are entitled to the benefits. It is not a special concession, it is our right.
It is possible that as a result of the changes in the Common Agricultural Policy and the GATT negotiations we might find ourselves in a different position; we want to protect our beneficial position in the Community. There could quite easily be a drift of human resources and financial investment if safeguards are not put in place in relation to social and economic cohesion. As long as it is done effectively I would not quarrel with the mechanisms to be applied.
I wish my colleagues well in the days ahead in relation to the discussions behind the scenes with the working groups between now and Maastricht. I wish the Taoiseach every success at Maastricht. It is a very important Summit which will determine the long term well-being of this country. I wish the Taoiseach well in getting the best deal possible on behalf of our nation. The same applies to my successor the new Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, in his difficult task. However, he is well able for the job.
Our amendment reads:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
—the vital importance for the people of this country and of Europe of the negotiations at the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference in Maastricht, which will seek to set the framework for the development of the EC,
—that Ireland as a peripheral region of the Community, continues to experience higher levels of unemployment and lower living standards than the Community average,
—that Ireland is the only member State of the Community not a member of a military bloc and that the new world order requires dismantling of such military blocs and the development of global security based on disarmament, confidence building and the elimination of poverty,
—the lack of opportunity afforded the Dáil, Seanad and the people to debate the implications for Ireland of Political, Economic and Monetary Union;
Resolves that the Irish Government should seek inclusion in the new Treaty of the following:
—a Common Industrial Policy which would actively seek to develop the industrial capacity of peripheral regions like Ireland so as to achieve economic and social parity which would include the creation of sustainable employment and the elimination of poverty;
—the expansion of the terms of the `Social Charter' to protect the rights of young people, disabled, senior citizens and other vulnerable sectors of society in the context of the Single Market and making its provisions binding on member States, rather than aspirational and that decisions in this area be made by majority rather than unanimous vote in Council of Ministers;
—an absolute commitment to the development of a non-militarist foreign security policy for the Community which would operate under the umbrella of the CSCE and United Nations and not the Western European Union or NATO and the elimination of nuclear weapons in the EC;
—that a common foreign and security policy on this basis can only be reached if the institutions are democratically accountable;
—that conclusions reached at Maastricht should be referred, before final decision, to the Dáil for debate and approval or amendment and that the debate should only take place subsequent to their being debated by the European Parliament as outlined in the Final Declaration of the Conference of the Parliaments of the European Community (Assizes) in 1990; and
—that the final proposals for amendment of the Treaty be put to a referendum of the Irish people."
We submitted a draft based on those lines to the Government at their request last week because they indicated they wanted to produce an all-party motion for this House. It is regrettable that not one single line or idea out of that motion was incorporated in the Government's proposal before this House and which is a totally bland non-entity. The Government's approach to the detailed discussions on European, political, economic and monetary union, reminds me of a recent quote from Senator Bob Kerrey, one of the Democratic contenders for the US presidency next year. When asked how much the public should be kept informed about a politician's activities his response was, "quite a bit but no more".
Unfortunately, the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition have not even been prepared to concede quite a bit. The negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy. The Government have provided little or no information of their position on the key issues and in many cases appear not to have a position. While the debate the Government conceded yesterday and today on the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference is welcome, the casual attitude to the entire debate can be gauged from the meaningless motion which has been submitted by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Indeed, the Taoiseach in his speech made much of the fact that he had been generous enough to place in the Library a copy of the draft Treaty which would be discussed at Maastricht, but he failed to tell the House that he only put it in the Library on Wednesday. Yet this House is expected to debate it with some knowledge of the issues to be taken up at Maastricht.
The Workers' Party, together with other Opposition parties submitted, on the request of the Government, a detailed draft for consideration. Our draft spelled out the basic requirements in the areas of cohesion, democratic accountability and security necessary to safeguard Ireland's interests as a peripheral region of the Community and as the only member state which is not a member of a military bloc. None of its content has been incorporated in the Government's motion, which is in fact devoid of any substance or enunciation of an Irish Government position. It illustrates the Government's continued policy of dismissing the need for their democratic accountability to the Dáil on how the Irish Government carry out their business at EC level, and the decisions they take on our behalf.
The question of democratic accountability of the European Community's institutions is of vital importance. It requires a clearly defined division of responsibility between the union, the State and the region. The Government have apparently decided on a policy of ambivalence. They have generally attempted to argue that granting greater powers to the parliament would not be in Ireland's interests. Foreign Minister, Deputy Gerard Collins, is on record as warning of the need to be careful not to give the European Parliament new powers which would involve expenditure by our Government. The Irish Government have spelled out at Foreign Ministers meetings that they will only accept an equal decision-making role for the Parliament, provided it is limited to non-contentious areas.
Yet the Taoiseach welcomes the new powers being given to the Parliament in the Maastricht draft, an indication of just how minimal these new EC procedures are. Another indication of this is the Taoiseach's insistence, while welcoming these new EC procedures, that the balance of relations between the EC institutions must be maintained as they were established under the Treaty of Rome. This is code for arguing that decision-making must remain at Council level where it is least amenable to democratic monitoring and is in private.
I do not accept the general thrust of the Government's argument as to why real power should be retained at Council of Ministers level. The simple argument put is that Ireland has a 1:12 ratio in the Council while at European Parliament level Ireland has just 15 of 518 MEPs. The real aim of this, of course, is to retain power and influence of national governments. I would have sympathy for this position if the Irish Government used that power to push in Council on behalf of the poor and unemployed, indeed if they ever used their powers other than to defend employer and farmer interests. I could have sympathy for the position if the stance taken at EC level was a reflection of the democratic consensus of the Oireachtas before and after such decisions, but no such consensus was ever sought in this House by this or previous Governments.
Recently the President of the European Parliament, Baron Crespo, warned on the issue of co-decision that the more time passes the worse the text becomes. The most recent text reduces the influence of both the Commission and the Parliament in the decision-making process, he said, by introducing a pure intergovernmental system, but based on qualified majority, thus scorning the legitimate concerns of so-called small countries. Baron Crespo warned that those who oppose greater powers for the European Parliament, such as the Irish Government are missing the target when they challenge the European Parliament's position, adding that integration of the Community will protect their interests.
The detailed processing of proposals, the interplay of democratic representations, a crossing of national boundaries to support action on poverty, jobs, housing, racism, the environment and regional development at European Parliament level, and the decisions deriving from that process, is preferable to secret Council discussions no matter how efficient and uncomplicated they may be. That seems to be the criteria the Taoiseach wants to establish in relation to the operation of the Community. Since when did efficiency and lack of complication become the criteria for deciding on the development of democracy?
What has been happening since we joined the Community is that while power has been transferred from national parliaments virtually none of this power has gone to the European Parliament. Instead this power has been accumulated, continues to accumulate and will continue to do so under the current Maastricht proposals in the Council of Ministers, effectively a secret conclave which is not responsible to national parliaments, certainly not to this Parliament, and can ignore, and frequently does, the European Parliament.
At the most fundamental level, we cannot expect the construction of a European Community to succeed, if in the process democracy is the loser. This must involve at the very least the European Parliament having equal say with the Council. In addition where there are delays in the work of the Commission in bringing forward legislation or initiatives requested by the Parliament, the Parliament should have the power of initiative. It is completely illogical to talk of a political, economic and monetary union for the Community, while at the same time attempting to deny or defer the development of adequate and full democratic institutions at Community level.
In short the structure of the Treaty is wrong. It signals from the outset a preference for secretive wheeler dealing between Government leaders rather than open debate, public scrutiny and democratic decision-making, and failing to modernise Oireachtas procedures to enable democratic accountability of the Government for their decisions at EC level.
Since when did the need for speedy decisions become an argument against creating greater democracy in the European Community? The Taoiseach's attitude as expressed in his speech is little short of disgraceful. By omission he clearly signals that he is against co-decision making for the European Parliament by insisting on maintaining the current balance between the various institutions. Co-decision making is a basic requirement if we are to ensure that the European Parliament is not effectively bypassed based on what the President of the Parliament has called "the reasoning of total distrust as regards the European Parliament". What does the Taoiseach mean when he warns that we do not want to see the decision making process becoming slower and more difficult? Obviously he expects there will be differences of policy between the democratically elected members of the European Parliament and the conclave styled Council of Ministers. The Taoiseach also referred to "binding deadlines which will limit the scope for delay". Again, he is reflecting his dislike and distrust of the democratic decision making process. In this case the argument for strengthening the powers of the European Parliament is increased. If there is to be a conflict of policies, the democratically elected Parliament must be allowed an adequate voice.
Any increase in the powers of the Parliament must be accompanied by reforms of its workings and its relationships with the other EC institutions. There have been a whole range of proposals on how relationships between the European Parliament and national parliaments in the member states might be developed. These were spelled out in detail at the conference of parliaments in the European Community assizes held in Rome just one year ago. It is disgraceful that the only comment the Taoiseach can make on this question is that "some orientation may emerge on this" at the summit. Clearly, the Taoiseach finds the prospects of real linkage between the Dáil and the European Parliament too disorienting to his own regal and secretive way of dealing with European matters.
First, it is vital that national parliaments should have detailed knowledge of and control over their Ministers' decisions made at European Council level. Why, for instance, can we not have draft Community legislation submitted in advance to the Dáil for consideration while Ministers are still negotiating on the legislation and it is being considered by the European Parliament?
The Workers' Party have published detailed proposals on how this linkage might be brought about and on how the Oireachtas and the Irish public might be kept informed on and have an input into European Community decision making. It is in line with general proposals being put forward throughout the Community. Heads of Government meetings should also be open. For instance, Government Ministers should consult before and report afterwards to a European Affairs Committee on meetings of the Council of Ministers on request of the committee.
The same committee should examine implementation in Ireland of EC Directives and regulations. The Oireachtas itself should receive regular detailed reports on European developments for debate. Indeed, it is ironic that last week we almost discussed two reports from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the EC, but the debate was cancelled at the last minute because it was considered that it would not make sense to have a debate on these reports when we would be discussing the proposals at Maastricht this week. I find it extraordinary that a decision of that nature was simply taken with the wave of a hand and this House was deprived of the opportunity to discuss what Deputies thought about developments in the European Community.
There is a vital need to devolve power in the Community to local level as far as possible. One reason for the desire to maintain power at Council level is that it prevents any meaningful input — the Taoiseach would probably call it "interference"— from regional, Community or other interests. However, this must be further developed. We must devise new and more effective structures at European level to facilitate the involvement of the various non-governmental organisations. It is particularly important that representatives other than professional politicians should have the opportunity to contribute to and scrutinise the activities and policies of the Community in their own particular area of interest.
It will also be necessary to transfer powers on a direct and statutory basis to regional and local authorities for allocation at their discretion, subject to limited central guidelines. Do the Irish Government have any position on these issues and what proposals will they be seeking to have implemented at the Maastricht Summit? I note that the Taoiseach's speech refers to reform of the Council of Ministers, but he makes no reference to the need to establish regional structures in this country. Yesterday and the day before I attended a meeting on regional affairs in Strasbourg. Six or eight local authority members, representing their area, were among the 300 regions represented at the Conference and this morning a proposal was adopted that those countries that do not have regional authorities should set about establishing them right away. The proposal calls for the regions as defined by the constitutional order of each member state to be considered as regions within the meaning of the treaties and, in the case of countries whose legal order makes no provision for regional structures, for representation at Community level of authorities comparable to regions to be established in the most appropriate manner. The Irish representatives attending the conference over the past three days were involved in making that decision but neither the Taoiseach, Deputy Molloy nor any member of Government, made any reference to the need for regional structures in Ireland.
On the question of a common foreign policy and a common security and defence policy, the Government have clearly abdicated any attempt to influence developments. The Taoiseach lists the proposals which are on the table at European level without specifying the Government's own proposals. In fact, the Government have no proposals. The Taoiseach is stuck. He talked in terms of general defence of "essential interests"; but what are these interests? How do factors such as the other member states' membership of NATO influence development of foreign policy? Since the last Intergovernmental Conference the Government have taken the unprecedented position of attending as observers at meetings of the Western European Union without any reference to the Dáil. It is interesting to note that the Library have no information on the Western European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; yet in his speech the Taoiseach indicated that over the next five or six years we will become associated with the Western European Union and NATO either directly or indirectly. Do Members understand the implications of this? Do Members know what the Western European Union charter commits them to or the current position of NATO? The Taoiseach made a general statement that NATO had adopted high sounding ideals of peace, development and assistance; but NATO still retains its fundamental right to use nuclear deterrents to resolve conflicts. It still retains the right of the individual members of NATO to maintain their own independent nuclear deterrents. At this point I will quote from a report in The Guardian of yesterday on the proceedings in the French Parliament, where the French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, told the National Assembly during a debate on Europe:
The clear-cut commitment for Maastricht, approved without a vote, carried a rider that even though Paris was ready to accept "mutation towards a super national entity", she would not give up the right to make peace or war, her UN veto or nuclear weapons.
France is going to Maastricht next week to make it clear that she will retain her nuclear capacity as an independent element of what she regards as the necessity to defend herself. Will Ireland go to Maastricht next week and insist that under no circumstances can European security go ahead, that Ireland cannot allow such a proposal to go ahead so long as any member state of the European Community insists on retaining independent nuclear deterrents as a policy option? We have not been told that in the House. Why not? It is not good enough for the Taoiseach to come into the House and list what he regards as the fine sentiments of NATO, and say that we go along with them, without also telling the House what precisely we are signing on for when we associate with NATO or with the Western European Union, with which we are already associated.
In 1987 when the Western European Union was revived it adopted a charter that categorically incorporated nuclear deterrents as a basic concept of the way in which it regarded the defence of Europe. Those are things that the House has not been told by the Government. Why has the House not been told? The Government are going to Maastricht at the end of next week to sign on for political union, but the only issue that the Government have apparently taken up is one of cohesion, and I shall argue at a later stage that even on that issue they have, quite simply, botched it.
It is now clear that, as stated when the Government decided to go to the Western European Union to watch events, as they said, they were inspired by a desire to take this giant step in the direction of joining a military bloc. It is not a question of being concerned about Yugoslavia; at the end of the day it is a question of preparing the ground for dragging Ireland into a military bloc in behind a militarist concept of security for Europe without any debate in this country or even in the House.
We have a choice to make at this juncture. On the one hand, the Community may set in motion the development of a defence policy that follows the strategy of pursuing the joining of NATO with the incorporation of the existing nuclear arsenal of France and Britain into the overall Community policy of intervention in developing countries and in preparation for what the EC Commission President, Jacques Delors, has called the resources wars of the next century over oil, water or whatever other commodity is regarded by the European Community as being in short supply. Would that be regarded as one of the "essential interests" that the Taoiseach has decided we must row in to defend? Will we be involved in those wars?
The Taoiseach's lame attempt to talk about the Irish Government emphasising diplomacy, negotiations and peaceful settlement of disputes in the Maastricht discussions is a transparent camouflage. Member states of NATO regularly lay claim to the same emphasis, while all the time wielding the threat of military intervention if the "diplomacy, negotiations and peaceful settlement" do not produce the result that they demand. For an example of that we do not have to think too far back, only to this time last year when we were in the middle of the hype concerning the Gulf and the way in which the Gulf War would be launched, and we are still picking up the pieces after that little adventure.
Let me make it crystal clear that The Workers' Party are not opposed to the development of a European common foreign and security policy per se for the EC. We strongly believe also that Ireland should participate openly and imaginatively in the debate at the inter-Governmental Conferences and use its one in 12 vote to seek to shift the focus. This must mean using Ireland's particular experience to counter those who want to use the obsolete and undemocratic cold war institutions to create a new superpower, allegedly to defend European interests. There is nothing so disappointing as the sight of the European Community racing to turn itself into a military superpower just when the cold war and the system of hostile military bloc has collapsed and become redundant.
It is interesting to note, despite the fine words spoken here yesterday by the Taoiseach in relation to NATO, that the total military spending of the NATO allies is $459 billion, which is $120 billion more than the combined total of all other countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Can anyone imagine what could be done with that kind of money if it were available for development, for ending hunger and disease in the world? But no, it is spent on so-called defence or on building weapons that are intended to destroy humanity rather than to save it.
The recent proposals to establish a European army and consideration given to intervening militarily in Yugoslavia are prime examples of the policy of retaining a militarist approach. In those moves there is scarcely any blurring of the connection between the European Council and the Western European Union. What we are seeing is, in fact, simply a ruse to provide a security policy in which Ireland is gradually and inexorably sucked into association with the Western European Union and NATO. In that regard it is worthwhile recalling that the total military spending of the NATO allies is, as I said, $459 billion.
The Taoiseach says that we should not rule out a relationship between political union and the Western European Union. He suggests that that could be for a peace-keeping role. That is an inexplicable proposal regarding an organisation which incorporates a commitment to nuclear weapons in its charter.
Would the Taoiseach admit that he is saying that he has now formally abandoned traditional Irish neutrality and is accepting hook, line and sinker a militaristic security policy for the European Community? Could any other meaning be drawn from his contribution, especially when he states that the approach of the Government at Maastricht would be along the lines outlined in his speech?
Alternatively, the Community could develop a policy that rejected the solution of international conflicts, crises and problems through the use of force. It could accept that the real threats to the security of the European Community and the rich world generally lie in the poverty, underdevelopment, lack of democracy and destruction of the global environment under which the majority of the world's people live. For Ireland to take up such a stance and argue it would require the development of a positive Irish neutrality. But, of course, the Taoiseach and the current Government are not interested in taking any line that might put them out of step with the giants of Europe.
The Taoiseach and the Irish Government are clearly unwilling and unprepared to even propose that alternative approach to dealing with international affairs. As far as The Workers' Party are concerned, any new security policy cannot be built on superpower aspirations. Those superpower aspirations are there. They have been echoed on previous occasions in the House by the Taoiseach. They were echoed in the debate on this matter in the French Parliament yesterday. I quote again that the debate in the French Parliament, which was reported in The Guardian, talked about the creation of the most powerful union in the world.
The future of security policy must lie under the umbrella of the CSCE as part of a pan European collective security system capable of identifying potential threats to peace and security in Europe and pursuing policies to defuse such threats. The Taoiseach has not defined security, has not defined the essential interests about which he spoke, has not defined or identified the potential threats to EC security and has not addressed the issue of a European army.
It is ludicrous to talk of a European security policy in isolation from the rest of the world. The United Nations is the body already equipped, although inadequately resourced, to deal with a world security order. The United Nations has been in operation for approaching half a century. Its structures were designed and moulded in the era just after the end of the Second World War and in a world of two opposing military blocs. Since then the world has seen the emergence of independent states throughout the developing world and, more recently, the end of the Cold War. It is time the UN was reformed to take account of these radical changes to equip it to deal with the world of the nineties and beyond.
It is essential to insist — a position which I do not have any expectation this Government will take — that any transfer of powers in the area of foreign and security policy cannot take place until there are democratic institutions in place to control it; at a minimum that means a co-decision of the European Parliament with the Council.
These are the core points the Irish Government should be presenting to the Intergovernmental Conference. They should long ago have submitted formal proposals in writing for consideration by the IGC. Instead they have opted to stay silent, except to engage in media statements and high profile foreign visits to discuss cohesion, while the public in Ireland have been bemused by proposals for European armies, for EC intervention forces outside Community boundaries, for the sending of a military force to Yugoslavia, for direct linkage between the Western European Union and Council of Ministers. To my knowledge the Irish Government have never lodged a paper with any Intergovernmental Conference.
In the context of economic union Ireland is clearly concerned about cohesion. We are perhaps the most peripheral member state of the Community, perhaps also having the most to gain or lose from the manner of implementation of the single market and of policies to create cohesion in the Community. It is no longer possible for even a medium-sized state to cope with the industrial and financial structures of the modern economic world. Therefore, properly constructed the building of a united Europe offers the opportunity to establish democratically controlled structures which can win back for its citizens the power which has been lost to international finance and industry.
Ireland's performance in this regard has been abysmal, economically and socially, producing mass unemployment, mass emigration and a society which largely resisted progressive legislation until it was forced upon us from the outside. There is no reason to believe that Irish business and industry, having failed to deliver the goods for the past 70 years can do any better in future. That is why the decisions of next week's summit in the economic area will be of such vital importance. Properly constructed, an EC programme to ensure cohesion among the member states would bring Irish employment and living standards up to EC levels.
In his contribution yesterday Deputy Gilmore pointed to the vital need for an EC industrial policy, a common industrial policy, which would direct investment to peripheral regions. The Taoiseach cites as "an important achievement" the fact that cohesion "will be taken into account", that cohesion should "form part of the objectives and tasks of the Community" and that the Commission "report every three years on how far cohesion is being achieved and, if necessary, make proposals to ensure that progress is made". The Taoiseach added that the Government are also seeking "as clear a commitment as possible" to increased EC funding for Ireland. That is the general, vague and effectively meaningless target the Government have set themselves. Effectively, it is a continuation of the type of policies which have maintained Ireland as an economically peripheral region of the Community for the past two decades. Indeed it comprises a substantial part of the explanation Ireland has failed to achieve anything close to parity with other EC states. It is staring us in the face that a new strategy to achieve cohesion is required immediately. Central to that is the need for an EC industrial policy, a common industrial policy, to bring this about.
The study carried out for the European Parliament entitled "A New Strategy for Economic and Social Cohesion after 1992"— incidentally a study carried out for the European Parliament in preparation for the conference of the regions held over the last two days — indicated key strategies for effective social and economic cohesion. It points out that imperfections in the Single Market mean that opening up that market, in the 1992 process, does not, of itself, guarantee that the benefits of 1992 will percolate to all parts of the Community. Simple funding transfer, as has been the practice through the Structural Funds, can serve to create dependency rather than boost economic activity and efficiency. A more useful approach would be to enable us compete on equal terms with the rest of the Community. Of course, that requires more than simply going with the begging bowl about which the former Minister for Finance spoke so scathingly a few moments ago. How else are we to categorise a policy which simply means travelling to, say, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece seeking support for a doubling of the Structural Funds without any reference whatsoever to how those Structural Funds will be used, without any reference whatsoever to ensuring there are regional structures in place in Ireland for the use of those funds; without any reference whatsoever to an Irish Government policy for the use of those funds in a way which would lead to a generation of jobs rather than simply building roads and railways.
In turn this implies more than just economic measures and extends to the creation of a framework to enable peripheral regions to compete effectively, and also structural support for health and social services. Simply attempting to emulate what has been successful elsewhere may help to institutionalise peripheral status. There has to be a flexible regional development framework which enables each region to develop responses suitable to local conditions.
In terms of implementation of these plans projects must be monitored for tangible progress. The funds must be additional to expenditure by the Irish Government not used as a substitute. The Court of Auditors has complained in the past about the application of EC funding in member states. There is an urgent need to rectify any deficiencies in this area as a matter of urgency.
Similarly the principle of subsidiarity — where responsibility and involvement are promoted at the lowest possible tier — should be reinforced. There have been numerous complaints from Community and other groups in Ireland that decisions on use of EC funding are dictated by the Government. The Government's "Daddy knows best" approach is not working and the requests of groups with specific knowledge or proposals must be accommodated in future spending plans. An agreed contract between the national and regional or local plan for regional development, as practised in France might combine flexibility with orderly development.
Roughly a quarter of the Community's current budget is spent on structural operations compared with over half on agricultural price support. The Community's four poorest member states receive less than half the structural funding, indicating that the level of transfer from "rich" to "poor" is relatively insignificant. At least a doubling of the Structural Funds, which would still involve spending only 0.6 per cent of Community's GDP on this area, is a target which should be included in the Treaty. If the wealthier member states want political union, they must pay the price of cohesion, and the price should be clearly marked on the package for all to see.
In addition to the use of public funding, private sector finance would be a means to ensure commitment and relevance to local economic and social needs. Similarly, low interest loans through the European Investment Bank could be used additionally where there would be a clear direct benefit to the economy, and where public revenue would result from the services or industries provided.
In all efforts to tackle the problem of cohesion in the Community it is important that we ensure that the money actually goes to development rather than simply ensuring that dole is distributed. The problems of the more than 50 million people living in poverty in the Community need to be dealt with. Only by having an effective policy of social and economic cohesion can this problem be solved. Therefore, in regard to the peripheral regions there is need to address the problems of the economically and socially less privileged in society. This will involve the introduction of new models to integrate the less privileged members of society, measures to assist areas experiencing endemic and long term unemployment and corrective measures to meet the needs of the very poor.
For the long road there is a need to examine the entire budgetary framework of the Community. Bringing Irish living standards up to parity with the golden circle of central Europe, which currently enjoys living standards twice or more the Irish rate, will require inter-regional financial transfers of the order not allowed for under the existing political, economic or monetary arrangements.
In going to Maastricht the Government must have a very specific understanding of the minimum they will accept as the price for accepting an agreement on political, economic and monetary unions, which in turn will have to be presented to the Dáil, and to the Irish people in a referendum. Inclusion of the above points in the Irish case at Maastricht, even at this late stage, would be a major help in making it clear to the richer member states that peripheral regions cannot be bought off with fools gold.
A real target for achieving parity must be set. Given that Irish living standards are stuck at 67 per cent of the EC average, a target of reducing this disparity by 2 per cent a year should be included in the Treaty. The pressures resulting from German unification and the need to address the economic problems of eastern Europe could mean that the Treaty commitment to cohesion, which the Taoiseach is so happy with, will fail to materialise in political policies.
Even this modest target would not bring Ireland close to parity with the wealthier regions of the EC until well into the next century. But it highlights the enormity of the problem facing peripheral regions.
It is not good enough for the Taoiseach next week to sit on the fringes of the Maastricht Summit and pretend that the only thing we in Ireland are interested in is the doubling of the Structural Funds and that even then we are prepared to accept a wink and a nod and a promise that they will look after us when the time comes. We must make it clear that this country will not be joining any military bloc, will not sanction the development of a security system for Europe based in the first instance on nuclear deterrence and will not accept that the European Community should become associated with NATO or the Western European Union, whose policies are directly based on the resolution of conflicts by force where they see fit, outside their own borders.
I do not expect the Government to put any of this but it is the position which should be adopted. We should make it clear that on social affairs issues the decision of the Council of Ministers should be established by a majority vote, not by unanimity. Let us end the farce whereby the Social Charter has been virtually abandoned because essential measures to implement it cannot be agreed unanimously. The Single Market and European Monetary Union are proceeding but the Social Charter remains stuck and will be abandoned if the larger and richer countries have their way at Maastricht on the basis of the Treaty before them.
The road to Maastricht stretches back a long way and it is worth taking a historical view as to how we have come to our current state of development. The concept of Pan-European co-operation was canvassed in the post-Versailles period by enthusiasts such as Kalergi who envisaged a European union of states somewhat akin to but different from the United States of America. The ideas of these very early visionaries fell on stony soil. Vision in and about Europe was displaced by a new dark age when extreme nationalism gave way to racism and to war, the second European and global way within a generation.
At the end of that war European industry was in ruins. In mainland Europe up to one-third of the housing stock was destroyed and starvation stalked the streets. In the winter of 1946-47 Europe saw the spectre of famine in several member states. Even in the victor nations there was chaos. In Britain there were power cuts, rationing and upheaval. Mainland European states fared far worse. Holland, which had enjoyed a standard of living twice that of Belgium before the war, now had a GNP significantly below that of its neighbour. France was riven by the bitterness which comes from division. Similar passions laced by the destruction of war were evident throughout Italy. Germany, the one time industrial giant, lay divided and destroyed. All across Europe millions of people were displaced and homeless.
To the east even darker events were taking place. Democracy was being snuffed out in capital after capital and the curtain of iron was descending, dividing a continent and its people in their common heritage. As so frequently happens, the United States stepped in, providing through the Marshall Plan a basis for western recovery, at least in the short term. In the years immediately after Marshall, the long and arduous task of recovery was joined.
Even as the task of recovery got under way, other pressures were moving Europe inexorably in a new direction. The blockade of Berlin illustrated that the wartime alliance was at an end and that at any time a cold war could hot up. Further east in Indo-China, in China itself and in Korea new wars and old wars resurrected prompting the Americans in particular to the view that European nations would have to tend more to their own defence. Inevitably this led to the view that Germany must re-arm. That thought was anathema to many of its neighbours, most notably France.
The new challenge provided a novel solution when Monet suggested to Schuman that sometimes the way to resolve a difficult problem was to invert the problem. The idea was that war between European neighbours would be made no longer possible if the individual member states did not control the means of war or at least the means of producing weaponry, coal and steel. A beneficial additional effect, almost a side effect, of combining the production of both was the economic recovery which it could assure.
Commitment to the idea, to the dream, was immediate in six states and on 18 April 1951 by the Treaty of Paris the ECSC came into being. It brought into effect a remarkable form of international co-operation. The institutions of the ECSC were remarkable in many ways. The most remarkable of all was the high authority. This was a supranational authority capable for the first time in international relations of binding the member states and their Governments.
The historical view is well worth noting in the current context. From the outset co-operation among the six member states — later nine and now 12 — involved the most emotive and frequently most misunderstood commodity, the issue of sovereignty. On 18 April 1961 six sovereign nations surrendered some element of sovereignty in order to enhance their combined sovereignty and to ensure the protection and well-being of their peoples. They repeated this on 25 March 1957 when the same six nations signed the two Rome Treaties establishing the EEC and EURATOM.
In 1961 Ireland became the first other European state to commit itself to this same undertaking. We did it in a characteristically understated way. Some years ago when I was an official in the Department of Finance I searched through the files for a copy of our original application and I was surprised to find that we did it with so little fanfare, we simply posted the application to Brussels. We were asking at that time, albeit in an understated way, if we could join too. We eventually got in 12 years later and assumed all the responsibilities membership entailed.
The Treaties which govern the Community, which we freely joined, went much further than simply proposing a common trade area or a common market. The Treaty of Rome was far more ambitious than that. It provided for an area in which goods, persons, capital and enterprise could move freely. It also provided for a community of nations which would bring their economic policies closer together and into harmony and which would move towards economic and monetary union and, ultimately, political union.
Essentially the Intergovernmental Conferences and the drafts they have produced compel us along the road to the further union envisaged originally in the Treaty of Rome. They effectively relaunch the dreams and objectives of the original Treaty and its drafters. Because this is the true light in which the Maastricht Summit should be seen, some of the reactions both in this country and elsewhere in the Community, have been surprising to say the least. It is valid for any member state to seek to ensure its interests are not trampled on at Maastricht and the meetings which take place after Maastricht. However, it is not valid to suggest that the direction the Community is taking is completely unchartered and entirely novel. Some of the contributions to the debate on the Maastricht Summit, not so much in this country but certainly in our nearest neighbour, seem to suggest that something entirely novel has been sprung on them.
The Taoiseach's contributions to this debate, both in the House yesterday and at the ICEM meeting in UCD on 6 November, were important in that they provided not only the basis for the commencement of the national debate — some would say this is rather late in the day — but also provided us with a convenient taxonomy on which to base our analysis of the true meaning of Maastricht. Yesterday the Taoiseach referred to the three pillars on which the new union will be based — first, the amendments to the Treaties which will improve institutional efficiency and establish the structures in which Economic and Monetary Union can take place; second, the steps to establish a common foreign and security policy; and, third, provisions to strengthen co-operation. I wish to deal in the remainder of my contribution with aspects of these three so-called pillars.
The first aspect I should like to deal with is the question of institutional development, the second is the question of security, particularly in so far as it touches on Ireland's neutrality, and the third is the issue of co-operation and cohesion between the member states and the challenges which flow from that co-operation and cohesion.
The institutional arrangements in the EC are sui generis; they are quite unique in terms of international relationships. As we all know, the Commission is the guardian of the Community's interests the originator of policy and the executive arm of the Treaties. The Council is the guardian of the member states' interests, establishing a balance between Community and member states' interests. Effectively the Council operates as the legislative organ of the Community. The Parliament, a somewhat misnamed institution, is effectively a consultative and deliberative body with a too limited control function. The Court has developed into a remarkable institution. It is the constitutional court in so far as the Treaties are concerned. It is also an administrative, very active and creative international court.
It would be wrong to depart at present in a radical or dramatic way from the prescribed set of relationships which exists between the institutions. Certainly, there will have to be change, most notably in the way the Presidency is dealt with by the Commission and in the way the President of the Commission is appointed. There will also have to be changes within the remit of the Parliament. However, some of the suggestions which have been bandied about, while having some superficial attractions, shoud be examined very carefully. As we move towards a greater European union I admit that it is very tempting to look to the United States for a model for institutional development. This was dealt with here yesterday at some length. I submit that the model suggested here yesterday was inappropriate and inapplicable. For example, it was suggested that the President of the Commission should be directly elected by the people of the member states, more or less on the same lines as the President of the United States. It was also suggested that the EC Parliament should become a bicameral assembly with a Senate made up of members elected by the member states on the basis of an equality of membership from each state and that the Parliament should continue to be elected more or less on the same basis as at present with reference to the population of each member state. It was further suggested that the two Houses could develop prescribed functions which in the main would come about by a diminution in the role of the Council.
I accept that these arrangements are perhaps more familiar than the unique arrangements which apply within the European Economic Community, but the familiarity of these arrangements should not be taken to mean that either of them has a great deal to recommend them. I think it is valid to suggest that the Presidency of the Commission should be enhanced. However, it is patent and arrant nonsense to suggest that this Commissioner is effectively no more than at best primus inter pares, first among equals. It is equally nonsensical to suggest that this role should be elevated to the position of an Executive Presidency of all Europe. A more prudent approach might be to enhance the democratic legitimacy of the post by allowing the formal appointment of the President of the Commission by the Parliament. I think this suggestion was made in the middle seventies by the Irish Government. This suggestion should be looked at and pressed. We should also seek to clarify precisely the role of the President of the Commission.
With regard to the Parliament, clearly its powers must be enhanced. I believe it will inevitably and inexorably move into a legislative mode in so far as specific Community matters are involved. It should have an enhanced right of oversight of the Commission. The fact that the only real sanction the Parliament has at present is to sack the entire Commission is clearly wrong and needs attention. However, I suggest it is wrong to argue that the time has come for an entire restructuring of the Parliament. That will inevitably happen in the next stages beyond Maastricht and economic and political union, but it will not happen at this time.
The question of neutrality is clearly raised by the debate on a common foreign and security policy. Contrary to the position which seems to be taken by Deputy De Rossa, Ireland's neutrality has never simply been about pacifism. We have always accepted our right to defend "the nation". In the new Europe "the nation" will essentially be redefined. In addition to protecting the people on this island we will have to accept that the new union creates another Community, a Community in which we must also be concerned about protection of the people. The integrity of the nation state will have appended to it the integrity of the wider Community.
There were specific reasons for Ireland not joining NATO. In the new world order NATO will have to be redefined. There were also strong reasons we initially stayed apart from the Western European Union. The Western European Union will have to be redefined now and its role will become more closely involved with being responsible for the protections of the Community that will emerge from the new union treaty. For this reason I welcome the statement made here yesterday by the Taoiseach that we should not rule out a closer relationship through political union with the Western European Union. Most of what Deputy De Rossa said in this regard, while no doubt sincerely held, was arrant nonsense.
In the few moments left to me I wish to refer to the issue of cohesion. It is important that the objective of cohesion be accompanied by a recognition of the unique economic disadvantage of smaller and more peripheral economies such as ours. It is important that something strong be said in the documents which emerge from Maastricht about cohesion and, in particular, about the enhancement of funds which would help to compensate for our unique disadvantage and for the disadvantage of other nations that find themselves in the same position as ourselves.
It is clear that in any new treaty we must give a more central role to the Structural Funds. Indeed, the funds of the EC, the EAGGF, the ESF and the ERDS will have to be restructured, enhanced and elevated to a central position. The argument that has been adduced in favour of a protocol dealing specifically with these funds is a pursuasive one.
There is one final element in cohesion which I would wish to touch on: the question of unemployment and employment creation and, in particular, the issue of full employment. Some time ago the Irish Government, at one of the ECOFIN council meetings, made the suggestion that in the statement of objectives in the new union treaty full employment should be incorporated. This proposition was made by Deputy Reynolds, the then Minister for Finance. It strikes me that this is an objective which would appropriately be incorporated in the documents which flow from Maastricht. I would hope that the Irish Government would be attentive to that view. As I said, it has been a long road to Maastricht. However, the journey of the Community will not stop there. The new arrangements which will be agreed at Maastricht will mark the end of one phase and the beginning of another. I wish all who go to that conference well. I have every confidence that the Taoiseach will represent this nation and our interests well. I am sure I join with Members on all sides of the House, even though we may differ on issues, in wishing him well in those negotiations.
I propose to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Connor.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
It is not possible to deal comprehensively with all of these issues in the space of ten minutes or so, but it is not very difficult to state very simply what Ireland's position is and what our approach to the issues of European Union should be. Ireland will always be better off, both economically and politically, as a member of the European Community then it would be outside it. No small country with limited resources, a huge debt, massive unemployment and an underdeveloped economy can survive comfortably in isolation in the current world trading environment. The approach of the EFTA countries in recent years has been a very eloquent recognition of these facts.
Austria has already applied to become a member state of the Community. The debate has reopened in Norway, where people refused to join the Community in a referendum held at the same time as our original referendum for membership. The debate is opening in Sweden and even in Switzerland. Those EFTA countries, with far stronger economies than ours, have entered into very close relationship with the Community and they will, I think, come to the conclusion that full membership is the logical conclusion of the process on which they have embarked. This significant shift in the EFTA countries has now finally destroyed any vestige of credibility that might have been left to those Jeremiahs in this county who argued against membership of the Community and who are now raising their unattractive heads again in the context of this debate. Some of them call themselves Amárach and they are still living in yesterday.
If membership has not produced for us beneficial results on the scale we might have wished, the fault lies more with us for having failed to use the resources and the advantages of membership to best effect than with the European Community for not being favourably disposed towards us. As a member state anxious to secure continued improvements in living standards, we have a very real interest in seeing the Community realise the full potential of its economic strengths. Clearly, a prosperous Community will always be in a better position to meet the needs of peripheral regions than a Community that continues to underachieve.
The logic of the 1992 campaign was to unify fully the Community's internal market. To complete that process we need economic and monetary union and we do not need to spend years debating it. The Community, the member states and the peripheral regions of the member states need economic and monetary union as soon as ever we can have it.
The objective of economic and monetary union is to put the Community in a position to adopt the economic, fiscal and monetary policies that are required to reinforce its economic strength for the good of the people in the Community. Much of the current debate ignores this and, indeed, ignores the role of fiscal, economic and monetary policy in the development of the Community itself, a development that is clearly a crucial matter for the member states.
The debate on European Monetary Union has been and still is dogged by an utterly nonsensical nostalgia in relation to monetary policy. The futility of this nostalgia is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the UK, where some of the people who most vaunt the importance of the London financial markets want to retain a spurious sovereignty which, if they retained it, would actually marginalise the London financial markets forever. To be clear, I think, Mr. John Major is in far less danger of being hand-bagged than are the London financial markets.
Those in this country who hanker after that illusion of sovereignty — we heard some of them in this House during the course of this debate — really want the false freedom to continue to visit large current deficits, unsustainable Exchequer borrowing levels and crippling interest rates on our productive sectors and on those in this country who will have jobs and be taxpayers in the years to come.
The world needs a politically strong European Community committed to the reinforcement of democracy and peace, a Community which has the resources and the will to campaign for Third World development and to campaign for both nuclear and conventional disarmament. To do that, that Community has to be politically united, with a coherent system for making decisions on foreign policy, security and defence. Ireland's influence — no matter what we may say about traditional positions, much of it without any foundation — will always be much greater as a member of such a political union than as a lone voice.
A great deal of nonsense has been talked here about foreign policy, security and defence. Indeed, much ritual nonsense and doctrinaire dogmatism is to be found in the amendments put forward here by the Labour Party and The Workers' Party. I am afraid we will hear a lot more nonsense as this debate continues. We will hear some from the Taoiseach, who yesterday acted like a frightened crab, scuttling a bit in the direction of commonsense and then taking fright and scuttling back again. He speaks, for example, of the sensitivity of security issues for Ireland. The Taoiseach has never explained — perhaps because it has never struck him to wonder — why security issues might be more sensitive in Ireland than in any other member state of the European Community. He invented a peculiar breathtaking inane formula for skirting around the issue, when he said:
If the Community were to develop its own defence arrangements for its security, we would consider participating in these arrangements.
What does that mean? Would Ireland as a committed member take part in the development of a defence arrangement? Would we stand aside and let everyone else get on with developing that arrangement? If one were developed, would we as a committed member consider not participating in it? It is time the Taoiseach stopped speaking in this silly code language and told us plainly what if anything, he has in mind, other than perhaps the desire to keep on fooling as many people as possible so as to avoid having to make up his mind.
As the Taoiseach apparently has been given some credit in the media today for having said something significant yesterday about Ireland and the Western European Union, I must say that I think that that progress has more to do with the poverty of language and perception in the media than with the value of any jewels the Taoiseach put before us yesterday. Again the myth is being peddled by the Taoiseach, the Labour Party and The Workers' Party that in some way the conference on security and co-operation in Europe is a framework within which we should turn our attention to these issues of world peace and disarmament without sullying our neutral virginity. They should know that that is utterly irrelevant because the CSCE, apart from any other distinguishing characteristic, lacks one thing which all these other organisations have and this is a system for making and applying decisions.
The Taoiseach's statement on the extension of the powers of the European Parliament is extremely disappointing and is largely cosmetic. The new areas the Taoiseach mentioned, perhaps important in themselves, are not policy areas that will have a major effect on shaping Europe into the future. The extra powers the Taoiseach talks of for the European Parliament will not in any sense make it an institution more central to the shaping of our lives, or an institution which will have democratic accountability for the weight of Community policy in the way that real democrats should require.
To build a Community with the economic and political characteristics we need, there must be a unified market. That we will soon have. We need an effective economic and monetary union implemented more quickly than is now proposed. We need an explicit and reinforced policy of cohesion both for reasons of equity and to ensure a model of ecologically sustainable development in the European Community. We need a real extension of the powers of the European Parliament to ensure the same level of democratic accountability at Community as at national level, to act as a democratic check and balance to more speedy and efficient decision making by the Council of Ministers and to act as a strong democratic voice for the regions. We need the extension of majority voting in the Council of Ministers without shilly shallying to make decision making more speedy and effective based on clear treaty obligations and we need explicit Community competence in the fields of foreign policy, security and defence to avoid the ill effects of the fragmented frequently contradictory approaches adopted by member states. We saw this approach on such crucial issues as the Gulf crisis, Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Third World development. At this stage our Government should decide to take a much more muscular approach than the Taoiseach had indicated to these areas at Maastricht rather than the very tentative and uncertain approach that has been adopted up to now.
I thank Deputy Dukes for allowing me some of his time. I support what the Deputy has been saying about Ireland's role in terms of a common defence and security policy.
Deputy Roche referred to Irish neutrality. It appears that this business of Irish neutrality, although a diminishing factor, is somehow standing it the way of us becoming full participants in any common policy that governs the security and the defence of the Community from which we want all the other benefits. I have always had some difficulty about Irish neutrality and what it really means. To me, it has always been a nonsense because we switched it on and off at will when it suited us. We were never true neutrals in the classical sense when there was a great no-aligned movement in the world in the fifties and the sixties. Ireland was never part of that movement although it was a major political force in the world. There were famous conferences held in Belgrade and Bandung but Irish delegations would not be caught dead in these places because there were people there like Tito, Pandit Nehru and so on. Their neutrality was a kind of Asian or African neutrality that was alien to our so called neutrality. That attitude has always informed me of the nonsense that our neutrality often seemed to be. Our neutrality had more to do with our relationship with Britain than any world view of neutrality and non alignment as we used to know it, when it was less redundant than it is today.
Cohesion as the main pillar of a new Treaty at Maastricht, as far as this country is concerned, has rightly dominated much of this debate and practically every speaker has referred to it. There cannot be true social cohesion, a true sense of belonging to a federal Europe unless positive policies are put in place to eliminate the economic and social disparities. If the principle of social cohesion is not the enlightened corner stone of a new more integrated community, the experiment will not go very far. In every Community member state there are significant marginalised groups, there is latent narrowminded nationalism and a range of destructive inwardisms in attitude, which has always been destructive of a world view. These are certainly the active opponents of greater European integration in every Community country. If the institutions of the Community do not address the disparities that cause these alienations and the cynicism among so many who are for the European ideal, the vision of one great European family will never be realised.
We know enough about history to learn that many great civilisations were destroyed because of internal contradictions and the failure to correct internal imbalances. The expanded federal Europe of the late 20th century and I hope of the 21st century will not be sustained very long unless the agreements that make it represent a federal bargain that gives as many as possible a fair opportunity.
This country, much of the problems of our own making, remains doggedly nearer the bottom of the EC prosperity league. Of the present 12 members we are third from the bottom, only Greece and Portugal are worse off. Surprisingly, our relative position has changed little since our membership. Last year GDP per capita in Ireland was only 69 per cent of the Community average or about 6 percentage points higher than what was the Community average when we joined almost 20 years ago. Most of the gains we have made in closing the gap were made in the earlier years of our membership from 1975 to 1982. Our recent economic difficulties have ensured that we are no longer closing that gap. In 1989 we published a national development plan and it was presented by the Government to the EC Commission. That was our case for EC structural assistance following what followed from the Single Act and the preparation for a free internal market.
The plan analysed in Part I the main features of the Irish economy which are relevant to the Community's aim of furthering economic and social cohesion, and to Ireland's capacity to share fully in the benefits of the completion of the internal market. With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I will read to the House that analysis which states the features of the Irish economy as follows:
—low income and output levels;
—a population structure resulting in rapid growth in labour supply and a high dependency ratio;
—persistently weak labour demand, leading to unemployment and emigration;
—constraints imposed by budgetary imbalances and public sector indebtedness;
—high access costs resulting from the country's peripheral location;
—poorly developed infrastructure hindering development and adding to costs;
—a heavy dependence on agriculture both for employment and output;
—weaknesses in the industrial structure;
—low investment levels by Community standards and dependence on imports.
The structural difficulties in the Irish economy are well defined in summary in these nine points and I would have to predict gloomily that if we had a similar analysis of structural difficulties in the Irish economy in 1994, hopefully after £2.8 billion is invested in from the Structural Funds, the same nine points would be raised again with almost similar emphasis even after what looks like a major investment which only shows, I suppose, the structural backwardness of the Irish economy to start with. It also shows how far we have to go with help, but above all with our own hard work, to reduce the disparities in living standards between ourselves and the Community average generally.
If we look to the future and to the use of our resources to close the gap, we have by recent events and actions, in my opinion, narrowed our options. I refer to the fact that because we slavishly accepted the Common Agricultural Policy and the GATT reforms we have shut out, for at least a decade, any contribution the agri-sector in the Irish economy could make to real growth through the increasing of the gross domestic product which would mean more jobs and a higher national income, by any standard, an amazing throw away of a vital contributor to growth.
Over the past decade — and I accept there will be some argument about this figure — the agri-sector has contributed about 7 per cent to economic growth expressed in GNP terms over that period while the overall growth in that decade, 1980-90, amounted in GNP terms to 19.3 per cent. If this country is to bring our prosperity and living stndards into equilibrium with the Community average in, say, ten years, our economy would need to grow by over 3.5 per cent annually above the Community average growth. That, of course, would be totally impossible since past experience has shown that Ireland's economic growth has lagged well behind the average growth in the Community in all significant periods since entry.
Let me go a little further in reference to how the agricultural economy is so much part of the cohesion argument so far as this country is concerned. We hardly need to repeat again that no member state or region is so dependent on farm and price structural support from the Community as Ireland is. As a crude indicator, price and structural supports to Ireland as a proportion of agricultural output were about twice the Community average in 1989. In addition the importance of these transfers to Ireland are far more significant to us than they are to any other of the peripheral regions and, even though certain Mediterranean products, such as olive oil and tobacco, are heavily supported, they are not dominant items in their respective agricultural economies. No other member state, with the possible exception of Luxembourg has a less diversified agricultural sector than this country where we have an 80 per cent dependence on pastoral products like milk, beef and sheep meat.
In the time left to me I would like to refer to the fact that, assuming agreement which I am sure there will be at Maastricht, we will have to have a referendum. In 1972 when we had the first referendum on entry to the Community almost 80 per cent of the electorate voted, a level as high as or even higher than one would find in a general election. Of that, 80 per cent of the people who voted, voted in favour, and about 20 per cent against. In the referendum on the Single European Act a few years ago only 43.8 per cent of the electorate bothered to come out to vote and that broke down in terms of 70/30. So there is a growing alienation towards Europe, the European Institutions and the proposals for greater integration by a large proportion of the people who are either not interested or do not want to go along. We have a major job on our hands in terms of bringing back the right bargain from Maastricht.
It is now two and a half years since the Delors Committee, which was set up to prepare steps for economic and monetary union, issued their report. There was considerable scepticism at the time, back in April 1989, about the whole concept of integration as proposed by the committee. The momentum was never lost, however. A year ago an Intergovernmental Conference was convened and, hopefully, we are now on the eve of an agreement which will clear the way for implementation of the committee's proposals.
Economic and Monetary Union is the logical consequence of the internal market. If the market is to realise its true potential, there must be economic and monetary integration. In any event this concept of integration has been on the agenda of the Community almost since its inception. It was always recognised that a properly unified Community could not be achieved and sustained without such integration. Up to now, however, the conditions were never right for union and the development of the Community to this point was much slower than the founding fathers had envisaged back in the fifties. On the other hand, given the huge obstacles that had to be overcome, the progress to date has been quite remarkable and we are now at the point of another step forward which will add a totally new dimension to the Community.
The Delors Committee proposed a three-stage progression to full economic and monetary union. Subsequently the debate was broadened to include political union and this led to the setting up of two Intergovernmental Conferences moving in parallel. The first session of the Conference on European Monetary Union was held in Rome last December. After long and difficult negotiations, Ministers are now near to finalising an agreement and I am optimistic that the remaining differences of opinion can be resolved at further meetings this weekend and at the forthcoming Summit in Maastricht.
At the beginning of the Conference, Ireland tabled proposals on economic and social cohesion. We identified this as the most important issue for us in the negotiations. European Monetary Union is expected to bring sustantial benefits to the Community in general. The increased stability based on low inflation and single currency will considerably strengthen the position of the Community in a world economic context. The reduction in internal costs will also have clear benefits and should give a substantial boost to overall Community growth and employment.
We are concerned, however, that this growth may be unevenly distributed and that the more prosperous and more central states will benefit to a greater extent than the less developed and more peripheral regions. The experience of other closely integrated economies would seem to confirm the opinion that there may be some drift towards the centre and that substantial transfers are needed in order to retain a reasonably balanced distribution of resources. There is clear and unequivocal support within the Community for the objective of ensuring a proper distribution of resources but there are strong differences of opinion on the question of whether the growth expected as a consequence of European Monetary Union will be distributed evenly between the different parts of the Community. There is also, it must be acknowledged, much being done already within the Community to improve the ability of the less developed regions to compete within the Single Market, particularly through the Structural Funds.
In any event our proposals have had a significant impact and they provided the basis for new cohesion provisions in the Treaty which were incorporated in the text prepared earlier this year by the Luxembourg Presidency. Essentially these provisions reiterate the Community's commitment to cohesion and strengthen this commitment by ensuring that cohesion will be taken into account in the formulation as well as the implementation of Community policies and that there will be periodic reports to the Council on the progress being made in the achievement of cohesion. We also want to ensure that positive action will be taken in the coming years to implement the cohesion commitment. Negotiations on this issue are still in progress and I cannot divulge at this point where precisely we stand in relation to this matter beyond confirming that it will be on the agenda for the Maastricht discussions.
The cohesion issue is intimately bound up with the Structural Funds. Deputies are familiar with the existing Structural Funds arrangements and I need not go into these in any detail. They are making a real contribution to the development of the Irish economy. This year they will amount to an infusion of the order of £600 million, over 2 per cent of GNP, into the economy. The fact remains, however, that in terms of Community expenditure, they represent only a tiny proportion of Community resources and there will be a need for substantial enlargement of these funds in the context of European Monetary Union. Furthermore, the use of these funds is bound by conditions which are sometimes quite restrictive and we would like to see much greater flexibility in relation to eligibility criteria and the conditions under which these funds may be used.
The Structural Funds, as such, are not on the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference. They will arise, however, in the context of the major review of the financing of the European Community which has already been signalled by the President of the Commission and which should be completed in the early months of 1992. We would expect that this will lead to a substantial increase in Structural Funds expenditure from 1994 onwards. There is also mention of possible new funds, such as a convergence fund and an environment fund as part of the progression towards European Monetary Union and political union but no detailed proposals on such funds have yet emerged.
Deputy Bruton is opposed to the need for unanimity for the setting up of new funds of a structural nature. We, too, would prefer majority voting in this case, but it is at least progress to have the possibility of new funds written into the Treaty in this way. As regards the unanimity requirement on tax matters, the Treaty provisions in this area relate to harmonisation rather than to raising taxes to help the poorer states, as implied by Deputy Bruton, and we should not at this stage allow our tax rates to be determined by majority vote.
Deputy Bruton seemed to suggest that we should include in the Treaty at this stage all aspects of tax and expenditure for a federal-type redistributive Community budget. Deputy Spring also sought more specific commitments in this area. We would obviously like to pin things down as much as possible in the Treaty or in Protocols or Declarations. The extent to which this can be done is still an open issue. We have supported fully the Spanish proposal to enshrine in the Treaty the principle of a progressive review system. This can, of course, be achieved without Treaty amendment since details of the own resources system are not set out in the Treaty.
Ireland and other countries will undoubtedly insist that the redistributive mechanisms within the Community must grow and develop as the integration of the Community progresses. By the time full union, both economic and monetary and political union, is achieved, these mechanisms must be in place. The Treaty text to be agreed in Maastricht will certainly provide the framework within which this can be done. This is in line with the point made by Deputy Gilmore that a federal state must have federal type reallocation mechanisms.
European Monetary Union, as the term implies, requires parallel progress in the economic and monetary spheres. There has been criticism to the effect that there has been excessive emphasis on the monetary aspects to the detriment of economic progress. This criticism is, I believe, unwarranted. Inevitably the monetary arrangements can be more easily institutionalised; the single currency and the European Central Bank provide a clearly identifiable objective without which there could be no monetary union. It requires the gradual convergence of the economies of the member states and this requires that general targets for inflation and budget deficits must be set and achieved. There are wide discrepancies between member states at the moment and some are well out of line with the targets that are being set in the Intergovernmental Conference. The process of convergence will be slow. To assist the process, the Community has already introduced an intensive surveillance system, whereby the economies of the individual member states and the overall Community economy are assessed on a regular basis. In addition, individual member states are required to submit convergence programmes for examination. Cohesion measures are also an integral part of the process of convergence. There is a clear recognition that monetary union must be achieved in parallel with economic union and that monetary union without economic convergence is unsustainable in the longer term.
I outlined earlier the three stage process proposed by the Delors Committee. It is well to recall that we are already in stage I which came into operation at the beginning of July this year. One of the requirements of this stage is that all remaining exchange control restrictions be eliminated. The Government have decided recently that the remaining restrictions which we apply will be eliminated in two phases, on 1 January 1992 and before the end of 1992. The precise measures to be taken on 1 January 1992 have already been announced. We have already made headway in recent years in removing controls.
Another requirement for stage I is substantial progress on convergence, to which I have already referred, and further strengthening of the European monetary system. The EMS has proved to be a zone of monetary stability in recent years at a time of considerable turbulence in international exchange rates and we have established a strong and stable position within the system. This has had several benefits. There is a growing confidence in the Irish currency and this is reflected in the investment in the Irish Government bond market by foreign residents in the past few years. Nearly one-third of bonds are now held by non-residents. The other major development has been the narrowing of differentials between Irish interest rates and rates of other currencies in the narrow band of the EMS. Real interest rates are too high today — I have no hesitation in saying this — but it is a European-wide phenomenon and it is well to recall that the differential between Irish pound and Deutsche Mark rates has narrowed from 7-8 per cent to 1 per cent in the past four years. This illustrates vividly the progress we have made in such a short period. As we move nearer to union, I would expect these differentials to narrow further.
Stage II, the period of transition to full European Monetary Union, will begin on 1 January 1994. This is now agreed and the new Treaty will provide for this starting date. There will be no dramatic events on 1 January 1994 but this is not to downgrade stage II. It is in reality the most critical period because progress during this period will determine when we can move to the final stage.
On the monetary side, a new European Monetary Institute will be established as a forerunner to the European Central Bank which will be set up for Stage III. The EMI will bring together the governors of the national central banks, with either an independent president appointed by the Heads of State or Government or a specially appointed managing director.
It will essentially be preparing for the single monetary policy and single currency which will apply in Stage III. Member states will still retain responsibility for their monetary policy in Stage II but will strengthen the co-ordination of policies through the EMI. The EMI will help to develop the role of the ECU and prepare the instruments and procedures which will be needed in Stage III.
Consideration is being given to allowing the EMI to have a role in managing foreign exchange reserves for the member states during Stage II. However, this would only be where the individual member states want it to do so and the EMI would act solely as agent. The pooling of reserves will arise only in Stage III. The EMI will have a consultative role when the transition to Stage III is being considered.
On the economic side, there will be more intensive surveillance and monitoring of economic developments during stage II, with a view to achieving the degree of convergence needed for Stage III. This will be a development of the surveillance process already operating in Stage I.
During Stage II, member states shall endeavour to avoid excessive budget deficits. This will be a forerunner to the legal requirement in Stage III to avoid excessive deficits and I will deal with it in that context. The avoidance of excessive budget deficits is already a central plank of Government policy in any event.
If the Community is to make a successful transition to the final stage of economic and monetary union, it is essential that all member states have a clear perspective from the outset on what is required from them by way of preparation for this stage. It is also necessary that the Community, and the contribution which it has made to member states efforts, should also feature as part of the assessment process.
Under the terms of the draft Treaty on Economic and Monetary Union, both the Commission and the European Monetary Institute will be required to report to ECOFIN, before the end of 1996, on the progress achieved by the member states in a wide range of areas.
Economic convergence is fundamental in ensuring that the future European Monetary Union can function with the necessary stability and strength. For that reason, member states are agreed that a number of factors must be taken into account in assessing whether or not an individual member state is ready to participate in the final stage. The focus will be on inflation, budgetary positions, currency stability and long term interest rates. A Protocol to the Treaty will provide additional information about the applicability of these factors in practice. I do not see them as putting in jeopardy the likelihood of our participation in the final stage of union.
Ireland, like a number of other member states, is concerned that the above indicators will be an aid to judgment and that they will not be applied in an overly-mechanistic way. The way must also be clear for additional matters to be taken into account where necessary.
ECOFIN, the European Parliament and the European Council will all have specific roles to play in assessing the appropriateness of the move to the third stage and this assessment will be informed by consensus. The European Council, in particular, will have a role in determining the date for the start of that stage. While Ireland is fully committed to participation in Stage III of European Monetary Union, we must be realistic in accepting that the Treaty should provide for derogations for those member states which might have need of them. This does not imply that derogations will need to be used but it would be foolhardy, in drawing up a treaty, not to provide for this particular possibility.
Given that the decision to move to the final stage of European Monetary Union will take place at the level of the Community, it is important that a substantial number of member states should move together towards that goal. What is clear now, however, after considerable debate, is that a small number of countries will not be permitted to move ahead of the rest. This prospect, which gained considerable momentum earlier in the negotiations, has been decisively rejected by several member states and there will be no advance to full European Monetary Union until a majority of member states are ready to go forward together. It is our resolute intention to move ahead with this majority.
When the date for transition to Stage III is fixed, the European System of Central Banks will be established to finalise preparations on the monetary side and to take over responsibility for a single monetary policy and a single currency from the start of Stage III.
This will involve a new European Central Bank headed by a president and vice-president appointed by the Heads of State and Government and including the governors of the national central banks. The primary objective of the ECB will be to maintain price stability. Without prejudice to this objective, it will support the general economic policies in the Community with a view to contributing to the achievement of the objectives of the Community. The ECB will be independent. However, this does not mean that it will operate in a world of its own with no interaction with the political process. It will be fully accountable for its actions to Council and to the European Parliament. This will operate in a number of ways.
The President of the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers may participate in the meetings of the Governing Council of the ECB and may submit motions for consideration by the Governing Council. The President of the ECB will participate in meetings of the ECOFIN Council when it is discussing matters relating to the objectives and tasks of the ECB. There will be regular reporting from the ECB to the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. These provisions should ensure that there is the necessary coherence between the monetary and economic sides of European Monetary Union.
As far as Ireland is concerned, the full involvement of our own Central Bank in the ECB will ensure that Ireland has a role in setting monetary policy in the Community. It is not a matter of handing over responsibility to the ECB but of sharing responsibility through the ECB. It will be a significant step forward from the present EMS but the success of the EMS has already shown the desirability of greater integration in the monetary area in terms of exchange rate stability and reducing interest rate differentials.
Deputy Bruton asked why we should wait until 1997 to have our currency irrevocably linked to the Deutsche Mark on the basis that such a link would immediately bring down interest rates. Our strong exchange rate policy in recent years has been a major factor in reducing the differential between key Irish and German interest rates from over 9 per cent in March 1987 to less than 1 per cent at present. However, there is no evidence that pegging the Irish pound to the Deutsche Mark would of itself eliminate the remaining differential as other factors, including the general economic environment and the size and liquidity of the market, also influence interest rates. It is interesting to note that since Belgium indicated its intention in May 1990 to maintain a narrow fluctuation margin for its currency against the Deutsche Mark, the differential between its interest rates and German rates has fallen by less than the correcponding fall for Irish-German interest rate differentials.
I have already referred briefly to the Treaty injunction to avoid excessive budget deficits which will apply in full from the beginning of the third stage. This injunction should be seen against a more general background of economic surveillance whereby the Community and individual member states will be involved in active co-operation in order to ensure that European Monetary Union is based on the right policies, that is, those which will ensure much-needed growth and investment. In the first instance, ECOFIN will draw up broad guidelines for the economic policies of the member states and the Community. The European Council, in turn, will consider these guidelines and draw the necessary conclusions. At the final stage, ECOFIN will adopt a recommendation setting out the guidelines and will make a report to the European Parliament.
A monitoring system will be put in place to ensure compliance with the guidelines and, in the event of them being breached, public recommendations may ultimately be issued by ECOFIN to the member states concerned. Ireland accepts that recourse to such recommendations is desirable in the interests of emphasising the commitment of member states to adhere to the overall framework for economic co-operation.
Public attention of late has begun to focus on the budgetary constraints which European Monetary Union may impose. Before outlining the likely shape of the Treaty provisions in this area, I should emphasise that the disciplines imposed by union will not be significantly greater than those which we have been following so successfully in recent years. Indeed, European Monetary Union will provide us with a structure whereby the scope for building upon the gains already achieved can be enhanced.
A special procedure has been included in the Treaty to ensure that the requirement to avoid excessive budget deficits will be complied with. In particular, a breach of one or other of two specific criteria will trigger a Commission examination. These criteria involve the ratio of debt to GDP and the ratio of the deficit to GDP. The figures for these reference values will be specified in a Protocol to the Treaty and the Presidency proposal is that they be set at 60 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. I should stress, however, a debt to GDP ratio in excess of 60 per cent will not, in itself, trigger the procedure. It will only be triggered if the ratio is not moving towards 60 per cent. There is nothing in the draft Treaty which requires us to achieve the 60 per cent ratio by 1996, as stated by Deputy Bruton. The only requirement is to keep moving steadily in that direction, as we are already doing.
The examination will allow a range of factors to be taken into account and, from recent discussions in which I participated, it is clear that there is a genuine willingness to ensure that member states are not brought to book for other than gross budgetary errors. Where a case is brought before ECOFIN it is that institution which will have the final say in the matter. In order to enhance the credibility of the system, it is envisaged that a series of graduated sanctions will apply.
The final meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference is scheduled for the coming weekend and, thereafter, any remaining problems will be referred to the Heads of State and Government for resolution at Maastricht. There are still several outstanding areas of disagreement on individual aspects of the draft new Treaty but I want to emphasise again that great progress has been made, particularly in recent weeks, and I am confident that the basis for an agreement will emerge.
Deputy Spring said that the only contribution which Ireland made to the European Monetary Union Conference was on cohesion. This of course ignores the many hours of meetings and negotiations to which Ireland contributed fully in trying to shape the Treaty text in all areas. Many detailed proposals were put forward by Ireland in the discussions. We did not play a passive role.
A few short years ago, European Monetary Union loomed as a very distant prospect. The progress made in such a short period is a great tribute to the determination and sense of commitment on the part of the member states to come together and to pool their resources towards achieving a much stronger and more stable economic and financial structure in Europe. There is a deep commitment to a balanced distribution of resources and to practical recognition of the special difficulties that the less developed and peripheral regions encounter. We are ready to play our full part in this new development. It will impose disciplines on us in terms of budget and general economic targets but these are disciplines that we are anxious to achieve and that we need to achieve in order to provide the right basis for growth and employment.
I cannot put a date on the achievement of full European Monetary Union but I have no doubt that the momentum generated by the Delors report back in 1989 will be sustained and that there is no going back on the objectives which the Community has now set. We are moving into an era when Europe will emerge as a dominant force in the world economy. As a small and open-trading nation, we stand to benefit in a big way as a member of the European Community. There will be considerable new opportunities open to us and we must be ready to take full advantage of these opportunities.
I propose to share my time with Deputy Durkan.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The Government parties have failed in their duty to develop an understanding of the issues which will arise at the Maastricht Summit. The failure to publish a White Paper setting out the issues, advantages and disadvantages to Ireland stand in marked contast to the resources and efforts made by the Government when they held the EC Presidency.
There is a very big public relations exercise by the Taoiseach and the Ministers, for their self-glorification, not to inform the public. It is naive to say that nothing has been put down on paper on the basis that it would reveal our Government's negotiating policies. Do the Government honestly believe that setting out the advantages and disadvantages of different proposals would weaken their hand in the negotiation process? That excuse for inaction is not good enough and does not auger well for our future in a more integrated Europe.
The Government seem to be obsessed with negotiations and negotiation tactics. Similar reasons were advanced for not informing the public on the GATT talks and common agricultural reform. We have seen there the Government did not want to reveal their negotiation stance. It is quite clear why the public were not informed, because the Government had no overall strategy on these important major issues. What is the Government's overall approach to agricultural reform? Nobody knows. Our partners in Brussels, and at the GATT talks, were told that we want no change. Once that approach was inevitably shown to be unsustainable, Ireland had nothing to offer as an alternative. Furthermore, in the GATT talks the Government have allowed their fixation with trying and failing to ensure no change in EC agricultural policy. The Government have ignored what is happening.
In a more integrated Europe and in an enlarged EC it is vital that policy in Ireland be developed in a more conscious and deliberate way than at present. Seat-of-the-pants approaches may be adequate to fob off interest groups in Ireland but it will not be good enough if Ireland is to properly define its self-interest within the EC and devise appropriate policies and the right tactical approach to achieving our best interests.
With the likely increase in powers of decision-making at EC level it is all the more important that Ireland ensures that its approaches are professional in properly identifying and protecting our long term interests. To do this properly will require wide-scale reform of our institutions and policy-making. A radical reappraisal of regional government and regional policy within Ireland is necessary if we are to develop in a balanced way within Ireland.
An effective regional policy needs to be developed. We seem to believe that if we get funds from Brussels under the European Regional Development Fund heading we will have achieved the objective of regional policy. Getting the resources is only obtaining the tools to do the job. We must have approaches and policies which effect real change within Ireland and not merely approaches which are good enough to obtain funding from Brussels. The begging bowl mentality has hindered our capacity to achieve development, in that all our efforts seem to be devoted to obtaining this funding from Brussels. Once obtained it is almost as if we do not care how this funding is used.
Likewise, the policy-making role of the Dáil and Seanad needs to be improved as must the political system's ability to raise and discuss issues and to inform the public of the options. How can we realistically call for more powers for the European Parliament vis-à-vis the Commission or the Council of Ministers when here we have eroded the powers of Parliament over the years by an over emphasis on Government behind closed doors through the Cabinet and the Civil Service? Along with additional resources and reform of our Parliament we need to allow much greater access to the public to policy formation rather than presenting decisions by Cabinet as a fait accompli. Likewise, there should be open access to Government decisions. Why is it that the USA, a large and complex society, can give its citizens right of access to information of Government while in a small society like ours, citizens are denied such access? To prosper in the new Europe we need an openness of approach and a sense of imagination which has been sadly lacking in the way the Government parties have gone about preparing for the Maastricht Summit.
It is interesting to note the position of the two left wing parties to this debate. The Workers' Party have gone full circle, from opposing the EC to saying that the present steps do not go far enough towards integration. Perhaps it is their love of centralised decision-making that is urging them in this direction. The other socialist party, the Labour Party, have come a long way from their earlier opposition to the EC to the stage where they appear to be rushing headlong for some undefined holy grail. That is only a tactic on their part.
It is unfortunate that we have not had more widespread debate on the direction of change and, equally important, the pace of change in the integration process. As someone committed to co-operation between member states and to integration in the economic and political spheres I am concerned that the process be successful. An over-emphasis on the ultimate goal without a step by step building process would be disastrous. The foundations for European integration have been developed over a long period of time. It is important that the building process is continued at a pace that ensures enduring success. Part of that process involves informing the public of changes that are taking place. Will national sovereignty, however defined, be diluted by the process? Will our interests be protected and how? These are the issues which we need to debate.
How long should it be before the EC is a federal institution? At what pace should powers be transferred? At what pace should economic and monetary union be sought and for how long will compensating measures for less developed regions be continued? What is our view on further enlargement of the EC? How does this affect our position within the EC? If we feel our peripheral position is a source of economic disadvantage, how will we stand if the centre of Europe moves east with the unification of Germany and closer ties develop between the EC and eastern Europe? We should not in our enthusiasm for European integration neglect our relationships with other parts of the world. For example, geographically we are the closest European country to North America and have historical links which should be fostered and developed. Likewise we should not neglect opportunities for two way trade and investment with the Far East and developing countries. Again these issues have not been discussed in public. The Government's arguments would be much improved if they availed of feedback from the public. The Government's tardiness in their approach to Europe is evident in the extent to which EC sources show that Ireland's record of implementation of measures as part of the Single Market process is among the worst in the Community.
The Government's tardiness and laziness in thinking is shown by their willingness to allow themselves to be bracketed with Greece, Spain and Portugal as one of the poorer regions of Europe. I resent people referring to us as one of the poorer regions. We may be at a geographical disadvantage but we should never allow ourselves to be seen as a poorer region. We have little in common with the member states I mentioned. We joined the EC at a different time and we are a northern rather than a southern European country. Our agriculture and tourism industries are different from theirs and we have many different foreign policy objectives.
I would not like to see the Government adopting a simplistic classification of Ireland purely on the basis of an indicator such as GNP per head of population. Likewise, the Government should exercise care in regard to the Social Charter. Many of the measures in the charter are superficially appealing but have serious economic implications. The Government should not be seen to appease anybody in order to achieve particular objectives in the public pay sector. It is important that we maintain an effective and competitive edge in the market-place, and this can be done only by keeping our costs low. Before we enter any of these social areas we should be very careful in the measures we adopt. These talks are very important for this country now and in the future and I wish our negotiators well at the Maastricht Summit.
I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important motion. The Maastricht Summit will have a wide and far ranging impact on the social, economic and political future development of Europe. As a person who has been involved in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation, I hope the conference will involve a redefinition of objectives and ideals and a reaffirmation of where Europe is going. If a creature from outer space had visited the various European capitals in the past six months, he would have got a very different impression of where Europe is heading, depending on where he had visited, whether The Hague, Bonn, London or Dublin. The European Community would benefit tremendously if a clear definition of where Europe was going and how fast it would reach that objective emerged at Maastricht. I hope the Taoiseach will ensure there is no deviation towards a two speed Europe, which is being pressed for by some interest groups in Europe.
I would like to see the benefits of European union being spread across the board and that there would be equal opportunities for all members of the Community. If this does not happen, the concept of a European Community will fail. Having observed the performance of the different European institutions over the past ten years, one would get a vastly different impression depending on which country held the Presidency, or which Commissioner was speaking or which economic bloc's interests were being expressed on what Europe is all about. We need to concentrate again on the ideas of Schuman and Adenauer and the objectives they sought to achieve.
While Maastricht may mean different things to different people, European economic, monetary and political union means different things to different people both in this country and outside it. For example, perhaps the Government see European union as an umbrella under which they can shelter without ever having to hold it in a storm. I am sure all the analysts would agree that we must contribute to as well a benefit from European union.
It is absolutely impossible within the confines of this debate to deal with the farming interests at any length. It appears to me that the Government have a tendency to declare the whole country as a disadvantaged area and that huge tracts of countryside can be used only for tourists. That is not what Europe should be about. European union should ensure that all States have a meaningful role to play so that they can contribute to the Community both economically and politically. If given that role, I believe they will fulfil it; if not, they will curl up and die.
Let us assess how the business community, the farming interests and the unemployed view the proposals for economic, monetary and political union. Do the unemployed think they will benefit from assistance from Europe? If they do, they are wrong, because this would be of no benefit to them in the long term. What the unemployed need is that the Taoiseach reiterate at Maastricht that 265,000 Irish people are unemployed and another 30,000 people are on various schemes and some of the opportunities emerging in the Community must come their way. I accept that we have to make an input, but opportunities that will come about because of the economic clout of the EC must be directed at us. If this is not clearly spelled out at this time, it will be too late to do so in a few years time. I hope the Taoiseach will avail of this opportunity to spell out quite clearly what we need. It is not a begging bowl but equal opportunities that we need.
As a result of the changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe, I believe that governments have not their eye on the ball. We welcome the changes that have taken place and we welcome the contribution these people can make to the enlarged Community, but this should not automatically mean that the ideals and objectives of the EC should change dramatically and that certain people should be thinking in terms of a two speed Europe. I am confident that the Taoiseach and the Government are bearing this in mind but more than ever, there seems to be a lack of concentration on the objectives of the Community.
The Fine Gael Party Leader, Deputy John Bruton, spent some time dealing with the jargon of Europe, the Eurospeak. The farming community see their way of life going down the drain and little being put in its place. The business people face stiff competition from abroad and may find it difficult to cope with. The farming community, the business community and the unemployed are not interested in Eurospeak but in realistic opportunities for themselves to work, to produce or to trade. If this is incorporated in the proposals at Maastricht, we will realise some of the original objectives which have become vague in recent times.
I realise we are running out of time, so I will conclude. Europe should be controlled by the political sector while at the same time having regard to the views of the banking sector. It should not be taken over by either interest. I have always held the view — and I am sure other Members will agree with me — that economic development in this country has always been on a quick, quick, slow basis depending on the timing of an election. There is going to be an election within the next year or two in every country of the EC. The main advantage of this is that economists, bankers and politicians will realise that nothing is forever and that what may be of benefit to one sector may be a disadvantage to another. I hope Maastricht will lay the groundwork for a levelling of the playing pitch in the banking and political sectors.
Deputy Briscoe, before you commence your contribution, I should like to ask you to consider a point. I allowed the Minister for Finance to overrun his time by five minutes. A slot of ten minutes had been given to the Independents but that slot is now running out; unfortunately, it is less than five minutes.
The time allotted to me is 20 minutes. If I finish within that time, that is fine, but my speech may take just about 20 minutes. I shall look for my entire time if I need it.
All I can do is make the point.
The Intergovernmental Conference on Political Union, and the
Intergovernmental Conference on Economic Union, were convened in December 1990 with a view to bringing the concept of European union to a higher and more effective plane. These complementary agreements are essentially a logical extension of the Treaty of Rome.
The original European Community developed in a very different world from the world in which we live. It was a world of fixed exchange rates established after the Second World War under the Breton Woods Exchange Rates Agreement. It was a world marked by conflict and one in which the largest and most developed western states had been to war not once but twice in the previous 30 years.
It would be a mistake for Ireland, and for this House, to follow the isolationism we have seen in the debate on this matter in other fora.
Ireland is part of Europe. People under 50 will have no recollection of their personal experience of the last European war. We should not forget that this was a critical factor in the formulation of the Treaty of Rome. The treaty envisaged an ever-closer union between European peoples. The events in Yugoslavia are a reminder of the political progress that has been made in the European Community. They are also a reminder that the passage of time does not always bring progress, but progress is a function of political, social and economic development.
The Community has drawn the old protagonists together. Military conflict between Italy, Germany, France and Britain is unthinkable today. In so far as European Monetary Union and EPU underpin and support these arrangements they are desirable.
The Taoiseach in his remarks to the House when opening this debate referred to the common values we have with our Community partners and to our shared culture. This concept may not be over-emphasised. Indeed, I find gratifying the way in which at all levels of our society we regard ourselves as part of the European Community, a Community now set to embark on another significant phase of its development. This is not an argument or discussion about "them and us", rather it is a discussion about us, the Community, of which Ireland is an integral part and of our role within that Community now and as it evolves into the future.
As with our partners, our fellow Europeans, we, too, have at hand the wealth of our history and our heritage, our European heritage, in defining ourselves today. In choosing to embark with our partners on the path to European union we recognise and endorse our European heritage and the value to ourselves and our partners of further linking our interests in so many practical ways. We make this choice in our own interests for reasons of principle and for reasons of culture and also to ensure the circumstances which will maximise the economic opportunities available to our people. It was not always the case, that the Irish people were free to make choices for themselves, informed by a thorough understanding of what would best serve their own interests. The European union of which we speak today is a union created in freedom by its members and it is a union whose evolution will be predicated upon the consent of its members. The advances towards greater unity within the European Community have been underpinned, moreover, by fundamental principles which commit the Community to support, in many ways, the efforts to develop of the less well-off members. It should remain thus in the implementation of steps towards union. That is one of many crucial factors which marks the present endeavours and which distinguishes the present coming together of nations from less happy experiences in our history.
I do not wish today to criticise those who would warn of the need for safeguards. We want to ensure that we create a true community where, in the words of the Government's motion, "the new union is firmly grounded in economic and social cohesion and solidarity between the member states and that all will share fully in the fruits of its economic and social development".
For this reason it is particularly appropriate that work on the development of European monetary union and European political union are proceeding in parallel. An effective single or common market requires consistent and mutually supportive economic policies. The European monetary union is essentially the institutional response necessary to achieve convergence in monetary, budgetary and commercial policies in EC countries. The Bretton Woods Agreement concluded after the last war, by fixing exchange rates between the main trading countries, established a stable framework for international trade and, with it, prosperity and employment. Inconsistency between the fiscal and monetary policies of these trading partners led to devaluations, revaluations and realignments in the sixties and seventies. These were seriously damaging to business confidence, international trade and economic activity generally. They were, however, unavoidable in the absence of consistent monetary and fiscal policies or some other inescapable currency discipline such as the gold standard. The House needs no reminding of the consequences of the adoption of the gold standard and the role it played in economic history of this century in the UK, the US and in Europe. Suffice to say that it gravely aggravated business recession, and severely limited the flexibility of governments everywhere to take enlightened counter cyclical action.
But what of political union? Economic policies have consequences on people. All countries have qualified economic sovereignty. Even the United States of America is not immune to major upsets in the economic system, for example, one recalls the impact of the oil price shocks in the seventies.
The objective of European political union is to ensure improved political control over economic management. It is designed to ensure that political institutions develop in parallel with the economic integration. It could be argued that for the people, as distinct from the business of Europe, the proposals for European political union are and will be in the long term the most critical of all the new arrangements. There is still a great deal of work to be done between now and the Maastricht Summit and at that Summit to ensure effective arrangements for the people of Europe at political level.
At this juncture, it is worth reflecting in some detail, on the achievements to date of the European Community. First and foremost has been the contribution the Community has made to democracy, to stability and to prosperity in the Europe which has risen from the destruction of the last war. The Community has not stood still; how could it have? It is an organic thing and has been propelled by the political and economic aims of its founders. Two main forces worked here. There was, for example, the dynamism released by the first steps at the establishment of a common market, which has impelled members ever closer. Then, as the Community assumed a status as a major economic entity in the world, there has been a necessity for members, through agreed fora and institutional and other arrangements, to deal as an entity with national and other blocs of nations.
The Community is a unique entity, it has its own framework of laws which is binding on the member states. That framework has evolved rapidly in recent years, most importantly to enable the Community to create the world's largest single market. That effort is now nearly completed. But, and this is why we are having this debate, we cannot stand still. The people of the Community in order to consolidate the substantial gains which have been made by them to date and in order to safeguard the prosperity of the Community in the world order must go further still. This is imperative in order to secure for future generations the continuation of the benefits which have been secured to date and to expand them. A European Community which is cohesive, which is integrated and which has the capacity to represent itself as a single entity when it is necessary and desirable to do so is a Community which will work best in the interests of all its citizens.
There are many facets to the next stage of the political integration we now contemplate. First and foremost there is the question of new competences for the Community, where these are necessary, and expansion of the frontiers of existing ones. At this juncture it is important to state that we do not perceive what is happening within the Community as a grab for power by Brussels. Much media comment, not necessarily in this country, has been inclined to view developments in that light. As the Taoiseach indicated, we expect moves in relation to Community competence to be informed by the principle of subsidiarity, indicating the exercise of power at national level where there are more effective means to secure a desired objective than by its exercise at Community level. We will be looking to Community action, within new agreed competences, to underpin efforts at economic development and, most importantly, development which serves to reduce unemployment.
I must turn now to a fundamental principle to which we are committed as the Community moves to closer integration. We spoke for many years in common parlance of the Common Market; more recently we have had the Single European Act — which was about the completion of that market — but the benefits and wealth created by the dynamism of that market must be used to bring its benefits to all member states. Therefore, we are committed to the ideals underlying the principle of cohesion — the channelling of a fair percentage of the resources generated by the successes of the Community to the less-developed regions. That is in the interests of the Community as a whole. In the years ahead we will seek to build on the successes achieved to date through the mechanisms of the structural and other funding programmes.
As the Community evolves so too must its institutions if they are to cope effectively with the business to be transacted and allow the correct balance to be struck vis-à-vis member states' interests and accountability. As the Taoiseach has indicated, the various institutions of the Community must be adapted to facilitate the process of integration, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice and the Economic and Social Committee. In the context of the expansion of Community competence and of the possible accession of new members to the Community later, it is very appropriate that the changes outlined by the Taoiseach take place in order to render these institutions themselves more effective and accountable to the peoples of the Community. This new balance must continue to reflect the realtiy that we are a Community of nations, that each nation, as such, must carry commensurate weight.
I have remarked that we have created within the European Community an entity with a world role. Such an entity must have the capacity to represent itself as such, to act as a cohesive entity at those fora and at such times, it is deemed necessary to do so. In pursuance of this objective the Community would act to support the objectives spelled out in detail by the Taoiseach, for example, the safeguarding of common values, the strengthening of security, the preservation of peace, the promotion of international co-operation and the consolidation of democracy. These are high objectives and will establish the Community not only as a symbol of economic strength but also as a moral force in the conduct of world affairs.
European monetary union is not a new idea. The first initiative taken in creating an economic and monetary union was in the sixties before Ireland joined the EC. A special report called the Werner report was prepared in 1970. In 1971 the then Community Six declared "the political will to establish an economic and monetary union". The previously fixed parities between European currencies at that time were being subjected to increasing pressure. In 1972 the European "snake", as it was called, was established, designed to minimise variations between the currencies of the then Community member states. By the time the next major initiative was taken, the establishment of the European Monetary System, in 1979, Ireland had joined the Community and was part of the process of dismantling the monetary barriers to integration of European markets.
Ten years later President Delors of the European Commission tabled his plan to achieve European monetary union in three stages. The first stage related to the creation of a single market, accompanied by the doubling of Structural Funds and the proposed incorporation of all Community currencies in the European Monetary System. The second stage envisaged the integration of European Central Banks in new institutions and the drawing up of rules for the conduct of budgetary policy by member state Governments. It was envisaged that the third stage would involve fixing the parities between European currencies and their eventual replacement with a single currency.
I outline the background to these events to emphasise the fact that this is not a new idea, that work has been progressed at European level, and here, on the realisation of agreed Community objectives in this regard for many years. As we approach the Maastricht Summit the details and rules that will give effect to these ideas are being negotiated. The draft European Monetary Union Treaty sets out the second and third stages of European economic and monetary union must achieve. At a recent meeting in Appledoorn there was an agreement that the Treaty should be signed by all Twelve member states but recognised that not all states might wish, or be able, to participate.
It is a tribute to the economic policy pursued by this Government and their predecessors since 1987 that the criteria being proposed by the Dutch should render it possible for Ireland to participate fully in stage three of economic and monetary union when the European Council decides to activate that stage of the process. The conditions stipulated refer to the inflation differential between the member states and the three best performing countries; the interest rate differential between the member states and the three best performing countries, the general Government budgetary position, its recent evolution, and full participation in the European Monetary System in the two years prior to the commencement of stage three. Were the Irish Government in 1987 confronted with these circumstances the policies pursued in the period 1983 to 1987 would have excluded Ireland from any possible involvement or incorporation into the full system. However, improvements in the rate of inflation, in interest rates, the satisfactory conduct of the budget deficit and the debt/GNP ratio have made the goal of full participation a realistic one for us.
There can never be certainty in economic projections. A mature, realistic view of risks must be taken into account in evaluating any proposal. But the economic evidence of the advantages gained since joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism, in particular since this Government pursued the more rigid fiscal and monetary strategies inherent in the European Monetary Union process, is favourable and conclusive. Economic performance has improved over a wide range of parameters. Growth has increased significantly while the rate of inflation, budget deficit and burden of debt as a proportion of GNP all have been significantly reduced. Of course, there has been a significant level of transfers to Ireland as part of the overall arrangement. That reflects the Community concept and its commitment to work together to improve and ensure adequate standards of infrastructure throughout the different regions. With the abolition of currency barriers to trade within Europe — facilitating transactions in a major way, with greater price stability, lower costs, economies of scale in production and marketing and increased competition, aiding consumers and producers alike — other advantages of this kind should accrue.
This is the first real debate we have had in this House about the European Community and the draft Treaties that will be negotiated at Maastricht unlike the series of statements we have witnessed since January of last year. I hope to confront some of the spurious and inadequate arguments advanced by the Taoiseach who, in ten days time, will travel to Maastricht on our behalf.
Nearly 70 years ago to the very day Dáil Éireann debated the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty whose importance was to influence, if not to dominate, every aspect of Irish life right up to the present. Yesterday the Taoiseach outlined the attitude of this Government to the terms of the draft treaties on economic and monetary union and European political union which will be negotiated next week at the Intergovernmental Conference in Maastricht. As head of the Government, he will represent the views of the Irish people and participate on our behalf as one of the Twelve in the conclusions of those negotiations. Its significance is, perhaps, as important as what took place in Dáil Éireann and in London 70 years ago.
Yesterday in the Dáil, 70 years after Independence, the Taoiseach's response to the five areas covered by the two draft treaties was a very sad reflection on the Government and a massive indictment of the philosophy which underpins it. The Taoiseach talked about proposals for common foreign security policy, the role of the institutions, giving powers through new competences, economic and monetary union and finally economic and social cohesion. I will try to deal with the gaps he left when discussing those areas.
In respect of a European common foreign security policy, the one piece of news is that the Government have signed up, without our consent, to become members of the Western European Union, which is the European pillar of NATO, an aggressive military alliance to which this country has traditionally been opposed. There has been no explanation of why we have done that and no suggestion that the people want us to do so. That institution is outside the institutional framework of the EC and is not accountable to us.
A possible explanation is that because of the Community's failure to deal with the Yugoslav problem we need a new common policy, including some class of an army and some kind of defence competence. Using the same logic, one could say that United States foreign policy has failed since 1947 because the problems of the Middle East have not yet been solved. One could also say that British and Irish Government policy since 1922, and certainly since 1969, has failed because the problems of violence in Northern Ireland have not yet been solved. I heard the Minister for Energy argue, as the Taoiseach has done covertly, that the challenge of Yugoslavia justifies our getting involved in a military alliance. That argument is spurious and does not stand the test of criticism.
The Taoiseach went on to talk about giving increased powers to the European Parliament. That is a significant shift from previous Fianna Fáil policy. The Progressive Democrat policy as enunciated by the Minister for Energy is clearly different. It is significant that the Taoiseach, for the first time in this House — the first time was in Belfield at an ICEM conference some weeks ago — said his Government are now in favour of giving powers to Parliament. He went on to talk about the Court of Justice, the Commission and the Economic and Social Committee. There was no reference to the role of the Council, the area which is precious in the ideology of Fianna Fáil because that is where they are one of 12, and in the privacy of the Council's deliberations they can exercise influence.
There is no explanation for the Taoiseach's conversion to extra powers for the European Parliament. Perhaps Chancellor Kohl converted him. There is no evidence as to how that will affect the conduct of the Government at the Council of Ministers. The Taoiseach made no reference to the increasing democratic deficit in the Community institutions. That democratic deficit occurs as more power travels from this institution to the Council of Ministers or the Commission where negotiations are conducted in secret. That matter is not being addressed.
The Taoiseach talked about the new competences being given to the Community in areas like education, health, social policy, environmental matters and research. We welcome this. In this context, the Taoiseach talked about the principal of subsidiarity. Although he failed totally to define it, the Minister for Energy referred to the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno of 1931 and gave an anti-Marxist definition of subsidiarity which was phrased at that time to justify the non-intervention by the State in any kind of activity. It was used in 1951 to explain why the Catholic Church and the Fianna Fáil Government of the day would not support the mother and child scheme. That is the ideological origin of subsidiarity.
Subsidiarity today can mean two things. It can mean, as the Minister for Energy benignly interprets it, that decisions should be made at the lowest level of effectiveness and that people should take responsibility for their own area of activity. That is a positive interpretation which I would support, but it is not the interpretation of Mrs. Thatcher, according to whom subsidiary means "mind your own business", that the British will not allow the EC to dictate whether pregnant women should have the right to maternity leave while holding on to their jobs because that is regarded as an interference in the domestic state which is the United Kingdom. That is the negative interpretation of subsidiarity that has been applied, with justification.
Subsidiarity is a two-sided coin, with two valid interpretations, neither of which has been properly defined in the treaties. That negative interpretation was utilised in private by the former Minister for Labour, Deputy Ahern, to support the negative conservative position of the British Government in blocking any implementation of the Social Charter, on the spurious grounds that somehow such additional social protection would prevent foreign investment in the Irish economy, where we have the highest level of unemployment in the Community. The Taoiseach said, on the one hand, the Community will have extra powers but on the other, the principle of subsidiarity will be enshrined, which means we can ignore those powers because they will not affect us.
I am reminded of the comment made by Archbishop McQuaid on his return from the first session of the Second Vatican Council, that there would be no change whatsoever in the Catholic Church of Ireland. There is a throw-back to that kind of thinking in the Taoiseach's interpretation of these extra competences. Senator Hanafin extracted from the Taoiseach in the private of a Parliamentary Party meeting an undertaking that whatever changes may take place in Brussels will not affect us in Ireland.
The Taoiseach went on to describe in some detail economic and monetary union. This is perhaps the easiest component of this package to understand, especially the mechanics of the monetary side of it. There are the three phases of the Delors plan, EMS, co-ordination and establishment of an economic and monetary institute, the harmonisation of rates of interest and then the locking of exchange rates into a system where a single currency becomes a paper transfer. Everybody can understand the conditions necessary to achieve that. It is a bit like linking 12 boats together to form a pontoon. There are five necessary conditions for getting that pontoon of 12 currencies, four of which we can meet now. In deference to Deputy Briscoe, who read an excellent speech — I compliment him on his ability to read it — I have to say that our ability to meet any of these conditions was started by us in 1983 when inflation was 23-24 per cent, which, by the time we left office in 1987, we had reduced to 2 per cent. One arbitrary condition of those five has not been justified, argued or explained by the Taoiseach or the previous Minister for Finance, that is, the 60 per cent debt-GNP ratio. Why is it 60 per cent? We can meet every other condition as of now and I should like to know the economic justification and macro economic explanation for this imposition. None of the economic specialists we have listened to have been able to say why it should be 75 per cent or 80 per cent and why there should be a difference in some countries as against others. Has any effort been made to address this one obstacle to us meeting economic and monetary union? Can the Taoiseach, with his economic wisdom, explain to this House how we are going to do it? There has been no reference whatsoever to this issue.
I am not going to go into the history of how the European Community came about and how the Second World War ended, as that would be a total waste of parliamentary time. The last part of the Taoiseach's five-point argument relates to the provisions to promote greater economic and social cohesion. Maybe the sensitivity of the Government and the Taoiseach to the valid criticisms which have been made about their begging bowl approach to the issue of Structural Funds drove the Taoiseach to put this component at the end of his five-point argument rather than up front. If he is sensitive to such a criticism then I welcome it as a sign that maybe we are getting the message home.
Fianna Fáil's proud Republican tradition which was enunciated in this House by a fellow county man of Deputy Noel Treacy's, the former Deputy Liam Mellowes, on the Treaty debate has been totally and utterly abandoned by a lack of belief and faith in the ability of Irish people to make their way in the world. We are reduced to a Taoiseach who basically says in the privacy of the corridors of the Berlaymont that the Irish people are incapable of earning their way in the world and we need Structural Funds. Last week he debased us to the point of saying to President Delors that unless we get Structural Funds in 1992 without any requirement for matching domestic investment we will not make it. This is the 70th anniversary of the Treaty debate when we asserted not only our right to independence but our belief in our ability to run this island better than anyone else. Yet 70 years later we have that kind of debasement of the Irish Republic and all its citizenry in the corridors in Brussels.
Economic and social cohesion is a Community phrase, translated from French, which in its essence must be understood as a two-way street and not a social welfare cul de sac, which is how Fianna Fáil have interpreted it. It is about eliminating distortions by the Community which national Governments are operating in the centre of the European market by way of national supports. I am conscious of the time and I will refer briefly to the contribution made yesterday by Deputy Bruton in which he identified all of these. Net of everything else, there are better subsidies for incoming investment in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium than we can offer here through the IDA. Cohesion is as much about getting rid of those distortions of the market for Irish produce which can be sold in any market as it is about throwing a few more ECUs to the west of Ireland, the centre of Dublin or the eastern by-pass.
In reality, the total funds of the EC are less than 1.4 per cent of the combined GNP of the entire Community of which between 60 and 70 per cent goes to the Common Agricultural Policy. If we allow at least 5-10 per cent for overheads related to everything else we are talking of something in the region of 0.3-0.4 per cent — Deputy De Rossa referred to 0.6 per cent — of the residual amounts of money of the entire GNP of the Community. The great Republican saviour who will lead us into the 21st century is going to say, "Our strong demand in Europe is for a doubling of the Structural Funds". What impact, if any, is that going to make on the kind of economic problems facing us at home if there are distortions in the real markets where we can earn our living rather than depend on welfare, which so far as I can see from Fianna Fáil is the ideology of republicanism? It will have no impact. He is going to come back and say he has some kind of claim or commitment to increase the funds. We are then supposed to regard this as a great success and the fine print will say that the Community does not propose to interfere with the internal distortions in the market. Therefore, cohesion as distinct from social welfare will not have been achieved.
We can do better than that. Dublin is the only capital city in the world which can boast of being the birthplace of three Nobel Prize winners for literature. No other city in the world can claim that kind of literary talent. If one looks at our achievements in literature, academia, sport, enterprise, etc., one can see that we are not an impoverished or impotent people who cannot make our way in the world. Yet our Republican leaders, with the qualified support of the Progressive Democrats, are trying to say to us that at Maastricht we will be reduced to the capacity or status of people let in through the servants' entrance, through the wicket gate consigned for tradesmen, and allowed to eat the crumbs from the table after the main business has been done.
If one looks through the Taoiseach's speech one will see that there is no Irish opinion anywhere in it. He will say that on the one hand some people are in favour of this, on the other, some people take another point of view and it may emerge that this is what is likely to happen. Is the Taoiseach a spectator or are we players? Are we one of 12 inside the ring or one or millions outside the ring? It is not clear that the Government have had any serious impact in real terms on the discussions on the draft treaties which will be negotiated in ten days' time.
May I ask the Deputy to consider bringing his speech to a conclusion?
I am about to conclude. We have reached this position because the Government have taken their eye off the ball for the last three months. This is a tired and disillusioned Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition which has neither the vision nor the courage to pursue radical policies that will affect the areas that concern us most. Instead they have concentrated exclusively on pleading for more cash to be given to Structural Funds. As I have already said, these are merely crumbs from a rich person's table.
As I said, 70 years ago the Dáil debated another Treaty. The then Deputy Liam Mellowes, in defiance of what he saw as a compromise at that time, said that the fight for Irish independence, national sovereignty, had been for something more than the fleshpots of empire being offered by the other side. I say to the Minister for Energy and the Taoiseach that the European ideal, of which Ireland is an integral part going right back to the time civilisation began on this island, is about something more than the crumbs of Structural Funds. It is about allowing the Irish people to make a contribution to Europe rather than looking for a subsidy from it.
The forthcoming Maastricht Summit is a further important chapter in the political, economic and financial evolution of a new Europe. The immediate primary goal is the completion of the Single Market in 1992. While there has been slow growth in the development of Europe over the past decade, Ireland, on the other hand, particularly since 1987, has seen substantial and exciting economic growth. This has been characterised by the exceptional period of economic growth in 1990 when we increased our level of GNP by 7½ per cent.
This exceptional growth is a credit to the quality of our Government since 1987 and to the outstanding single contribution made by the former Minister for Finance, Deputy A. Reynolds, who was the key anchor man, the politician charged with responsibility for controlling and managing our economic and financial affairs in the recent past. Despite constant adverse criticism from politicians and forecasters alike, he stuck rigidly to his targets by defending, forecasting and achieving them. I am confident that the work he began will be continued in the interests of economic and financial stability and in creating further economic growth to create opportunities for all the people of this island in the years immediately ahead.
We joined the European Community in 1973. The then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, at that time said: there was no such thing as staying as we were, that if we did not join the Community we would be in a serious situation but by joining the Community, in order to avail of the benefits, there would have to be change. We have seen many changes in a growing and more cohesive Europe during the past 20 years or so. It is very important for Ireland as an island nation on the periphery of Europe, small in financial and population resources but with great resilience and great ability to adapt to new opportunities that we achieve economic and monetary union. I listened with interest to what Deputy Quinn had to say. He made much play of the reference to Quadragesimo Anno. I suggest that instead he should read now Populorum Progressio, the 1967 encyclical on the Development of Peoples. The whole European scene is about the importance of fulfilling the aspirations of the Treaty of Rome and creating equality of opportunity for all the people of Europe whether on mainland Europe or in Ireland on the periphery of Europe.
The Maastricht Summit must give a clear signal right across the Community and the entire world that Europe as a new concept, as a great new agency playing a key role in world development, will be a strong invigorated cohesive unit, managing its own affairs within its own rules, and that all members — existing members and those who will join in the future — will play a key role, taking into account the situation in world affairs politically and economically and whatever strategic decisions have to be taken.
If we are to achieve European monetary union the great powers in the European Community must play a key role. Many of the member states are members of G7 and their desires are to maintain the strength of their wealth and resources in supplementing and supporting one another. Many others are members of G24 who want to make a contribution right across the world and create opportunities for other countries who are not members of any alliance but are dependent on supplementary resources available in the G24 structure. The members of these great bodies must now focus their attention on creating a new Europe, revitalising Europe and providing their resources as their contribution to the new Europe. Ireland has 150 years experience of being in a monetary union linked with sterling and the United Kingdom in various ways. We know what benefits can be gained from being part of any monetary union. It is vital in the new Europe where the concept of the Single Market means mobility of people, labour, goods and resources, that we are in there in a singular situation and that we are involved in the management of people, the utilistation of resources, the transfer of goods and funds. It is important that a single European currency, which is vital for the future of Europe and the equalisation of monetary and fiscal opportunities, is achieved. The member states involved in these particular alliances have a key role to play and the Maastricht Summit must give a clear indication that the member states involved and the other resourceful conglomerations will focus their attention and contribute greater resources into leading Europe to make a greater contribution to world affairs in the years ahead.
The Maastricht Summit must give a clear indication that the new Europe will be competent to create new opportunities for those involved in agriculture. Ireland with its particular climate and resilient people has a great opportunity to contribute to world food production but because of the distance from the marketplace is at a disadvantage. The Maastricht Summit should be able to give a clear indication that those who have the ability to produce food will be allowed to do so and that there will be no distortions by way of regulation, quota, levy or otherwise to prevent them from making that contribution to the new enlarged community.
I wish to refer specifically to the intervention system about which I have spoken at Council meetings when I represented the country in various ministries in the Community and at various other meetings in Europe. We do not have an alternative to the intervention system where we produce food, store it artifically — at a huge cost to the Community by way of subsidy and tax contributions — in order to sustain the market when so many millions of people throughout the world are starving for want of that food. The new Europe must give clear signals that it knows where it is going, that it will create the opportunities for our people and that it will use the resources in a productive way to the advantage of all the people in Europe.
Employment is vitally important. A clear signal must be given that there is a commitment to full employment and creating job opportunities for our people. Ireland is the only member state who has clearly signalled and demanded, since January last, that it wants proper planning and a proper structure in Europe whereby full employment can be achieved for all the people of Europe. We have a growing population of 321 million in the Community and we have growing unemployment. I hope Maastricht will give a clear indication in that regard.
Much has been said about Ireland's position on neutrality. Traditionally we have been neutral and have maintained our sovereign position. It is important that we are in a position to reinforce our sitaution. We must take cognisance of commitments in Europe and the fact that we are a member of a Community and that we have a role to play in whatever system is brought forward through proper negotiation in the years ahead. We should be well able to put forward a case for Ireland's traditional position as a non-aggressive nation and the victim of aggression for centuries, because of the key role we have played in world peace affairs and the fact that in Europe we have the Western European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and that key members in the Community are members of those bodies. Ireland with her traditional neutrality, non-aggression policy and contribution to world peace could become a role model in the new Europe. Given the need for defence and the risk of future military problems, Ireland could be the peace-keeping nation available to negotiate in conflicts. Europe should be able to recognise the key peace-keeping role that Ireland can play in the Europe of the future.
We have a unique heritage and culture and a major contribution to make to Europe. As Deputy Quinn said we have already made many contributions to Europe particularly in the field of education. We must maintain our clear identity within Europe. Europe must contribute to us in helping to sustain our national language and culture. The identities of all Community members should be preserved in the new enlarged Europe. It should be obvious that we are different peoples with a common purpose playing a key role in world affairs. That can be done with a clear signal from Maastricht.
It has been suggested that Ireland is going to Europe with a begging bowl. I do not accept that. We joined the Community to make a contribution and to avail of the whole ethos of the Treaty of Rome — equality of opportunity, and the transfer of resources to ensure that equality of opportunity prevails. We must make our position clear at all times. Europe must know of our population of three million with one million at work, one million at school and almost one-third of a million unemployed. They must know of our GNP and unemployment problems. The fact that they are aware of these things does not mean that we are going to Europe cap in hand. We are raising the Irish flag clearly, indicating our position in every situation, on every proposal and on all the policies while being able to inform them of our problems and being accepted and helped, in the overall democratic consensus to be arrived at. If we do not go forward with that concept we cannot hope to achieve the type of Europe we all desire, a Europe which plays a key role in world affairs and which gives equal opportunity to all the people of the Community.
As a result of Maastricht we must have a clearly defined protocol which is legally binding with regard to economic and monetary union so that Europe can make a great contribution to world affairs.
As a result of the Maastricht Summit, Europe should know where it is going, how it will get there and what contribution it will make to the individual members, to Europe as a whole and to world affairs. I am confident that Ireland will play a key role in ensuring that the Maastricht Summit will be a successful chapter in the evolution of Europe.
With the agreement of the House I would like to share my time with Deputy Enright.
Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
I welcome this debate, late as it is. I hope the debate will be continued consistently so that our people will be fully briefed on the implications of an integrated Europe. If people are involved in the discussion they will positively encourage European integration. There is a lot of anxiety, concern and differing opinions, but opinion polls have shown again and again that the Irish people feel positively about our membership of the European Community. I hope that our participation in and status in Europe will continue to allow the people to react positively towards our European membership.
One of the most significant aspects of Europe relates to the vision which brought about its formation in the first place. A united Europe must have seemed like a mad dream in a Europe which was divided and devastated by a world war. The Treaty of Rome aspired to an economic market which would include and not exclude, which would strengthen and not weaken, and which would ensure equality of opportunity for all citizens. That was something that could not easily be accomplished because of demographic, geographic factors and social factors. We are still struggling towards the ideal. We must keep the ideal before us as we go into Maastricht. The economic Community was not just based on hard-nosed economics, it was based on inclusion rather than exclusion and I hope the second Treaty negotiations enlarging and integrating Europe will adopt the same ethos. That ethos allowed the European Community to develop into an entity of which we can be proud. Europe has a sense of cohesion and most countries involved no longer feel marginalised. Europe is a centre to which we can appeal not just with regard to a better economic future but with regard to a better social future for our people as well.
Many speakers here have criticised our emphasis on the begging bowl, our efforts to see what we can get out of Europe rather than what we as a proud talented nation could contribute. One of the most embarrassing things is that far too often we are seen not alone as reluctant contributors to Europe but as very reluctant to accept the rules of membership, particularly with regard to social reform. When it did not suit us we ignored the rules or complied with them only belatedly. If we are in the game we should play by the rules and that means taking on in an affirmative manner what is asked of us with regard to equality here. There is no point in us demanding equality of opportunity in Maastricht and at all the other conferences if we are not prepared to exercise that principle here in Ireland so that a long list of marginalised, disadvantaged people have to seek their rights at European level.
As spokesperson for the marine I would like to think that the fisheries policy will be renegotiated so that our fishing industry will be able to expand to the degree to which it is capable and that is necessary, particularly in the context of the dismantling of Common Agricultural Policy. Many people involved in the fishery industry feel that we have emphasised agriculture, sometimes with disastrous results, diminishing and undermining what we should have been doing in regard to the fishing industry. I would like to think we would emphasise the potential of that industry now. It is absolutely necessary to move in and replace with industry and job creation what will be lost with the dismantling of Common Agricultural Policy.
I ask everybody negotiating at whatever level in the European Community to take into consideration that economic cohesion is but a part of what the negotiations are about. What is more important, as President Delors has said again and again, is the social cohesion of Europe. We opened the door and widened the horizons of Ireland out of a dark, bleak and insular time, out of dependence on a very negative export trade to Britain and a monetary union that we were allowed to break on entering into a vaster one. As Deputy Ruairí Quinn said, we have the advantage of our young people and of a positive education programme. We need not feel that we are in any way second class citizens or that we need to go begging. We can participate and contribute at a level that we can be proud of and be as productive and profitable as any other country.
With regard to job creation, I welcome the fact that the Commission has said there must be commitment to the goal of full employment, including equality of opportunity, and that the Commission will draw up a report on progress each year taking into account demographic and social factors. That is something we must constantly build on. The more positive we are, the more we are at the table with initiatives and ideas and a full acceptance of what the European Community can mean to all of us, the better it will reflect on us. On job creation we could be a centre of technological information and distance learning. We have the skills and the people to do it. I do not know how much time I have left. I do not want to encroach on Deputy Enright's time.
If the Deputy wishes to practise equality, she has very little time left.
I must practise what I preach. An expanded House of Europe — and this is the second and most exciting step — will include the Scandinavian countries with all they have to offer and have contributed already over the years, and the Eastern European countries as well. In the negotiations at European level let us never forget one of the biggest moral responsibilities we have. As a very privileged group we must consider the implications of the north-south divide and what we owe to developing countries. Europe is rich because the developing countries are poor. I will leave it at that.
I must advise that we are attempting to accommodate one of our Independent Deputies and with the co-operation of the Minister of State that can be done. Deputy Enright must conclude before 3.15 p.m.
The meeting of the European Council in Maastricht the week after next is of enormous significance.
The decisions taken at that meeting will have longterm implications for the people of Ireland, very significant and important implications.
It is important that there would be a spirit of co-operation and unity here in Ireland and that we would be clear and concise in our views.
Regrettably, I have to state that the Government have not taken the initiative on any debate or discussion on Maastricht. Rarely will such important decisions be taken, while the people of Ireland are kept in the dark about the implications of what is taking place.
It is an outrage that we have had so little debate or discussion on this important matter. There is often far more discussion taking place about a soccer match, a hurling match, a race meeting or a football match and that is unfortunate.
The Netherlands Government have already produced a White Paper, as far back as last January, to encourage debate and discussion on this matter. The debate has continued in Britain over the past number of months. Similarly in France and Germany there are detailed discussions about this matter. It is only in the last few days that we have got down to discussing this here in this House.
In the recent Programme for Government negotiations the Government have only now decided to publish a White Paper. There is no date promised but the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said that one is about to be published.
Because of internal disputes in the main party in Government little or no time has been devoted to the preparatory work necessary for this meeting in Maastricht.
Next year a referendum will be held here on the terms of the Maastricht Summit. Subject to a satisfactory outcome and to this House being satisfied with the terms agreed at Maastricht it is my view that this referendum should be approved in the very best interests of the people of Ireland. I caution the Government and the House at this stage that it is likely there will be widespread apathy and that there is a danger that the turn out of voters will be small in the referendum. Given that there are 300,000 people out of work, all of whom are seeking employment here, some are bound to express dissatisfaction and this may be directed towards Europe.
Rarely have I seen the farming community go through such a difficult period. Despite this there has been little or no debate on the proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy or on the next round of the GATT negotiations which are of importance to us. Farmers' incomes have declined drastically in each of the last three years and I have not seen them as concerned or as worried for a long time. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the farmers' rights campaign of the sixties and the difficulties encountered now are every bit as bad, if not worse, than in those years.
Major problems are being faced in the Departments of Health and Education and others and to some extent Europe may be blamed for them. For this reason it is essential that the Government, and every Member of this House, debate the benefits which will accrue to Ireland from the European Community. There are problems with Europe but, overall, the advantages for Ireland far outweigh the disadvantages. It would be true to say that all parties in this House will work to ensure the referendum is carried. However, even with their support, much hard work will have to be done to ensure that this happens. I am of the view that a sizeable number of people will vote against these proposals. It would be an absolute disaster, however, if the referendum is not carried. We have to ensure it is successful.
I would like to see the Maastricht Summit adopt a proper planned approach to tackling unemployment. Some people have expressed the pious hope that there will be full employment, but the fact remains that since we joined the Community unemployment has risen by nearly 200,000. This will be borne in mind when people come to vote. Europe has a job to do and it has not been as successful as it should have been in tackling unemployment. There are many angry people in my constituency who find themselves unemployed in addition to many angry farmers whose incomes have declined. To a large extent they are venting their anger on Europe.
There is a tendency towards centralisation in Europe; people are heading towards cities and the larger towns at an accelerating rate. It is in the best interests of the European Community to ensure that people remain in employment in the peripheral regions and rural areas where priority has to be given to the development of agriculture, horticulture and tourism. The number employed in farming has dropped from approximately 276,000, 20 years ago to less than 160,000 today. The European Community continues to import agricultural produce while maintaining an intervention system. The amount of food stored in intervention, and the amount imported into the Community are similar in size. This has to be looked at to see how the problem can be resolved. It is essential that farmers in the European Community are paid for gainful employment rather than encouraged to leave their lands lie fallow.
We have participated fully since we joined the European Community and we intend to be a major contributor in the future, but it is important that what our amendment calls for, "a legally enforceable guarantee of adequate continuing financial support for the poorer regions and states along the lines that already apply within the Federal German Constitution", as proposed by the Spanish Government, is supported. Care should be taken when moving towards a common currency. I favour increased powers for the European Parliament given that it is the only directly elected democratic institution within the Community. We should support it in every way possible.
I understand the Minister of State, Deputy M. Kitt, is agreeable to confining his contribution to ten minutes so that the Independent Members can have five minutes before the Minister for Foreign Affairs is called to reply to the debate.
I agree with Deputy Enright on the importance of the meeting at Maastricht on 9 and 10 December. The outcome is likely to have a major influence on the shape and direction of the Community for many years to come. The purpose of this debate is twofold, to continue the process, already well under way, of clarifying the issues involved, and to secure the support of the House for the Government's approach to this meeting.
The background to Maastricht and the issues involved are I believe well known by now. The momentum generated by the internal market programme, and the shattering of old moulds in Central and Eastern Europe, have combined to present the Community with its greatest challenge to date, that of gearing itself, first, to meet effectively the needs of its citizens as we approach the end of this century and, second, to equip itself to deal more effectively with the major issues in the world.
For almost one year now, at the two Intergovernmental Conferences on political union and economic and monetary union, member states have been engaged in intensive negotiations designed to give the Community the necessary competences, powers, resources and institutional and policy balance to meet this challenge.
Before commenting on the substance of the negotiations, I want to touch on fundamentals. It is the Government's firm conviction that Ireland's future lies in Europe. We have of course already derived considerable economic benefit from Community membership, and membership has enabled us to influence events affecting us in a way that would not otherwise have been possible.
Opting out of Europe is not an option for a small country like ours, with its high dependence on trade for prosperity. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consider what our situation would be like outside Europe, and they should reflect in particular on our situation before we joined the Community. If they do so, I think they will come to the conclusion that "fortress Ireland" belongs to "never-never land". Equally, anyone who considers the challenges, and opportunities, confronting Europe and Ireland must conclude that there can be no standing still: Europe must go forward and Ireland must go forward in Europe. For the Community to stop now would risk its becoming ineffective — even irrelevant — in a fast-changing environment and would mean foregoing the undoubted economic and social benefits which greater integration and co-ordination will confer.
This then is the fundamental standpoint from which we have approached the negotiations on political, economic and monetary union. I believe it will find widespread support. Successive Governments have been committed to European integration. The Irish people have confirmed their support for the process of integration in two referenda, in 1972, on membership of the Community and in 1987, on the Single European Act.
To recognise that our future lies in Europe does not of course mean that we should be prepared to sign on passively to anything with a European tag. That has never been our approach. Like all participants in the negotiations we have our own particular interests and concerns and our own view of where Europe's best interests lie, based on our experience of almost 20 years of Community membership. It might be recalled that the first steps leading to Maastricht were taken last year during Ireland's Presidency of the Community. Since then, we have played a very active role in promoting Ireland's special concerns and in pursuing our view of a truly integrated Community which will benefit all its citizens and contribute to the prosperity and stability of Europe as a whole. Indeed, we have brought to this task the same vigour and commitment and the same mobilisation of effort and enthusiasm which won the Irish Presidency of the Community such praise last year.
As with all negotiations, we recognise that compromises must be made to take on board the interests of all member states — indeed, it is the essence of the Community and its strength that member states are prepared to compromise. I believe however that the enormous effort which we have invested in the negotiations will bear fruit and that our vision and our concerns will be reflected in the outcome at Maastricht.
Turning now to the substance of the negotiations, I want to concentrate on one particular aspect — economic and social cohesion. The motion before this House calls on support for the Government in their "determined and constructive efforts to ensure that the new union is firmly grounded in economic and social cohesion and solidarity between the member states and that all will share fully in the fruits of its economic and social development".
Cohesion is a critical issue in the negotiations, both as regards economic and monetary union (European Monetary Union) and political union. The completion of the Single European Market and economic and monetary union present a fundamental challenge for small European states like Ireland. Competition will increase and at the same time, the further pooling of sovereignty in the monetary, budgetary and broader economic spheres will reduce the capacity of individual Governments to take corrective action in their countries' economies. While there is great potential for growth in Europe in all of this, the potential is also there for a widening of disparities between regions and member states. This was recognised in the NESC's Report No. 88 "Ireland in the European Community: Performance, Prospects and Strategy".
In the same way as with European Monetary Union, political union presents a challenge for small countries like ours. Political union will involve extending Community competence to new areas and a strengthening of existing competence in areas, such as the environment, which may involve major spending commitments by this country to match higher standards developed by wealthier neighbouring countries.
Against this background, it is clear that cohesion is of overriding importance. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress recognised that it was essential to full and balanced European integration that there must be a Community commitment, backed by practical and strengthened action, to ensure major progress towards the achievement of economic and social cohesion. The Government and the social partners also agreed in the programme that effective cohesion requires an across the board approach on the part of the Community, involving not just the Structural Funds but all Community policies.
From the start, the Government have been actively pursuing the question of cohesion in the context of political, economic and monetary union. At the two European Councils in Rome last year, the Taoiseach argued — and his European colleagues accepted — that cohesion should be among the priority issues to be addressed by the conferences on political union and economic and monetary union. Soon after the negotiations began, the Government, with a view to keeping up the momentum and focusing the debate, submitted a series of specific proposals for Treaty amendments relating to economic and social cohesion.
The Government's consistent and committed pursuit of the cohesion objective has met with considerable success to date. The European Council at Luxembourg in June of this year agreed that ever closer economic and social cohesion is an integral part of the general development of the union and should be embodied in the Treaty in an appropriate way. The draft Treaty texts now reflect much of what we have advocated including, specifically, the inclusion of cohesion among the objectives and tasks of the Community; a provision that cohesion will be taken into account in formulating Community policies and a requirement for the Commission to report every three years on progress towards cohesion and, if necessary, to make proposals for corrective action.
There is still, of course, much to play for. At Maastricht we will have to stand over what has already been achieved in the negotiations and resist any attempts to weaken the draft Treaty texts. We are also seeking assurances in regard to the practical mechanisms for making cohesion a reality. In particular, we are seeking commitments on a substantial increase in the Structural Funds, greater flexibility in the operation of the funds and a broadening of their application, a linkage between the Community's own resources and the relative wealth of member states, and provision for the needs of less developed member states in the proposed funding for the environment and trans-European networks.
These are not inconsiderable objectives, but we are also not without support in the Community. Ireland is co-operating closely with member states of like mind in pursuing the cohesion objective and we have received valuable support from the President of the European Commission. At the same time, as we face into Maastricht, it is vital that this country expresses its objectives clearly and unambiguously. We need not be ashamed of doing so. That is not begging bowl politics. It is not just about Ireland. It is not even about the cohesion countries in the Community. It is about a vision of a truly integrated Community which will confer stability and prosperity on all its citizens and enable all the member states to move together and achieve more effectively, within the Community framework, our common objectives of increased employment and higher living standards for all our people, while at the same time enhancing the Community's contribution to peace and justice in the world at large. That is why I am calling on this House to give a resounding endorsement to the motion before it, which the Taoiseach can carry to the European Council in Maastricht.
Tá an-tabhacht ag baint leis an gcruinniú i Maastricht. Tá gach dealramh air go mbeidh mór-thionchar ag an toradh ar chruth agus treo an Chomhphobail sna blianta romhainn.
While I am grateful to the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, for giving me some of his time, I should like to record my extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction with the five minutes in which I have to speak; it is the only time available to an Independent Deputy to speak on this important matter. This reflects very badly on the way the House does business.
The motion before us states that the welfare and prosperity of the Irish people can best be advanced through Ireland's membership of the EC and that full and balanced integration will lead to greater economic growth, social progress and increased employment. If anyone believes that they will believe anything.
Deputy Enright admitted that since we joined the EC in 1973 unemployment had increased by 200,000; yet the Government have the gall to put this motion before us which talks about increased employment. What increase? There will be no increase in employment following the likely results of the Maastricht Summit; on the contrary there will be a further reduction in employment. Everybody in this House must know that but they are not prepared to face up to it.
I do not share Deputy Enright's hope that all the parties in this House will support a possible referendum as a result of the Maastricht Summit. The Green Party (Comhaontas Glas) will not support any such referendum, we will oppose any referendum which takes away any more of our sovereignty in economic, cultural social and other matters. We will be opposing it and I have no doubt we will receive tremendous support for our stance. The fact that we will be the only political party to do so very much grieves me. Where are the Labour Party? They intend to sell out. The Worker's Party intend to do the same. There is nobody left except the Green Party. It is a very lonely place to be but we do not give a damn because we know we are right.
I opposed joining the EC in 1973 and the Single European Act in 1987. We will certainly oppose any further dilution of our Constitution following the Maastricht Summit. If any Member took the time and trouble to study the debates in Grattan's Parliament in 1799 leading to the infamous Act of Union he or she would see that there was a similar scenario, except that on this occasion only one person is prepared to stand up and oppose it. At least in Grattan's time some people had the guts and foresight to stand up for an Irish Parliament.
This is a shameful capitulation to big business and multinational companies. It will be another step on the road towards our cultural annihilation. Our language, traditions and ethos are at stake and this is another inexorable step from which there is probably no turning back. It is the end of this country as a nation.
It grieves me that Fianna Fáil, one of our great political parties, the party which were supposed to lead us to independence, are now bringing in proposals to sell us out. It is absolutely deplorable.
This has been a most useful and positive debate. It has allowed us to cover all the main issues which will be considered at the European Council in Maastricht in just over a week. I am grateful to those Deputies who have contributed to the debate from all sides of the House for the detail and tenor of their remarks. There are, of course, differences of view — I would not have expected otherwise. At the same time, however, there are very many areas where the opinions and attitudes expressed here over the past two days reveal a substantial measure of common ground and broad agreement between us all.
I think I speak for every Member of this House when I say that a satisfactory outcome to the Maastricht European Council is of great importance to the future of Europe. The Community, of which Ireland is a committed member, must be strengthened and given a new basis in order to meet the challenges which it will face for the rest of this decade. These include issues such as maintaining the momentum of development which has been achieved since the mid-eighties, a new enlargement of the Community and the impact of the changes elsewhere in Europe.
From Ireland's point of view we must aim to consolidate our position in the Community by playing an active and positive role in achieving the goal of a closer European union while affording full protection to our national interests. The debate over the last two days had, therefore, been constructive. It enables us to go to Maastricht in the knowledge that there is substantial support for the positions which we will adopt in the negotiations and for the proposals which we have made.
The Taoiseach in his opening statement outlined the state of the negotiations on the key issues which must be settled at Maastricht. He highlighted those issues to which the Government attach particular importance and for which particular solutions are being sought. He drew attention to the positions which other member states are likely to adopt and the implications which this may have for the successful outcome of the meeting.
The Government are going to Maastricht to seek agreement. We have made that abundantly clear to Prime Minister Lubbers. On Monday I shall attend the final meeting at the level of the Foreign Ministers before the European Council. I can assure the House that I shall be repeating our commitment to securing an outcome which will be good for this country and for the Community. There will, of course, be disappointment in some quarters, as there always is at the end of major negotiations of this kind, that a more ambitious and imaginative result was not secured. On the other side of the argument we will hear complaints about the erosion of our sovereignty — we have heard concerns of this kind put forward here in the core of the debate — but I do not share these apprehensions.
The question which we must ask ourselves is whether the challenges confronting the Community and its member states in the future can be better faced and overcome as a result of what will have been achieved at Maastricht. I have no doubt that they can. To help answer that question, we must recall that the impetus for change came not only from within the Community but also from external factors. Internally the successful pursuit of policies such as the establishment of the Single European Market inspired new ambitions towards European union. This led to the movement, especially during our Presidency last year, to convene the two intergovernmental conferences. The aim has been to commit the Community to broaden and deepen the areas of its competence, to strengthen the role of its institutions and to establish new frameworks for common action in the field of foreign policy and police and judicial co-operation.
While seizing this opportunity to develop the internal coherence and vigour of the Community, the member states could not ignore its external impact beyond the borders of the Twelve member states. The example of the unique concept of the Community, the manner of its development and its success in harnessing the differing interests of its members for the common good, played such a vital role in bringing about change in Eastern Europe.
The Community has gained respect as a model of democratic values, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It has achieved a very high degree of economic prosperity. Other countries in Europe have shown an increasing interest in becoming partners in the construction of the European union. These include Sweden and Austria — countries with which we have had a considerable affinity in international affairs.
The events which have unfolded on our doorstep in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are directly relevant to the Community. We know of the long term aspiration of these countries one day to join the Community as members in their own right. The Community is contributing substantially to their transition by the establishment of market economies. This is an essential task for the Community. There is also a role for the Council of Europe as Deputy Bruton said, though not as a substitute for direct Community help. Indeed on Tuesday last I met again many of my Eastern European colleagues at the Council of Europe ministerial meeting in Strasbourg.
The Community is now the bulwark of the new Europe. It remains a symbol of prosperity and freedom. The values which it has long upheld — respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law, economic freedom and social justice — are now shared by the emerging democratic states, with whom we share a continent. With this new role comes new responsibilities and burdens. If the Community is to fulfil the role which is expected of it first by its own citizens but also by the rest of Europe, it must reinforce the network of links, economic, political and monetary, which binds it together. It must develop new policies and strengthen existing ones. It must enhance its action and influence on the world stage.
The Community has a mission then, a mission towards its immediate European neighbours and towards its own citizens. That is why success at Maastricht is essential not only for the Community's prestige in the eyes of its citizens but also for its international reputation. There is an onus on all the participants to come to Maastricht in that spirit of co-operation, realism and compromise which has worked so successfully in the past. Each member state should promote its own interests taking full account of those of its partners. To do otherwise would, without doubt, subvert the whole process. It would undermine the vital principles of solidarity and co-operation which are fundamental to the Community. Ireland has brought to the negotiations its experience as one of the smaller member states. We have always been committed to a strong Community and in particular to a strong Commission. The result of Maastricht must not, in our view, mean any reversal of that position.
In the course of this debate Deputies have raised many points on various aspects of the proposed treaties which require a response. The Minister for Finance has responded to points made on aspects of the European Monetary Union Treaty and I would not propose to go over that ground again.
Deputy FitzGerald and others complained that not enough time had been made available for a debate. I would say that the House has been fully informed of developments during the Intergovernmental Conferences. There was a debate on the subject on 9 July in the course of which the Taoiseach gave a comprehensive and detailed outline of the position after the Luxembourg European Council. We have had two days of debate this week. From the Taoiseach's very extensive statement in July, our negotiating objectives were made very clear to the House and Deputy Jim O'Keeffe will find in that statement and the statement of yesterday a fully comprehensive picture of our position.
Furthermore the Government have made available to the House the text of the Luxembourg Presidency proposed Treaty. We have also made available both the latest political union and the economic and monetary union texts produced by the Dutch Presidency as formal conference documents. I am not aware that this was done during the previous major negotiations of this kind.
It was suggested by Deputy Spring that we have not been active in pressing for social policy to parallel the progress being made on the completion of the internal market. In fact in the area of social policy — one of the key issues in the negotiations — we have emphasised the overriding need to promote employment. Quite reasonably we are seeking a balance between working conditions issues and the creation of employment as an objective has been accepted by the Presidency.
In another area, that of Home Affairs and Judicial Co-operation, we welcome the prospect of increased co-operation. At this stage of the union's development it is clear that intergovernmental co-operation should be the main basis for action and this has been acknowledged in the draft. The main intergovernmental approach arises from the considerable sensitivity involved for all member states.
Deputy O'Keeffe asked what our position was on Europol. I can tell him that we support the Presidency's approach which is to establish a Community-wide system for exchanging information within a European police office.
Deputy Spring said that our only contribution to the Intergovernmental Conference has been to focus entirely on cohesion. This is not the case. When we came to look at which new areas should be brought within the Treaty, Ireland took the initiative at the conference not only on cohesion but on other areas and the texts of these proposals were sent to the Library. Our specific proposals were in the area of health, education and culture where we worked in co-operation with the Commission.
Progress is likely to be made on the establishment of competences in these areas as a result of the current IGC. What we had in mind was to provide a sound legal basis which would enable the Community to undertake initiatives in support of the activities of the member states in the areas of health, education and culture and which would emphasise aspects of each where co-operation and collective effort could have tangible and beneficial results.
Incidentally, Deputy Bruton said that a number of issues such as culture and industrial policy were being dropped from the list of new competences. As he will see from the Presidency's text, this is not the case.
A major issue connected with the extension of the areas of competence is the move to greater use of majority voting. The success of the Single European Act resulted in a large part from the way it enabled many more decisions to be taken by qualified majority vote. This experience has encouraged us to look again at the way in which the Community functions and to assess whether there is scope for further improving the decision making process by extending the use of majority voting. In this regard I would refer to Deputy Bruton's comment on recognition of qualifications. Action in this important area is already taken by qualified majority. However, I would agree with him that the Community has to ensure that there is recognition of qualifications throughout the Twelve and this is important to Ireland.
This said, there will remain, nonetheless, areas where we believe it would be imprudent to abandon altogether the principle of unanimity as the ultimate protection for vital national interests. Such areas include taxation where we are opposed to any amendment of Article 99, some aspects of social policy and of environment policy, as well as the adoption of common positions or joint action in the fields of foreign policy and judicial co-operation. These must remain the exception.
I would now like to turn to the role of the European Parliament. The Parliament is being given a more important role in a number of key areas, such as the right to investigate alleged contraventions or maladministration of Community law, except where the allegations are being examined by a court of law. Community citizens shall have the right to petition the European Parliament on matters which affect them directly. Of particular importance is the right of rejection which is being given to Parliament in a limited number of areas. This marks a considerable upgrading in the influence of the Parliament in the Community decision making process. However, it is not sufficient to say that just because the Parliament is elected on a Community wide basis it is the ultimate expression of democracy in a Community context.
The role of national parliaments in the scrutiny and consideration of Community legislation and developments generally must be reinforced as Deputies have argued. There is a proposal put forward by France to provide for regular meetings of representatives from the European Parliament and national parliaments which would hear reports on the state of the union from the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission and would consider major issues affecting the union.
In this context, I should like to comment on a proposal which has been made by Deputy Bruton on the concept of an elected European Senate. The European Parliament, whose work an elected senate would, as a second chamber, complement, has already rejected such a proposal. In its opinion the creation of another legislative tier would add to the already cumbersome structures of the Community. This view is largely shared by the other member states of the Community. It must be asked, too, what function such a body would fulfil in he community context?
There is already competition for competences between the Council and the Parliament. Another body juxtaposed between these would delay the Community legislative process. Arguably the Council performs a role akin to that of a senate at present: smaller member states are given a disproportionate representation in voting terms and in the system of qualified majority. The Council deals with legislation from the Commission in parallel with consideration in the Parliament in the early stages of the process. Thus the Council is the body which is likely to be the most affected by the establishment of a senate type body. This would not necessarily be in the interest of the smaller member states — in Ireland's view, our national interests are better served by the Council than by the creation of a second parliament chamber.
Another point which Deputy Bruton made in this area was his suggestion that the President of the Commission should be directly elected. I do not agree. I believe that the democratic as opposed to the executive responsibility should remain with the Council and the Parliament.
I wish to turn now to the question of economic and social cohesion which, as this debate has shown, is of concern to all Deputies. The Government's approach has been very determined in this area. It has been founded on a clear appreciation of Ireland's needs. I would not agree with Deputy Bruton, Deputy Spring and others that Ireland's effort in the conferences has focused only on this issue. I have already pointed out the initiatives which we have taken in other areas.
However, cohesion is a very important issue for Ireland and one on which the Government have to concentrate. I make no apologies for this and I believe that Deputies on all sides of the House would expect us to take this appraoch. The existing Treaty acknowledges the cohesion dimension. The terms of reference for the Intergovernmental Conference also acknowledge it. Cohesion is not a preoccupation of the poorer countries; it is a matter for all and we have placed the issue where it belongs, at the centre of the agenda at the Intergovernmental Conference.
We are conscious that as the Commission itself says in its declaration this week on the conferences, stronger economic and social cohesion would make a vital contribution to the success of European Monetary Union and to the benefit of all of the member states.
We were the first member state to table proposals on cohesion. Ireland's approach signalled clearly to our partners and the Commission that an acceptable solution would be required on this question. They can be in no doubt that this remains the case.
As has been made clear by other speakers on the Government side, the current Presidency Treaty text takes up many of our proposals. It requires that economic and social cohesion be taken into account in the formulation of policies. It also requires that the Commission should report regularly on the progress towards the achievement of the cohesion objective and, if necessary, make proposals.
As the Taoiseach indicated at the outset of the debate, we will be seeking commitments to underpin the Treaty language by undertakings to provide substantial funding and a greater flexibility in the operating of funds. Flexibility and concentration would include a greater emphasis by the funds on areas of importance to Ireland such as education which was rightly mentioned by Deputy Bruton.
We will also be arguing for inclusion of the concept of progressivity in the Community's own resources. We will expect that the ideas put forward by President Delors at the June session of the European Council are put into efect especially as regards the financing of the funds.
I am aware of the comparison which some Deputies opposite have drawn between the Spanish negotiating position and our own. I would point out to them that each member state must and does have the right to decide for itself the positions of substance, tactics and presentational approach it adopts in major negotiations of this kind. The question of the level of contribution to the Community budget is a key issue for Spain and a very important issue for us. We have concentrated, with the support of the other cohesion countries including Spain, on improvements to the actual cohesion chapter and at the same time strongly supported the Spanish case on progressivity. We have also supported partners in seeking a cohesion fund though the final shape of that fund has still to be settled.
In his speech yesterday the Taoiseach outlined in considerable detail the proposals for a common foreign and security policy, the point at which the negotiations have now arrived, and Ireland's approach. I should like to take up specific points made by Deputies during the course of the debate on common foreign and security policy.
Deputy Spring suggested that the draft treaty is silent on relations with the Third World. In fact, if he cared to examine the text he would find that it includes for the first time detailed provisions on development co-operation with the stated objectives of fostering the lasting economic and social development of the developing countries and most especially the disadvantaged among them; the smooth integration of the developing countries into the world economy and the campaign against poverty in the developing countries. Far from being silent on the issue, as Deputy Spring suggests, the new union will involve an even greater commitment than before to the Third World, with stated and specific objectives for the Community's policy in the sphere of development. This is a major advance. It is one that Ireland sought and argued for in the negotiations.
It has been argued that a European defence should be controlled by the Community. Deputy Bruton and others have made the point, and I understand it. The Government have consistently said that if the Community were to develop its own defence arrangements for its own security Ireland would consider participating in such arrangements. This has been our position in the negotiations, and partners are well aware of it. But the Community is not at that point. Deputy Dukes wondered if defence is a more sensitive issue here than elsewhere. My answer is that foreign policy, security and defence questions are sensitive everywhere. I have seen this myself in the Intergovernmental Conference negotiations. Other member states are divided on the question of a European defence role and a European defence identity. They have doubts about a specific European defence and concerns about the implications of such moves for the North Altantic Treaty Organisation. That is one of the reasons for drawing a distinction in the Intergovernmental Conference negotiations between the formulation in the longer term of a common defence policy and the security role of the union in the meantime. The Taoiseach made it clear to the House yesterday that under the terms of the draft treaty on the table the nature and scope of a common defence policy are matters for future negotiation in another Intergovernmental Conference. We will play our part in those negotiations.
Several Deputies, including Deputy Gilmore, referred to the links that may be established between the new union and the Western European Union. Deputy Quinn even suggested that the Government have, to use his words, "signed up" to membership of the Western European Union. This is simply not true and the Taoiseach's speech makes this clear. The draft treaty would not oblige us to join the Western European Union. The question of the relationship between the union and the Western European Union is a difficult negotiating issue for all member states and will be taken up again on Monday and Tuesday next at the Foreign Ministers meeting. At this point, a little more than a week before the Maastricht Summit, it is still not clear where the compromise will be found. In the negotiations we have not ruled out a relationship which would for certain purposes permit co-operation with the Western European Union in such matters as peacekeeping or humanitarian operations. But — and I want to make this very clear — we would not take on obligations in relation to either the Western European Union Treaty itself or to policy platforms adopted by the Western European Union.
A number of Deputies have referred to the implications in the draft treaty for our traditional positions on foreign and security policy. I want to repeat what the Taoiseach made clear in the Dáil yesterday. The draft treaty under negotiation would not involve Ireland in a mutual defence commitment. Nor would it oblige us to join a military alliance. We would acquire no new obligations in these respects and the draft on the table makes this clear.
What we will do, however, is bring to the discussions in the new union, just as we do now in European political co-operation, the values that underpin our approach to international affairs — support for the rule of international law and for international co-operation designed to achieve it, the UN, the CSCE, the Council of Europe. Our view is that security is a concept broader than defence and requires efforts in many areas including diplomacy and peace-keeping. The draft treaty on common foreign and security policy will not restrict us in any way in our approach to those issues, but it will enable us to work together with our partners on matters of concern to us all.
We will be producing a White Paper in due course which will fully analyse the consequences of the new treaties. Deputy O'Keeffe complains that we did not produce a White Paper. We did not produce a White Paper before Maastricht because negotiations were in progress, with positions changing rapidly. However, I would point out that the Taoiseach's 9 July statement comprehensively covers the ground and leaves no doubt as to where we stand.
Next year there will be a referendum on political union and on economic and monetary union. There will also be a series of major debates in this House on the necessary enabling legislation. The Government will continue to ensure that the maximum amount of information is made available and that the debate takes place in the full knowledge of the consequences for Ireland and for the Community of the proposed changes in the Treaties.
I commend the motion.
Does the Minister anticipate the production of the White Paper before Christmas?
The Deputy will realise that it is important to analyse very clearly the results of the Intergovernmental Conferences and the decisions taken at Maastricht. The Government will produce a White Paper as soon as possible. I do not like to say whether it will be before Christmas or after Christmas.
I take it that it is likely to be early in the new year.
It is more than likely that the White Paper will be produced in he new year but that is a matter for the Taoiseach and the Government.
The time has come for the Chair to put amendment No. 1 in the names of Deputies John Bruton and Jim O'Keeffe.
I think the amendment is lost.
In accordance with the order of the House yesterday, the division in question will take place at 6.45 p.m. on Wednesday next.
The Dáil adjourned at 4 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 3 December, 1991.