A Europe without frontiers is now accepted as a commonplace idea. When a Minister for Finance speaks of achieving such an objective it is often in the context of removing physical barriers such as tariffs and customs posts. The EC has long recognised that many of the invisible barriers to trade are a greater stumbling block: hence the adoption of the Single Market programme. Alongside the progress already made in these areas we must recognise that more fundamental obstacles often exist to full co-operation across borders, whether these be cultural, administrative and language differences or difficulties of a more political nature. A basic tenet underlying recent developments in the EC is that closer co-operation and integration produce a synergy with benefits greater than those arising in a zero sum game. Everyone can benefit from closer co-operation and integration. Nowhere is this more true than on the island of Ireland where our similarities far out-weigh our differences.
We are both at similar stages of development in terms of GDP per head. Both our economies are very open reflecting the limited size of our respective home markets, our resources base and our long trading traditions, particularly with Britain.
Natural resource based industries of agriculture, fishing and forestry account for a significant proportion of employment in both parts of this island. These industries make a sizeable contribution, by way of external revenues and inducement effects, to total economic activity.
Both areas have relatively high natural population and labour force growth by EC and British standards, relatively low population density, and high dependency rates. Each has, furthermore, experienced significant migration flows, varying with prevailing economic circumstances. Because of this rapid natural labour force growth we are both faced with exceptional job-creation requirements. While both our labour markets are integrated with those of Britain, our unemployment rates are well in excess of those in Britain or the EC as a whole, and have traditionally been higher.
The peripherality, in a European context, of both North and South poses common difficulties: for access to markets, notably in continental Europe, for the development of industry and international services, or innovation and transfers of technology.
Each region is affected, in its capacity to compete, by infrastructural limitations, reflecting location, low population density and dispersal of population.
With the completion of the Single Market the integration of Community markets and economies should lead to closer economic and commercial relations between the economies of the North and South. In time, we are likely to see more all-Ireland firms, with operations conducted across both regions, and more cross-Border mergers and acquisitions. Because economies of scale in marketing and product development will be of crucial importance, joint approaches by firms North and South may be necessary if they are to survive and compete successfully in the enlarged European Market.
In her address to this House yesterday my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Rourke, outlined the wide range of measures already underway to develop strong cross-Border co-operation in the area of trade and industry.
A joint North-South approach to the issues arising in the context of European integration has several possible dimensions. The imminent arrival of a Single European Market, the approaching economic and monetary union, and the pressures and opportunities these will create, emphasise the logic of exploiting to the full the available scope, in certain fields of activity, for practical co-operation on a bilateral basis. In the present context of accelerated progress towards integration on a broad front, there is a particular need to ensure that joint concerns are adequately reflected in the policies of the European Community.
From the standpoint of two regions of the European Community, North and South have shared interests in the development and application of Community policies. Because of their structural characteristics, North and South face particular challenges in an integrated Europe. They have a mutual interest in the development of appropriate common policies, and the extension of Community responsibilities, with consequential enlargement of its budgetary resources. Each has a vital stake in a strong European Regional Policy, to enhance their prospects of catching-up with more favoured regions of the Community, in terms of both productivity and employment opportunity. The provisions of Article 130B of the European Union Treaty, whereby all Community policies must take into account the objective of Economic and Social Cohesion, can assist both North and South.
Geographical proximity, affinities in legal infrastructure, similarities in business organisation, and shared historical, cultural and commercial experiences, provide powerful arguments for working together. There are valuable examples of co-operation in place and these can become the foundation for closer links in the future. As both parts of the island become subsumed, in the economic sense, in an integrated Europe, the cost of the current one-island/two-economy basis of operation in many areas will become a greater drag on economic progress.
The EC Structural Funds, which substantially benefit both parts of the island, provide an opportunity for Ireland and Northern Ireland to work together cooperatively to our mutual advantage. As Deputies will be aware, I have just returned from a Council of Ministers' meeting where we had some very difficult discussions on the Delors II Package. I, along with my colleagues from other less developed member states, am strongly arguing the need for substantial increases in the Structural Funds in addition to the proposed new Cohesion Fund, in order to meet the new provisions on economic and social cohesion enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty. General increases targeted at Objective 1 regions obviously benefit Northern Ireland as well as Ireland. Similarly we have supported the idea of flexibility in the determination of the threshold at which a region ceases to hold Objective 1 status. This is of particular concern to Northern Ireland where GDP per head is very close to the limit of the 75 per cent of the Community average. This is just a small example of the co-operative approach which can be adopted at EC level in relation to the Structural Funds.
Deputy Bruton's motion and the Government's amendment are concerned more with the domestic planning and implementation aspects of the Structural Funds. The negotiations on the Delors II Package are at a very early stage and proposals on the detailed administrative structures for the next round of Structural Funds have not been put forward as yet. It seems likely that there will be a high degree of continuity with the present arrangements. Thus Objective 1 regions, such as Ireland and Northern Ireland, will be preparing development plans for submission to the EC Commission as the first stage in the elaboration of the detailed Structural Funds programmes.
As the current Structural Funds arrangements will expire at the end of 1933 it will be necessary to have all the new arrangements in place at that stage if a smooth transition is to be assured. Deputies will appreciate that the work involved is substantial. If the planning process is to be thoroughly carried out we cannot afford to wait until negotiations are concluded on the Delors II Package. Accordingly, the Government have already commenced the preparation of a new national development plan. Work is under way in all relevant Government Departments. Submissions have been requested from the social partners and from the sub-regional review committees.
The national development plan will set out the Government's strategy for the optimal use of Structural Funds resources in contributing to our development goals. It provides an unrivalled opportunity for the advancement of North-South co-operation in economic development. It is for this reason that I specifically asked Government Departments in preparing proposals for the development plan to examine their individual programmes and proposals with a view to identifying those elements lending themselves to cross-Border co-operation. Senior officials of my Department have discussed with their counterparts in Nothern Ireland the desirability of enhancing the cross-Border element in both our plans. I will be asking my officials to continue their contacts with their Northern Ireland colleagues with a view to ensuring complementarity and synergy in the development strategies to underpin our respective plans.
While Deputy Bruton's motion refers to an operational programme with the objective of intensifying trade between both parts of Ireland, I gather from Deputy Bruton's speech yesterday that he has in mind that the two parts of Ireland would submit a joint development plan covering all Structural Funds programmes and sectors which would in turn lead to a joint Community support framework and joint operational programmes. While this is a laudable objective it is not easily achieved in the short term.
The main difficulty lies not in Community regulations which would not currently permit such an arrangement but more fundamentally in the different programmes and priorities North and South. The development plans will set out the economic development strategy to be pursued and the utilisation of the Structural Funds to assist this strategy. Though our problems North and South are similar, the economic development strategies to be pursued will obviously reflect the differing policies and views of two different Governments. I am not saying that this is desirable. I am saying that it is the reality and we must deal with the reality.
If we were to pursue the course suggested there is a real risk that we would end up with a cobbled together development plan effectively comprising two different development strategies and two separate strategies and programmes for each sector covered. Each Department or agency North and South would pursue their own policies and programmes and the two would be added together for reporting arrangements to Brussels. There is no reason to believe that the problem with the Dublin-Belfast road instanced yesterday would be any more easily resolved in the context of the work being part financed by the EC under one joint community support framework with the North and South providing matching finance for their elements than in the context of the EC part-financing it under two different community support frameworks.
It is easy to refer, as did speakers yesterday, to a partitionist mentality or to the public service pursuing the familiar and following precedent. I do not want to put bureaucratic structures in place just for the sake of being able to present something as a joint plan or joint CSF or joint programme. I am seeking to create genuine co-operation in the economic sphere leading to genuine added value achieved from co-operative measures between North and South.
The National Development Plan, Community Support Framework and operational programmes cannot create or impose co-operation. They must reflect co-operation already underway or be used as the occasion to foster the growth of co-operation. Rome was not built in a day: neither can a two economy island be turned into a fully integrated single economy by a wave of an EC Structural Funds wand.
It is for this reason that the Government wish to progress steadily but surely, putting one building block in place after another in identifying areas of fruitful co-operation within our respective development plans and aligning our plans as closely as is possible given the real practical and political constraints.
Contacts to develop co-operation in Structural Funds programmes are facilitated by the close contacts already in place for the joint Ireland-Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme under one of the initiatives.
The programme involves approximately £58 million of EC aid from the three Structural Funds. Matching domestic finance is being provided by the Government and local authorities on both sides of the Border as well as by the private sector, bringing total expenditure under the programme to just over £100 million.
This programme, though not covering the full island of Ireland, is a joint operational programme. It is administered jointly by the authorities in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The various levels of implementation such as the working groups assessing applications under each sub-programme are established on a joint basis with representatives from the relevant Departments and agencies North and South. Many of the sectors referred to in Deputy Bruton's speech are covered in the programme.
There is a concensus among the member states and the Commission that INTERREG has been a success and that this type of action needs to be continued. I am confident therefore that there will be a successor to the present INTERREG Programme which runs to the end of 1993.
INTERREG, however, can only be one aspect to what should be done in the area of cross-Border co-operation. An important limitation to INTERREG is that its application is confined to the eligible Border counties. It does not, for example, cover actions which might be undertaken on an island-wide basis.
An INTERREG initiative extended to cover actions which could most efficiently be carried out on an all-island basis might meet some of the concerns expressed by Opposition speakers. We would favour such a development. However as the INTERREG initiative is targeted at Border areas, it may be difficult to achieve agreement at EC level on a wider definition of the areas which may be covered. In that case, we would cover these matters in our respective Community Support Frameworks.
We on the Government side are in full accord with Deputy Bruton on what we want to see achieved. It is in all our interests that a coherent economic development strategy for the whole of the island get under way and that Structural Funds are used in a complementary and co-operative fashion to achieve this aspiration. I would like to assure Deputy Bruton and other Opposition speakers that we are already on the road towards this goal. We may differ from Deputy Bruton on the tactics or methodology to adopt or on the pace at which we can advance but these are minor differences when one considers the stakes involved.
I would urge Deputies to support the Government amendment which recognises that a co-operative policy is already under way and which deals with the broader thrust of cross Border co-operation across all Structural Funds plans.