I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the European Communities Acts, 1972 to 1986, in order to allow Ireland to become a member of the European Union. The Bill is necessary because certain provisions of the Treaty on European Union must be made part of the domestic law of the State. It is necessary also to enable the State to complete procedures for Ireland's ratification of the Treaty on European Union.
As Deputies are aware, the Treaty on European Union was approved by a large majority of the Irish electorate in a referendum held on 18 June 1992. The President subsequently signed the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Act on 16 July. It now remains to pass this Bill through the Oireachtas. Ireland will then be in a position to lodge the instruments of accession with the Italian Government before 31 December 1992.
Under Article R of the Treaty on European Union, the High Contracting Parties undertook to ratify the Treaty in accordance with their constitutional requirements with a view to the Treaty coming into force in 1 January 1993.
Under provisions of the Treaty, the Treaty on European Union must be made part of the domestic law of the State. The provisions of the Treaty which must be made part of domestic law are those which affect the European Community Treaties. As Deputies can see section 1 of the Bill makes provision for Titles II, III, IV and the relevant parts of Title VII to be made part of the domestic law of the State. Title II contains provisions amending the Treaty which established the EEC. Title III contains provisions amending the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. Title IV contains provisions amending the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community.
Title VII of the Maastricht Treaty contains the final provisions of the Treaty on European Union. As Deputies can see, certain articles of this Title are provided for specifically and certain other are not. I will give an example. Article L of the Treaty on European Union concerns the role of the Court of Justice and is provided for in the Bill. Article L limits the powers of the Court of Justice to the existing treaties and to three articles of the Treaty on European Union: Articles K.3 (2) (c), L and S. It is appropriate, therefore, that this article becomes part of the domestic law of the State. However, where the Articles provide for action under the Union but not under the treaties, a reference in the European Communities Act is not required.
Section 2 of the Bill provides that the competences under the European Community Treaties of certain bodies, which will not be institutions of the European Communities but will have some legislative power conferred on them, can be exercised and have effect in domestic law. The bodies in question are the European Central Bank and the European Monetary Institute. No other bodies referred to in the Treaty are covered by section 2 of this Bill.
There is no provision in this legislation to cover Title V or Title VI of the Treaty on European Union. Title V concerns provisions on a common foreign and security policy where no requirement for domestic legislation is envisaged. Title VI concerns provisions on co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs. Legislation may be required at some stage in the future to cover some of the articles in this Title. However, no legislation is required, nor would it be appropriate, at this stage to cover the provisions of this Title.
To date, Luxembourg, Greece and Italy have completed their ratification procedures. The process of ratification of the Treaty is under way in the other member states. The Birmingham European Council reviewed progress on ratification of the Treaty on European Union and reaffirmed the importance of concluding the process as soon as possible, without reopening the present text, on the timing foreseen in Article R of the Treaty. Ireland has committed itself to complete its ratification procedures by 1 January 1993 as envisaged in the Treaty.
In a referendum in Denmark on 2 June, the Danish people voted against the Treaty by a narrow margin. On Friday last, the Danish Government presented to partners its proposals for arrangements which would enable it to put the question of ratification to the Danish people. We are considering these proposals at present. The Danish Foreign Minister, Mr. Uffe Elleman Jensen, will be in Dublin later this month to discuss the proposals with me. While at this stage I do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions, we will consider the Danish proposals in the light of the following concerns; first, our interest in seeing Maastricht ratified and in operation at the earliest possible date; second, our willingness to help Denmark, so long as the steps taken uphold Community achievements and do not impede the dynamics of integration; and, third, no reopening of the text of the Treaty as agreed by all Heads of Government at Birmingham. We clearly would not want an outcome that would call into question the positive referendum vote here in June. It is in everyone's interest to find a solution to the problems posed by the Danish vote and I hope that we would make a full and helpful contribution in the forthcoming negotiations.
In the light of the debate on the Maastricht Treaty which is taking place in all countries of the Community at present, it is worthwhile recalling the origins of the Treaty. First it is a logical progression from the previous treaties bringing us on to a new stage in the process of European Union. These treaties have greatly strengthened Europe economically and politically and created a Community with real influence in the world. Second it grew out of a view — expressed most notably by President Delors — that there was a real need for closer economic and monetary cohesion to protect and consolidate the achievements of the Community. Recent events have borne this out. Third it was clearly recognised, particularly during the Irish Presidency in 1990, that closer political integration was required. Events in Eastern Europe have served to justify this view. Fourth progress on political union has to be accompanied by progress in areas such as cohesion and on the introduction of new policies appropriate to a more advanced phase of European integration.
Against this background, as well as considering the text of the Bill, this debate offers an opportunity to review recent developments in the Community. The conclusions of the Birmingham European Council on 16 October 1992 set out the immediate agenda in the period up to Edinburgh in December. I would like to examine some of the issues on that agenda.
Economic and monetary union forms one of the major elements of the Maastricht Treaty. Indeed, an intergovernmental conference on economic and monetary union was suggested before that on political union. Economic and Monetary Union represents a logical step in the development of the Community. The importance of stability of exchange rates for the smooth functioning of a common market became very clear during the period of currency instability in the seventies.
The recent turbulence on the currency markets shows once again how currency instability can upset the smooth functioning of the common market. We need look no further than the problems caused for some of our own exporters to see an example of the problems caused by currency fluctuations. The recent turbulence confirms rather than puts in doubt the wisdom of aiming at full economic and monetary union as envisaged in the Maastricht Treaty. A small open economy like Ireland is in a better position than most to understand the costs and the barriers created for all by the different currencies.
In the wake of the recent disturbances on currency markets there was much speculation that some countries in Europe wanted to aim at monetary union on their own, in a fast-track approach involving Germany and other countries. This has been firmly denied by the countries concerned, including Germany, as the Birmingham European Council conclusions clearly show.
The existing European monetary system has brought considerable stability and benefits. The European Council at Birmingham described the EMS as "a key factor of economic stability and prosperity in Europe". Ireland has been in the exchange rate mechanism, the ERM, since it was established in 1979. We have become a strong and sound member of the ERM. This has been greatly to our benefit. It is a measure of the progress we have made in recent years that our currency has maintained a strong position in the ERM in spite of the fall in the value of sterling and Ireland intends to be in the first group to move to full monetary union.
Of course, economic and monetary union is not about currency stability alone. President Delors has recently referred to the need for action by the member states to prevent the deepening recession. In his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg he called on the Edinburgh European Council to launch a European growth initiative. I would agree strongly with President Delors on this issue. Low growth and consequent unemployment is the most serious challenge facing all of the Governments of the Community at present. By acting together we can more effectively tackle the problem of jobs and the Government will continue to pursue this issue actively in forthcoming Community discussions.
Developments since the Maastricht Treaty was signed have made clear the need for a much greater effort by the Community to inform its citizens of its work, its decisions and its intentions. the single clear lesson Governments and the Commission have learned is that there has been a failure adequately to explain to the citizens what the Community is about and in particular what are the objectives, terms and implications of the Maastricht Treaty.
We in Ireland are better informed than most of our partners. Irish people have consistently demonstrated that they have a greater grasp of and appreciation for what the Community is about. Notwithstanding this, the Government went to considerable trouble to inform the Irish people on the content of the Treaty and its implications with the publication of the White Paper and the Government's Short Guide to the Treaty.
Since the referendum the Government have been examining ways and means of improving public information on EC affairs. The Government are anxious that the good work carried out in the referendum campaign needs to be carried forward. We are anxious to see more effective communication with our citizens on European Community affairs.
As the Birmingham Conclusions state, we need to demonstrate to our citizens the benefits of the Community and of the Maastricht Treaty. The Treaty when ratified will serve to consolidate and move forward one of the most successful vehicles for inter-State co-operation the world has known. Leaving aside the fundamental benefits of peace and prosperity, I would like to take this opportunity to list briefly a number of areas where I feel more needs to be done at Community level in particular to bring the message to our citizens: the Common Agricultural policy with its guarantee of food supplies and decent incomes for farmers; a customs union and internal market of 340 million people. As I have mentioned, recent events in the Exchange Rate Mechanism prove that the logical consequence of and progression from an internal market is the achievement of a single currency — the fruit of economic and monetary union; a strong, coherent voice in world trade. In the current GATT talks, the Community speaks with a strong voice and in fact represents the greatest single trading area in the world; a strong cohesion dimension expressed through the three existing Structural Funds — the Regional Fund, the Social Fund and the FEOGA Guidance Fund. The Government White Paper has details of the impact of these funds on the Irish economy and on the future of Irish life. But cohesion benefits all areas of the Community and this needs to be made clear; an environmental policy which has seen agreement on high environmental standards in the Community; a research and technological development policy which will enable Community enterprises to compete with the US and Japan and create jobs in the process; a development co-operation policy which has seen the systematic support for the development of the ACP — African, Caribbean and Pacific countries — in the Lomé framework. Lomé is a unique agreement covering trade and wide-ranging co-operation in many key areas of economic and social development. The inclusion of a chapter on development co-operation in the Maastricht Treaty is a recognition that co-operation with the developing countries is now one of the key policy areas of the European Community.
The benefits to the citizen from these developments are not always immediately obvious. It will be the job of Governments and of the Commission to ensure that the benefits are brought more clearly to the attention of the citizen. The Community will have to be more open and all of the institutions will have to be conscious of the need to explain their work.
In the run-up to the Edinburgh European Council on 9-10 December there will be much debate on the theme of "openness". The debate on openness is linked to the debate on subsidiarity. Our position on the subsidiarity issue is very clear. We subscribed to the insertion of the principle in the Maastricht Treaty. We agree that the Article on subsidiarity has to be implemented. However, it should not be implemented at the expense of the existing institutional balance. We made our views on this clear at Birmingham. I am heartened by the very positive contribution of the Commission to the debate on the subject of subsidiarity. Discussions are in progress in Brussels on the Commission's communication on subsidiarity — copies of which I am having placed in the Library. Subsidiarity can be a positive principle which helps guide the formulation of Community legislation, but it should not be a kind of code for the undermining of the status of the Commission or the achievements of the Community to date.
The Maastricht Treaty recognises the need for national parliaments to become more involved in Community affairs. Recent events have reinforced the need for action in this area. The Commission has signalled that it is prepared to explore ways of briefing the national parliaments on its proposals, possibly to the extent of appointing a single Commissioner with responsibility in this area. The Government are willing to do all that is necessary to give effect to the declarations in the Treaty regarding the Parliament.
Already we have in the Oireachtas Joint Committee a means whereby input can be made to the process of considering proposals before the Council of Ministers. A Declaration in the Maastricht Treaty requires national governments to ensure that national parliaments receive Commission proposals in good time for possible examination. We have had a system of this nature in operation in Ireland since we joined the Community in 1973. The joint committee's role is under review in the context of the establishment of a Foreign Affairs Committee. Nevertheless, regardless of whatever new committee arrangements are made, the scrutiny of the joint committee function will remain in being.
More will need to be done because the Treaty Declaration on the role of parliaments and an additional declaration on the Conference of Parliaments will bring this House into much closer and much more regular contact with the European Parliament and the Legislatures of other member states. My Department are at the disposal of the House to give advice and help in dealing with the issues likely to arise in these contacts. The Department are open to any Deputy or Senator. I feel strongly about the need to inform and to give effect to what we are preaching within the EC in respect of openness and lack of secrecy.
The further development of economic and social cohesion received an important impetus in the Maastricht Treaty and the practical implementation of this aspect of the Treaty will be a key issue at the Edinburgh European Council. The Treaty, both in its Articles and in the Cohesion Protocol which forms an integral part of it, again strengthens the cohesion provisions of the EC Treaty. The principle of cohesion is to be taken into account in framing and implementing all Community policies.
Structural Funds play a key role in helping to bring the less developed regions of the Community up to the Community average. The Treaty provides that these will be reviewed and that a new Cohesion Fund, specifically for the four least developed member states, will be added. The Commission's proposals on future financing of the Community, known generally as the Delors II package, include provisions for the doubling of funds — taking the Structural Funds and the new Cohesion Fund together — for the four cohesion countries taken as a whole.
Decisions on this package are to be taken at the European Council to be held in Edinburgh in December. The proposals on the new Cohesion Fund are already in an advanced state of preparation. The Maastricht text says that it should be in place before the end of 1993. The aim now is to have it in place early in 1993, in line with what was decided at the Lisbon European Council in June.
Closer co-operation in the area of foreign policy is an essential part of the Maastricht Treaty. While the Community has yet to reach a stage of development where foreign policy can be the subject of full Community decision-making, as is the case with Economic and Monetary Union, the Maastricht Treaty does represent a valuable step forward.
Decisions will still be taken by the member states by consensus. Implementation, as in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, will be by national action and not by directly applicable Community legislation. However, the new arrangements for foreign policy co-operation will allow the Twelve to act together more effectively than has been the case under existing provisions.
The process of co-operation on foreign policy questions since the early seventies has enabled the Community and its member states to look outwards, to other parts of the world, on the basis of agreed positions. The experience has been positive — positive for the Community and for the internaional community as a whole.
One clear indication of this is that other parts of the world increasingly look to the Community to have a common view of a situation, to become constructively involved, to back up that involvement with practical measures of co-operation.
We must also keep in mind the wider international background to what is happening in Europe. The United Nations is today more active than ever. In the past few years, as many peace-keeping operations were established as were established over the previous 40 years. Ireland has played a very significant role in many of these peace-keeping operations and I would like to pay particular tribute to those in the Army and so on who have given their time in very difficult and dangerous circumstances to serve with the United Nations in the interests of peace-keeping.