In the context of European enlargement it is timely to consider the Development of Europe in the past 20 or 30 years and the lessons that can be learned from that period. All Europeans can look back with a certain pride at what has happened in that time. A great deal of time, effort and energy was put into uniting Europe in a fashion that would not allow internal warfare such as had taken place previously. Two salutary lessons were learned from two world wars, which had dramatic and massive impacts on the population of Europe. After World War II those who remained — 40 million people died — saw fit to build a structure which would bring Europeans closer together, which would allow economic development and cohesion, resulting in a political meeting of minds which in turn would result in the elimination of the internal bickering that has always beset Europe and seriously impeded its development as an economic and political entity.
Those lessons were very well learned, but let us consider some of the points raised earlier such as the development of nationalism. It is ironic, having experienced the Cold War and two world wars, that there is an emergence of nationalism throughout Europe. To judge from past history, the result is that we will go back a step and degenerate to the previous position rather than going forward for the benefit of Europe. In the next couple of years all Europeans will have to consider whether we should accept marches and actions such as those in Germany and other parts of Europe, with the emergence of the extreme hard right and the extreme hard left. Experience has shown that when both sides meet there are serious consequences.
It is timely to reflect on how well we in Europe have learned those lessons — very often we tend to act as if we are an independent empire not in the continent of Europe but located somewhere between Europe and the United States, so as to get the best benefits from both sides. A number of people referred earlier to what has become known as our begging bowl attitude in the context of Europe. Unfortunately, this derives from our suppression in colonial times. The obvious thing is absorb as much as possible as often as possible with gratitude. This is not to our benefit given that small countries have an important role to play in the new and expanding Europe because they tend to focus on the economic and social areas which is of greater benefit to the people of Europe.
We will welcome the EFTA countries with open arms on the basis that it will not cost us anything. This is a typical Irish attitude: if something will not cost us anything, we should welcome it. It should not be forgotten that they are also Europeans. In the near future we will have to address the question of membership for Eastern European countries. In this regard we tend to ask what right the Czech Republics, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Russia have to become members of the European Union. I become alarmed when I hear such a question as we are all aware that these countries form part of the same land bloc. It is ironic to suggest, for selfish reasons, that they should not be granted membership. We should be the last to make this suggestion.
Let us analyse the reasons an Irish audience would make such a suggestion. We tend to believe that following enlargement fewer benefits would flow to this country. This may well be the case but what right do we have to expect that the benefits will continue to flow forever more? We are supposed to provide the superstructure to encourage people to invest which, in turn, would provide a boost for the economy. In this way we should be able to ensure we will not continue to be dependent on the European Union. It is at variance with the European concept for an Irish audience to suggest, for whatever reason, that we should pull up the ladder.
There is a school of thought which suggests that a two-speed Europe might be the answer. I do not think that this is a good idea; it would be disastrous and would lead to a reversal of the process. Inevitably, there would be a clash of interests and, ultimately, this would lead to disintegration. I strongly recommend that we should reject such a proposal and I cannot understand why it is trotted out occasionally. It has been made from peculiar sources. I suppose some of the more powerful nations would see themselves as the kingpins but such a strategy would not be in the best interests of this or any other country in Europe or in keeping with the thinking of the founders of the European Union in negotiating the coal and steel agreements after the last war.
We must examine the attitude of our neighbours across the Irish Sea to the European Union. In recent times it seems to have adopted the attitude that Europe is becoming too powerful and that the old days were more romantic. If this school of thought prevails we will begin to move backwards and repeat the mistakes of the past as discovered by politicians and economists. During the last war the German armies discovered, to their horror, when they entered Russia that their plans, like those of another gentleman before them, were flawed. It would therefore be counterproductive to roll back the carpet.
Deputy Deasy and others dealt at some length with the issue of neutrality. At some stage we will have to come out from under the umbrella. I fail to understand how we can expect to be neutral and divest ourselves of all responsibility when it comes to defending the European entity. I cannot see the logic behind this. It has been suggested that some European countries are prepared to defend their neutrality but this is not entirely accurate; they are neutral for different reasons. In many cases they readily accept that the position may change in the future. There is no point in us being part of the European Union if we say that this is a peaceful country and neutral and that we expect other countries to take up the cudgels if an aggressor threatens Europe. This has never been the position, even during the last two world wars. The question is whether we will be realistic and play a full role.
I am sorry I have to be critical of the Government — one tends to become cynical at times. It does not seem to realise that, with modern telecommunications systems, the spoken word can be transmitted rapidly from one end of the world to the other. On their return Government Ministers announce what they have achieved in the European arena and try to reassure people that the country is in safe hands. To reinforce their case they boast loudly at every opportunity and from every platform of how well they have scored on the European scene. What they forget is that our European friends read this and perhaps on reflection realise that they should not have let them off so lightly. Suddenly the billions, like the sands of time, fall away and the erst-while spokespersons have to tell the people that what they thought was £8 billion is now somewhere in the region of £5.9 billion. The danger is that the people will lose confidence in Europe. This will not be as a result of Europe failing to live up to its responsibilities but our representatives failing to live up to their responsibilities. I ask all Government agencies to take cognisance of this. If this is not done, Europe will lose its credibility in the minds and hearts of our people.
As can be gauged from the turnout for the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty Irish people take an interest in Europe and this is higher than in most other places with the exception of Germany. That confidence will be shaken unless politicians generally, particularly those in Government who represent the country abroad in negotiations, are more sure of their ground. A climb down on issues is not good for the dignity of the country.
We have always been told that economic benefits will flow from an increase in population. I believe that far greater benefits will accrue to this country and to the rest of western Europe by virtue of a larger market. There may be some negative aspects from the point of view of manufacturing industry in this country and in the UK, but only time will tell. A much larger population is bound to generate some type of economic enthusiasm. That population has to be fed. Some hold the view that modern technology does away with jobs but it has not yet achieved a means of feeding people without food. That is a fact of life. The enlarged market will be of benefit to this country because we are more advanced in food production methods than other countries. It is up to us to take advantage of that.
We need to consider how Europe will develop. Now is the time to ask that question and plan accordingly. I believe it can go from strength to strength. By refusing to repeat the mistakes made in the past it can become the biggest single trading and political entity in the world. That can only be beneficial to the people of Europe and will help to maintain peace. If it chooses instead to engage in dissension, division and parochialism, we may have seen Europe at its zenith and it will be down hill from that. Not everybody will agree with my views but I can only make an informed judgment on what I have read. In my opinion if we do not take account of the mistakes of the past and ensure they are not repeated obviously we will not develop the strength of the United States.
My vision is that Europe could become a single entity similar to the United States with the ability to generate the kind of economic wellbeing that goes with it. That can only be done by following Abraham Lincoln's advice. He once said that a house that is divided against itself cannot stand; likewise a Europe that is divided against itself cannot stand.