European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed.)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now a read a Second Time."

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.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. This House must endorse wholeheartedly the work of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. For many years we debated the issue of establishing a foreign affairs committee but the traditional view of Government was that the Oireachtas had no role to play in the formulation of foreign policy and that it was a matter solely for the Executive and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the diplomatic service. The establishment of this committee should be welcomed. The Oireachtas now has a role to play. Ireland has a crucial role in foreign affairs generally and our influence is greater than that merited by virtue of our size, population and economic strength.

We have a unique history. At one stage we were colonised and we can bring this experience to bear during discussions on foreign policy. Many Third World countries look to Ireland to put forward their case at the European Union.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has played an important part in the development of thinking on the European Union and its work is to be commended. Obviously I commend the work of its distinguished chairman, Deputy Brian Lenihan, who can draw on his vast experience. He in particular has helped to establish this first foreign affairs committee as a formidable force in the foundation of Irish foreign policy. We are indebted to him for the role he has played.

The application of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway to join the European Union is welcome. Austria and Finland have already agreed to join and I hope that Norway and Sweden will follow suit. I welcome the enlargement of the European Union in this respect and I know that the four new countries will enhance and stabilise the EU.

I fully support the ideals of the European Union and the vision behind it. Many intellectuals and visionaries have contributed to the establishment to date. In particular Jacques Delors, the outgoing President of the Commission, contributed a great deal to bring about the vision of a united Europe and we are indebted to him and those who preceded him in this respect.

The European Union prevented conflicts arising in its various member states. The history of Europe in this century has seen many conflicts including World Wars I and II and I have no doubt the development of the European Union as we know it today has led to a prolonged period of peace in Europe which all its citizens appreciate and understand. They fully support the ideals behind the European Union.

Ireland has a crucial role to play in the European Union. We have enhanced the Union despite the fact that we are a small country. We have brought a great tradition to the affairs of the EU of which we should be justly proud. I deplore the begging bowl approach which some people believe represents our attitude towards the European Union. It goes against the vision and philosophy behind the EU and we must be careful to ensure we are not seen as beggars in Europe. The recent squabble concerning the £8 billion, £7 billion or £6 billion in Structural Funds was unseemly and I have no doubt the Government will rectify that situation and that we will keep in mind the broader vision of Europe at all times.

Europe has been good to Ireland from an economic, social and cultural point of view. We have abandoned our insular approach and looked beyond our immediate neighbours in the wider world, as far as our foreign policy is concerned, and the European Union, to a large degree, is responsible for that. I welcome the applications of the four new countries, Ireland has a lot in common with them. They are smaller states with particular regional and agricultural interests to which we would subscribe. With Sweden we share a similarity of outlook in relation to international issues and with Norway, as the Minister said this morning, we too are Atlantic neighbours.

The policies of the four applicant countries emphasise the importance of peacekeeping and collective security. They have similar views in relation to defence and security policy generally. The contribution of smaller member states will now receive more recognition if and when the four new countries join the European Union. Smaller states, in particular, have a different agenda from time to time and I believe their role will be enhanced and fully appreciated following this new enlargement. We will fully co-operate with these new member states in the interests of smaller nations but obviously in the interests also of the whole European Union. The institutions of the EU must recognise the role of smaller member states and I know that debate will continue in view of these new applications.

Many people referred to the possibility of a further expansion in relation to the central and eastern European states, Cyprus and Malta. This is a major challenge and a matter we should debate very carefully. A two or three speed Europe is not the way to proceed but neither should we be hasty in our expansion. A greater expansion would have implications for institutional balances, the Cohesion Fund, the finances of the European Union, the CAP and foreign and security policy. I suggest, therefore, that we proceed slowly. The further enlargement is now underway but we need a period in which to allow the countries of the European Union to consolidate their positions and, at a later stage, contemplate further expansion.

We must also be conscious of the question of the so-called democratic deficit. There was a poor turnout in many countries for the European elections this year. The results of some of the referenda held in relation to the Maastricht Treaty were very close and that is in relation to the Europe of 12 nations where many citizens of the EU felt disenchanted, they did not want the enlargement to proceed further and, therefore, did not want to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. That represents a major challenge and the belief that Europe is not for the ordinary citizen, which is held by so many people, is something we must seriously address. Perhaps one of the reasons for this disenchantment is the poor record of the EU in relation to employment. The EU, compared to other blocs throughout the world, has not been as successful in regard to the creation of employment. That problem must be examined carefully. I do not subscribe to the view that the Social Charter is responsible for all our employment ills; people can be well paid in employment. I deplore the fact that the UK has opted out of the Social Charter and will become the sweat-shop of Europe. We must address seriously the problem of unemployment in the European Union at the present time.

Much has been made of the role of Irish neutrality in this debate. There are many examples of "neutrality". Colonel Jonathan Alford points out that there is a neutralism practised by Austria which is binding by treaty. A professional neutralism is practised by Sweden and Switzerland whereby they choose to maintain an historical tradition of remaining unconnected — politically or militarily — to any other state or group of states. Finland practices a policy of enforced neutralism whereby, due to geographical circumstances, for example, there is no alternative. Finally, there are non-aligned states which are generally a Third World phenomena.

We must be careful, therefore, of our definition of neutrality. Many definitions of Irish neutrality emerged during the time of the Falklands War when the Government would not contemplate military action in relation to it. That was how we determined our neutrality at that time. Neutrality means the avoidance of military alliances as far as this country is concerned. Also, neutrality has developed here because of our relationship with our immediate neighbour. Very often neutrality was symbolic of a hatred of our British neighbours for historical reasons.

There is no doubt this country has a particular approach in relation to foreign policy issues. We believe we should promote peace and justice throughout the world as a small nation and, obviously, avoid military alliances. That is what neutrality means to us. The Maastricht Treaty brought forward the concept of a common foreign and security policy. We need to examine what Irish neutrality means in the context of the EU. The intergovernmental conference which will take place in 1996 will discuss such a policy. A White Paper is contemplated on the matter and the joint committee is seeking submissions from interested groups. European security and defence arrangements will be discussed and we should bring our non-military tradition to those negotiations. We have a unique history in the EU. We were a colonised country. Third World nations are sympathetic towards us because of our history and our role in defending their interests in international organisations.

We live in an interdependent world. International organisations deal with all aspects of international affairs. The role of armies is not as important now. We should bring those views to the intergovernmental conference in 1996. We should highlight world poverty and the threat it poses to world security, the vast inequalities between Europe and the United States and the Third World.

Ireland has a unique tradition in that we are a non-nuclear country. That subject too should be brought to the negotiating table. Some of our neighbours are nuclear powers and we should call for a decreased reliance on nuclear weapons and for nuclear disarmament. We should be forceful at the discussions. We have a proud tradition and history and have a unique contribution to make.

The concept of a European army was mooted during the debate on the Maastricht Treaty. I suspect that the vast majority of Irish people, especially mothers, would not like our citizens to join a European army that could be involved in ground operations in any part of the world. That scenario can be avoided. The issue of a common foreign and security policy is a wide one. While Ireland has a unique role to play, it does not involve Irish citizens joining a European army to defend countries outside the EU and being involved in other people's wars. However, we must not shirk our responsibilities either. All aspects must be looked at and I have no doubt that the debate between now and 1996 will be interesting.

The question of our joining a military alliance is not as simple as it appears. In 1996 the issue will either be settled or we will be on the way to doing so. If we had an army, against whom do we wish to defend ourselves? Things have changed immensely over the last few years. We no longer have the Eastern Bloc versus the Western Bloc with the European Union crammed in between. Do we need such defence? There is no doubt that we need security. By that I mean securing ourselves and our countries from the movement of criminals and their activities, the drugs scene and related matters. We are already participating in that through our police force and the recent creation of Europol to stand side by side with Interpol.

If we maintain our neutrality, which I would like us to do, we cannot rely on being joined by new members, including the present applicants. In the last discussion I and my colleagues in the House had with the Commission a few weeks ago we were given to understand that in the negotiations relating to the entry of the new applicants, which are almost concluded, they have indicated that nothing will prevent them being part of a military or European alliance. I thought that if these new countries joined the EU we would not be alone in our neutral stance, but that is not now likely given what the Commission told us in recent weeks.

If that is so, we could find ourselves belonging either to NATO or the Western European Union. As a neutral country we are alone and it looks as if this will be the case in the enlarged Union. This could create more pressure on us to abandon our neutrality. The argument that if we want to benefit from security and military alliance arrangements we must participate in them is a strong one which in normal circumstances we could not refute as an EU member, but it would be incongruous if we were part of an overall European army and in action side by side with the British Army who still occupy part of this country. One member country is occupying another. No matter what arguments can be made, while that occupation continues we cannot join in a European army if Britain is part of it. She has utilised the circumstances of the last 25 years to train her army and it is better trained on the ground than any other army in the world.

We must be very careful to look at developments in a rational way and not forget the irrational position we are in as a result of the unique occupation of a part of our country by another member of the Union, a country with which we would be expected to join in a European army. This boggles the mind and I do not understand how it could be acceptable. Perhaps by 1996 we will have reached the end of the line in so far as this strange situation is concerned and our British occupiers will have declared their intent to withdraw from the North. Naturally this would create a totally different and very pleasing scene. However, until such an indication is given we must maintain grave reservations about participating in a European army with this country.

In regard to the enlargement of the Union, the new applicants will bring benefits, not least of which is the possibility of peripheral areas being brought nearer the centre through a transport equalisation scheme to enable the remotest areas in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Scotland to compete on a level playing pitch. If we did not make it, so to speak, under such a scheme the fault would lie with us. Due to our geographical position we are battling against great odds. Unfortunately we cannot change our peripheral position and in spite of new technology and communications we are still as far from the centre as ever. While welcoming the development of roads, ports, and airports, we seem to forget that the facilities which enable us to export our goods also aid multinational companies to bring their goods here. If this continues we will have very little by way of manufacturing in the future; our industries will be wiped off the face of the earth by multinational companies with lower costs. Apart from the goods which are native to Ireland, we cannot fight large multinationals, largescale producers.

Consideration should be given to applying in Ireland and the other countries to which I referred a scheme similar to the one operated in Norway for the northern territories beyond the 62nd parallel. Ireland is not the only peripheral country in Europe but it is the only country without a land bridge. This is a very important point in terms of the necessity for a transport equalisation scheme. Those who do not believe it is possible to have such a scheme should look at Guinness whose pint costs the same in Castletownbere in Cork, James' Street in Dublin and Malin Head in Donegal. If this company can operate such a scheme on a national scale why can the European Union not do so on a European scale, thereby giving all countries an opportunity to compete on a level playing pitch? We will have little prospects of a future without such a scheme. The truth of this is realised when one considers that when we joined the Union in 1973 70,000 people were unemployed and approximately 300,000 are unemployed today. One has to ask, why?

Debate adjourned.