I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
This Bill, amends the European Communities Acts, 1972 to 1993 and enables the Treaty providing for the accession of Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway to become part of the domestic law of the State. Its passage through the Oireachtas is a necessary part of the process of Ireland's ratification of the Accession Treaty.
As Deputies are aware, enlargement negotiations with four EFTA countries opened in February 1993 for Austria, Sweden and Finland and in April 1993 for Norway. After a relatively short period of little over a year, the negotiations were brought to a successful conclusion on 30 March 1994. On 12 April the European Parliament voted by an over-whelming majority in favour of enlargement. The vote of the European Parliament was, in itself, significant because it was the first occasion that the Parliament had been asked to give its assent to the enlargement process.
The four accession countries decided to hold referenda on whether to join the European Union. The first of these was held in Austria. On 12 June the people of Austria voted by a two to one majority in favour of European Union membership. Last Sunday the people of Finland voted in favour of membership of the European Union by a margin of 57 per cent. Referenda will be held in Sweden on 13 November and in Norway on 28 November. We will await the outcome of these referenda with great interest.
I will outline the approach adopted by the Government to the negotiations leading to the enlargement of the European Union. From the beginning, the Government welcomed the prospect of membership of the European Union by the four negotiating EFTA countries. Significant groundwork had been done in the European Economic Area Agreement negotiations. In addition, Ireland has much in common with all four. We have shared similar interests on a range of international issues. We were confident at the outset of the negotiations that solutions could be found for every issue that arose during the course of negotiations. In this assessment we were correct. The outcome of the negotiations was a good one both for the accession countries and for the European Union. The people of Austria and Finland have decided they wish their respective countries to become members of the European Union. It is now up to the people of Sweden and Norway to decide.
The Government warmly welcomes the decisions of the people of Austria and Finland and looks forward to welcoming these countries to the European Union as full members on 1 January, 1995. We will await the decisions of the people of Sweden and Norway with great interest. We hope we will be in a position to welcome both Sweden and Norway to the European Union. Ireland will have many things in common with these countries in the union as smaller members with particular regional and agricultural interests. With Sweden we share a similar outlook on international issues and with Norway we share many interests as Atlantic neighbours. It is of course for the people of both countries to decide based on their perception of where their interests lie.
The Treaty of Accession was signed in Corfu on 24 June. Following signature it was possible for the Government to introduce the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, and the Bill was published at the beginning of August.
All member states of the Union and the four accession countries have undertaken to complete ratification procedures by 31 December 1994. The passage of this Bill, together with the passage of a motion in the Dáil approving the Accession Treaty, are the major steps required to enable Ireland to ratify the Treaty of Accession. If all the remaining referenda produce the same result as that in Austria and Finland, the European Union will be in a position to welcome four friends of long standing as members of the union on 1 January next year.
I welcome this opportunity to debate the Bill and to address the substantial and considered report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Enlargement of the European Union published last month. This debate comes at an opportune time. The enlargement of the European Union has dominated the European Union's agenda for well over a year now and is likely to continue to dominate it in the years to come.
It is opportune that at the point where one round of enlargement has been successfully concluded and draft legislation is before this House, the foreign affairs committee has produced a report that seeks to chart a course as to how the enlargement of the European Union should be addressed in Ireland.
I very much welcome the report of the committee. It contains a considered analysis of the issues and a series of thoughtful recommendations. I congratulate the committee on its work. I am sure the report is one of many substantial contributions which the committee will make to debate on foreign and European policy issues — a debate which will be further illuminated when the Government publishes a White Paper on foreign policy in the first half of next year.
In looking at the negotiations with Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway, it should be remembered that all the conditions favourable to a quick and successful completion of the negotiations with these four EFTA countries were present. In addition, the Union and the EFTA countries had successfully completed negotiation on the European Economic Area Agreement. This agreement came into effect on 1 January 1994. It created a single market for goods, services, capital and people in the area of the states party to the agreement. All four EFTA accession countries are, of course, part of the EEA.
While the European Economic Area Agreement paved the way for this round of accessions there remained, nonetheless, some difficult negotiations both for the applicant countries and for the members of the Union, as the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs report points out. In the Commission opinions on membership, agriculture, regional policy and the budget were predicted to be the most difficult questions for all four candidate countries. This proved to be the case.
The applicant countries placed considerable emphasis on ensuring that within the Union they would be in a position to maintain and pursue a high level of environmental protection. In addition, there were a number of issues that were specific mainly to one applicant: for example, fisheries in Norway and transport in Austria.
As I said, at the outset Ireland welcomed the prospect of membership of the Union by Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Ireland has close relations with these countries. We have shared a similarity of outlook on a range of international issues. It is our view, too, that membership by Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway will help to strengthen the Union. As the various issues arose during the course of the negotiations we were confident that solutions could and would be found.
Agriculture was difficult for all of the applicants. While Sweden had, to a large extent, adjusted its agricultural support levels to dovetail with the CAP, the other countries maintained a range of subsidies that were higher than those provided under CAP. Enlargements in the past allowed monetary compensatory amounts (MCAs) which were adminmistered at borders. However, with the Single Market and the abolition of border controls, a new method was devised to enable the applicants adjust to the Union's system. Under this arrangement the applicants can pay temporary direct payments to farmers for a transitional period, and the Union will pay a financial contribution to these costs over four years. Due to the difficulties encountered for farming in Arctic areas, long-term national aids have been allowed to support agricultural production in specific regions.
Regional policy was also an area where effort was required to find a solution which was acceptable both to the member states of the Union and to the negotiating applicant countries. A solution for the Nordic countries was found through the creation of a new, Objective 6 region. This category will apply to areas with a population density of under eight inhabitants per square kilometre. Objective 6 will therefore cover regions in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Austria has been granted an Objective 1 region in Burgenland. All four countries will also be able to qualify for Structural Funds under Objectives 2 to 5b. It is significant that all the accession countries have an interest in regional policy. This assures a continued commitment to this area of Union activity in the future which is likely to be of benefit to Ireland.
In the negotiations both agriculture and regional policy had budgetary implications for the Union and for the applicant countries. Towards the end of the negotiation a budgetary package was agreed to help the applicant countries make a smooth transition to Union obligations. The Union budget will take over the applicants' European Economic area commitments.
The Commission estimates that the Union budget will gain approximately six and a half billion ECU over the period 1995 to 1999 should all four applicant countries join the European Union. The Union budget, by way of comparison in 1994 alone, is about 70 billion ECU. A decision on how any gain to the European Union's budget should be used must of course wait the entry of the applicants.
On common foreign and security policy the four applicant countries fully accepted the rights and obligations of Union membership as well as the content, principles and political objectives of the treaties including the Treaty on European Union. The Union and Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway agreed that accession to the Union should stengthen the internal coherence of the Union and its capacity to act effectively in foreign and security policy; the acceding states will, from the time of their accession, be ready and able to participate fully and actively in the Common Foreign and Security Policy as defined in the Treaty on European Union; the acceding states will, on accession, take on in their entirety and without reservation all the objectives of the Treaty, the provisions of its Title V, and the relevant declarations attached to it; and the acceding states will be ready and able to support the specific policies of the Union in force at the time of their accession.
With regard to implementation of the CFSP it was understood that on the day of accession the legal framework of the acceding countries will be compatible with the acquis.
Fisheries was a key issue for Norway in the negotiations. Here the negotiation centred on three key issues: access to waters, access to resources and market access.
The issue of access to waters was resolved by an arrangement that applies an equivalent regime as that applied to Spain and Portugal. Norway will have no greater access to Irish waters than currently obtains and will be subject to a special control system. Norway will not be entitled to an allocation of horse mackerel.
On access to resources the end result from Ireland's point of view is that Ireland's mackerel allocation may be fished east of 4º west. Irish fishermen have reaped some of the benefit of the outcome of this negotiation already and, under the European Economic Area Agreement, Ireland will receive 7½ per cent of the Norwegian cod allocated to cohesion countries. This represents access in an area in which Ireland has not previously had access.
On the issue of market access, a four year transitional period was agreed during which a market monitoring and management mechanism will be put in place to minimise disruptions of the Community market which might arise as a result of the removal of the remaining tariffs of Norwegian fish imports.
Finally, on the fisheries part of the negotiations, a concern for Ireland throughout was that efforts would be made to influence in a prejudicial manner the outcome of the review by the Fisheries Council of the special controls which apply to a number of member states. Such efforts which were made were successfully resisted by Ireland.
For Austria, a major issue in the negotiations was transport. Specific measures in favour of Austria were agreed which allowed the essential objectives of the Transit Agreement between Austria and the European Union to remain in place. Ireland's concern in this part of the negotiation centred on the fact that as we did not have a bilateral agreement with Austria our hauliers should not be disadvantaged. A result that catered for our concerns in this area was agreed.
It is generally acknowledged that the negotiations achieved a good result, both for the applicant countries and for the European Union. For the applicant countries the Union demonstrated that it could take their concerns into account and be flexible in arriving at solutions. For the European Union the successful outcome of the negotiations demonstrated the willingness of highly developed economies to take on the body of laws and rules that makes up the Union system. The successful conclusion of the negotiations also marked the first major achievement for the Union following a period of prolonged difficulty involving the ratification of the Treaty on European Union and European currency crises.
The negotiation process did not, however, prove to be entirely smooth for the European Union. During the course of the negotiations there emerged a debate within the Union on the issue of weighted voting at Council. The European Councils at Lisbon and Edinburgh agreed this round of enlargement could proceed on the basis of the current institutional arrangements. However, when a mechanical transposition of weighted voting at Council was proposed, no agreement among the current member states of the Union emerged. Eventually, after much debate and some delay in completing the enlargement negotiations, a compromise solution was worked out by Foreign Ministers meeting informally in Ioannina, Greece on 26-27 March.
The agreement arrived at provided that with the accession of up to four new member states to the European Union there will be a linear transposition of weighted voting at Council and the blocking minority will move from 23 votes to 27. Member states also agreed that where there are between 23 and 26 votes against a proposal a delaying mechanism would be triggered with a view to reaching a solution satisfactory to all. This solution must be found, or a blocking minority of 27 must emerge within a reasonable time, otherwise the measure on the table can be adopted.
It was agreed that reform of the institutions, including the weighting of votes and the threshold of the qualified majority in the Council will be examined during the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference.
In the period up to the end of 1994 the European Union will wait for the outcome of the referenda in Sweden and Norway with great interest. The people of both Austria and Finland indicated their willingness to become part of the European Union. The Union of 1995 — with up to 16 member states — will face a range of old and new challenges.
The Treaty on European Union provides that any European state may apply to become a member of the European Union. Both before and after the negotiations with the EFTA countries the Union has been in receipt of applications to join from other countries in Europe.
In the context of future enlargement, Switzerland's application for membership of the European Union was put on hold following the rejection of the EEA agreement at a referendum in December 1992. The Swiss application, if pursued, like the EFTA negotiation just completed, would be unlikely to cause major problems or challenges for the European Union.
Outside EFTA, however, there are a range of long-standing and new applications to join the European Union. The longest standing application to join was that made by Turkey. In 1989 the Commission opinion on Turkey's application recommended that for economic and political reasons the time was not ripe to begin accession negotiations. The Commission recommended a strengthening of relations with Turkey. This is being done with the Union and Turkey deepening their relations within the frameowrk of the long-standing Association Agreement.
Cyprus and Malta have applied to join the European Union. The Commission opinion on these applications recommended that negotiations could commence once certain political developments in Cyprus and economic developments in Malta were achieved. The Commission opinion also highlighted the challenge faced by the Union resulting from the institutional implications of membership by these countries due to their small size. At the European Council in Corfu last June it was agreed that the next phase of enlargement will involve Cyprus and Malta.
With the conclusion of the enlargement negotiations with Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria attention will continue to focus on the development of future relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe within the perspective of enlargement.
These applications pose a variety of challenges to the European Union. It is the Union's response to these challenges over the coming decades, as the report of Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs Report on The Enlargement of the European Union demonstrates, that will shape, and inevitably change, the European Union as we know it today. Our goal will be to meet these challenges in a constructive manner while not losing sight of the vital national interests at stake. The quality of our response may determine the future of Europe for generations to come.
For example, one of the tasks of the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference will be to provide for the necessary framework for a Union of more than 20 members so that it can continue to act both democratically and effectively.
A number of the issues that will be up for discussion in 1996 will have significant implications for Ireland. Not least will be one of the issues which caused difficulty during the course of the enlargement negotiations with the four EFTA countries, that of weighted voting at Council. We, together with the smaller member states of the Union, will have to ensure that in any move to greater efficiency and greater democratic accountability in the European Union, the rights and responsibilities of the smaller member states are not overlooked. I am glad the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs addressed this issue and highlighted some of the areas of particular concern for Ireland. Its report is a most timely and welcome contribution to the debate on the issues raised by the enlargement of the Union to include the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
These countries are involved in a difficult political and economic transition. They see membership of the European Union as the key to consolidating the results of democratic reform and accelerating their economic development. They also see their membership of the European Union as enhancing their security and confirming their place in Europe.
The European Union has responded positively to the desire of these countries for closer integration with the European Union, by negotiating wide ranging agreements — known as Europe Agreements — which aim at establishing close and lasting relations between the parties. The Europe Agreements which have now been negotiated with Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Romania and Bulgaria recognise the aspiration of these countries to membership of the Union. It is expected that Europe Agreements will be negotiated in the near future with the Baltic States and with Slovenia.
Notwithstanding the wide ranging scope of the Europe Agreements the Central and East European states have strongly argued that they are not sufficient in themselves to meet their desire for integration with the European Union. In recognition of this, the Copenhagen and Corfu European Council conclusions developed and added to the provisions of these agreements.
The Copenhagen meeting established that countries possessing such agreements could become members of the European Union as soon as they were able to fulfil the relevant obligations. Two countries — Poland and Hungary — have since submitted membership applications.
The Copenhagen meeting also proposed the development of a structured relationship with the institutions of the Union. The timing of future negotiations as well as the order in which applications will be considered is left open.
At its meeting in Corfu the European Council emphasised the importance of concrete progress in further implementing the decisions made by the Copenhagen Council and asked the Presidency and Commission to report to the Essen European Council in December on the strategy to be followed with a view to preparing for accession.
With regard to timing, the Corfu conclusions state that "the institutional conditions for ensuring the proper functioning of the Union must be created at the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, which for that reason must take place before the accession negotiations begin".
The Commission presented its strategy paper in July. The main themes of its proposed approach to preparing for accession of the associated countries are: the creation of a framework within which the EU's relationship with the countries concerned can be deepened; the creation of an appropriate legal and institutional environment for economic development and integration; enhancing trade opportunities; macro-economic and other forms of co-operation between the EU and the six associated countries; Community assistance to integration and reform. Intensive work is now being done within the Council in order to prepare for the discussions at Essen.
An important element of the strategy is the establishment of a structured relationship between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the institutions of the Union. In this context, work is being done to associate these countries more closely with all three pillars of the Union's activity including the holding of advisory meetings between the Council and Ministers of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe on matters of common interest.
Agreement has been reached to associate the countries of Central and Eastern Europe with the common foreign and security policy and consultations are taking place to work out the modalities to achieve this.
The Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs from the two sides met informally in Berlin in September and discussed increased co-operation in combatting drugs and organised crime in Europe. Further consideration is to be given to co-operation in other areas identified at the Berlin meeting.
Meetings have also been held in the recent past with Ministers for Finance, the Internal Market and Environment.
At the end of this month I shall participate in discussions in Luxembourg between the Foreign Ministers of the European Union and the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe at which the future development of relations will be discussed.
The pace of events I have outlined illustrates just how timely is the report of the joint committee. The report points out the key issues for Ireland and for the Union raised by the prospect of accession of the East.
It is clear that enlargement, and the preparation of Central and Eastern European countries for accession, will be one of the principal external issues facing the European Union for the remainder of the decade.
Ireland has welcomed the openness to enlargement reflected in the conclusions of the Copenhagen and Corfu European Councils. We recognise that prosperity and stability in Europe as a whole will be influenced by the progress towards political and economic reform in Central and Eastern Europe and we believe it is right that these countries should be confident in the European Union and in our readiness to support the political and economic reform process.
We recognise, however, that the issues raised by enlargement to the East are of a different order of magnitude to those raised by previous enlargements both because of the nature of the challenges facing those countries and the changes which the Union will have to undergo to maintain the process of European integration.
It is essential to maintain the character of the Union as enlargement proceeds. We are committed to a Union which operates effectively. For that reason it is incumbent upon us to proceed at a realistic pace. I fully agree with the committee's recommendation that a balance must be struck between the interests of the applicants and the need for a functioning and effective Union.
The policy implications of an eastern enlargement will be assessed, as the committee recommends in the context of preparation for the Government White Paper on Foreign Policy and the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference. Work on this area is ongoing.
In the meantime, the Government will continue to make every effort to encourage the development of political and economic links between Ireland and these countries and to alert Government agencies, business and agricultural interests and the general public of the mutually beneficial economic opportunities that exist. In so doing, we will help to ensure that maximum advantage can be taken of the opportunities available to Ireland in these countries.