Cuidím go láidir leis an rún go gceadaíonn Dáil Éireann téarmaí an Chonartha lena ndéantar foráil i dtaobh Aontachas Ríocht na hIorua, Phoblacht na hOstaire, Phoblacht na Fionlainne agus Ríocht na Sualainne leis an Aontas Eorpach a síníodh ag Corfu; agus fáiltím roimh an Tuarascáil ón gComhchoiste um Ghnothaí Eachtracha: Méadú an Aontais Eorpaigh; agus freisin roimh Bhille na gComhphobal Eorpach. Creidim go gcuirfear le neart agus maitheas na hEorpa thar cheann muintir gach tíre leis an méadú seo ó dhá thír dhéag go dtí sé thír dhéag.
I commend the chairman and members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on the publication of the committee's report, The Enlargement of the European Union, last month. That report sets out the views of member states on enlargement and its implications for the European Union. It concludes that the proposed increase in membership of the European Union from 12 to 16 states will greatly benefit European and will deepen and strengthen the Union. The committee strongly supports the principle of the united approach and rejects the two speed option as divisive and undesirable. That view was expressed by a number of speakers who indicated their concern about the implications of a two speed option for this country.
In the context of institutional change arising from enlargement the report of the joint committee raises possible choices under three different headings, namely the status quo plus model, the evolutionary model and the federal constitutional model. It argues that the first model cannot continue to be viable given the inevitable institutional pressures a series of enlargement would bring and recommends that the implications for Irish policy of the evolutionary and federal constitutional models be examined and debated. All options and their implications should be considered given our involvement in the European Union is such an important issue. It further highlights the need for Ireland to play a leading role in outlining and promoting a series of effective and appropriate mechanisms to protect the contribution of small member states.
Arising from that it is vital that small states should have a disproportionate presence in the institutional system. The approach of the Benelux countries in its submission to the Lisbon European Council is along those lines and supports the presence of one member per state in the Commission and the continuation of the six month rota of the Presidency. In the context of support from those three founder states the position of small nations is virtually assured. Nevertheless, the larger states, two in particular, make a disproportionate contribution to the income of the Union and it would be tragic if the democratic element were to be undermined on foot of that. It is provided on the six month rota that Ireland will hold the Presidency in the second half of 1996. During that time we will have an opportunity to advance our views and it is vital that we assess our own position in the EU and take action to protect and enhance it in future years.
From the outset Ireland welcomed the application for membership of the EU by the four EFTA countries — Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. This country has close relations with all four countries and has a similar outlook on a range of international issues. There was strong co-operation between the EU and EFTA countries, particularly as a result of the EEA agreement. Ireland's national response to problems that emerged during the negotiations for accession elicited considerable admiration, seeking as it did to strike a balance between the interests of the Union and its member states on the one hand and the legitimate requirements of the applicant on the other.
New members will be required to adopt from accession a large body of treaty provisions, regulations, directives and decisions, as well as the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice. In very exceptional circumstances and to cater for overriding national concerns, the applicants were granted temporary derogations from particular provisions of Community secondary legislation, none of which has detrimental effect on Ireland's interests.
As the Minister of State outlined, the question of weighted voting posed some difficulties, but these were ultimately resolved, apparently to everybody's satisfaction. There was concern here at the prospect of new members joining the EU, with a particular reference to the Common Agricultural Policy. I welcome the outcome of the negotiations on this front in view of the continued support for CAP and the satisfactory result on budgetary implications. However, we need to look down the road to the day when the current CAP and GATT regimes come up for renegotiation and when new members seek accession to the EU.
Our agriculture sector is investing huge levels of finance in environmental protection measures. While this programme receives substantial EU aid under the control of farmyard pollution and rural environmental protection schemes, the vast majority of farmers who are investing in these measures will never see a return on their investment. It is a capital programme which does not add to productivity and will ultimately become an ongoing burden of debt for many farmers. We urgently need to review the operation of some of these programmes to ensure the maximum level of benefit for Irish agriculture as a whole and, perhaps more importantly, to ensure that individual farmers are not steamrolled by a burden of debt which ultimately may put a large number of them out of business. In this regard the backdating of the CFP scheme to January 1994 for all who were previously on the FIP scheme would be most welcome and beneficial.
There are ongoing problems with some of the grant and premium schemes which require alterations to significantly improve their impact on the industry. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has succeeded in negotiating worth-while improvements, but the entire programme must be kept under constant review and greater control of its operation must be exercised by the Minister as opposed to the EU. In this regard I welcome the Minister's announcement during the week of the quota review groups.
If some of the eastern European states which have applied for membership of the EU are successful in their applications it will impact very significantly on CAP, leading to a severe reduction in the level of support available to Irish agriculture. We ignore these developments at our peril. It is incumbent on us to prepare a strategy and to pursue it vigorously, with the support of all who share common cause with us, to ensure its ultimate adoption within the EU's new Common Agricultural Policy and to achieve further acceptance of the successor of GATT.
We urgently need to review our regional policy in the EU context. To all intents and purposes we have heretofore presented Ireland as one region. Account must be taken in the not too distant future of the economic advances in parts of the country that may be disqualified from category 1 status. Assuming that this happens — there is a possibility that it will not happen — it will be important to ensure that those areas which continue to suffer economic disadvantage are categorised accordingly. This will be particularly important in the event that some of the less developed eastern European and Mediterranean applicants become full EU members and draw down considerable funds from an ever-decreasing kitty.
One must be concerned at the resurgence of racism, xenophobia and intolerance in parts of the world contingent on Europe. These developments run counter to the foundation and spirit of a united Europe. There have been worrying instances within the EU of acts of violence against foreigners and migrant workers. This country has received negative publicity arising from the violence in the Six Counties during a 25-year period. However, we are now entering a new era of peace thanks to the success of the peace process and all those involved in it.
A number of speakers last week mentioned the growth of neo-Nazism in some countries, including Austria, one of the applicants for accession. This development is very worrying for those who are committed to the democratic process. The pursuit of peace based on justice and international co-operation is vital for the preservation of human society and civilisation, and the developed EU is central to this aspiration. If we are to discourage our citizens from turning away from the European ideal we must take effective action to forestall the re-emergence of extreme nationalism and the negative forces I mentioned. It is a matter of urgency that we redress the democratic deficit which could threaten the political basis of the European Union and of democracy in any or all its member states.
While national parliaments are the ideal fora for democratic debate on the future of Europe, it is important that European institutions be responsive to people's views and be seen to be so. They urgently need to seek means for wide public participation by debate, by informing the public of issues and by clearly outlining the various policy options and their implications. We sometimes fail miserably to put all the options before the people — that applies in the current debate on accession of these countries. In the general political context we frequently fail to explain to people the implications of actions proposed by Government. That undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on the way people view their politicians.
In this regard many of us in this Parliament could profitably review the manner in which we all too frequently seek to misrepresent the position of our political opponents. We had some examples of that here today and also in recent times in terms of ministerial travel. Politicians who knowingly misrepresent actions of opponents for personal or party gain do an enormous disservice to the political process and to democracy as a whole. This is reflected in a very negative view among the general public of politicians and, much more importantly, of public institutions, including the EU. While everybody knows that government ministers in an island country must travel to do business, the constant media criticism fed by political comment has a negative effect and merely serves to undermine democracy and the institutions which sustain it.
The EU is very quickly becoming central to the operation of our own political system and we would do well to include people in the process rather than feeding the cynicism which is gradually undermining the basis of our State. The same applies to other countries, both inside and outside the European Union. In some countries the rule of law has disintegrated and, in effect, there is no government and no respect for human rights. Since some of these states are close to the European Union and each of us has an interest in their well-being and that of their citizens it is incumbent upon us to attempt to be constructive. Frequently we fail to do so and the blame can be shared equally. Many of us fail to realise that ordinary people are cynical about the political process. We need to address this problem in the short term rather than allow it to fester to the point where we will have to contend with the problems that other countries not too far from us have to contend with.
I welcome the report and the enabling legislation dealing with the accession of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria. I hope we take the opportunity as frequently as possible to uphold the institutions of the State and of the European Union which have become a central feature of the political process here.