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

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

In accordance with an Order of the House of 20 October Second Stage of the Bill is being taken with the following motions Nos. 5 and 6 on the Order Paper for today:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Treaty providing for the Accession of the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden to the European Union signed at Corfu on 24 June 1994 copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 29 June 1994.

That Dáil Éireann takes not of the Report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs: The Enlargement of the European Union.

I will put the necessary questions consecutively in respect of those three items of business at the end of the debate.

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.

I welcome the opportunity to speak about this issue in which I have had an interest for a long time. When asked what he thought about America Brendan Behan replied that it would be a great country when it was completed and finished. When we think of the European Union we often get the sense that there is always something underway and that it is constantly changing. This is particularly true at present. This is an important and critical time for all of us to play a strong and forceful role in the development of the European Union. I firmly believe in the ideal of European integration. There is no alternative to working closely at European level to tackle major issues and to ensure greater prosperity and peace both at European level and throughout the world.

I begin by addressing the question of finance. A number of speakers have expressed the fear that there will be a two speed Europe whereby some states would move ahead with, for example, a common currency and others would lag behind. People fear that there will be an élite group of countries which will march ahead leaving the smaller nations behind. This is a real possibility. Smaller countries will be under enormous pressure because of this during the next few years. It is important therefore that we should be vigilant and do all we can to ensure that this will not happen and track the suggestions that are being made at European level about a two speed Europe. There is no doubt that there is a strong temptation for the larger countries to move ahead on their own. This means that it is absolutely essential that a proper balance, in terms of powers, is struck between the bigger and smaller countries. Given that a referendum has been held in Finland and is due to be held in three other countries it is extremely important that we pay a great deal of attention to this matter.

It is being assumed that, at a financial level, we are grouped with the bigger countries which meet the financial criteria. While it is true that we meet many of the criteria under the Maastricht Treaty it is also true that we face two major problems — our high unemployment rate and the national debt. There is no point in saying that we meet the criteria. The reality is that other countries are reluctant to include Ireland in the group of countries that would move ahead, whereas Belgium is always mentioned.

Our efforts in this regard are not helped by the perception that traditionally we have adopted a begging bowl mentality towards the European Union and have gone out of our way to get the largest amount of funds possible. I am not saying that this is a bad thing; obviously we have derived great benefits from the Structural Funds but we are not being consistent in the two lines we put forward. This invariably leads to comments and questions from other countries.

It is critical that we show we are tackling our high unemployment rate and our level of debt. We face two problems in this regard; the first is high Government spending which means that our ability to tackle our debt is reduced and the other is that the long term unemployed account for a large percentage of the total number unemployed. We are not putting the mechanisms in place to reduce the number of long term unemployed, which includes many young people.

I was a member of the working group of the National Economic and Social Forum which recently produced a report on long term unemployment. It is critical that the Government gives priority to the recommendations made in that report. This has not happened to date although I understand a task force is considering the matter to see how the problem of long term unemployment can be tackled. I note that a pilot scheme is to be introduced to provide counselling which is so essential in helping people break the cycle. I look forward to the report of the task force and hope that the pilot scheme will be extended. This was one of the core recommendations we made.

Our dependency on sterling also presents a problem in the sense that if sterling is devalued jobs will be lost here. There is a question mark over our ability to cope with the after effects.

People frequently use the term "democratic deficit". There is a problem in terms of the information provided to the public and their understanding of the European Union. It is critical that links are developed between national parliaments and the European Parliament and the European Commission. This became evident during the campaign leading to the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty when there was a backlash from the public who felt that they had not been kept informed and that information about the European Union had been kept at an élite level. European leaders picked up this message and have tried to tackle the issue in those countries in which referenda are due to take place.

The President-elect of the European Commission, Mr. Santer, has dedicated himself to tackling this issue and has said that it will be given priority during his presidency and that all institutions are determined to make a huge effort to resolve it. It is critical that we do likewise. It is interesting that the European Commission office in Dublin received a strong response when it provided a special telephone service during the past few weeks to deal with queries from the public about the European Union. I am not surprised that people are interested and want more information.

There is a good story to be told about what is happening at a European level but it is unacceptable that it is not being told carefully at grassroots level. Future referenda on European Union matters will face enormous problems if we do not prioritise this issue and make the work of the European Parliament and Commission more accessible and understandable to society. It is very sad that in Finland fewer came out to vote in the referendum on the European Union, although it was passed successfully, than come out for its presidential election. It is also sad that there has been so little discussion in this country on the implications of the enlargement of the Union. It is hard to see people keeping up their interest in Europe if information on developments is not continuously fed back to them. I find it very interesting that in Sweden the success of its referendum will probably depend on how young Swedish women will vote. They are very concerned that by joining the European Union their social benefits will deteriorate. The EU Commission and the Parliament have spent a great deal of time trying to convince them that this is not the case, that "social Europe" does exist and that at European level we care about women's rights and issues such as combining work and family life and parental leave. These will be critical factors in determining the success of that referendum.

These are very real issues for the European Union and we need to spend much more time bringing information on European issues to the people. That has not happened. I understand that people may be nervous the referendum will not be passed in the various countries but I do not think that is an excuse not to discuss issues such as the implications of enlargement for agriculture. We should have a real debate and discussion about the implications of Finnish membership.

It is time to stop talking and do something about the matter. Members of the European Parliament obviously can attend the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Foreign Affairs, but as one MEP said yesterday at a meeting I attended, Wednesday afternoon is certainly not the best day for most MEPs to attend a meeting in the Dáil. This is a practical matter. We need to develop mechanisms to allow for more contact with our MEPs. We need also to develop a mechanism whereby what has been done by our Ministers at the Council of Ministers is discussed and presented at some level in the Dáil before it goes to Council of Ministers' meetings. When I was chairwoman of the Council for the Status of Women I remember trying to track the paternity directive at European level and it was extremely difficult to discern Ireland's view on that directive. I am not sure that Ireland was out in front in support of that directive. From what I remember there was a large question mark in 1993 over how supportive our Government would be.

As shadow spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I found it extremely difficult to shadow the European dimension of the Minister's work and it was very difficult to get information at that level. There was no forum available to me in the Dáil where I could get that information and it was difficult to discover what was on the agenda. That is completely unacceptable. We have to address this matter and implement reform so that it is dealt with in this House and that we develop a committee system to deal with it. They have done so in other countries. Information which is difficult to track in Ireland is accessible in another member state because they have a method in their national parliament of presenting the information before it is dealt with at European level. My experience illustrates how difficult it can be for those outside the House to gain access to the system. It is important to tackle this issue.

The European Union will have a population of 380 million by the year 2000, making it the biggest civil and commercial power in the world. How it works is extremely important. Seventy-seven per cent of Irish people think European unity is a good thing in contrast to only 45 per cent of those in Britain and an average of 58 per cent throughout the Community. Irish people are supportive of developments at European level. There is no doubt that there is an exciting build-up to the intergovernmental conference in 1996 with important items on the agenda and the Irish Presidency. In some areas we need to move much more swiftly at European level if we are to tackle certain problems. The drugs problem must be tackled at European and world level if we are to interrupt the supply and stop the trade. The public is dissatisfied that the establishment of an agency to deal with this problem at European level has been so slow. This needs to be hastened, as does work on the environment. Some very good initiatives at European level have impacted on the quality of our environment.

Defence is a major area to be addressed. We must take part in the debate on how we want to work for peace. We must have a debate on neutrality, on our defence commitment at European level and the shape it will take in the years to come. The Finnish Government has a policy of neutrality and with Austria, Sweden and Norway being involved in the Community there should be scope for a pro-active peace-keeping role to be developed in the European Union.

We will see further cohesive action being undertaken by the Community on energy, tourism and civil protection from 1996 onwards and this will be welcomed by citizens. A number of issues need to be tackled at European level if Europe is to survive the competition it will face in the years ahead. The increasing level of unemployment, above all other issues, makes people doubtful about Europe. People hope that if we work together we can solve the problem of unemployment. There must be a radical overhaul of our unemployment systems throughout the Community and of our training, education and tax systems. We have to put the creation of jobs to the forefront and face up to the fact that many of our employment systems are inconsistent with the economic and social realities that individuals experience. I am constantly struck by this at constituency level. I can give an example. I spoke to a lone parent who was given a present of a cheap car by a family friend but was then immediately questioned by the local social welfare officer as to where she had got the money for the car. This young woman is determined to make it on her own and trying to crawl out of dependency on social welfare yet every step is actually frowned upon by the system. This story illustrates that what we are good at doing is helping people to remain dependent on the system rather than supporting their steps towards independence.

It is essential that our taxation and economic systems reflect the movement of people in and out of the workforce. People want flexibility and career breaks. They will move through many jobs in a lifetime or else, unfortunately, face periods of unemployment. Our systems must react to this new situation which is quite different to anything our social security systems had to deal with previously. People are making different choices and work is presenting in a different way.

We must also tackle Government reform. The division of ministries is no longer efficient. The Department dealing with Social Welfare, for example, should not be completely separate from the Department dealing with enterprise and employment, labour or industry. We need more interaction between Government ministries and more sophisticated systems should be developed.

Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the Community said: "We are not forming coalitions between states but union among people". It is clear that we are well on the way towards that and this is an exciting time but there is much work to be done if the European Union is to offer a high quality of life to its citizens in future.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate and I enjoyed listening to Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. It is important we have this debate in the House. In the past, major developments in Europe were not given the consideration they deserved here. This is the national Parliament and issues concerning Europe must be addressed in the House on a regular basis. Many Members referred to the lack of communication or co-operation between the European Parliament and this Parliament and it is important to address that issue.

I compliment the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs for its report on the enlargement of the European Union. A number of members of that committee put much time and effort into the report which is well worth reading and offers much food for thought. It outlines a number of opportunities which the enlargement of the EU will present to Ireland. We have good relations with Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden and I hope those relations will be strengthened in the future.

A number of speakers referred to the lack of information from Europe on European developments. Unfortunately, over the past number of years, only during European elections or referenda on Europe did information come from the EU. It is either a feast or a famine. Ireland should receive information on a regular basis concerning the developments in Europe that will affect us. We should not have to wait for European elections to receive such information.

During the debate on Maastricht, we were assumed that if we voted "Yes" to Maastricht, we could have our passports at home when travelling to Europe. That has not happened and a number of my constituents have contacted me asking if there has been change in this regard. That was one of the small selling points of the Maastricht debate but it was something with which people could identify because it would benefit them when travelling to Europe. It seemed at the time that some of the red tape would be eliminated and people could identify with that. Unfortunately, we have not seen any great development in that area but I hope to see some in the near future.

During the debate on the enlargement of the European Union, a number of problems of the four countries concerned were discussed. There was a certain amount of confidence that those problems would be overcome. One area in which we are interested related to fisheries. I am delighted the Minister indicated in the House that under the European Economic Area Agreement Ireland will receive 7.5 per cent of the Norwegian cod allocated to cohesion countries and this represents access to an area to which Ireland has not previously had access.

We have failed our country with regard to fisheries. Despite being an island nation, when we entered the EC our fishing industry was very underdeveloped and we were not in a position to capitalise on it. In the last few years we have recognised the tremendous potential in the fishing industry and we should pay particular attention to that in the future. Being an island nation, our fishing industry should be much more advanced but, unfortunately, it is not. When the quotas were being allocated the industry was underdeveloped and we were not in a position to make the most of it.

Deputy Fitzgerald referred to the begging bowl mentality and that criticism, has been levelled at various Governments over the last few years. However, we should not underestimate the tremendous role that Irish MEPs have played in Europe. I refer in particular to past commissioners, Ray Mac-Sharry, Peter Sutherland and our present commissioner, Padraig Flynn, who have all excelled in Europe. Perhaps the Irish are late developers but certainly those three individuals have contributed much to Europe and we can be proud of their work not just on our behalf but on behalf of Europe. It is wrong, to continually refer to the begging bowl mentality. We are an island nation further removed from the market and it is important that we receive compensation for that shortcoming. We need not apologise for moneys received in the past and we should not be under any illusion but that those moneys will continue to be required in the future.

The European Union will undoubtedly continue to grow — it may eventually comprise of 25 or 30 member states — so it must become more relevant to our people. I agree with Deputy Fitzgerald's reference to drugs and unemployment. People underestimate the devastation the drugs problem is causing throughout Europe. We must have an overall co-ordinated approach to dealing with it. Regardless of resources we allocate to dealing with it, it is an international problem which must be dealt with in that way. From a European point of view it is important to have an overall strategy to deal with the problem, which is the cause of many troubles in Europe. People can see the effects of the drug problem in the devastation it causes in their neighbourhoods and among their families. We must publicise European policy on that and let people know the steps we are taking to resolve the matter. Until we tackle it in a serious fashion it will remain the biggest problem in Europe.

I agree with Deputy Fitzgerald's comments about the need to change the educational system. We tended to educate people for secure positions, for example, the Civil Service or the bank. Nowadays people change jobs regularly and it is estimated that most people will have eight or ten different jobs in their lifetime. We must encourage the spirit of enterprise at an early age. People must be encouraged to use their talents and we should change our educational system to allow them develop to their full potential. We all know people in every village who are musical but who never had an opportunity to develop their talent. That is the case in every walk of life and it is sinful not to develop such talent.

I welcome the enlargement of the Union but it is important that the Government makes business aware of the opportunities it will create. There is a column in one of the Sunday newspapers which focuses on a different country each week and highlights the opportunities which exist for trading with it. I find it very helpful and it makes good reading. Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden will soon become part of the EU. The big increase in the population in Europe will create opportunities for industry in Ireland and it is important to avail of that.

I welcome the report and hope that the EU will soon grow from 12 to 16 member states.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the enlargement of the EU and on our attitude towards it. The committee's report is useful in that it highlights areas that need to be examined. Enlargement of the Community will mean increased competition and it will be necessary for us to encourage business to improve its base.

Finland did not have a history of peat production but it used the technology we had acquired for peat production and reclamation and now it is miles ahead of us. Their regional airports are profitable while in some regions our airports are not economically viable. Why? Is it because we have become too dependent? Shannon Airport is in steady decline mainly due to the impression given by those in Dublin that they suffered from the loss of American traffic. I would like the committee to examine further what other countries have achieved.

Germany holds the presidency at present and it will be our turn to do so in 1996. We are slow to make proper preparations for this responsibility. I put down parliamentary questions to the previous Taoiseach who enjoyed holding the presidency. The replies given were negative and vague. There is an onus on the Government to set up a body which would make progress in this area. At present all the pressure is on the German Ambassador but we do not seem to have prepared for the German presidency. If we had there would be a greater appreciation of Ireland at important meetings which we attend in Europe.

I do not know if the Government parties are committed to Europe. One of them was doubtful about whether we should join the EU and the other was reluctant to campaign about it when Jack Lynch was Taoiseach. Fianna Fáil went, begrudgingly, into the EU. The Taoiseach spoke about billions of pounds coming our way during the Maastricht Treaty referendum and, because of that, people voted for it. The talk from Fianna Fáil was how would we use this money we were getting for nothing.

(Interruptions.)

One would think it was a prize to be handed out at a crossroads dance to the person who danced to the right tune.

They are like that in Clare.

Ireland should show a lead in some area. Why was it not possible for an Irish person to show some inspiration and give a lead? Dr. Garret FitzGerald's record of leadership will stand comparison with that of anyone in Europe while Peter Sutherland proved that not only was he a successful Commissioner but also a successful negotiator, as was seen during the GATT negotiations. There were a number of rows in this House about the lack of Government support for Peter Sutherland's candidacy for the post of President of the Commission. This lack of support was deplorable, especially in light of the united approach adopted by all parties in support of the Maastricht Treaty. When the Taoiseach had an opportunity to nominate a candidate of substance to lead Europe into the year 2000 he ignored it.

What about Commissioner Pádraig Flynn?

Commissioner Pádraig Flynn will not be President of the Commission. In comparison to Peter Sutherland he is inexperienced.

There are no guarantees.

I wish Commissioner Flynn well. I would not like the House to think that I begrudge him this senior post in Europe, but unless he is supported actively by other countries — some people want him to hold his Social Affairs brief——

I hesitate to intervene but the Chair would much prefer if there were no references by way of praise or blame to persons who are no longer Members of this House or to individuals outside this House.

All I am concerned about is the leadership shown by Ireland in Europe. I was illustrating my point by referring to a former commissioner and the former leader of the Fine Gael Party, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, who played a major role in ensuring that Ireland joined the EU. I was being critical of the lack of Government support for a person whom other countries supported.

I should like some preparations to be made for the Irish Presidency in 1996. On the last occasion Ireland held the Presidency the Department of Justice was very much involved with the EU legislation on aliens and asylum seekers in Europe and little attention was paid to legislation dealing with aliens and asylum seekers in Ireland. As a result numerous people were incarcerated in jail. Things might have been otherwise if the officials had more time to deal with this issue, to prepare properly for the Presidency and to consider the legislation which would arise when we assumed the Presidency. Our legislation was put on the long finger and some people were left to languish in jail.

I appeal to the Minister of State to ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Finance to ensure that proper Civil Service back up is provided prior to Ireland assuming the Presidency in 1996. In view of its ongoing nature, some sort of permanent structure should be established to deal with this issue. Such a structure might have a role to play in providing information on the Presidency and the legislation which might arise and explaining the consequences of EU enlargement to the electorate.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill. Finland and Austria have already voted in favour of membership, while referendums will be held in Norway and Sweden next month. It is important to point out that 40 per cent of the electorate in Sweden and 45 per cent of the electorate in Norway are opposed to membership of the EU. I hope these countries, which have strong democratic traditions and strong economies, will vote in favour of membership. There are problems in Finland following the demise of the former Soviet Union but the indications are that Finland will pull itself out of those difficulties following membership.

Like Ireland, these countries have a very good peace-keeping tradition within the UN and share our views on intervention. As more smaller countries join the EU the fear, as rightly voiced in England, of a Franco-German bloc controlling the EU will be overcome. Like Ireland the four applicant countries are on the periphery of Europe and their membership will ensure more sympathy for people living in these areas. We have many things in common with these countries. Ireland is being cited by them as a country which has done well from membership of the EU.

It would be foolish of us to ignore the negative aspects of membership outlined by these countries. For example, they believe that the EU is backward in terms of social issues relating to women and that their legislation is stronger on the protection of the environment. They also raise questions about freedom of information, which is much greater in Sweden than in the EU. This will become a much more topical issue in Ireland and the EU. These countries believe they will lose in these areas as members of the Union whereas we believe we have benefited. This is an indication of how far ahead of us they are in these areas. Freedom of information will become even more important in the future. There was reference to the problem of drugs in Europe and some of the decisions in Europe in general, particularly if we include Switzerland, were very radical compared with those in Ireland.

Debate adjourned.