White Paper on Foreign Policy: Statements (Resumed).

Is uafásach an rud é go leanann feachtas an IRA ar aghaidh leis an mbuama a tharla i Londain inné. Is cinnte nach gcabhraíonn sé le ról na tíre seo thar lear nuair atá ag teip orainn deireadh a chur le foréigean ó Éireannaigh sa tír seo agus gó mór-mhór thar lear.

Déanaimis go léir iarracht a chur in iúl don IRA nach bhfuil siad ag gníomhú ar son muintir na hÉireann agus nach gcabhraíonn siad le muintir na hÉireann sa tír seo nó thar lear. Is tábhachtach an rud é sin a rá ar dtús báire agus sinn ag caint ar ghnóthaí eachtracha.

Since I last spoke on this debate almost a month ago the Israelis have bombarded Southern Lebanon and the Irish soldiers serving there with the UN have been fortunate to escape with their lives — their tour of duty was unexpectedly prolonged as a result of the reckless Israeli violence. The background to that bloody aggression serves to illustrate the need for serious reforms in the UN. It does no good to the efforts towards reform, improvement and greater efficiency in the UN for our Government to flirt with the Western European Union and NATO's Partnership for Peace. To call a body linked with NATO "Partnership for Peace" is a cynical abuse of the English laguage. It would be more accurate to call it the partnership of those preparing for war.

Although the PFP, which was formed at NATO's 1994 summit, allows members to be flexible in deciding in which areas it wishes to co-operate with NATO, there is no doubt that membership involves support for a military bloc. Two of the five objectives contained in its framework document are: the development of co-operative military relations with NATO for the purpose of joint planning, training and exercise in order to strengthen their ability to undertake missions in the fields of peacekeeping, search and rescue, humanitarian operations and others as may subsequently be agreed; and the development over the longer term of forces that are better able to operate with those of members of the Notth Atlantic Alliance. Ireland does not have to join a body linked with NATO to take part in peacekeeping operations as we already take part in such operations under the auspices of the UN.

It is important to look at specific aspects of the White Paper in relating to neutrality, security and defence. The section on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe states that Ireland's policy will be to strengthen the OSCE and refers to maximising the contribution the OSCE can make to European security. Yet there is not one specific suggestion of what changes might be introduced for that purpose. For example, there are no suggestions on improving the decision-making procedures, even for operational decisions. When that is contrasted with the more specific suggestions as to how Ireland can contribute to NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Western European Union, it is evident that the Government's real interest lies with these military blocs.

Despite the fact that the Government has promised a referendum on the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference if it has implications for neutrality, the White Paper offers no referendum on the decision to join the Partnership for Peace — that will be decided by the Oireachtas. However the Government might like to dress it up with talk about peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Joining the PFP or agreeing to participate in Western European Union activities means signing an agreement with military alliances and, therefore, aligning outselves with these alliances. If the Government claims that has no implications for neutrality, it must have a very peculiar definition of neutrality.

The document states that NATO agreed to make available its collective assets for Western European Union operations undertaken in pursuit of the common foreign and security policy of the European Union. That is not true. NATO and the Western European Union have an agreement in principle with regard to each other's resources, but the specifics of what operations would be covered have not yet been worked out. The Government, in jumping the gun on this point, appears to be even more enthusiastic about this development than NATO and the Western European Union.

The document states that the Government has decided to discuss with the Western European Union the possibility of Ireland taking part on a case by case basis in humanitarian and rescue tasks and peacekeeping tasks under the Petersberg Declaration. These tasks include humanitarian, rescue and peacekeeping tasks as well as tasks of combat forces in crisis management — if one can believe its stated intentions, the Government does not intend to take part in the latter. Will that happen independently of the Intergovernmental Conference? The White Paper does not state that that will be part of the Intergovernmental Conference, as we have been led to believe. Is this another attempt to avoid a referendum on yet another move to align ourselves with a military alliance? These tasks may be requested by the UN, the OSCE or the EU. In other words we may be taking part in peacekeeping missions not agreed by the UN or the OSCE. Even if the missions are under the auspices of the UN, placing Ireland under a Western European Union umbrella will make the position more complicated rather than more efficient. The document states that this proposal would help Ireland to make available our experience and knowledge in peacekeeping areas, but in what way is that not available now?

While the Government has succeeded in giving the media and the public the impression that the White Paper maintains our neutral position, section 4.114 reiterates the commitment of successive Irish Governments that when the time came Ireland would be willing to enter into negotiations on a common defence policy for the Union. It is clear, therefore, that there is still a good deal of ambivalence regarding our neutral position.

We should focus in this debate on the UN and the need to radically overhaul that body. The Israelis can do what they want as long as they enjoy the support of the USA, indeed as long as they enjoy the backing of any combination of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The UN, however, must get its own house in order. Ireland has the credibility as a neutral country and the experience as a long serving contributor to peacekeeping duties around the world to play a key role in having the UN's house put in order.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council do not have a veto on wisdom and non-violent conflict resolution. These countries make a fortune from selling military hardware around the world. Is it any wonder that Islamic fundamentalists deride the hypocrisy of the patronising calls for peace from these hard-nosed warmongers? I put it to the Tánaiste that a strong case exists for countries with trade in military hardware to have a diminished role in deciding UN policy instead of the present veto which this permanent member élite enjoys.

The current UN structure makes life difficult for the UN but, more tragically, it allows wars to rage fuelled by the latest weaponry and, in the case of Israel, results in Irish soldiers' lives being put at risk as we saw in the recent attacks which so narrowly missed a UN base in Southern Lebanon.

At times like this points must be made and the strongest protests must be lodged and acted upon. I met many people who felt the Irish Government's response to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Lebanon was so weak as to be disrespectful to those killed and injured in the face of these acts of terrorism. We all know Israel has been attacked by terrorists but what type of country can call itself modern, civilised and democratic and at the same time blow innocent people to smithereens?

Israel is not alone in facing what is in effect a charge of hypocrisy. All the permanent members of the UN Security Council continue to manufacture landmines which are not just weapons of war; they are described by many as slow motion instruments of genocide. As we speak, a three weeks conference is proceeding in Geneva to agree a ban on the manufacture and distribution of these murderous and disfiguring devices. So far, 30 countries have called for a ban but there has been no move from Ireland.

That is rubbish.

I know a Department of Foreign Affairs representative is at the conference so what is the reason for the delay——

On a point of information, Ireland was one of only five countries at the conference last year which called for a total ban on landmines. The Deputy should inform himself of the Irish position which I put forward at the conference.

Ireland is not recognised as being as forthright as the Minister of State says.

Ireland has been thanked throughout the world and by all the NGO organisations on public record for the position it has taken.

The Minister of State should be in closer contact with members of Pax Christi International. They would not share her view.

The interruptions must cease. I gather the Minister of State will have the right to speak later and can communicate her views at that time.

I hope this delay will not be taken out of my time.

Could the Government be waiting for Fianna Fáil to bring in its Bill on landmines in Private Members' Time before it articulates itself more clearly than the Minister of State believes it has done? I respectfully suggest the Government wait no longer. During the debate on Minister Higgins's race-night arrangements, I expressed the view that Ireland needs to deal with this issue more clearly than it has up to now instead of wasting time.

The Deputy should read the papers.

I read the papers frequently, like many other people, and they do not share the view of the Minister of State.

The Deputy is uninformed.

When I expressed that view the response from some people in this House was a snigger. I appeal to the Tánaiste and his opposite number, my constituency colleague, Deputy Burke, to raise above the warped sense of priority which seems to exist in the Dáil and to produce a clear Bill, rather than going back over British law from the last century covering bans on gunpowder. This is unnecessary when we have the ability to bring forward modern legislation on this issue.

The lack of importance to the landmines issue in the Dáil highlights the underlying weakness of traditional politics along the traditional axis of left and right. All too often the focus has been "I'm all right Jack, pity about the rest of the world's family". Not only is this fortress mentality immoral, it is also dangerous and threatens to increase global tension, conflict between countries in dispute over oil reserves and, ultimately, makes the use of weapons of mass destruction more likely, regardless of the well-meaning agreements to limit arms production.

If for no other reason than to preserve and promote peaceful coexistence, I urge all concerned, particularly decision makers, to learn to live by the Green movement's maxim of "think globally, act locally". Before the other parties here declare their credentials along those lines, let us remember that the First World, of which Ireland is a part, is consuming over and above what this earth and her people can sustain. On the other hand we praise Bob Geldof and all who give time and money to help the poor, but do we really believe that one day the people in Rwanda and the Philippines will be able to do everything we do, take out a mortgage, have one or more cars in the driveway and take one or more holidays every year? The brutal truth is that even if everyone in China were to have a fridge or a car, we would have problems in finding a sufficient amount of metal in the world to meet the orders.

What is the solution if we want all our poor sisters and brothers to live the way we do in the west? It seems the only solution is to find three more earths and join them to the one we inhabit; not a very realistic proposition. Why then is the Government responding to the needs of the world's poor in this White Paper in a way which accepts that we can all carry on merrily throwing a bit of aid in the direction of the poor?

I can imagine some people agreeing but saying that this is the real world and that is life. This is not living in the real world. There are no other earths lying in wait. The poor are getting poorer in spite of our aid. The rich are getting richer although they are few in number. The earth is losing millions of tonnes of top soil every year and cannot feed its people. In much of the soil that remains for agriculture, people have no choice but to grow tea, coffee, pineapples and cocoa beans to sell in repayment for loans lent by the rich banks of the West.

Perhaps the Tánaiste has access to figures for Ireland but currently in Britain, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund consume 14 per cent of Britain's aid budget. These two institutions cost each UK taxpayer an average of £12 per year and yet the people who run these bodies are largely unelected and unaccountable.

I wonder if the generous supporters of GOAL, Oxfam, Concern, Trócaire and all the other agencies realise by how much debt the people they seek to help are burdened. The magazineThird World Now has broken down the money given by the rich for one year as follows: Aid—$14 billion; Loans — $13 billion; Total — $27 billion. How many people realise, however, that the poor give the rich much more than that. In one year, $51 billion was given in debt and interest repayments. That situation is getting much worse and poor countries are paying three or four times the amount they receive in aid and loans. Currently, the debt of sub-Saharan Africa is 2.7 times larger than its annual income from exports, according to the World Bank. In 1995 the total developing countries' debt topped $1.6 trillion, $1 thousand billion, for the first time.

Anyone who ignores these figures cannot claim to be living in the real world. Any politician who does not act to cure this debt crisis is not a friend of the real world and anyone who ignores the maxim of Gandhi who said: "There is enough in the world for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed" ignores the real world at their peril.

Perhaps he has already done so but I urge the Tánaiste and the Minister of State to read a new book, recently published by Earthscan, which complements the White Paper. It is entitledThe Politics of the Real World by Michael Jacobs. Whereas the White Paper is an Irish view looking out on the world. The Politics of the Real World is an earth based view looking in on us with a critical role in managing the future of this planet. Although it has less than half the pages of the White Paper, it makes up in wisdom what it saves in paper.

I welcome this extensive statement of the Government's foreign policy at this critical period in world affairs. While I do not agree with a number of views adopted in the report, the document represents a major effort by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, and his team and I compliment them on their work.

In recent weeks we have had much debate on the wisdom or otherwise of reducing the importance of history in the curriculum of our second level schools. The general consensus emerging from that debate seems to be in favour of maintaining the current status for history. I support that position since a knowledge of history is a major advantage as a young adult develops an understanding of the present state of organisation of the society in which he or she lives.

In the same context, I equally stress the importance of giving our young students a detailed insight into the current state of world affairs. It may be argued that the quality of life of future generations will be more significantly influenced by current international developments than by remote historical events. We have only to look at the current state of relationships within the European Union. Over the past decade or so a strong German-French relationship has been a major influence in maintaining the growth of the concept of institutions of the Union and yet these countries were involved in major conflict just over half a century ago.

A study of the relationship between these two countries which did not encompass the special recent efforts of Chancellor Kohl and the late President Mitterand would fail to explain the current high degree of common purpose between the two nations. I make these observations simply to emphasise my assessment of the vital importance of each member of our society becoming keenly aware of the relevance of international affairs to our future well-being. In this regardChallenges and Opportunities Abroad is a timely document. The quality of production of the report is excellent and this factor should encourage a greater level of readership.

The vital importance of foreign affairs comes from the extremely high level of inter-dependence of nations in the modern world. We have an increasing level of economic trade which ultimately affects each and every household. In this context, it is vital that we continue to increase access to foreign markets for our manufacturers. The importance to date of our membership of the European Union is clearly reflected if one examines recent export statistics for the country. With the exception of the United States, the vast majority of our trade is with fellow EU countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Therefore, on the grounds of simple economics alone, it is vital that we develop carefully and comprehensively our foreign policy and international role.

From time to time we hear people talk about the "good old days before we joined the EEC" and were free of European laws, rules and regulations. It is true to a certain extent that the arm of the European Union has been more far-reaching than we anticipated when joining what we thought of as a free trading Community. The way forward now is to ensure we work to our maximum potential within the EU to influence its development in a manner consistent with the wishes and interests of the people. As the document clearly states, we must ensure that Ireland continues to have the power to appoint a Commissioner in a new and expanded European Union.

In general I agree with the Minister in terms of welcoming the expansion of membership of the Union. The dramatic fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the subsequent development of democratic institutions in these countries has provided a unique opportunity to secure an extended and united Europe as we approach the end of the 20th century.

There is no doubt but that the addition of a number of less economically developed countries will add a significant financial burden to the European Union. Consequently it will become even more difficult to secure much needed regional support for existing member countries with ongoing needs for economic growth and development. The financial implications of the addition of a number of East European countries are not all negative since they will provide tremendous marketing opportunities to Irish firms. In this regard our second and third level educational institutions must move rapidly to develop training programmes in language skills.

Our foreign language teaching is dominated by French, German and to a lesser extent Spanish and Italian. This is totally inadequate as we anticipate much closer links with countries such as Poland and Hungary. Similarly, to date there is little opportunity for the Irish student to become familiar with the language of North European countries such as Sweden, Norway and Finland. This must change, and change rapidly, if we are to seriously develop economic and cultural relationships with these countries, otherwise our commitment to the concept of greater European integration and union will seem shallow and insincere.

The importance of foreign policy is not limited to matters of trade and commerce. As we review a very troubled world, the vital importance of international peace and national security is becoming increasingly evident. The world is going through a period of tremendous growth in terms of technical knowledge and commercial wealth. One might reasonably expect that trends would have the effect of "lifting all boats" but that is not the case. Instead, we have evidence on a daily basis of widespread conflict, violence, war and strife. The recent war in the former Yugoslavia has shown a level of viciousness and hate which is almost beyond belief. We have to ask ourselves how can this happen in an era when international communication systems ensure that the most bloody and unacceptable of incidents are immediately brought to the world's attention.

It is only 50 years or so since the world began to realise the full implications of the campaign of genocide which was waged against the Jewish people. The simple message that "This must never be allowed to happen again" was adopted by nations throughout the world. Any assessment of the past ten years or so throughout the world will show how little success has been achieved in that regard. We have had successive disasters in countries such as Cambodia, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Central America, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The system in Burundi, in particular, and Liberia seems on the verge of total breakdown and chaos.

Despite the excellent work of many peacekeeping forces and non-governmental agencies, how can the modern world have allowed such chaos to develop in the years following the collapse of Communism throughout most of the world? We have to seriously examine the level of effectiveness of the United Nations organisation.

We have only to look back to last year to see the absolutely disastrous performance of the United Nations in the town of Srebenica in Bosnia. This town was attacked and taken by Serbian forces despite being under the control and protection of United Nations forces. Recent reports suggest that as many as 10,000 male citizens of this town were brutally massacred. If these reports prove to be substantially true, they place a dark cloud over the moral standing of the overall United Nations and on those with direct responsibility for making the decision to evacuate Srebenica when under UN control.

The current situation in Lebanon is equally unacceptable. On the one hand the State of Israel is under attack from areas which should be under the control of the United Nations and anti-Israeli forces seem free to move as they please in the region. On the other hand Israel is showing contempt for United Nations' resolutions and the basic elements of international law. As well as continuing an involvement in the illegal occupation of Southern Lebanon, they have for the second time in 15 years launched an all-out war on the State of Lebanon. As a result many civilian lives have been lost and little or nothing has been achieved in terms of securing a long-term peace between Israel and its neighbours. Furthermore, United Nations personnel, including our excellent forces, have been placed in mortal danger by people whòm we are attempting to help. This nonsense cannot be allowed continue as it only breeds further conflict and war.

The United Nations should carry out a comprehensive review of the various factors which contributed to its inadequate response to a number of crises in recent years, in particular the conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi. As the document states, active and effective involvement by the United Nations is required in the early stages of conflict. In that way, communication could be established between the various sides and attempts at reconciliation and a just settlement commenced.

The more powerful nations must address their moral responsibilities on the development and maintenance of international peace. Too often blatant acts of aggression are let go without an effective response merely because of a veto by a powerful member of the United Nations. There can be little doubt that Russia's reluctance to act against Serbia's interest limited early and effective intervention by the United Nations in the Bosnian war. Similarly, the United States probably provides support too readily to Israel when it becomes involved in outrageous acts of aggression. While such one-sided interventions may be motivated by good intentions, they do little or nothing to uphold respect for agencies of international law and order.

Poverty, social injustice and the widespread abuse of human rights usually go hand in hand with conflict and the White Paper correctly places great emphasis on these matters. The majority of conflicts and wars have their origins in some form of social injustice. The level of social inequality throughout the world is staggering. Nevertheless, we must use our independent voice at all times to speak for those who are oppressed, whether for political, social or religious reasons. Irish people throughout the world have played a major and honourable role in advancing the cause of peace and social justice. Politicians should build on the excellent examples of our Defence Forces, voluntary agencies and missionaries.

As chairman of one of the Oireachtas committees dealing with European Affairs, I am delighted to welcome the publication of the White Paper on Foreign Policy. Not only is it the first document of its kind published by a Government but it is also the result of a lengthy consultation process and was published at a very important juncture in Irish national life. The Intergovernmental Conference began last month in Turin in Italy, will continue until next year and will be closely involved with the Irish Presidency. It will determine the future of Europe and the European Union and test Europe's vitality.

I am particularly pleased with the chapter on the European Union which provides a clear overview of our position and how the Government views our future role in the Union. The Joint Committee on European Affairs and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs are currently discussing this document at the request of the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Tánaiste — to whom I send best wishes for a speedy recovery — appeared before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Minister of State, Deputy Burton, also appeared before that committee and spoke about development co-operation. The Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell, who has responsibility for European Affairs, will address the Joint Committee on European Affairs next week. A consultative process is ongoing following the publication of the White Paper.

I pay tribute to the Minister of State, Deputy Burton, for her presentation yesterday not only of the sections that deal with overseas development aid, particularly in Africa, but also for her widespread communication to the committee on the important question of human rights. I confirm for Deputy Sargent that a lengthy debate took place at yesterday's meeting and the Minister of State received recognition as one of the first to raise the question of landmines internationally. This matter has now been taken on board by many other countries. The Department of Foreign Affairs provided financial assistance for destruction of those horrific devices. I was particularly pleased to hear the Minister of State say that the UK has decided to cease manufacturing them. That is in line with our Government's policy on the question of disarmament, including landmines which have caused great devastation throughout the world.

As the White Paper unequivocally states, the process of European integration has been good for Ireland. We have been a major beneficiary of Structural Funding, the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Funding, but Europe's influence on the culture of Irish politics for the past two decades has been more pervasive. We are now an outward looking State, confident of our past and our future. Gone is the obsession with our neighbour, the UK, and the ironic inferiority complex of even the most Anglophobic. When we reflect on the incessant anti-Europeanism, the Euro sceptics and the insularity about the many aspects of European affairs we realise the benefits of our independent view, particularly having regard to the comments of some British Members of Parliament. While we have been blinkered by an obsession with the past, Ireland now sits comfortably in the modern age. Throughout the European Union our independence as a neutral State has received concrete expression and our objective is to strengthen that process.

However, none of this should be taken for granted. The debate on the future of the European Union is crucial. Section 3 of the White Paper, which deals with my area of responsibility, will ensure that such debate encourages consultation with all interests so that the consensus arrived at by the committee will be reflected in the decision made by the House. However, it would be wrong to lay out all our options, especially our negotiating position, in advance of the intergovernmental conference.

The White Paper suggests broad outlines of how we would like the debate to develop. The paper presents five challenges with which I agree. They include balanced economic development and realisation of the potential of the Single Market, Europe and its citizens, Europe's role in the world, the future enlargement of the Union and an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe. Europe must be more than a free trade area.

If we are to convince the people of Europe of the need for further integration — sadly we have failed to do this although the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell, has endeavoured to adopt a communicating Europe policy — we must be able to show that the EU is capable of acting on issues which affects it, for example, drug trafficking, terrorism, crime and unemployment. There has been recent discussion on the viability of the European model as against the American system of free and deregulated markets. However, there is no choice between the two. The people of Europe expect, and given their experience during the course of this century, are entitled to expect, a humane and caring social order.

The opening of the Union to the countries of the former Eastern Bloc marks a formidable hurdle in the development of the Union. On the one hand, the admittance of countries notably poorer than ours cannot but have implications for Ireland vis-á-vis the continuation of Structural Fund payments, FEOGA grants, Common Agricultural Policy etc. We must ensure that such admittance does not alter the fundamental co-operative nature of the EU. However, only by accepting the membership of such states can the EU fulfil its originally perceived purpose which is to bind together the peoples of Europe. As the White Paper puts it, our function is to consolidate for future generations the peace and prosperity of Europe.

I welcome the statement in the White Paper that the Government, while welcoming the deepening of European integration, will not assent to further progress unless Ireland's interests are protected. Nothing would do more to alienate people from the European process than to see our Government sign away their livelihood in pursuit of any ideal, however noble. Importantly too, it is the Government's determination throughout the Intergovernmental Conference to ensure that the delicate institutional balance of the European Union is maintained. If a time comes when a cap is to be put on membership of the European Parliament, we are prepared to debate that, but we must retain our unique powers as a small nation with a tremendous input into the cultural and economic life of Europe. The success of the EU so far has been its supra natural structures. On no account can we countenance loss of our Commissioner status, for example. Neither can I accept the arguments of some of the larger countries that they are in danger of being out voted by the influx of smaller countries. As the White Paper points out, and as has been the case for a considerable time, matters other than size influence member states' attitudes to issues.

Thanks to the successful and prudent management of the nation's finances over the past decade, Ireland is well placed to enter the final stage of economic and monetary union. The single currency is a crucial step towards binding the people of Europe irrevocably together. However, we are faced with problems because of Britain's current refusal to participate in plans for a single currency. We are still some time away from having to make a decision on this. Perhaps a victory for the left in the forthcoming elections in Britain may alter the tide as it appears to have done in Italy. Our task is to continue the steady progress we have made in the public finances to date so that we can make a decision when the time comes. Interestingly, we are one of the few member states at the moment meeting the criteria, which is a compliment to the management of our financial affairs.

One of the more controversial elements of the White Paper is that Ireland should enter into discussions about joining the NATO-backed partnership for peace. It is amazing that a previous Minister from the main Opposition party, Deputy Kitt, in a major speech at the European Institute, welcomed the development of the partnership for peace as a wonderful thing to think about. That is all the White Paper is asking us to do, to consider the benefits for Ireland of membership of the partnership for peace. Regardless of misinformation being put out by the Opposition, the Green Party and people with another agenda, it is obvious to anybody who has considered the options that whereas we have decided we will not join the Western European Union as full participating members but will retain our observer status with it, and whereas we will not join NATO or any military alliance, we will look at the options of joining the partnership for peace if there are benefits for Ireland. There is nothing wrong with looking at options that might benefit us, particularly as some of our sister members of the European Union have already signed up to the partnership for peace which has no military alliance with NATO. It is a welcome development that we will consider it if it is in our interest, in the knowledge that only this House and not the Government will make the final decision on it. If, in future, we have to go further and our neutrality is compromised, we will have to have a referendum of the people, and that would be an excellent way to approach an emotive subject.

There is a moral obligation on us as a developed nation to participate more fully than we have already done in the Petersberg tasks, regardless of who organises them. The European Union's hand must be strengthend in this regard. Over the past few years, for the first time in a generation, we have witnessed a war in our own back yard which we were unable to end, and this is unacceptable.

No debate on foreign policy would be complete without mentioning overseas aid. Overseas development aid now stands at 0.3 per cent of GNP. This is the highest level of contribution in our history. This year the figure stands at £106 million and the Minister of State, Deputy Burton, and the Tánaiste, are to be congratulated on pursuing in Government the aim to increase this level to 0.7 per cent of GNP, the recommended UN figure. In that regard I wish the UN would pay what it owes us for taking part in UN missions. I thank the Minister for Defence, Deputy Barrett, for his briefing to our committee on the role of the UNIFIL Forces in the Lebanon and sending our best wishes to the troops who are trying to ensure peace and a resolution of that conflict. I condemn the Israeli Government for the way it has escalated this problem in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Committees of this House drafted a balanced resolution last week condemning both sides, requesting them to desist from engaging in such armed activities. Since then the position has further deteriorated. It is obvious that Hizbullah chooses sensitive locations, where such armed activities are likely to lead to loss of life to innocent people who have had to leave their homes and find solace in United Nations posts. Whenever Hizbullah adopt positions within some 300 metres of the perimeter of UNIFIL posts, the Israelis, in retaliating, risk killing totally innocent people, as happened recently when 100 people were killed.

I agree we have a major role to play in implementing peace in the Middle East. I hope that as a result of the Troika which has been active — including representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs who have been meeting the various protagonists in the Middle East crisis — with United States, French and Russian intervention, common sense will prevail and this provocation cease.

It is important to remember that the White Paper on Foreign Policy forms the basis of discussions and consultations, finally leading to decisions being taken and addresses the matter of foreign affairs across a wide spectrum, involving not only European but international affairs, overseas development, human rights and the United Nations itself. From that point of view it is an excellent example of transparency and openness.

The Intergovernmental Conference will possibly take us to the end of this century and into the next, with further enlargement of membership of the European Union when we will be faced with many challenges but, likewise, have many opportunities. In addition, by the year 1999, the Delors II package will have been finalised when the matter of funding will recur. On the basis of current economic trends it is predicted that, because of our present growth trend, we may then receive less funding which will probably be exacerbated by the advent of membership of the European Union of less wealthy member states, accepted in principle by all current members.

In such circumstances Ireland will turn a new corner, possibly adopting a different role within the European Union for which we should prepare. This White Paper on Foreign Policy will help us in such preparations, setting out our present position, indicating the direction in which we should be heading and, primarily, forcing us to examine our future within the European Union.

While this debate is very useful more than that, it is very important for too often in the past decisions were taken on foreign policy matters which had not been adequately debated in this House and, perhaps even more importantly, had not been adequately debated in the country. The fact that a White Paper on Foreign Policy has been published is a major step forward as is the debate on it.

It is important that this debate is based on reason and logic, that it is rational rather than emotional because, when talking about foreign policies, some issues tend to arouse emotions. On the other hand, when examining its contents, one finds common accord on approximately 90 per cent of the issues addressed in it as far as foreign policy is concerned. While some need to be teased out further, there is no fundamental difference between the various political parties or the electorate on 90 per cent of those issues.

However, a couple of issues that tend to arouse controversy need to be teased out and debated a lot more. The first is the matter of European security and defence, probably the most controversial issue. There is one other issue that could be controversial, which needs to be teased out and prepared for, that is monetary union in circumstances in which there is a common currency and the United Kingdom does not join it.

Let me take the easier issue first, the one on which it is easier to present a view and come to a conclusion. European citizens, businessmen, farmers and others incur enormous additional costs arising from all the different currencies within Europe. It has been estimated that billions are being wasted annually because of the need to change from, say, punts to sterling, to francs, to lira or into the currency of the country to which one exports produce. Since we are an exporting nation, we are particularly badly hit by these additional costs.

I will give two examples to demonstrate how ridiculous this exchange rate system can be. I was returning to Ireland from France last year by landbridge, driving across England. On the ferry from France to England I had some sterling travellers' cheques for which they would give me francs but not sterling. This meant I would have to have taken francs, be charged commission for that transaction and then have those francs changed into sterling and charged further commission. Quite frankly, there is a huge rip-off in this exchange operation, many of those involved rip-off not the system but you and me, those who avail of its facilities from time to time. While it may not amount to very much business people availing of those facilities day in day out must incur enormous cost penalties.

The second example of how ridiculous this system can be was on another occasion not too long ago when I travelled first class on the train from Dublin to Belfast, paid a supplement and later had a meal. I found that I could pay the supplement only in punts but the meal only in sterling, orvice versa; I cannot remember which, further demonstrating just how ridiculous is the system.

The sooner we have a common European currency the better from which Ireland in particular will gain. However, we must address the crucial issue of what will happen if the United Kingdom remains out when there is a common currency. Not sufficient thought has been given to that contingency. Let me lay down my markers in this respect. We must now examine current trends and ascertain what will be best for our country. From any examination of our trading patterns it is quite clear that the proportion of our trade with the United Kingdom over the past five to ten years has declined in proportion to the increase in our trade with the remainder of Europe. Therefore, the trend over the past ten years is upwards as far as our trade with mainland Europe is concerned and downward in proportion to our trade with the United Kingdom, that is in proportion to the whole, not in volume terms, which is a very strong indicator of where we should be going.

In relation to tourism, the numbers of visitors coming here from mainland Europe, proportionately, are ever greater, but not so in the case of those from the United Kingdom, indicating a further strong trend.

Whenever the United Kingdom does come to a decision — while not unduly affected — I predict they will at least notice the approach we will be adopting. There may well be even very slight pressure exerted on them if we are very positive in our approach to the common currency. For that reason we should be giving very clear signals now that, irrespective of the decision of the United Kingdom, our approach is to join the common currency and monetary union, if we can; certainly, we should conform to the criteria to enable us do so.

European defence and security is an issue of much greater controversy. While this White Paper on Foreign Policy is an excellent document — and those who compiled it must be complimented — on this issue it is a bit of a fudge. The approach adopted is very timid and nowhere is this more clear than in relation to the Partnership for Peace. The conclusion that we should explore further the benefits that Ireland might derive from participation in the Partnership for Peace and determine the contribution we might make to the partnership is very timid.

The situation may be misunderstood or, even worse, may be misrepresented but that should not prevent us from being very clear in our conclusions on the simple issue of the Partnership for Peace. The Partnership for Peace is a co-operative security initiative designed to intensify political and military co-operation in Europe. We might question the need for that. The Cold War is over and people may think that all the problems are over because there are no longer two super powers and there will be no difficulties. That is not so. The new international system is unstable. Even since the collapse of the communist bloc in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse in the Soviet Union two years later — fundamental turning points — we have had wars and rumours of wars all over the place. In Yugoslavia, which is just a two hour flight from Dublin, one of the most vicious wars since the Second World War has been taking place. Let us not think for a moment that because the Cold War is over we have a stable international system. We do not, therefore we have to be concerned about security, particularly security in Europe.

Security and defence issues must be recognised explicitly as central concerns of our external relations. We have to be explicit as to the role we can play and that is why I am so disappointed at the decisions arrived at on the Partnership for Peace. I am also somewhat disappointed at the approach adopted by the principal Opposition party. The Partnership for Peace has the support of almost all members of the OSCE — 43 states now subscribe to it, not only the members of NATO, but the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the four mainland European neutrals, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Malta, whom some may say are a little more neutral than we who are always neutral. Further east, Russia and all but one of the states of the former Soviet Union subscribe to the PFP. Despite this, we cannot make a clear decision to participate in the Partnership for Peace.

We are in rather unholy company. A few other countries have still not joined including the countries involved in the conflict in Yugoslavia; Cyprus, which has its own problems; Switzerland, the bank vault of the world, which would not join the UN because it wants to keep away from everyone; and Tadzhikistan, the only one of the former Soviet Republics that has not joined. Why are we in such company? We are too timid in our approach. It is quite clear that the purposes and objectives of the Partnership for Peace are ones to which we can subscribe. Membership does not involve membership of NATO, the assumption of mutual defence commitments or any commitment or obligation whatsoever in relation to future membership of NATO. I am certainly not in favour of joining NATO but I am in favour of participating in the Partnership for Peace and I strongly urge that we take a definitive approach in regard to it.

In his contribution to this debate, Deputy Raphael Burke said participation in the Partnership for Peace "would amount to a second class membership of NATO." That is not so. I do not think that many of the 43 countries to which I have referred would have a notion of joining NATO. Deputy Burke on behalf of the main Opposition party said he objected because some of the participating states have a nuclear capability. Does that mean we should withdraw from the United Nations because some members of the United Nations have a nuclear capability? I cannot accept those arguments. If we cannot reach a decision on that we will have the greatest difficulty in coming to a view as to what should be done about European defence in the future. I accept fully that there is not a case for joining NATO but like former leaders of this country including the late Sean Lemass, who was a great visionary in his time, I believe that as the European defence component develops we have a role to play in it. If Europe is worth joining it is worth defending. This is the simple approach I have taken.

There is a great emphasis on what we can get from our membership of the European Union. I am not one of those purists who believes we should not be squeezing every bob we can from it but we have a responsibility also. If we are members of the European Union we we have a responsibility together with other members for the defence of that Union. It is fundamental that we as politicians have a duty to explore, tease out and convince the people of this. I am not sure how a defence pillar of the European Union will develop but I think it will develop. I accept fully that it should be approved by the people in a referendum but we should explain fully the rationale behind it and there should be a reasoned debate on the issue throughout the Intergovernmental Conference and thereafter before any such referendum. It should not be decided on the basis of a motion as that is not the basis on which rational decisions should be made. I am sure we will hear a great deal more about the issue of European defence and security in time to come.

There are many other issues in the White Paper and it is important to refer to some which are of central concern to us. The Intergovernmental Conference will focus on the balance between the institutions in Europe. I want to see a strengthening and a widening of the European Union. We have committed ourselves to a future in the European Union and now that we are a member of the club we have a role to play in helping to see it develop. That is why I am in favour of enlargement. There is no doubt that from the point of view of European stability, encouraging the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to prepare for membership of the European Union has a huge role. I was in Romania a few weeks ago and it is quite clear that the first objective of their foreign policy is to prepare for membership of the European Union.

We cannot be selfish about this and decide because we are inside everybody else should keep out in case we might lose a few crumbs. We can not have it both ways, but we must take an approach in favour of enlargement. In the course of negotiations it will be possible for us to defend our corner and fight as well as the next country for whatever slice of the European cake is available. We have a good record in that regard and we can maintain it. I have no philosophical or other problem with such a campaign provided we conduct it on the basis that we do not try to limit membership.

The institutional balance will be important and there is common accord on some aspects of that issue. The Commission has a central role, and we have always supported it and been represented on it. This House is probably unanimous in believing we should continue to be represented on the European Commission. It is most important from our point of view, as a small nation within the Union. That representation must be a central plank in our approach to Europe. If trimming must occur the member states with two commissioners should be first in the firing line. There is no reason the British, French and Germans should have two members of the Commission but, it is easy to give up other people's entitlements.

What to do about smaller new member states such as Malta and Cyprus will be a problem. We will have to reserve judgment especially in view of the fact that a small state. Luxembourg, was a founder member of the Union. I made a proposal some years ago, subsequently derided by Fianna Fáil but which should be given careful consideration. I proposed that the President of the European Commission should be directly elected by the people of Europe in the same way as the President of the United States is directly elected. I do not envisage equivalence between the two positions but the proposal should be given careful consideration. It would increase the democratic legitimacy of European institutions. I hope the proposal will receive more thought on this occasion, particularly from the main Opposition party which derided it some years ago.

There are other issues with regard to European institutions. There is the question of the European Parliament, the number of members it should have and its powers. A case can be made for some extension of the Parliament's powers. There is also the issue of voting in the Council of Ministers. Should there be a further extension of weighted majority voting? We must cautiously agree that some extension of majority voting will be necessary, particularly in an enlarged community. Otherwise the European Union will be paralysed.

I can only touch on the issues in the short time available. I hope there will be many more debates and we will focus on certain issues and give them the careful and detailed attention they require. A good start has been made and I am delighted to have been able to participate in it.

I thank the Deputies who have contributed to this important debate on the White Paper and I congratulate them on the calibre and thoughtfulness of those contributions. The White Paper attempts to set out where we see ourselves as a nation. It is not the definitive answer to our positionvis-à-vis the rest of the world but it sets out the reflective Irish position about a series of European and international institutions. It does so in the context of our consciousness of ourselves as a small, neutral country with an important voice and important historical experiences which allow us to make a contribution to both the European Union and the institutions of the United Nations.

If one principle underlies our foreign policy as a neutral state it is that neutrality is not mere passivity. The White Paper emphasises our neutrality and states categorically that it has served this country well. No real arguments have been put forward as to why we should vary that policy. The paper also states that we will not join either NATO or the Western European Union. Given that we are a small, neutral country we have an obligation, which the White Paper also sets out, to make a strong contribution to disarmament in the context of both nuclear and conventional weapons.

This is the tenth anniversary of Chernobyl and it is appropriate that we are debating foreign policy today. We should remember the victims of Chernobyl and the continued suffering which that terrible tragedy has caused. Our role in promoting nuclear non-proliferation is well known. However, on this anniversary, it is appropriate to reiterate our opposition to the use of nuclear power for electricity generation at home and our concerns about the safe management of nuclear waste abroad. We will continue to pursue with both the UK Government and at EU level our legitimate concerns about Sellafield and similar plants. The memory of what happened at Chernobyl is a reminder for us to be ever vigilant and active with regard to Sellafield.

On Deputy Sargent's remarks, in the context of non-proliferation of weapons, I welcome his statements supporting the position taken by NGOs such as Pax Christi and others about landmines. I am delighted he has made a public statement on the matter and the Green Party supports our calls for a worldwide ban on landmines. However, it is unfortunate that Deputy Sargent does not appear to be aware that when Ireland attended the review conference last year — I represented the Irish Government — it was one of five countries calling for a total ban on landmines. There are now 31 countries supporting a worldwide ban. On 23 April last, the British Government announced it was joining the call for a ban on anti-personnel landmines. This is a substantial advance, in addition to the statement released just before Easter by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military that they would review their position on landmines. Irish people can be rightly proud that the Irish Government has taken a leading role in this matter. That role is acknowledged by Pax Christi and many other NGOs in Ireland and throughout the world and by the European campaign of NGOs, a group that campaigns on the landmines issue and which I have met on a number of occasions. They have congratulated us on the leading position we have taken and will continue to adopt until the world sees an end to the use of these weapons. Landmines are weapons of war but they cause about 26,000 deaths and injuries a year to innocent civilians long after conflicts have ended.

Regarding dialogue on foreign policy, the White Paper was preceded by a series of seminars, each of which had an attendance in excess of several hundred people. It initiated a fairly widespread debate on areas of our foreign policy which has been helpful. It focused and highlighted areas of concern, such as human rights and development issues which our people expect the Government to ensure will be addressed at international fora. The process of dialogue, initiated by the Government in preparing the White Paper, will not end with its publication. Already various committees of the House, particularly the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Joint Committee on European Affairs and the sub-committee on development have had fairly lengthy discussions on it.

Regarding a number of points that arose on enlargement of the Union, Deputy O'Malley rightly referred to the future of the CAP and the Union's policies in the area of economic and social cohesion. We fully recognise the challenges in these areas. That is why we must ensure that enlargement takes place in the context of the deepening of European integration and the maintenance of those key policies. I do not agree with Deputy O'Malley that Structural and Cohesion Funds have not been well used. The Commissioner responsible is on the record as saying that Ireland has been particularly successful in the use of Structural Funds. I agree with Deputy Ahern that we have nothing to apologise for in insisting that our structural and cohesion needs should be recognised and that the Union's policies in these areas should be fully implemented here.

Some Deputies expressed concern about the publication of the White Paper prior to the official launch of the Intergovernmental Conference in Turin on 29 March. As the Taoiseach said recently in this House, the publication of the White Paper was very timely. Ireland's White Paper is one of the most up to date statements on the broader issues which are likely to arise at the Intergovernmental Conference and its publication close to the launch of the Intergovernmental Conference helps focus the public's attention on the European Union, its importance for Ireland and its future development. The Government is very aware that for the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference to be a success it must be transparent in its conduct and outcome. We have sought since last year, in the context of the preparation of the White Paper, to encourage informed public debate about the issues likely to arise at the Intergovernmental Conference and their implications for Ireland and Europe.

The Intergovernmental Conference must consider what Treaty amendments could bring the Union closer to the public in terms of making its workings more comprehensible and transparent and, above all, in terms of Treaty reforms which would make the Union more effective in areas of direct concern to the public. Deputy Ahern noted that we are strongly in favour of the establishment of transparency in the operation of the institutions. In the White paper we have identified a number of specific issues of public concern which we believe could be better addressed through new or enhanced Treaty provisions. These issues include the maintenance and creation of employment and the continuing fight against international drug trafficking. The Intergovernmental Conference must not be seen as a panacea for all Europe's ills. I am confident that it can produce a framework within which the Union can more effectively play its role in tackling on a broader front those issues which affect the well-being of the Union and society in general.

During the Irish Presidency in the latter half of the year we will make every effort to ensure that our stewardship of the Intergovernmental Conference encourages openness and transparency and that it is not perceived as a secret negotiation behind closed doors. If the reasons for public indifference and lack of comprehension, which were evident in many member states during the Maastricht process, remain neglected and untreated the necessary support for the process of integration, which is profoundly in the interest of the citizens of the Union, will not be forthcoming.

I wish to deal with the political and security aspects of the White Paper which have received a considerable amount of attention. In the course of his intervention Deputy Ray Burke described as a double-think the Government's wish to be a constructive participant in the Intergovernmental Conference negotiations on a common defence policy for the European Union. That is surprising because the Maastricht Treaty, ratified following a referendum, states that, "The Common Foreign and Security Policy shall include all questions relating to the security of the Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence".

In his contribution Deputy Ahern seemed to imply that the Government is edging towards membership of the Western European Union, but that is not the case. I reiterated earlier that the White Paper sets out unequivocally our position and the benefits we have derived from our neutrality and that we will not be applying for membership of NATO or the Western European Union at any stage.

What is missing from this debate is a broader conception of how Europe, particularly in the context of the enlargement that has taken place and will take place in the future, which will incorporate more countries with traditions of neutrality, such as ours, and countries with differing histories, will be a Europe that will offer a number of different models, ways of participating and historical traditions. In that diversity will lie one of the strengths of the future European Union. It is not homogeneous, with large countries or those with a strong military history dictating to smaller ones. It will be a community of diversity which will allow the citizens of the Community to express a broad diversity of approach to foreign policy and security issues. Therein will lie the future strength of the Union.

As stated in the White Paper, the Government will examine on a case by case basis the possibility of Irish participation in humanitarian, rescue and peacekeeping tasks under the Petersberg Declaration. The Government believes that a willingness to participate on a case by case basis in the Petersberg Tasks would be in keeping with Ireland's commitment to international peace, would constitute a concrete contribution to European security and would be a sign of solidarity with our European partners and neighbours in the search for a more secure and stable security order in Europe. It is envisaged that humanitarian and peacekeeping tasks under Petersberg would take place at the request of the UN, the OSCE or the EU in accordance with the Maastricht provisions. We should not have any doubt about the strength of commitment in the White Paper, paragraph 4.9 of which states that Ireland's policy of military neutrality has served us well and that there is no intention to amend it. Paragraph 4.10 states: "The Government will not be proposing that Ireland should seek membership of NATO or the Western European Union, or the assumption of their mutual defence guarantees".

The Partnership for Peace is not a military alliance nor is it a backdoor for Irish entry into NATO. It is an inclusive co-operative venture with significant value in the area of training for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, environmental protection and drugs interdiction. As the White Paper makes clear, the overall objectives of the Partnership for Peace are consistent with Ireland's approach to peace and security and participation in it could have important advantages for us. The Partnership for Peace now includes nearly all members of the OSCE. Has Ireland nothing to contribute to or gain from this co-operative security framework in which almost every other European country is involved? The Partnership for Peace is a novel concept in international security co-operation and it is not surprising that there should be such a level of interest and debate about our possible participation. However, I am disappointed at the misperceptions of what is involved.

I am disappointed, at the level of some of the debate on this issue. It is important that there should be an examination, on a case by case basis, of our possible participation in PFP tasks. People seem to have an incredible desire to take refuge under the shelter of the UN framework, while at the same time many people who debate this point, such as Deputy Sargent, go on to outline detailed critiques of the failures of UN structures, in particular the UN Security Council. The reality of the Security Council and of missions carried out under the UN mandate, for those who are concerned about this broader debate, is that council members have the largest armies and the largest nuclear capabilities in the world. PFP includes many countries with strong traditions of military neutrality. We should honestly examine the shortcomings of the UN, particularly the military structures and capabilities of the permanent members of the Security Council. If we are to have a balanced debate, we must discuss all aspects and elements of the issue in an open and honest manner.