I join you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in welcoming our colleagues from Sweden, as I am sure does every Member of the House. I take this opportunity of congratulating my colleague, Deputy David Andrews, on his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I wish him well in his ministry, which he occupied previously, and I know he will bring to it the breadth of vision and compassion I know him to have exercised in the human rights area in the past.
I am also pleased to have an opportunity of speaking on a matter of foreign policy because it has been so many years since I did so. I intend, therefore, to use this freedom which has been conferred upon me and which will inevitably be informed by my experience as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. I want to develop a few themes which I spoke about two weeks ago in Stockholm at a conference on the report of the Council of Europe,In From The Margins, which points indirectly to a fundamental missing component of the Amsterdam Treaty.
One does not have to be against European integration to be in a position to set the Amsterdam Treaty in context. The Amsterdam Treaty generated a set of expectations as it was coming at a certain moment in the historic evolution of Europe. In matters of foreign policy, context is as important as form and style to diplomacy. That context is interesting, and while there is no need for me to repeat what the Minister and Deputies Mitchell and Durkan said in their contributions, expectations were upset in two respects on which people could express some disappointment.
First, the more enthusiastic interpreters envisaging the new treaty thought it would make far more gains in relation to redressing the gap between citizenship, the reaction of citizens, and the Union. Second, the approach is wrong. There is an assumption that a Europe of consumers can translate itself into a Europe of citizens, and that what one creates first is a liberal economic space that can later be converted into a space of citizenship. Unfortunately for those who hold such a view, it is both modern and not particularly well informed. Historically it has never happened. What has happened is that all forward movements of integration have been built on strong theories of citizenship with economics being regarded as a source of instrument for the achievement and enhancement of that citizenship. Depending on the point at which one starts, the language inevitably will be the same.
I will give another example. Commentators today speak of letting other countries in, but the people in some of the countries I visited speak of joining. Joining is different from being let in. Joining creates issues of respecting diversity, including cultural diversity. That brings us to one of the points where this treaty, the tenth in the current European drive, can be properly put in context.
There is no reference to culture in the founding treaties of the European Union and there are many reasons for this. Europe was too close to war and it had seen culture used as an informing principle of intolerant and appalling attitudes which in turn generated the most devastating effects on people in the name of a narrow version of culture. Europe saw culture, as it drew in on itself in an insular sense, as being very close to that part of the spirit of a nation which could not be negotiated. Hence, it was usually linked with education and later became part of subsidiarity, two untouchable areas.
Another was the excuse given on the foundation of the Council of Europe in the 1940s that Europe would deal with culture. One of the great disappointments is that when the larger family of nations, the Council of Europe, has discussed matters of culture, diversity, tolerance and so forth it has largely left the European Union's evolution untouched. The relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe in the sphere of culture are scandalously sparse.
There are also other reasons for this which are interesting. One is that the version of humanity in which we lived did not regard the cultural experience and creativity as central to being European. When the treaty was being discussed at Amsterdam Europe became dislodged on its philosophy and assumptions. It is trite to say that the European Union was started because of the experience of two world wars. The human rights movement was mainly based on the low point to which humanity had sunk in Dachau and Auschwitz, events we should never forget.
It is important to remember that the construction of "homo Europeanus" as "homo economicus" had led to the payment of an enormous price. I regret that we do not have a ministry dealing with cultural matters only. The Government decided to give responsibility for cultural matters to the Minister for Arts, Culture, Gaeltacht and the Islands and anything else one can think of on a fine day. It took this decision at a time when it was decided to call the British heritage secretary the Secretary for Culture.
This important omission in the Amsterdam Treaty is very revelatory in terms of the missing connections between the Union and its institutions. It also raises another issue to which the Minister referred in his fine speech in which he accurately and thoughtfully summarised the treaty for us, that a Europe of consumers will have different attitudes to security than a Europe of citizens. The issue of security for citizens, whether they are employed or unemployed poor or rich, usually derives from a theory of human rights and such constitutional certitude as is put in place as different states evolve. On the other hand, a view of security derived from a theory of sovereign consumership is about the safety of property. Common to this are issues such as the rights of children etc. I will not indulge in nonsense and say that one will be threatened by the greater co-operation in dealing with the drugs menace. Of course this is an area in which there should be co-operation if we want to eliminate this awful blight which affects so many people in Europe.
The 18 million unemployed people in Europe will not see hope in the present relationship between economic issues and issues of culture and citizenship. I do not want to bore the House but I want to give an example of this. I thank the Minister for acknowledging the preparatory work carried out by Deputy Spring and join in paying tribute to the officials for their work. The public gallery is not packed with people interested in which dimension of Europe we are discussing. Neither are they marching outside the gate with placards. We have a reflective view of Europe —we are not madly interested but we are anxious to take as much as we can at times. However, it is wrong to portray us like this at seminars as some people keep stressing our contribution before the European Union was heard of. We were European before many other countries in the sense that we had a relationship with other countries in Europe.
In addition to the democratic deficit in Europe in an institutional sense there is also a philosophical deficit. The thinking which existed at the end of the last World War which gave a great impetus certainly does not exist now. When the President of the Czech Republic visited the European Parliament he said he had come as an enthusiast but when he looked at the institutional operation he felt he was looking into a machine and could not discern the heart of Europe. If one speaks of Europe in terms of its citizenship one could be criticised for being weak on economics.
In addition to the philosophical deficit the economic model is seriously flawed because it is out of context. The only function of any instrument of economic integration is to serve a wider social purpose to which the 18 million unemployed people in Europe stand as an empirical contradiction. In his July speech the then Minister said we had come out of the Amsterdam process fairly well, the Commission was still strong and we had benefited from that. He also said that the Council of Ministers was very strong and there were appropriate strengthenings of the European Parliament. When that language is decoded the game is given away — it is that the last place European enthusiasts want to place their trust is the European Parliament. Thus, if one examines the treaty one will see that the enhanced powers of the Parliament are provided for in an annex.
I am making the case for a better and more generous Europe. The philosophical deficit has led to the neglect of culture. I stress that cultural diversity is very important as a feature of appropriate discussion on enlargement. It is not a matter of whether countries should be let in, it is a matter of who joins. The neglect of this dimension has led to net losses in terms of how economy and social space are used.
Lest people think I have lost the run of myself, it is important to point out that the cultural industries here employ approximately the same number as the banking sector. This is a comparison which usually sticks with people. The cultural industries employ 33,800 people, have a value of approximately £441 million per year and earn 88 per cent of their income by way of direct trading activity, with only 12 per cent coming from grants. They employ slightly more women than men, 54 per cent to 46 per cent, and seven out of ten jobs are full time. These statistics were published in the Coopers & Lybrand report published some years ago.
Millions of jobs can be created in the cultural area of Europe if we recognise the wonderful component of creativity which lies in our citizens. At my first meetings of cultural Ministers the view was expressed that when economic growth returned to Europe we could consider projects such as those put forward by Jack Lange, the former French Minister for Culture, and others, that culture would be a residuum of economic recovery. One of the points I advanced was that the cultural space is wider than the economic space, and it is at times of unemployment and poverty that an active cultural space is needed to head off racism and anti-immigrant feeling.
Perhaps it is good to mention this matter calmly here when people will take it in the spirit in which I want it understood. I have always had a reservation about images such as the Celtic Tiger. I have never understood the idea of putting forward the image of an animal with claws. It is not a very helpful image and for that reason I do not use it. We have a good economy with high growth, low inflation and low interest rates, but our experience of that is blemished by attitudes expressed towards those coming to Ireland, immigrants and others. In recent weeks and months I received some of the most appalling racist correspondence from people who direct their hatred against those who are black or Asian, people working in Dublin and other parts of the country. Given the way in which we sometimes speak of our diaspora 150 years after the famine, it is difficult to understand the unacceptable attitudes to those who come to Ireland.
We should ponder long and hard on what that tells us about ourselves at the end of this century. We began this century unfree. We established our own State. In the middle of the century tens of thousands of people left the country every year —55,000 left in 1955. When I was young I worked in England for the summer and cards were to be seen in windows stating that Irish people could not stay.
We are morally tested by our attitude to the way we share our prosperity and distribute it internally. As we make finance arrangements, I cannot see the case for an indiscriminate reduction of tax when the fruits of growth are so desperately needed in health, housing, education, remedial work and so on. It is time we spoke clearly about that. We must share the fruits of our growth with those from abroad. I am not saying we should throw the gates open, but some of the attitudes to people coming here are unacceptable. I have referred to the Minister for Justice correspondence relating to racism against the Asian community in Dublin.
My comments so far are by way of context in dealing with the Amsterdam Treaty, a great achievement in difficult circumstances. I do not agree with those who suggest a change in political direction has wrecked the prospects of a more complete treaty. Only a person with a completely historical view would suggest Maastricht was not influenced by the ideological complexion of the time it was framed. At that time Europe had moved to the right whereas at the time of the Amsterdam Treaty, Europe had pulled itself back from the right to the centre or possibly the left. It is reasonable to expect that would be reflected in the Treaty. It is important to bear in mind that what has been represented by way of iron laws through monetary union and the single currency must be put back in political context into a social Europe, a Europe of citizens, and account must be taken of the cultural space that is Europe.
I could spend a great deal of time dealing with interpretations of the treaty as it refers, for example, to fish or benefits that will accrue from enlargement. Enlargement is the second dimension by which people hope for greater benefits. Given our historical experience of poverty and emigration as well as recovery and shrewd management in the modern period by Governments of different composition, we must be very careful about the way we treat applicant and aspirant countries. I recall informal meetings during my time as Minister, conducted under presidencies other than the Irish Presidency, where it was evident that other countries had become like us. I regarded the attitudes of some European colleagues as almost offensive in that at best they were patronising. At informal Ministers' meetings, countries on the periphery suggested they had become very much like Ireland in issuing hundreds of radio licences and dozens of television licences to companies that usually collapsed within a year or two. They indicated they were adjusting themselves to become like us. At the same time many of the cultural institutions about which I spoke, ballet, theatre and drama, were collapsing as they were privatised and agents took over from the State.
The Amsterdam Treaty is about Europeans, and Europeans are entitled to ask what being European means and what it means to share and accept a common citizenship, which is a bigger agenda and requires a different moral vision than being similar consumers. For example, we could unite on issues such as public service broadcasting. That matter was discussed under the World Trade Agreement and the debate continued within the European Union as to the Union's attitude towards a product from the United States. The French supported the view that we should not be dominated. The issue was not to exclude anything but that all the audio visual product should not come from the one source. We could agree on that, but it is much more difficult to take on the bigger agenda of what we as citizens should think.
The next stage of development which will include enlargement will have to engage the issues I mentioned in a more overt way. Having begun with an admirable impetus to peace in place of war, the evolution before and throughout Maastricht has been one of incremental accretion of economic co-operation in an economic space. Various Governments have found it incredibly difficult to turn to their citizens and tell them what has been happening. They have fought back by telling people they are very lucky to be "in". The tacit evolution of economic co-operation has been a substitute for debate on principles of political and cultural co-operation that could create the correct atmosphere for the citizenry. That is why people spoke in the Intergovernmental Conference of a necessary component in the agenda of improving citizenship, although I am at a loss to say how citizenship can be enhanced with such a comprehensive neglect of culture. I accept the views expressed about those who suggest that the unemployment problem can be solved as a consequence of monetary union. I do not think the evidence supports that. It is why I welcome Commissioner Flynn's proposals on promoting the employment agenda, often against the opinions of national governments.
Subsidiarity has also been one of the biggest blocks in discussing the issues of culture which I raised.
If flexible labour markets are a recipe for low wages and the suspension of protection for workers I hope it will be exposed for what it is. The Europe of which we speak which is creating prosperity and makes the joint experience possible, is not worth very much if it means rolling back the protections introduced in the 1970s, even when the former President Hillery was Commissioner for Social Affairs and when Michael O'Leary was Minister for Labour. It would be retrograde to regard the obdurate presence of 18 million unemployed as somehow explainable in terms of the characteristics of those people. It is not that the 18 million people have failed, rather that the European economy is failing them. That is the correct emphasis and one which must be stressed.
The next years will be crucial. I welcome acceptance of the obligations of the Geneva Convention. However, it is time to clarify any confusion concerning our compliance with such measures in a manner acceptable to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to the international agencies aimed at welfare. It would not be a great statement if it were said we had looked after the free movement of commodities and capital but had made everything about the free movement of people, particularly when they lacked assets, extraordinarily difficult. I mention these to be positive and constructive in a debate which I hope will encompass the full gamut of all that needs to be discussed between now and the referendum.