Written Answers. - European Integration.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he has expressed an opinion at EU level on the trend towards renationalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8404/98]

I have not addressed the subject raised by the Deputy at EU level. However, our EU partners are in no doubt about Ireland's commitment to EU integration.

For 25 years, Ireland has been a full participant in the process of European integration. We have benefited enormously from membership of the European Union and contributed constructively to its development. Naturally, we would view with concern, therefore, any development which might call into question the process of European integration.

In this connection the rules regarding application of the subsidiarity principle — which require that action by the Union is justified only where the objectives cannot be sufficiently achieved at national level and that they can be better achieved at Union level — are designed to ensure subsidiarity does not work against integration. This is particularly the case in relation to the Union's common policies.

The Deputy will be aware that the Treaty of Amsterdam contains general provisions which will permit a number of member states less than the full membership to avail of the institutions of the Union to organise "closer co-operation" between themselves. These provisions are an acknowledgement that the member states of a future enlarged European Union might not all be able or willing to move forward together to greater integration in particular areas. In this context, great care has been taken to ensure the application of closer co-operation or flexibility will not in future prove damaging to the coherence and solidarity of the Union. This is reflected in a tight framework of rules to govern the circumstances in which the provisions for closer co-operation might be invoked.