I indicated the kind of economic future which would be reserved for us if the Green Party and the policies of Mr. Douthwaite had their way. The Green Party also has some odd views about other matters which are relevant to this treaty, for example, enlargement. In 1992, in a television programme which had to do with the Maastricht Treaty, I heard Ms Patricia McKenna, an MEP of the Green Party, give the opinion that the re-unification of Germany was actually a grab by West Germany for the savings of East Germans. I am afraid that kind of extravagant and unjustified statement is typical of what the Green Party says about these issues. It is typical of what they have already said about the Nice Treaty and we heard some of that from Deputy Gormley in the House last night.
It is also a curious reflection that the Green Party, the National Platform and an organisation called AfrI, which is now opposing the Nice Treaty, talk about reform of the UN. On the ideas they express in that regard, I must agree with them. They see that one of the major obstacles in getting the UN to make decisions to adopt mandates for peacekeeping, which is a live issue, is the existence of veto in the Security Council. They are quite prepared to argue, in order to increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of the UN and to expand its capacity to get justice for people around the world, that we should abolish the veto in the Security Council of the UN. When we propose the same change in the Council of Ministers of the European Union or even in the European Council, they object to it on the grounds that it is an interference with sover eignty. I can only conclude that the reason they take this view in the UN is that they know that will probably never happen and the reason they oppose it in the European Union is that they know there is a serious risk that it might happen and that we might one day be able to put the European Union in a position to be a great deal more effective than it is today in dealing with the issues of concern to us.
This treaty will be put to a referendum here, but I do not believe it is necessary to hold it at the end of May for a number of reasons. First, we do not have to ratify the treaty until the end of 2002. There is, therefore, no hurry to do so. We should allow enough time for a full public debate. Second, we must do everything possible to give the lie to the spurious assertion being made by opponents of the treaty, including the Green Party, that the debate is in some way being rushed. Third, I am not at all sure of the wisdom of conducting the kind of widespread public debate we would like to see in circumstances where we are restricted by the necessary measures to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. Fourth, we need to give the lie to another utterly disingenuous assertion by the Green Party, that those who favour ratification of this treaty wish to conspire in muddying the waters by putting four questions to the people at the same time. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the public hear that kind of assertion being made by the Green Party or The National Platform, they should realise it is empty and mendacious rhetoric.
I do not believe we should hold four referendums on the same day. There is no urgency about at least two of the referendums proposed and the one on the International Criminal Court could stand on its own. It is entirely unwise of the Government to propose we hold those four referendums on the same day.
The case for the ratification of the Nice Treaty is so abundantly clear and unanswerable it deserves to stand alone, to be considered alone and to be ratified alone. The Green Party persists on dragging in every conceivable red herring into this debate. I read in the March edition ofThe Irish Family– I think it is a Roman Catholic newspaper published in Mullingar – that Patricia McKenna, MEP, stated that “It seems that the Government, with the apparent support of the two main Opposition Parties, will go to any length to divert attention from the contents of the Treaty of Nice”. She did not say much about the content, but that is what she claimed. The Government's decision to publish a White Paper on the treaty hardly sits with an attempt to “divert attention from the content of the Treaty of Nice”. The extent of the debate that took place in public here during the course of the work of the Intergovernmental Conference was hardly an attempt to divert attention from the content of the treaty. The lie is given to the claim of Patricia McKenna, MEP, by the fact that she popped up so often in the debate during the course of the work of the Intergovernmental Conference.
Deputy Gormley spoke on the same subject here last night. He spoke about the White Paper. He said that on close reading it is about as neutral as this country. He said the White Paper "is extremely dodgy in light of the McKenna judgment". I challenge the Deputy and every other member of his party, all of ten of them whoever they are, to explain in what way the White Paper is biased or presents an unreal picture of the Nice Treaty. I read it and I am no great friend of the Government, but it is fair to say, and I say it without hesitation, that the White Paper gives a fair and honest picture of what has been agreed in the Nice Treaty. It gives a fair and honest picture of the Government's concerns coming up to and during the course of the debate. I am not saying I agree with everything that came out of it, but the White Paper is what it sets out to be and is in keeping with the tradition we have always had in this country of having fair and accurate White Papers. When it comes to statements of Government policy, it is different, we can argue. I challenge the Deputy and his colleagues in the Green Party to come in here and substantiate their outrageous claim that this White Paper is in any way biased.
The stupidity of the opposition is underlined even further in an article by Mr. Anthony Coghlan of The National Platform in the newspaper to which I referred. He states that the arguments that the Treaty of Nice is necessary for enlarging the EU is " . . . a poor argument, as only eight of the 80 or so pages of the Nice Treaty in the EU Official Journal relate to the issue of EU Enlargement". That is typical of the kind of nonsense expressed by opponents of this treaty. When I read that I went back through the treaty and found that it bears no relation whatsoever to the facts. I can find 15 pages in the Official Journal that are formal pages, the recitals, the signatures and so on. The great bulk of what is in the treaty is required by the process of enlargement, but if the opponents of this treaty have to resort to the argument of counting pages to decide how strong the argument is, I can only conclude they know, as they must by now, that they have no case for the extraordinary claims they make. That is typical of the Green Party and The National Platform.
The Green Party and The National Platform – I am sure there will be others – also claim the people were duped at the time of the Amsterdam Treaty because we had a referendum on the Good Friday Agreement on the same day. I do not know whether Deputy Gormley spends his time talking to particularly stupid people, but I certainly found no evidence among the people at the time that they were in any way confused between the Amsterdam Treaty and the Good Friday referendum, but that is not the only claim the Deputy makes. He said last night – I am subject to correction on the Official Report and if the Deputy would like to come in and change it all, I will help him – that we have been continuously misled, we were misled in 1970, in 1987, in 1992 and in 1997, we have been misled about every single treaty, when the people who opposed those treaties deliberately tried to mislead people by claiming the treaties did things they did not do. If they were right in what they said about successive treaties, we would not have national independence, thousands of Irish people would have been brought back in body bags from foreign wars, we would have no sovereignty, our economy would be in tatters, we would have no culture, etc. They have come out time and time again with the same niggling, nit-picking entirely mendacious arguments because there is no foundation for the kinds of claims they make about these treaties as to their interference with our sovereignty and with our capacity to make decisions for ourselves. All they can say is that we were duped or we were cheated.
There is a claim that the rapid reaction force constitutes a militarisation of the European Union. That is utterly without foundation. That is an agreement, a method, a piece of machinery that is being put in place to give effect to the Petersberg Tasks, to make it possible for the European Union to carry out those Petersberg Tasks in which I hope this country will fully participate, but in which I know this country legally, constitutionally and under the terms of the treaties will participate only if the Government decides it wants to do so. It will be a sovereign decision of the Government and one I hope we will take on every occasion the European Union identifies such a task, as there is a need for this and, unfortunately, there will continue to be a need for it, probably in the Balkans, for a long time into the future.
It is interesting, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out last evening, that we are the only country that has the intention of holding a referendum on this treaty. The Danes who are most notoriously jealous of their national sovereignty have concluded they do not need to have a referendum on this treaty because it does not involve the surrender of any extra sovereignty over and above what has already been agreed as a pooling of sovereignty in the treaties as they exist up to now. That is something The National Platform and the Green Party should put in their pipes and smoke. I hope we will not see them carrying out this nonsensical exercise of bringing over here failed political entities from Denmark during the course of this referendum campaign to tell us how we should vote and that they will avoid the temptation of bringing over discredited Tory euro sceptics from the UK to give us lessons from the depths of their difficulties about how we should vote on European issues.
The claims that have been made that the changes in voting arrangements and in qualified majority voting in this treaty constitute a grab for power by Germany and France are clearly shown to be spurious. If we look at the implications of this treaty for the balance in voting rights between member states in the context of enlargement we find the change is very little indeed. That is not what the opponents of the treaty will say. It would become marginally more difficult to secure a qualified majority vote in the union of 27 than in the union of 15. It is wrong to see that as a naked grab for power by France and Germany. I cannot believe that those who make that claim really believe it. If they do, they are ripe for duping and will believe almost anything. There is no foundation for that claim and there is no reason we should object to the change.
I listened to Deputy Gormley last night deploring the fact that in 30 new areas of policy, because the European Council has adopted the principle of qualified majority voting in those areas, we have damaged ourselves by losing our veto. I invite Deputy Gormley, who seems to be a reasonable person, except on these issues, to reflect on what a veto is and on what he says about the UN. A veto is a power which one can use to prevent others doing things one wants to do oneself. It is also a means by which one state can prevent a majority from doing things which the rest of us support. There is a far bigger danger and obstacle to us in what we want to do in the European Union in other countries having a veto over what we might agree to do than there is an opportunity for us to stop other people doing things of which we disapprove.
The approach being taken to this treaty by the opponents of it is insular, inward looking and lacks self-confidence. I cannot believe that they really believe it in their hearts. They may think they are doing some service to democratic discussion by putting up an opposition but it should be an opposition founded on fact and not such as we have seen from the National Platform and the Green Party.