Written Answers. - Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Paul McGrath

Question:

23 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he intends to take to reassure the public that the Nice treaty does not represent a weakening of Ireland's position and influence in the EU. [15004/02]

Billy Timmins

Question:

63 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendation that there should be a 90 day gap between the passage of a Referendum Bill by the Houses of the Oireachtas and the date of that Referendum; and if he proposes to introduce the Nice Referendum Bill before the summer recess in this regard. [15005/02]

Mary Upton

Question:

67 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to reports that the German Government may be considering proposing a new EU treaty that would be ratified by all member states, other than Ireland, should Irish voters vote no in the second referendum on Nice; if he has sought clarification from the German authorities on these reports; if so, the response he has received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14823/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has consulted with his EU colleagues in regard to the Nice Treaty; the initiatives he proposes for the 2004 Intergovernmental Conference; if he or his colleagues have liaised with representatives of the applicant countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13739/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions he has had with his EU counterparts in regard to the ratification of the Nice Treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15197/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of countries which have to date ratified the Nice Treaty, whether by parliamentary approval or by way of referendum; if a position has been adopted within the EU in the event of failure to ratify in each Member State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15198/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if arising from the Seville Summit, it is intended to make changes in regard to the ratification of the Nice Treaty; if all member states are satisfied that the process in regard to ratification is satisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15199/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 63, 67, 110 and 118 to 120, inclusive, together.

Ratification of the Treaty of Nice is a matter of the highest priority for the Government and we consider it fundamental to our continuing economic and social well being. We will, therefore, hold a second referendum on Nice in the autumn.
The treaty, which resulted from a year long process of negotiation within the intergovernmental conference, represents a good deal for Ireland and protects both our fundamental interests and our position and influence within Europe. Clearly, any negotiation involves an element of compromise. Overall, the Nice treaty is a modest treaty – while substantial in its import – and a reasonable compromise. It prepares the way for the most significant enlargement in the Union's history – presenting Ireland with new and exciting opportunities. This is the case we will put to the Irish people in the months ahead. We will also underscore our belief that Ireland's interests are best protected through maintaining our commitment to playing a full part at the heart of the European Union.
It is clearly set out in the Treaty of Nice that its function is to complete the process, started by the Treaty of Amsterdam, of preparing the institutions of the European Union to function in an enlarged Union. Enlargement is the greatest challenge facing the Union. Therefore ratification of the treaty remains an issue of key concern to current member states and to those waiting to join.
In all of my discussions with our European partners and with the applicant countries, I have sought to stress to them Ireland's continuing commitment to the process of enlargement – as recently highlighted in the second report of the National Forum on Europe – and the Government's commitment to seeking the people's approval for ratification of Treaty of Nice in a second referendum. At the recent summit in Seville, the European Council welcomed the Irish Government's determination to have the Nice treaty approved, this being a condition for enlargement to take place within the scheduled timescale.
It is the Government's intention to publish the necessary Referendum Bill shortly. We will also act to ensure that people have the necessary factual information available to them to assist them in making their decision. We believe the Referendum Commission will play an important role. Early publication of the Bill will enable a full and comprehensive debate of the issues involved. The current position in relation to ratification of the Nice treaty is that all other member states, apart from Belgium – where the process is nearing its conclusion, have completed the necessary domestic procedures to enable them to ratify.
There is, I understand, no truth behind comments attributed to the German Foreign Minister. They do not represent the considered view of the German Government. The Irish Government has repeated to all of our existing partners, and to the applicant countries, our continuing commitment to ensuring that the Nice treaty can be ratified. Nobody is currently thinking beyond that point – certainly there are no alternative plans or proposals being considered.
With regard to the position we will adopt in the Intergovernmental Conference, the Government has made clear its view that while, in the new circumstances facing the Union, there is a need for sensible reform and renewal, on the whole, the existing institutional balance has served both Europe and its members well. The EU is, and will continue to be, an outstanding success story. We also believe that, while member states will pool their sovereignty where that makes sense, the nation state will continue to be the fundamental building-block of the Union. We also believe that equality between members big and small is a fundamental principle.
As the debate on the future of Europe continues, including at the Convention on Europe, Ireland will continue to work to protect and promote our national interests. In doing so we will continue to cooperate and to build alliances with like minded countries, including the applicant countries, with whom we have already identified many common interests.