Written Answers. - European Conventions.

Tom Hayes

Question:

32 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government stance on the position of young people in the EU in view of the forthcoming special youth session of the convention on the future of Europe. [15003/02]

Dan Neville

Question:

34 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position regarding the issue of the future development of the EU currently being debated in the Convention for the future of Europe. [15002/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 34 together.

The European Convention was set up earlier this year, on the basis of the Laeken Declaration of December 2001, with a mandate from the European Council to consider the various issues emerging in the future of Europe debate and to draw up a final document which may comprise either different options, indicating the degree of support which they received, or recommendations if consensus is achieved. Its report will, together with the outcome of national debates, act as a starting point for the next intergovernmental conference, which is likely to take place in 2004.

The Government has been participating very actively in the Convention to date. Mr. Ray MacSharry was chosen as the Government's representative for his wide experience at both national and European level, as a former Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, European Commissioner for Agriculture, and MEP.

He is taking to the Convention the view that the European Union has been an enormous success story, for the Union as a whole and for Ireland in particular. While the Government believes there is a need for sensible reform and renewal of the Union, the objective should be to modernise the Union, and not to rebuild from scratch. The existing institutional balances and mix of policies serve Ireland, and the European Union, well. It is also our view that, while it makes sense to pool sovereignty in areas where we can do more together than separately, the nation state will remain the essential building block into the future.

The Government is determined that the Convention must address the sense of disconnection between the Union and its citizens. The institutions of the Union must be made more open and more understandable.

Much of this work needs to be done at national level, and the Government has responded to this need by securing agreement on new arrangements for Oireachtas scrutiny of proposed EU legislation. But we are also looking at other ways to involve national parliaments at EU level. For example, we believe that there is a strong case for involving national parliaments in the election of the President of the Commission. Parliaments might also have a greater role to play in the policing of subsidiarity.

The Convention is unprecedented in its scale and agenda. It is important that efforts be made to develop positions among like-minded members on particular issues. For example, Mr. MacSharry has co-signed a joint paper with the national representatives of France, Germany, UK, and Poland on the question of the allocation of competences as between the Union and the member states. Those who believe that the Union operates on a big state-small state basis might note that on this important issue Ireland could agree a paper with three of the Union's largest member states and the largest candidate State.
The Government recognises that young people, who benefit so much, as students and workers, from EU membership, often feel remote from and uninterested in the Union. The Convention is next month holding a Youth Convention alongside a session of the full Convention. The National Youth Council of Ireland, with the agreement of all of the Irish representatives, full and alternate, was tasked with seeking nominees from Ireland to the Youth Convention. The six chosen have already appeared before the National Forum, and have promised to bring a diversity of views to the Youth Convention. It is important that these views are heard, and I welcome the fact that it is intended that the involvement of the Youth Convention delegates is to continue for the duration of the Convention itself through contact with the National Forum and the Irish Convention Members.