I have listened with great patience to the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, and to Deputy Andrews. It is time to return to reality.
An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2002: Céim an Choiste (Atógáil) agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha. Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages.
The truth is a foreign country for Deputy Gormley.
Why are we holding this referendum? Deputy Andrews said that enhanced co-operation forms a small part of the treaty. Of the three legal grounds cited by Deputy McDowell when he was Attorney General as necessitating a referendum on the Nice treaty, two concerned the treaty's provisions on enhanced co-operation. If the treaty was about enlargement, as Members have suggested, it is questionable as to whether a referendum would have been necessary in the first instance. Deputy Andrews may disagree with the former Attorney General that enhanced co-operation is an integral part of this treaty, but Deputy McDowell was responsible for bringing this matter to a national vote.
Those who follow European negotiations know that the French and the Germans introduced enhanced co-operation at Faro in 2000. The former Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres spoke in Nice of "an institutional coup d'état". It has been said that we are using emotional language, but these words were spoken by a Portuguese statesman. We have been told that the Nice treaty will not lead to a two-tier Europe, but in response I quote Jacques Delors who spoke in a French newspaper of creating "a Union for the enlarged Europe, and a Federation for the avant-garde". That sums up the two-tier Europe that we have mentioned so often in this debate. Our old friend Joschka Fischer told an audience at Humboldt University in Berlin that enhanced co-operation is vital for his vision of the development of the EU.
Enhanced co-operation is part of the federalist dream. It is an extremely powerful bargaining tool. When larger nations are in difficult negotiations, they will be able to refer to enhanced co-operation provisions to tell smaller nations that they intend to proceed without them. Our esteemed Taoiseach will say that he wants Ireland to be part of the premier league and we will become involved in enhanced co-operation. That is the way these things work.
He is building a premier league football stadium.
If it is as harmless as those on the other side claim, why did we boast after the negotiations on the Amsterdam treaty, which were mentioned by the Minister of State, that we had a veto on flexibility, as enhanced co-operation was then known? The problem with those on the "Yes" side is that they are inconsistent. We are familiar with this inconsistency having listened to the Minister of State's speeches in recent days. The Government's remarks on this topic do not add up. The introduction of enhanced co-operation as part of the Nice treaty will mean that the power of individual member states to veto fundamental change within the Union has been removed. We have heard many speakers refer to the fundamentally undemocratic nature of a veto. If it is undemocratic, however, why did the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, today boast about Ireland retaining a veto in relation to tax harmonisation?
It is most unacceptable that EU institutions will be involved in the implementation of enhanced co-operation and will bear the administrative costs of such activities, as set out in Article 1.13. It is possible, therefore, that a member state which does not support the implementation of a particular enhanced co-operation initiative may find itself indirectly funding the administrative costs of its implementation. The implications of enhanced co-operation for military and defence matters are not clear. Article 1.6, which inserts Articles 27a, 27b, 27c, 27d and 27e into the treaty, states that enhanced co-operation initiatives permitted under the treaty "shall respect the principles, objectives, general guidelines and consistency of the common foreign and security policy" but that they "shall not relate to matters having military or defence implications". It is difficult to envisage how an enhanced co-operation initiative falling broadly into the area of common foreign and security policy, whether consistent with EU policy or not, could not have military or defence implications. The Minister says he is clear about this, but I am not as I see it as a grey area.
There are no safeguards on the process of authorisation for enhanced co-operation initiatives. Article 1.9, which replaces Article 40 with Articles 40, 40a and 40b, specifies that while member states must submit a request for an enhanced co-operation initiative to the Commission, the Commission can decide not to submit the proposal to the Council of Ministers, as long as it gives a reason for doing so. Article 40a states, however, that in the event of the Commission refusing to forward the request for enhanced co-operation, "the member states may then submit an initiative to the Council designed to obtain authorisation for the enhanced co-operation concerned". This is an extremely worrying provision, as I do not know if it will be possible for member states to proceed regardless if the Commission, which is deemed to be the guardian of the interests of the Union as a whole, decides not to forward the enhanced co-operation proposal to the Council for authorisation.
Although these articles refer to the need to consult the European partners on certain requests for enhanced co-operation and the possibility of referring requests to the Council of Europe, neither of the institutions is given the power to block or refuse such a request. This cannot be considered to be a satisfactory system of checks and balances, as the Minister argues, to prevent groups of member states from potentially abusing the enhanced co-operation mechanism. Enhanced co-operation is an important aspect of this treaty because it cannot be sidelined. The Minister of State should be aware, as someone who is involved with the Convention for the Future of Europe just as I am, that the enhanced co-operation provisions of the Nice treaty significantly advance the federalist project. The enhanced co-operation provisions of the Nice treaty significantly advance the federalist project. They pre-empt the deliberations of the Convention on the Future of Europe. What is the point in having a debate on a federal Europe if a treaty has already been ratified that takes a significant step in that direction?
This is a major part of the Nice treaty – the establishment of an inner club. It is a federalist idea. Those countries, particularly the French and the Germans, have grown impatient with the dilly-dallying of those who are less integrationist than they are. That is why it is in the treaty. As I said on Second Stage, this treaty is fundamentally about deepening, not broadening. That is why it has been introduced. We know we can enlarge without this treaty. That has been confirmed over and over again. I was told today that even Pádraig Flynn has said we can go ahead with enlargement, that there is a plan B. This has been confirmed by Mr. Prodi, Giscard d'Estaing and by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell.
This is a fundamental part of the treaty and I hope we can go into in more detail during the debate itself. There is no doubt that we are seeing a shift in the manner in which the European Union operates. There is an inconsistency in the Government's argument. It previously tried to retain a veto in many areas but now it argues that the veto is not that important. A veto on flexibility now disappears. The inner club can be formed and that will lead to a two-tier Europe. The Government claims the veto still exists in relation to tax harmonisation but the inner club will form a tax harmonisation area. That will probably be one of the first things it does. We will be outside it. We will be told that tax harmonisation is going ahead and the question will be if we want to stay outside. The Minister may want to stay outside but he will not be in the premier league if he does.
I have a difficulty with the philosophy behind the amendments. It is based on the premise that Ireland's role in Europe would always be that of beneficiary of someone else's munificence or sufferer of someone else's actions. It takes the view that Ireland would never be the instigator of and would be unlikely to benefit from enhanced co-operation. It would do no harm to be less hard on ourselves on occasion. Ireland has played a strong and central role in Europe although it is true that sometimes we had to be dragged along. We saw that with some of the social and environmental changes, changes that would be welcomed by the Deputies who have tabled these amendments. Deputy Michael Higgins referred to the habitats directive that he introduced. I would not come from the same perspective on the directive but there are benefits in the short-term and in the medium and long-term arising from the European initiative which we did not embrace with any great enthusiasm.
That is putting it mildly.
Having come to adopt it by whatever means, we did not go about implementing it as participants in Europe in the manner in which we could have. Modifications that could have been to the benefit of the country were not made.
We can err by regarding Europe as an alternative entity of which we are sometimes a part but more frequently we regard it as ‘out there' in the way councillors say that the council decided, as though it was something removed from one's own remit at which one could only frown disapprovingly. That is a fundamental weakness in our approach to Europe and in our approach to this treaty.
Deputy Michael Higgins is right – the political driving forces in Europe will be determined by the make up of the governments. I do not concede, however, that the make up of the governments of the four or five big states will set the agenda. Neither do I accept that Ireland cannot be a beneficiary or instigator of enhanced co-operation. On the contrary, one of our weaknesses – and this is an accusation I would level at those parties who embrace Europe enthusiastically – is that enthusiasm has frequently not been matched by the kind of action that would give Ireland's participation an extra edge and lead to a greater sense of participation by Irish people in European institutions.
I argue with the philosophy of the amendments but the debate they have engendered is important. I do not share Deputy Gormley's fears about co-operation. Ireland can choose the path of being an active participant, even a prime mover, on occasion. This has been a weakness in our approach to Europe: while on occasion we have excelled, we have not taken as broad an approach as we might have.
I welcome the new provision in the Constitution in relation to the need for a referendum on a common defence policy. I share the philosophy of the Minister when he argued that there was a need for more public participation by way of referenda. An example of such a system exists in Switzerland. We frown on referenda and regard it as a parliamentary weakness if the people have to be consulted. It is as if Parliament forever decides for the people. I would argue that there are many issues on which people should be consulted but I would not go along with amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6.
I was delighted to hear a number of Deputies who would not normally be interested in my area express their concerns about Shannon Airport. They were coming from a different perspective but they were raising an issue close to my heart. A question that then springs to mind is whether our neutrality has been affected by the considerable number of US flights that have used the airport in recent years. I do not think it has but I am interested in the Minister's view on that. It impinges on today's date. There had been considerable fears that changes relating to qualified majority voting would have a negative impact on the negotiation of bilateral rights with the USA. That decision I was happy – or unhappy as the case may be – to establish was made on ratification of a previous treaty and does not arise on this occasion. Much of what we have heard, said and read about the Nice treaty would make us look to an outsider like a nation which thinks that participation in the Union involves insisting on being beneficiaries in all respects and on having no responsibility to initiate things. We would be seen to take a very blinkered view on a certain number of issues and, while I disagree very strongly with some of what Deputy Mitchell said, there is an underlying honesty in his call to address issues.
This Nice debate has been radically different from the previous one and Committee Stage has been much more interesting. As is the nature of Committee Stage debate, the inherent provisions of the treaty were addressed, which many engaged in the last debate failed to do, in a way that Second Stage could not allow. There were many complaints from people in various parties and from Independents that they were unable to get a speaking slot, which sadly is also the case if you have the misfortune to be on the backbenches of the Government side. I tried to pick the best amendments to allow me the opportunity to make some of the points I wished to make and I am delighted to have this opportunity. I would like to have been able to come in earlier on the neutrality and common defence elements because today's debate has been useful and far-reaching.
The issue of enhanced co-operation is not new as has been said by many, but it is important that we establish what is new in the Nice treaty with regard to it. What is new is the loss of the veto which Ireland and other small countries have valued for its provision of some kind of bargaining power. If the veto is to be lost in a large number of cases – the number 30 has been mentioned – then we are going to see a change in the manner in which debates and negotiations take place. That is a fact of life and it is important to discuss it. It is also important that we recall our involvement as members of the eurozone. The discussions to establish that were not easy and involved deciding whether Ireland would go ahead without the UK given the amount of trade we engage in there and across the Border. There were pressures on us to go ahead even though we wanted to go in when the UK went in.
This is one of those issues where we have to realise that there will be difficulties for Ireland and other countries, particularly the smaller ones, which do not have the number of votes in qualified majority voting to give them a sway of any significance. It is therefore very important that we debate the scenarios we may face in the not too distant future. As mentioned by Deputy Gormley and others, enhanced co-operation is the essential reason we need a referendum and it is absolutely important and appropriate that we make it a central part of our discussions on Committee Stage. I have a problem, as do others, with the term "enhanced co-operation" which might mislead somebody hearing it for the first time. It does not convey exactly what is being planned. It could mean any number of things and someone hearing it for the first time could speculate on them all. I wonder if the more appropriate term "innercircle arrangement" could be used by way of explanation.
That is a value laden term.
"Enhanced co-operation" is very value laden.
The Deputy was doing very well there and I was nodding in approval.
However, breaking the term "inner-circle arrangement" down to the initials ICA might also prompt a very benign and misleading interpretation, but it still conveys more accurately what is happening.
The reality for many in the applicant countries is that in the face of this push for enhanced co-operation by member states and governments keen to form a federalist Europe they feel themselves being used as a human shield. Their priority in many cases, though it is not unanimous, is to become member states while states already fully participating are trying to create a different kind of EU before they get in. That should be honestly faced up to; this is not just a treaty about enlargement. If it were simply about enhanced co-operation we would not be needing this bizarre second referendum. Like Deputy Mitchell and a number of other Deputies, I met the Slovenian ambassador but when I asked him about a plan B, he was not aware of one.
There is no plan B.
The Slovenians are not the only ones who are not being told about that plan, in fact very few of us are, and although it is not being widely talked about, it is certainly being discussed. That is part of the pressure being exerted for a "Yes" vote, but if we were getting all the information we would be told about the alternatives in an honest, up-front manner.
The Slovenians are probably so busy translating the 20,000 rules and directives they have to accept lock, stock and barrel before they can become members that their priority is to engage sufficient translators. I get the impression talking not just to the Slovenian ambassador but to other representatives of applicant countries that they are like people visiting a show house. One does not see the faults too easily when one goes into a show house and it appears that it is fairly rosy in the garden. The rules will have changed and it will not take long for them to see that the house they have moved into is not the show house. When the rose-tinted glasses are no longer so rosy, they will see more clearly that they have come into what is not so much a club as a lions' den in terms of the future they face, particularly in relation to trade agreements and the economic restructuring they are embarked upon. That economic restructuring will be difficult to maintain. It is important that they realise, as the Taoiseach said in 1996 and I quoted on Second Stage, that the EU is a mixed bag and one has to take the rough with the smooth. Enhanced co-operation sets an agenda that could be quite rough for a number of countries. While it may be called flexibility, enhanced co-operation also demonstrates an agenda to push the European Union along a federalist course.
A reading of Article 111 or Article 2.1 which refer to the removal of the veto in the area of enhanced co-operation, makes clear that shots are being fired across the bow. As this is part of the longer term agenda, it is important for all our sakes that we try to imagine and visualise what it will mean. The harmonisation of taxation, for example, could, as Deputy Gormley stated, become part of an inner circle arrangement soon after the current period of development in the European Union. If we continue with our current policy which, I understand, is in the interest of inward investment, this arrangement will lead to the establishment of a harmonised taxation regime to which Ireland may not belong. The choice facing us will be stark. Do we agree to such an inner circle arrangement and raise taxes or do we essentially move outside the inner circle of the European Union? Given that these decisions may have other implications for us, I hope the Government has given them consideration. What would the Minister of State decide in such a scenario?
There is a broader agenda at work in terms of enhanced co-operation process or inner circle arrangement. This is the removal of the veto in Article 2.13 and Article 2.14 which deal with Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds respectively. Clearly, it will be necessary to provide considerable Structural and Cohesion Funds in the enlarged European context. A considerable number of cheques will have to be written and at this point they will be relatively blank. With seven of the 345 votes in a 27 member European Union, Ireland does not have a huge amount of influence in terms of the level of Structural and Cohesion Funds which will be required. The Minister of State may argue that there is a particular game plan or that decisions have already been taken, but as things stand the removal of the veto in the treaty means we are signing a blank cheque. This is likely to be an important factor in the support of the new member states. As with other aspects of the European Union, the Government is duty-bound to indicate the level of costs this country will be asked to pay.
Another aspect of enhanced co-operation which must be debated in terms of its cost is Article 1.13 which states that the administrative funding of enhanced co-operation arrangements is to be borne by the European Union as a whole. As flexibility allows a number of countries to move ahead or sideways of their own accord, it is logical that the funding for the administrative costs of such a move should be borne by the group in question. It appears, however, from Article 1.13 that the EU as a whole will be asked to fund the costs of such arrangements.
I listened to Deputy Killeen argue that we should not be too parochial and avoid viewing the European Union from the perspective of whether Ireland is a net beneficiary or net loser in financial terms only to proceed to make his main point on Shannon Airport. This was a very interesting example of parochialism. When all is said and done, the cost to this country of grand plans such as enhanced co-operation, the Rapid Reaction Force and other developments which are mentioned in idealistic terms in the treaty, which is no bad thing, will mean that cheques will have to be written and taxes raised to pay for them.
It is important that, in asking the people to vote on the treaty for a second time, we give them all the information required to make an informed decision. After all, the first question any household planning to build an extension asks is: "What is the cost?" It is also the first question a household planning to send children to college asks. Developments in the European Union should, therefore, be costed. It appears this has not been done. While it is important to discuss principles and ideas, costs associated with the area of enhanced co-operation and the Rapid Reaction Force have not been mentioned.
It is interesting that the Government has been forced to cut back – a word which appears to be forbidden – on a number of very important projects, one of which, the "Bertie Bowl", would not at any rate have been value for money. There have also been cuts in health and education spending, the cancellation of the Sikorsky helicopter deal—
May I have a few moments to address some of the Deputy's concerns?
Although I was late entering the Chamber, I would still like the Minister of State to address the matters I raise.
There are only two minutes left.
According to the clock there are four minutes left.
Are we using the official clock or another clock?
It is set to European time.
The clock facing me is the official clock.
Will the Minister of State address amendment No. 1?
I will try to enhance co-operation in this debate and allow the Minister of State speak at this point. I have one brief additional question. If we were fundraising for the Rapid Reaction Force and were required to buy five tanks, would we be allowed to refuse to do so if we argued that we could not afford to pay for them as we had hospitals and schools to fund or would we be told that because we had bought into the deal, we have to pay for our side of the bargain? The applicant countries would like to have that question answered as well.
Will the Minister of State address amendment No. 1?
I will do my best in the 90 seconds remaining. I thank everybody for their valuable contributions on the debate on enhanced co-operation. Enhanced co-operation is a third way between the old veto and the forced co-operation which has very often been a feature of the European Union. I am pleased Deputy Gormley accepts that we continue to have a veto in the area of taxation. When I referred to people on the "No" side deliberately misleading the people on this issue, I did not intend to include the Deputy in that group. I ask him to accept my bona fides on this matter.
The treaty and the enhanced co-operation arrangements will have no impact on our taxation system. It cannot affect it as unanimity is retained on taxation. I wish to correct Deputy Gormley who misquoted – I am sure accidentally – Jacques Delors on the issue of the inner core. He and others also misquoted a few other people, including myself, on other matters. Jacques Delors was specifically referring to a permanent inner core.
Commissioner Verheugen has made it clear that enlargement as envisaged in the current process, that is, the accession of ten member states in 2004, cannot happen without the Nice treaty. We should not delude ourselves that this is not the case. The Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Rasmussen has made the same point as has Mr. Prodi recently, for which the Deputy's comrade-in-arms, Justin Barrett, described him in most uncomplimentary terms. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to work out that an institutional framework established 50 years ago to deal with six member states simply cannot accommodate 27 members without reform. As we debated this issue already, I will not stretch it.
Deputy Sargent spoke of his concern for the ten applicant countries. I do not want to personalise matters, but in our dealings with them we experienced the extraordinary intellectual level at which they conduct their debates. It would do us credit if we could conduct our debates at the same level. I was immensely impressed by each state's negotiating teams. Deputy Gormley has had more experience than I of that, as I have only been involved in the convention recently. It has been enlightening to observe the teams. I have no fears for their capacity to negotiate. We will have to grow in negotiating terms and conduct our debates in future in a more informed and more intellectual level because of their involvement.
Deputy Killeen indicated – I am not sure whether his point was parochial or it echoed something Deputy Sargent's colleagues said – his concerns regarding over-flight and landing facilities at Shannon. Over-flight and refuelling facilities for the states whose forces are engaged in bringing to justice those who attacked the citizens of the United States on 11 September has been absolutely in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1368.
Is everyone in Afghanistan guilty?
We are talking about a measure that co-operates with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368. We could debate the whole Afghan issue, if time permitted.
We should debate it.
I do not disagree with the Deputy, but this is not an occasion on which we can do it. The Deputy has allowed me a short time to respond.
The Government must debate that issue.
With respect, this is not an issue about which Deputy Boyle should snigger.
We were not sniggering.
That resolution classified those attacks as a threat to international peace and security and called on all states to work together to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Ós rud é go bhfuil sé leathuair tar éis a seacht, ní foláir dom an cheist seo a leanas a chur de réir Ordú an 10 Meán Fómhair: "Go n-aontaítear leis seo i gCoiste ailt 1 agus 2, an Sceideal, an Réamhrá agus an Teideal agus go dtuairiscítear an Bille gan leasú don Teach dá réir sin; go gcríochnaítear leis seo an Ceathrú Céim; agus go ndéantar leis seo an Bille a rith."
As it is 7.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of 10 September: "That sections 1 and 2, the Schedule, the Preamble and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment; Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and that the Bill is hereby passed."
Cuireadh an cheist.
Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Noel.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John.Burton, Joan.Callanan, Joe.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Costello, Joe.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Cregan, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Finneran, Michael.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Gilmore, Eamon.Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Harkin, Marian.Haughey, Seán.Higgins, Michael D.Hoctor, Máire.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Jacob, Joe.Kehoe, Paul.Kelly, Peter.Kenny, Enda.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDowell, Michael.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Martin, Micheál.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Olivia.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Mulcahy, Michael.Murphy, Gerard.Naughten, Denis. Neville, Dan.
Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Parlon, Tom.Pattison, Seamus.Perry, John.
Power, Seán.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Roche, Dick.Sexton, Mae.Shortall, Róisín.Smith, Brendan.Stagg, Emmet.Treacy, Noel.Twomey, Liam.Upton, Mary.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Wright, G. V.
Boyle, Dan.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Ferris, Martin.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.
Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Joe.McGrath, Finian.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.Ryan, Eamon.Sargent, Trevor.