I wish the Chairman well in his deliberations and thank the committee for the invite. We have to look at a number of issues that have been raised today that are critically important, not only from an Irish perspective but also from the European dimension. Migration is a significant challenge for the European Union. Very often, Ireland looks at it from a very insular point of view. Ireland is on the western periphery of the European Union and not at the coalface of interaction between migrants, those seeking asylum and the huge pressures on the systems in places in countries such as Greece, Italy and, in particular, Spain. We comment on this issue from time to time but we have to take a more proactive role in ensuring we have a proper system in place in respect of the issue of migration and asylum. The migration and asylum pact published recently by the Commission does deal with the issue of asylum itself, but we have to accept that a huge number of people want to come to the European Union for obviously good reasons. There is no doubt but that there is greater opportunity in the European Union. These people are coming from areas that have huge economic deprivation and political upheaval.
Where we are talking about wars, etc., as in Syria, people are coming under the asylum process. We were incapable and unwilling to deal with this. We see the resistance from various countries to the Commission's announcement on the asylum and migration pact. This indicates that we are in a state of paralysis in Europe and unwilling to deal with it. I think the Commission is very committed to taking forward proposals in the context of the pact. The Parliament is more open but it is the Council that is clearly delaying and obfuscating any movement in the areas of migration and asylum because it is very much focused on national interests and playing to domestic audiences rather than looking at the broader humanitarian obligations we have as a political union.
Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and many other countries are fundamentally opposed to the issues of quota obligations in respect of either people seeking asylum or migration. Some camps were mentioned, such as Moria, Lesbos and Lampedusa in the Italian Mediterranean. On Lampedusa, there is appalling humanitarian neglect. We do very little as a country to address those issues because they are somebody else's problem. We have not exactly extended a hand of support and friendship to many asylum seekers and migrants within the EU borders. We have to question what commitments we will make to try to support and help the many people who are stuck in refugee and migrant camps but are fundamentally lost in the wealthiest union in the world. We should keep a focus on that.
Ms Daly referred earlier the problems on the periphery of Europe. That is the significant challenge, in North Africa and the Middle East. Until such time as we bring political and economic stability to those regions, people will consistently want to come to Europe for obvious and good reasons. It is primarily the Council that will delay and prevaricate on this issue because its members are very much playing to their national audiences. There is a lurch in some areas to exploit migration, particularly from the far right but also from the moderate right. One does not have to go far to the right for people to be seen to be exploiting migration. That was a big part of the debate on Brexit. Other countries such as Italy have flirted with the far right from time to time in their political representation and are at the coalface of the migration challenges that are being exploited in those countries.
Deputy Haughey referred to the rule of law. There is no doubt that the rule of law is a bland term that is thrown out from time to time but it goes fundamentally to the heart of what we stand for, such as freedom of expression, an independent Judiciary and individual rights for persons to be who they want to be and who they can be. Countries such as Poland and Hungary are becoming harsh in the context of the basic civil liberties we would expect any European citizen to enjoy. We do not have in place a sanction mechanism beyond Article 7, which effectively requires unanimity to sanction a country but that will never happen in the Council, as Deputy Haughey rightly pointed out, where there are horse-trading requirements for Commissions to be nominated, appointed and successfully moved through the process to be ratified.
All these issues will have to be addressed, and that should take place at the Conference on the Future of Europe. It has been delayed and we are still trying to find somebody to lead it, but it is fundamentally where many of these decisions will have to be addressed. The Council will never address them because its members do not know when next they might be in the firing line, so they sit on their hands and use the unanimity rule as their shield. Unanimity is Europe's strength but also its weakness. The big challenge for Ireland in coming years will relate to the issue of own resources, how we fund the European Union and how it considers countries such as Ireland in the context of, for example, its taxation system.
The question is where we want to fit Ireland in the new Europe. The Conference on the Future of Europe is a place where this committee will have a fundamental role to play in dialogue with citizens and stakeholders in Ireland to get consensus on where we should sit in Europe. Do we want further co-operation and integration or to move to a more federalised system? To use the old cliché, do we want, in the European Union context, a community of nations or a nation of communities? Ireland should play a critical role, primarily because we want to steer Europe in the direction in which we want to go but also, for our national interests, we want a Europe that is understanding of, and sympathetic to, small nations and allows us to express ourselves to have political influence within the European Union. The question is whether the need for unanimity will diminish small countries' capacity to have an influence.
While Brexit has not been mentioned, it is being negotiated in great detail at the moment and the ambassadors will probably be briefed in the coming hours or days. The UK is leaving, although how it leaves has yet to be decided. That places Ireland in a difficult position within the European Union in the context of political allies. There is the German-Franco alliance at the heart of the European Union and there was previously a counterbalance with the UK. Now that it has gone, Ireland will face its own challenges to find new partners and new alliances to ensure that our views are heard on how we see the European Union in the years ahead and that we will bring to bear influence on that debate.
There are many challenges, the most immediate of which relates to migration. This issue has to be dealt with, but if members expect the Council to deal with it, then it will never be dealt with. We need to apply domestic pressure throughout the European Union but, from an Irish perspective, we need to articulate what we want done. We cannot simply allow countries that are resistant to any form of humanitarian effort to accommodate, understand and facilitate people coming into the European Union in an orderly way. In any event, we need these migrants because we have international obligations and because, economically, migration has been successful throughout the European Union. Of the 1.4 million migrants and asylum seekers who have moved to Germany in recent years, many have integrated and undertaken vocational training. They have gone to college and become active participants in society and the economy. That is the type of model we should consider as Europe ages in its population and demographics.
The European Union needs that discussion. A great place for the discussion of all those issues is at this committee under the guidance of the Conference on the Future of Europe, where it could have a meaningful role.