Before formally moving the motion, I would like to express the pleasure I think most of us feel at the first appearance in this House of the Minister for External Affairs and to bid him welcome. I move:—
That Seanad Eireann directs the attention of the Government to the resolutions in favour of a United Europe which were passed at the Congress of Europe at The Hague and requests the Minister for External Affairs to make a statement.
I move this resolution because I believe that the attention of the Government and of the people of Ireland should be drawn to the movement towards European unity which is gaining substantial support amongst members of all political Parties except the Communists in the States of Western Europe.
For years our people were insular in their outlook and only a small minority took a real interest in international affairs. During the war we were prevented by the censorship from reading any news which the powers that be thought might interfere with our neutrality, and, generally speaking, the Government during that period discouraged too much interest or curiosity on the part of the man in the street in what was taking place in Europe.
A change took place after the end of the war, and I think I am correct in stating that there is now much more interest in European affairs than there has been for a long time. By sending food to those parts of Europe which were suffering acutely as a result of the war we recognised in a practical way that we had a special duty towards other countries in the continent of which we form a part. Our participation in the Marshall Plan and in the councils of the 16 nations is another indication of the fact that we are vitally interested in the rehabilitation of Europe.
Can the peace of the world be maintained if Europe remains divided into political and economic units? Can any European nation stand alone against the dangers with which it is threatened? Can a divided Europe maintain principles of democracy, the belief in individual freedom and the faith in human brotherhood and the ultimate equality of man in the sight of God which is essential to our Christian tradition?
The advocates of a United Europe believe that the answer to all these questions is in the negative, and they further believe that the spread of Communism can only be checked if the countries in Europe who believe in the principles of freedom will unite in an effective way to combat it.
The Congress of Europe which met at The Hague from May 7th-10th, was arranged by a number of nongovernmental organisations who had for some years been advocating the principle of European unity. It was, therefore, strictly unofficial and the members of the conference consisted of persons who had accepted invitations as individuals and not as delegates from their respective countries. They met as co-Europeans. In spite of its unofficial character it was probably one of the most remarkable and most representative international gatherings ever held. I see from one report of the conference that there were 16 ex-Prime Ministers. I am not particularly well up in ex-Prime Ministers, and I only counted seven. They were Mr. Churchill of Great Britain, Messrs. Paul Remadier, Edouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud of France, Paul van Zeeland of Belgium, Senor Negrin of Spain, and Knud Kristensen of Denmark. In addition there were many ex-Ministers and other well-known personages, but the unique character of the conference lay less in the number of prominent men and women who attended, than in the fact that all the various political colours in Europe except Communist red, took part in a spirit of co-operation aiming at one common objective. Ireland was represented by five, two from the Six Counties—Mr. Fred Thompson, M.P., Deputy Speaker of the Northern Parliament, and Archdeacon Hannon. Senator Miss Butler, Professor Tierney and I attended, and we were very glad of the opportunity of co-operating with our colleagues from the North on a question of common interest.
I would like also, if I would be allowed, to say that everyone who attended the congress at The Hague was enormously impressed by the welcome we received from the Dutch Government and the Dutch people and with the very generous hospitality which was given to everyone. I think it is only right that I should put that on record on behalf of those of us who attended from this country.
The main work of the conference was done by three committees—political, economic and cultural. Senator Miss Butler attended the economic committee, Prof. Tierney the cultural committee, and I attended the political committee. These three committees submitted resolutions which, after some minor amendments had been made, were adopted by the whole conference. It is to these resolutions that I wish to draw the attention of the Seanad, but before reading them I ought to explain that they should be taken as expressing the views of the conference in very general terms. As one of the leading speakers pointed out, the conference was not passing legislation, and it would have been quite impracticable in a four-day conference to have drafted any resolution which would be unanimously agreed to in every detail by 800 persons.
I propose to read the three resolutions as I feel that they are of sufficient importance to be on the records of the House.
I will take the political resolution first:—
"The ravages wrought by six years of war and by the occupation, the diminution of world food production, the destruction of industrial capacity, the creation of huge debts, the maintenance of military expenditure out of all proportion to the resources of the people, the shifting of economic power, the rancours left by war, the progressive evils of nationalism and the absence, despite the work of the United Nations Organisation, of an international authority sufficiently strong to provide law and order, constitute an unprecedented menace to the well-being and the security of the peoples of Europe and threaten them with ruin.
In accordance with the principles and objectives set out in the Political Report submitted by the International Committee of the Movements for European Unity:
(1) Recognises that it is the urgent duty of the nations of Europe to create an economic and political union in order to assure security and social progress.
(2) Notes with approval the recent steps which have been taken by some European Governments in the direction of economic and political co-operation, but believes that in the present emergency the organisations created are by themselves insufficient to provide any lasting remedy.
(3) Declares that the time has come when the European nations must transfer and merge some portion of their sovereign rights so as to secure common political and economic action for the integration and proper development of their common resources.
(4) Considers that any union or federation of Europe should be designed to protect the security of its constituent peoples, should be free from outside control, and should not be directed against any other nation.
(5) Assigns to a united Europe the immediate task of establishing progressively a democratic social system, the aim of which shall be to free men from all types of slavery and economic insecurity, just as political democracy aims at protecting them against the exercise of arbitrary power.
(6) Affirms that the integration of Germany in a united or federated Europe alone provides a solution to both the economic and political aspects of the German problem.
(7) Declares that the union or federation must assist in assuring the economic, political and cultural advancement of the populations of the overseas territories associated with it, without prejudice to the special ties which now link these territories to European countries.
(8) Demands the convening, as a matter of real urgency, of a European Assembly chosen by the Parliaments of the participating nations, from among their members and others, designed
(a) to stimulate and give expression to European public opinion;
(b) to advise upon immediate practical measures designed progressively to bring about the necessary economic and political union of Europe;
(c) to examine the juridical and constitutional implications arising out of the creation of such a union or federation and their economic and social consequences;
(d) to prepare the necessary plans for the above purposes.
CHARTER OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
(9) Considers that the resultant union or federation should be open to all European nations democratically governed and which undertake to respect a Charter of Human Rights.
(10) Resolves that a commission should be set up to undertake immediately the double task of drafting such a charter and of laying down standards to which a State must conform if it is to deserve the name of a democracy.
(11) Declares that in no circumstances shall a State be entitled to be called a democracy unless it does, in fact as well as in law, guarantee to its citizens liberty of thought, assembly and expression, as well as the right to form a political opposition.
(12) Requests that this commission should report within three months on its labours.
(13) Is convinced that in the interests of human values and human liberty, the Assembly should make proposals for the establishment of a court of justice with adequate sanctions for the implementation of this charter, and to this end any citizen of the associated countries shall have redress before the court, at any time and with the least possible delay, of any violation of his rights as formulated in the charter.
(14) Declares that the creation of a united Europe is an essential element in the creation of a united world."
The most important part of this resolution which I have just read is the suggestion that a European Assembly should be convened as soon as possible and that it should be chosen by the Parliaments of the countries of Europe who are willing to participate. It would be the function of this Assembly to consider what practical measures can be taken towards political and economic unity in Europe. It would, presumably, be for such an Assembly to recommend the extent to which the European nations must transfer a portion of their sovereign rights in order to make a federated union of Europe possible.
This seems to me to be the crux of the whole problem. Without some surrender of sovereignty no real federation is possible. United action could conceivably take place by agreement from time to time, but it would be always liable to fail in time of emergency if every nation maintained its absolute sovereign rights. If I had been asked a few years ago if there was any possibility of the larger and more powerful nations being willing to surrender a portion of their sovereignty for the sake of unity or security, I would have answered emphatically "No." After attending the Congress of Europe at The Hague, I am by no means so sure that this is impossible. To see and hear leading statesmen from large and powerful countries like England and France openly and vigorously advocating the surrender by their own nations of a portion of their sovereign powers was to me an event of striking importance. Smaller nations, however strong their national outlook and feelings may be, have always known they could only exercise their full sovereign powers with discretion and to some extent with an eye on their powerful neighbours. It is, therefore, not so surprising that the motions in favour of a Federal Europe are strong in countries like Belgium and Holland. Small nations are not likely to show any real unwillingness to surrender a portion of their sovereignty if and when they are perfectly satisfied that an equal surrender is being made at the same time by more powerful nations.
Personally, I am of the opinion that the time is ripe for the creation of a European Assembly, provided that it does not attempt too much. The powers delegated to it should be confined to matters on which a common interest is fully recognised by the peoples of the democratic States of Europe, and they should be the minimum necessary to make united action practicable in a time of emergency. I may be wrong, but I feel that the worst enemies of a united Europe are those persons who want to attempt too much and who fail to recognise that national feeling is a genuine thing in the hearts of the people in many countries and should not be confused with the flag waving which often denotes only a superficial or spurious nationalism. I believe that a healthy and honest nationalism is as necessary to internationalism as a high standard of individual character is essential to a good society.
There were some people at the Congress of Europe who would like to see a federated Europe in which the individual States would have no more power than that exercised by States in the American Union. Even if this be desirable, and I do not think it is, it could only come about very gradually and as the result of a complete change of attitude on the part of the people generally.
By all means let us learn that we are Europeans with many interests in common, but to do this it is quite unnecessary to forget that we are Irish, French, Dutch or Belgians and so on.
One of the most difficult problems to be solved in any scheme however moderate of federation will be that of representation in a European Parliament. When Monsieur Reynaud of France proposed in the Political Committee that a European Assembly should be summoned at once with one elected member for every 1,000,000 inhabitants, it was at once opposed by the smaller nations. I took no part in the Committee as I felt it was better to be there as an observer, but when the proposal was put forward in all seriousness then I thought it better to put down my name. Long before my name was reached the proposal was vigorously opposed by several speakers on behalf of the smaller nations. A Belgian representative suggested that there would have to be two Chambers in a European Parliament, one Chamber elected on the basis of population and the other with an equal number of representatives from each nation whether large or small. This obviously appealed to representatives of the smaller nations, but it is by no means certain that it would find favour with larger states. It would take up too much of the time of the House for me to deal with the proposals for a Charter of Human Rights or with the right of individuals to appeal on the interpretation of such a charter to a Supreme Court, but I may say that I do not see how you can ever have any measure of federation unless you had some such provision. I think a Supreme Court would be essential.
The economic and social resolution proposed by the Economic Committee was as follows:—
"Europe is now confronted by a great crisis and a great opportunity. Its old economic system has been shattered by the war. Thanks to the generous assistance of the United States of America there is a unique opportunity to build a new and better Europe if Europeans work together under a common plan to develop the economic strength of the Continent. There is no hope of recovery if each country simply strives to rebuild its national economy by the old methods. Under modern conditions Europe can only achieve the standard of living which it ought to enjoy if its industrial and natural resources are developed on continental lines. But progress in this direction will only be achieved if it is accompanied at every step by a parallel policy of ever-closer political union. Europe must unite if it is to regain and surpass its former prosperity and reassert its economic independence.
The exigencies of modern economic development must be reconciled with the integrity of human personality. In any economic organisation such as we envisage it must be decided where the responsibility rests; and in order to avoid any tendency towards totalitarianism and to safeguard the economic independence of the individual, the workers and their representative organisations should be closely associated with the setting up and development of the economy of united Europe.
(1) Recognises that no attempt to rebuild the economy of Europe upon the basis of rigidly-divided national sovereignty can prove successful.
(2) Affirms the urgent need for an economic union in Europe.
(3) Declares that this union must maintain and progressively adjust the economic ties which at present link the countries of Europe with the Dominions and associated States or dependent territories overseas.
(4) Welcomes the initial measures taken by certain Governments towards closer economic co-operation, or towards regional groupings; and expresses the hope that the work of the conference of the 16 nations will lead to conclusions favourable to the success of European union.
(5) Urges all the Governments concerned forthwith to proclaim their determination to promote economic union and to put into effect the immediate economic measures required.
These should include measures designed:
(i) To remove step by step and, as soon as possible, finally abolish the obstacles to trade within the union which result from quotas and import or export prohibitions.
(ii) To reduce and, wherever possible, completely eliminate customs duties between the member States.
(i) To restore budgetary equilibrium which is a first essential for the stability of currencies in each country and to reduce by all available means—including monetary policy—the disparities of prices and wages which are incompatible with the freedom of the exchanges.
(ii) To take early steps to establish multilateral clearings, or through the adjustment of exchange values, to set up areas within which the exchange of goods shall not be handicapped by currency controls.
(iii) Thus to pave the way for the free convertibility of currencies and the gradual restoration of freedom of trade among the countries of Europe.
(i) To promote a common programme for the development of agricultural resources and the provision of the necessary equipment, in order to provide Europe with the highest possible nutritional standard.
(ii) To encourage technical or regional industrial specialisation and the renewal and modernisation of the technical means of production.
(iii) To plan and carry into effect a co-ordinated programme of development for the basic industries of the whole area. This should include the production and fair distribution of the coal resources of united Europe as well as the expansion of its electric power and the co-ordination and rationalisation of communications.
(iv) And in general to draw up an overall production programme utilising the resources and equipment of European countries in conformity with the needs of their peoples.
(i) To raise to the greatest possible extent the standard of living of the populations of Europe in particular by all the above measures which are designed to increase production, and to invite the professional, economic and social organisations of the various countries to study together ways and means of increasing production still further and rationalising distribution while improving social conditions and ensuring a fair distribution of the product of economic activity.
(ii) To promote the mobility of labour to the maximum possible extent, while assuring to migrant workers and their families the standard of wages, social security, living conditions, and conditions of employment prevailing in the country to which they come.
(iii) To co-ordinate their economic policies so as to secure full employment."
I do not propose to read the whole of this resolution, which goes on to claim that there should be ultimate objectives which are
"(a) the free circulation of capital;
(b) the unification of currencies;
(c) the co-ordination of budgetary and credit policy;
(d) a full customs union, involving the abolition of all barriers to the movement of goods; and
(e) the co-ordination of social legislation."
This is a somewhat complicated resolution and is possibly difficult to follow when read, but I believe that the ideals set forth in it will meet with considerable approval in this country amongst those who may read it. It provides material for much thought and if discussed in this House it would probably take several days.
It will be noticed that the resolution sets out what are described as "first methods" and "ultimate objectives." While I am in general sympathy with these objectives, I am by no means convinced that it is possible or necessary to abolish all quota or tariff restrictions on trade. That these can be reduced substantially, as part of a united effort, I have no doubt, but the smaller nations who will form an important part of any federated Europe will have to see that there is enough work for the people who desire to remain in their own countries. I feel that it will be a long time before the smaller nations can afford to surrender their rights to afford some measure of protection to native industry. Therefore, while I am in sympathy with the ideal of the resolution, I am sceptical of the proposal for a full customs union as an ultimate objective.
The cultural resolution was of considerable importance, as practically all the European universities were represented at the congress—and Professor Tierney was very much in his element. I had intended to read the cultural resolution, but as it has taken a certain amount of time to read the others, I think it may not be necessary, since it does not deal so fundamentally with the question of European union. My own feeling is that, if there is to be any scheme or any measure of federal Europe the vital thing is that, while there should be the greatest possible interchange on a cultural level, there should be no attempt of any kind to suggest that the national culture of any nation could be interfered with or is at all likely to be interfered with. It seems to me that the essence of workability of any scheme must be the full recognition of national characteristics and that every nation must develop and maintain its own characteristics—at any rate, in so far as it believes in them. I believe in unity, but I have no belief whatever in uniformity.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I believe this movement towards European unity cannot be ignored. It is based partly on high idealism and partly on fear of what may happen to democratic Europe if war breaks out before some measure of unity has been achieved. Although the objective is a united Europe, it is perfectly clear that at the present time the only practicable proposal is a federation of the Western European nations who still believe in democratic principles and who could conceivably agree to a charter of human rights. If any Government in Europe would be prepared to take the first step and would propose the summoning of a European Assembly, as suggested in the political resolution, I believe it would receive widespread support in most if not all the Western European nations. An all-Party delegation was received by the Prime Minister in Great Britain a short time ago. Mr. Attlee promised to examine, with the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bevin, the detailed proposals in the resolutions and, in particular, the proposal for the convening of a European Assembly. So far, he has not announced the result of this examination and, personally, I do not expect that he will do so until the present tension in relation to Germany has eased, as we all hope it will.
I do not for a moment suggest that our Government should take any action, but I do commend these resolutions to members of the Oireachtas as well worthy of study. I commend the movement to the Government as something which it should watch with sympathetic interest. More than that, I do not suggest. I believe these resolutions deal with matters of the utmost possible public importance and that what is done ultimately in relation to them may have a very considerable bearing on the future peace of Europe and of the world, in which we are all very much interested. As the main object of the resolution is to make it possible for the Minister for External Affairs to make a statement and as I want to leave an opportunity of speaking to other members of the House, I have tried to make my remarks as brief as possible, consistent with giving the essence of what is in the resolution.