That Seanad Éireann takes note of the report: Developments in the European Communities — Sixth Report.
Vol. 83 No. 17
That Seanad Éireann takes note of the report: Developments in the European Communities — Sixth Report.
I was anxious to have this debate at this point before tomorrow's meeting of the European Council. It seems to me that it would be useful to have the views of this House on matters which arise in and from developments in the period covered by the sixth report prior to this meeting of the European Council at which a number of important issues are going to be discussed, including the Tindemans Report and recommendations as well as the economic and social situation of the Community. Even though the timing was suitable from the point of view of Government business, and the timing of the Seanad sessions has meant that I had to delay my departure to Luxembourg until this evening, it seemed worth doing that in order to have the opportunity to hear the views of the House at this moment in time.
As the House is aware, under section 5 of the European Communities Act, 1972, the Government have an obligation to make a report twice yearly to each House of the Oireachtas on developments in the European Communities. These reports have been produced regularly during this period. We have tried in drafting them to take into account the views expressed in the debates we have had in the two Houses on these reports. This report covers the period from July to November, 1975, though it has been extended to cover a review of the European Council meeting held in Rome on 1st and 2nd December of last year.
Senators will notice certain changes in the ordering of material in this report as compared with previous reports. These, I believe, represent improvements in so far as the reader is concerned. There has been a good deal of footnoting and cross-referencing to facilitate people in working with this report. Any further suggestions for improvement will of course be gratefully received and acted upon wherever possible. A feature of these reports has been the inclusion of annexes in certain documents, including from time to time annexes setting out an account of some particular aspect of the work of the Community which it might be timely and appropriate to draw to the attention of both Houses of the Oireachtas and through them to our people generally.
This report contains, for example, in Annex V an account of Community participation in the GATT multilateral trade negotiations. It is part of a series of brief essays included in the reports. The previous ones have covered the common agricultural policy on the green £ and budgetary procedures. I believe these are a useful addition. They go beyond what is required in relation to reporting on the six months in question. These reports seem to afford an opportunity to add to public knowledge in regard to particular aspects of Community work which go outside the actual activities of the six months.
In Annex II there is a summary of subsidies, grants and loans approved or awaiting decision. These indicate to a greater extent than previously how far this country benefits financially from membership of the Community and the extent to which we are the primary net beneficiary in financial terms. It is something which it is important for us to bear in mind, because our attitudes and activities within the Community have to be governed by this to some degree. If we are to a peculiar extent the net beneficiaries in financial terms in 1975 to the tune of £118½ million, and possibly more to come, because not everything was decided by the end of the year, plus £23 million in loans for a contribution on our part of £10½ million paid into the Community, it imposes on us a duty to be good constructive members of the Community and to play our part fully and constructively so that no finger can be pointed at us by anyone saying, "What do we get out of Irish membership if it costs us a fair amount to be a member?" We have a particular onus placed on us by the financial facts to play our part constructively in the Community. This was one of the primary considerations in the way in which we approached the Irish Presidency in the first half of last year. I feel our efforts to play a constructive part were accepted and noted at that time and have contributed to the acceptance within the Community of the fact that, given our stage of economic development, significant net transfers must necessarily come to this country.
Turning to the report itself, I direct the attention of the House to some aspects of it which they may find of special interest. One matter which will be coming before the Oireachtas in due course is the question of the treaty covering increased budgetary powers for the European Parliament, referred to on page 15 of the report, chapter II. Sometimes it is said, with a lot of truth, that the European Parliament does not have significant power, and this is to be regretted. This is the view of our Government, but one should not diminish too much the powers it has. It is interesting that, although a Parliament it is not directly elected and suffers from the lack of authority deriving from its manner of appointment by member parliaments rather than election by the people of the Community. Such a Parliament has been able, nonetheless, to extort by pressure and negotiation from at times a reluctant Council of Ministers significant powers in the budgetary area, including the power to reject totally the budget of the Community should they wish to do so.
This is an important power. Indeed in one respect at least the powers of the European Parliament exceeds those of the Houses of the Oireachtas or indeed even of the British or French Parliaments: it has the power within certain limits to vote increased expenditure even if not proposed by the Executive. This is a power we do not give to our own Parliament, neither is it conceded in Britain or in France. Therefore, although the European Parliament has no legislative powers at this time, although we must work to ensure that it does acquire a role in legislation, one should not underestimate the powers it has secured for itself by its efforts to play a greater role in regard to the budget, and the treaty giving it these additional powers will be coming before the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course.
As a general comment, on looking over chapter IV, the House will be impressed by the extraordinary range of external economic relations in which the Community is engaged. There are a number of countries with which it has negotiated or is negotiating trade or association agreements of different kinds. This is a reflection of the extraordinary focal role of the Community in world trade and world commerce. Because of the extent to which imports and exports of goods in the world are concentrated in the Community as a great buyer of imports and a great exporter of manufactured products and foodstuffs, the Community has great power in this area and it is the one area where in its external relations it acts as a unit. The power to negotiate trade agreements is confined to the Community as such and it is not exercised by member States. It is interesting and significant that the fact that it has this unique power in this area, which it utilises on behalf of member States, has given it such influence in world trade. It is an indication of the extent to which movement towards a European union can strengthen and add greatly to the influence and power of the member States which participate in this European union. The most successful area of Community activity in the last couple of years has been in relation to external trade, external commerce. It is the one encouraging feature in the period when progress has been slow and disappointing on other fronts.
There has also however been progress in the political aspect of external relations. In the United Nations there has been increased co-ordination of the activities of the Nine, with a common declaration of policy and common explanations of votes on particular issues. We are not however at the point where there is unanimity of view in the Community on all issues at the United Nations, and we in this country, because we have views divergent on some points from other members, find ourselves at times contributing to the fact that the Community cannot always speak with one voice.
There are three issues on which we at times find ourselves in a minority, where we think it right to remain for the moment, pending an evolution of opinion within the Community which we hope to see in the direction of our viewpoint. These areas include, first of all, areas relating to disarmament, where our country has always, for historical reasons and by reason of its particular situation in the world, taken a forward position which other members of the Community have not yet felt able to reach.
In relation to the question of negotiations with and relations with the developing countries, the Third World, there have been times when the position which we have taken up on certain issues has been one which has not been shared by the majority of the member States, though here it must be said that the evolution of opinion is quite markedly in the direction of the viewpoints which we, again because of our historical experience, have taken up. We think it right to hold on to our views here and to hope and expect that the Community and other member countries will move towards our viewpoint, towards if you like our more generous approach to the problems of the Third World countries.
Having said that it would be hypocritical not to add that we ourselves, like the other member countries, do have difficulties in this area and while we are willing to move further in trying to meet the needs of these countries than some of our partners, we are and have to be at this stage of our development an obstacle to further progress. For example, I refer to cases where manufactured goods from developing countries pose a threat to employment in this country and we cannot therefore be too moralistic about the whole matter because we have difficulties in certain aspects of it. However, there are certain parts of policy in relation to the developing countries where we have taken up a more forward position which we are holding on to, even though it means that we contribute in some degree to the absence of a Community position.
Thirdly, in relation to the Middle East, our view of the Palestinian problem is one which is not at present fully shared by all member countries, and we find ourselves at times therefore in a slightly different position to some other member countries. On these three issues we at times contribute to the inability of the Community to reach a common position.
We would hope that, with the evolution of opinion within the Community, within other member States, that these three—and they are really the only three areas of divergency between Community members within the United Nations—will gradually disappear.
On a point of information, could the Minister briefly elaborate on our view of the Palestinian problem vis-á-vis the different countries?
On particular votes in the United Nations we have taken up a somewhat divergent position. One concerned a vote which involved a condemnation of Israeli attacks on Palestinian settlements in other countries — for example, where in explanation of our vote we made it clear that we objected to all such attacks in either direction — where we thought it proper in view of the extremely grave nature of some of these attacks to support the resolution. There have been one or two other instances where our view that there is a need for a Palestinian homeland represents a more forward position than those of our partners. There has been great progress towards common UN positions; it is not complete and the House ought to know that we contribute at times to its not being complete, and we hope that the evolution will continue.
In other areas, the Nine, acting together in a spirit of co-operation, have sought with some success to influence physical developments elsewhere. This is true in relation to Portugal and in relation to Spain, for example. In both cases the Community have taken up common positions in relation to certain matters designed to help the evolution of developments there. Similarly, in regard to Angola the position taken up by the Nine concerning presence of foreign troops has been helpful in securing a withdrawal of South African troops from Angola very recently, although the Cuban forces still remain there as a disturbing factor in the situation, which we deplore.
Turning back to the report, I should like to draw particular attention to Annex IV, which contains the text of a memorandum presented by the Taoiseach for discussion at the Rome European Council. This memorandum will be of value in the discussions at the European Council and later with regard to the Tindemans Report on European union. This Sixth Report does not cover the Tindemans Report, which was published after the end of last year. Nonetheless, in the debate in the House Members will wish to refer to it, because the report evolved during the period of the Sixth Report, I am sure that will be within the rules of order. It would be very helpful to the Government in relation to the position we will have to take up at the European Council.
I draw the Seanad's attention to Annex IV because we find ourselves in a rather curious situation here. This represents a very full, detailed and carefully prepared statement of Government policy with regard to the evolution of the European Community. It has secured no publicity at all in this country. When we produced the document we thought that its impact at the European Council meeting in Rome would be the greater if we submitted it as a private document and did not seek publicity for it in advance. Therefore we submitted it in that way. While there were references made to it in Agence Europe, which manages to know what is going on in all corners of the Community, it did not feature in the Irish newspapers at the time. We thought it proper, once the European Council in Rome was over, to publish this document. It is a full statement of Irish Government policy submitted to other Governments. We felt the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Irish public were entitled to know about it. But unfortunately when the Sixth Report was published Annex IV received no particular publicity. Perhaps we were at fault for not drawing the attention of the Press more formally to it. We are in the curious position that this statement of policy, printed some weeks ago and available to everyone, has not reached the Irish people except for that small minority who buy these six-monthly reports. I draw the attention of the House to it particularly and feel that the House may want to dwell on some aspects of the policy raised there.
May I mention several of these. There is in paragraph 4 of this annex a statement on the Irish Government's position with regard to the achievement of economic and monetary union and I quote:
...it is essential to prepare a realistic programme for the achievement of EMU.... Such a programme must include an objective assessment of the steps necessary within member States and as between member States in order to make such a union possible. Included in this there should be at least an approximate quantification of the scale of Community action that would be necessary to counteract the centripetal effects of EMU and to ensure a smooth transition during which the disparities in the economic and social spheres between member States would be narrowed sufficiently to make the achievement of EMU practicable.
We attach great importance to this because, frankly, the discussion on economic and monetary union before we joined the Community and since has often been at a superficial level. This seems to suggest that all we have to do is to take a decision to have a wider snake or to concert exchange rates without facing the fact that if you are going within an area such as the Community to achieve a monetary as well as an economic union there would have to be very close harmonisation of policy, very close harmonisation of inflation rates, which we are far from achieving at present, and very considerable transfers between different regions of the Community, different States in the Community, just as there are within any member State which is a single currency area, just as there are and have to be within such a State massive transfers of resources as there are in our country — in the Dublin area, for example, to other regions; as there are in Britain from the southeast to the north to Scotland, to Wales, to Northern Ireland. In an area like the European Community there can be no exception to that. This has to be faced realistically. This is one of the key points in the Taoiseach's memorandum submitted to the Rome European Council.
We are also concerned that what has been achieved already, what has been described as the acquis communantaire should be preserved. Above all, the common agricultural policy should be not only preserved but improved. There are serious deficiencies in the common agricultural policy, in particular the anomaly that the market support system is financed exclusively and totally by the Community but the structural policies are financed only as to a fraction by the Community. Added to that are the structural problems of the adequate size of farms, the inability of farms to provide sufficient livelihood for those who live on them. This is a problem which is greater in the poorer countries. A system of financing structural change which depends upon national financing for 65 or 75 per cent is one which makes it impossible to achieve the kind of progress needed for structure reform. We feel it is quite illogical that this part of the common agricultural policy should be financed only to such a fractional extent by the Community. There are improvements needed there. This point is brought out in paragraph 5.
In paragraph 6 the House will find a clear statement of the Irish Government's attitude to the question of "own resources" financing and the levying of value-added tax. It is the Irish Government's view that the present arrangements, entered into before we joined the Community with respect to value-added tax are unduly and unnecessarily restrictive with regard to the freedom of action which member countries ought to have to organise their taxation systems to meet their own social needs. The theory seems to exist at present in the Community, upon which existing Community legislation is based, that there must be some tax on all goods, so that at the moment when the taxpayer buys a packet of cigarettes some fraction of it is at that moment hypothecated to the Community and that unless that happens there is no such thing as "own resources". This is a metaphysical concept which seems to be not merely abstruse but absurd. What should be required of member countries that they have the same tax bases, which include the same basket of goods exactly, that the amount of the tax paid, the base, be clearly known and that the member state levies sufficient value-added tax from whatever rates it wishes to be able to pay monthly out of that total sum the amount of "own resources" due to the Community.
That would be an adequate form of "own resources". It would leave freedom of action as regards tax levels of member countries. It would leave it open to countries such as Ireland to have zero rating of food and clothes. This is not the present position in the Community and we have raised this issue in this document. We think it is an important point to press on our partners.
There are references in the document to the institutional position and institutional improvements which might take place. The House will find a very clear statement of the importance of preserving the role of the Commission. Its right of initiative is something which has to some degree been eroded. This is referred to in paragraph 8. We felt that from this point of view it might be useful if the President of the Commission were selected first and if then he played some role in helping to chose his colleagues in consultation with member Governments, and that Parliament should have some role in approving the Commission. If it had the power of dismissing it, it should have some power to approve it. We have proposed this in paragraph 8. There is a similar suggestion in the Tindemans Report. We hope that some move in this direction will be made during the current year.
There are references to the meetings of the European Council, that is the Council of Ministers meeting at Head of Government level as Council of Ministers and in the frame work of political co-operation. It is said there that the experience we have had of two recent European Councils, the first one last year before the Rome one, suggested the need for some clarification of procedures for discussion of topics relevant to the Community at such meetings. We believe that discussions on Community matters leading to decisions, or to orientations of decisions to be taken formally at a later stage in the Council at ministerial level, should, as provided by the 1974 Paris Summit communiqué, paragraph 3, take place in accordance with "the rules and procedures laid down by the Treaties" including the provisions relating to the right of initiative of the Commission. We would regard it as unfortunate and dangerous indeed to the future vitality, even existence, of the Community if the right of initiative of the Commission should in any way be eroded by the decision-making mechanisms of the European Council.
Finally with regard to the Parliament there is reference to our views concerning the proportion of seats which each country has at present in the Parliament and the desirability of this being maintained in the future. We also suggest that powers in a legislative sphere should be conferred on Parliament, in addition to the budgetary powers it already has.
The House will see from the brief extract I have given from this document that it represents an important statement of Irish policy with regard to the European Community, and one which will probably feature in the debate in this House today.
Finally, on the Tindemans Report the House will be aware that the Taoiseach welcomed the Report when it was published, in a statement which, however, indicated some concern at what was at first interpreted as a suggestion for a two-tier or two-speed development in Europe. It was at first interpreted as involving the strong countries moving ahead more closely together and leaving the rest of us behind. That interpretation is not the one which is now put on the recommendations. Mr. Tindemans in his speech to the European Movement in Brussels some time ago made it clear that this was not his intention. Of course, we would welcome a development along the lines which we suggested in the Taoiseach's document with regard to economic and monetary union, that is, a development which would seek to set out a programme for the catching up by the weaker countries on the stronger ones. If that is what is involved we would certainly support it.
The discussions in the next two days will include discussion of the Tindemans Report in which each member country will register its broad reactions to it. We will be helped by this debate in formulating the reactions that will be put forward by the Taoiseach in the discussions which will take place the day after tomorrow on the Tindemans Report. I would therefore not then dwell further on it at present as I would prefer to deal with the details of it in response to what the House may have to say on the subject rather than by going into it at this point. I have already detained the House too long, but I felt it necessary to draw attention to some of the points I have mentioned, all of which, I think, are ones which merit the serious consideration of this House.
I should start by thanking the Minister for coming along here today, particularly when he is just about to leave for the Council. Though one may perhaps doubt in present circumstances how many decisions will be taken by Council, nonetheless it is valuable to be able to give our views to the Minister and we must thank him for coming along at what must be an inconvenient moment.
We are dealing with the latest in a series of twice-yearly reports which the Minister has been putting before us. I agree completely with the Minister when he says that there have been improvements in this report. From Report No. 1 to Report No. 6 there has been a gradual series of improvements along the way. The memorandum of the Taoiseach, to which the Minister has referred and with which I will be dealing later, is extremely valuable to have in the report. I must admit that the first time I read it in full was when I got the report. It is an interesting document which I was very glad to get.
The last time we had a debate of this kind I remember complaining to the Minister that references to Community documents were frequently not adequately numbered. I see with pleasure that they now are. These reports are an excellent summary of Community events, particularly in so far as they relate to Ireland. The only grievance I have is that one would like to see rather more reference to the stands taken by Ministers of the Government at meetings of the Council. There are problems in this. Indeed, in the report in certain cases — for example, with regard to the amount this year for the Social Fund —there are references to the views of the Government as expressed at the Council. However, one would like to see more of this because one of the great problems of democratic control in the Community is that while our representatives can speak in the Parliament and so on the control— perhaps that is the wrong word—the democratic control of our Ministers at the Council is practically nonexistent. We know very little about what goes on at the Council. Of course, there are leaks in all directions, but all the various Ministers from the different countries leak what they want to leak. As far as the public are concerned in all the nine countries they have very little way of knowing what their Government representatives are doing at the Council, whether they are pursuing policies which all or any of us would be in agreement with. The more of this kind of thing that could be in the report the better. I appreciate the difficulties, but perhaps more could be said on the less difficult issues about which policies the Government have been pressing. Nonetheless this report is an excellent summary and we are always glad to receive it.
We have been for a little more than three years a member of the Community and one can stop for a moment to consider whether we did the right thing in joining. This question was brought home to me very strongly when, a week or so ago, I was in Greece being cross-examined by the Greeks as to how we in Ireland had done since we joined the Community. I found myself answering all the questions one was asking oneself four years ago. There is no doubt that over all, in spite of the obvious disappointments, we did the right thing in joining.
I am sure the Minister has seen this document, The Effects on Ireland of Membership of the European Community which was produced by the Director General of the European Parliament for research and documentation at the request of the European Progressive Democrat Group. Careful reading of it makes quite clear that, all in all, we have benefited very considerably in an economic and physical way from joining the Community.
Our farmers in spite of some very serious setbacks, have as a whole greatly increased their living standards, their incomes, as a result of being in the EEC. Industry, obviously, has had great problems in the past three years for internal and external reasons, but anyone would have to agree that the only hope for industry in future years is on the basis that we are now in a position to export to the whole of western Europe. The Minister has pointed out the very considerable budget rates gain that we have as a result of our membership of the Community. He pointed out that last year the Community paid, or promised to pay, more than £118 million to us. In addition we got loans from the European Investment Bank and the ECSC of £23 million, not to speak of the £150 million loan, the sort of rescue operation we recently had, and our estimated contribution is just over £10 million. So from a purely budgetary standpoint we have gained very considerably. Indeed, without the large sums coming from the EEC one wonders what on earth the Minister for Finance would have been able to do. We have obviously gained very considerably in prestige and influence. We have escaped from the appalling problem of having half our exports and imports to and from one country, leaving us in the position that outside the EEC we have an intolerable position with regard to our trade relations, unable to achieve any adequate results in trade negotiations. We have had of course our disappointments, particularly with regard to the regional fund and the lack of institutional progress towards achievement of common policies to which the Minister has referred. But, on the whole, I do not think that there can be any doubt that we took the right decision in 1973.
As a member I think that Ireland has certainly created a good impression. We have contributed to the development of Europe and the Minister has certainly done a great deal in this respect. We have shown as a country that we are prepared not only to take from the Community but that we have also something to contribute and that we are willing to do so. In this respect we have fared well as compared with the other two countries who joined at the same time as us, Denmark and the United Kingdom, who have been, to say the least of it, dragging their feet since they achieved membership.
In view of the very hard work that the Minister himself has been doing to bring Ireland firmly into the centre of Community affairs it is a pity that certain Ministers, particularly in the Labour Party, have consistently tried to blame the EEC for all our difficulties. The Minister for Finance has recently entered this field. I will deal with that aspect of the matter later. We do have these interventions from time to time, particularly by the Minister for Labour—complaints about the EEC, complaints that our difficulties arise from EEC action or inaction. The Minister would perhaps agree—he may not say so—that such interventions do not help him in his task of representing us in Community institutions.
In particular I have mentioned the Minister for Labour, who has constantly been sniping at the Commission, especially in regard to social policy, forgetting that the main defect of not merely the social policy but the regional policy and other policies of the EEC is simply lack of money which is the fault of the Council, that is the Governments of the nine member countries. In spite of the recent economy campaign of certain Governments which resulted in serious cuts in the Community budget, the Social Fund itself is certainly very valuable from an Irish point of view. We get some 6 per cent of all the funds made available from the Social Fund although our population is only about 1 per cent of that of the EEC. Surprisingly enough, so far—perhaps not this year —the receipts from the Social Fund have been greater than those from the Regional Fund which is more publicised. The Social Fund pays a large part of the cost of the very valuable work being done by AnCO.
One can only express amazement at the quite extraordinary action by the Council last autumn referred to— though not in these terms—in this report, in cutting severely the social budget. One would have thought that a time of recession, when millions of people—now over five million— throughout the Community were out of work, was the time to increase the amounts made available for retraining of workers and for other social purposes. It seems altogether extraordinary therefore that the Council—mainly at the instigation of one particular Government—should have made heavy cuts in the budget for social affairs last autumn. The European Parliament, as the Minister has mentioned, has the power to increase the budget and put back some 35 million units of account into the Social Fund. Nonetheless the funds made available are clearly inadequate. It seems an extraordinary time to make cuts of this kind.
One matter in which the Government's handling of EEC affairs has been really inept has been the recent catastrophe over equal pay. The principle of equal pay for equal work between men and women was originally enshrined in the Treaty of Rome in 1958. There has been, as there so often is in EEC affairs, a very long delay in carrying out this principle. The principle was stated all right but enshrining it in legislation has taken a very long time.
Finally, the directive on equal pay was agreed by the Council and signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he was President of the Council on 10th of February, 1975. It was, in fact, one of the most important achievements of the Irish Presidency last spring. Before this we passed a Bill through this and the other House enshrining in Irish legislation the principle of equal pay. We were told by the Minister for Labour on that occasion in this House that the EEC did not deal only with the price of cattle but it also laid upon us social obligations, obligations which the Government took very seriously.
We all knew, and so did the Government, well over a year ago that equal pay was coming in Ireland on 1st of January, 1976. It was obvious from the start, in view of the general recession, that there would be economic problems in putting this through, but there appear to have been no preparations of any kind. The exact date of the coming of equal pay was known, but no preparations were made by the Government. Finally, just days before this legislation was to come into force in the EEC on February 10th and after it had come into force in Ireland we had the introduction of the rather weirdly entitled Bill—Anti-Discrimination (Pay) (Amendment) Bill, "anti-discrimination" meaning that discrimination was to be restored. Did the Department of Foreign Affairs not know perfectly well that there was no practical possibility of a derogation on these lines being accepted at EEC level? Every one else in the EEC seems to have known. I met no one who was in any doubt on the matter for nearly a year past. No derogation was possible; equal pay was coming and all the nine member States would have to accept it. It was one of the obligations that we took on when we became members.
One wonders what kind of preparations do the Government make to deal with such obligations. It seems that they had no information about the problems. To this day it would appear that they do not know how many people are involved, how many people are faced with unemployment. The Minister for Labour dashed into the public Press with a statement that 10,000 people would be made workless. The amount of money that will cost industry does not seem to be known. In recent days EEC officials have come over at the request of the Government to discuss this matter with them and, according to the newspapers, have gone home convinced that nobody here has any idea what the problems are. We had the quite extraordinary outburst by the Minister for Finance when he talked about the extraordinary antics of the Commission when it had agreed unanimously that is was impossible to accept the derogation that we had sought.
In the light of the figures which the Minister mentioned and which I have quoted, that for a contribution of £10 million a year we would get back indirectly nearly £120 million—this is strictly on the budgetary plane, leaving out the other benefits for farmers and so on—it seems extraordinary that on a relatively small issue, small in the financial sense of the word, such as this equal pay obligation laid upon us, we should have Government Ministers, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Labour and so on saying "Ha, ha! If the EEC insist that we should introduce equal pay, let them pay for it." It seems a weird policy in view of the enormous financial gains that we make from the EEC. It has done a great deal to undermine the very good work the Minister has been doing over the past three years. It has done a great deal to undermine the position we have achieved as one of the most European of the nine members of the EEC and certainly as the most European-minded of the new members of the EEC.
We have in prospect what is, in fact, a far more important point, equal rights. Equal pay in itself is a relatively minor issue. Equal rights for women to promotion, to take on any kind of work that is physically possible and so on, are far more important and far more difficult to achieve. One can only express the hope therefore that when this directive comes to be enforced in this country the Government will be somewhat more ready and more active in bringing it in and making preparations for it than they were with regard to equal pay.
Another matter I would like to deal with is the recent EEC loan. This in itself is obviously one of the most important single gains we have had from our membership of the EEC. One shudders to think of what the financial position would be and the extent of unemployment in this country if it had not been for this bailing out operation that the EEC has just indulged in in making available for us this huge sum of £150 million. Conditions have been laid down which would appear, essentially, to be that in this year the amount being borrowed by State institutions should not be increased, as a percentage of national income, and that next year it should be decreased. To what extent it should be decreased I do not know, but apparently it has to be decreased. I do not know whether one has to associate that particular condition with the statement by the Minister for Finance in his recent budget that the £327 million current deficit in the budget would be phased out over three years, which is an appalling prospect. It means that next year and in the two succeeding years £110 million each year will have to be taken out of the current budget before any additional services can be provided. It raises an enormous budgetary problem and it would appear to be linked with the conditions laid down for accepting this loan.
I would like to ask the Minister to what extent are these conditions binding? The Minister for Finance suggested, according to the newspapers in reply to a journalist, that these were exhortations rather than binding conditions. I cannot see the EEC Council agreeing to lend us £150 million on the basis of exhortations that can be ignored. I would think that they are certainly binding in the sense that if we did not adhere to them we could expect no further loans. At the very least there is a very strong moral obligation on us to do our utmost to carry out these conditions that have been accepted by the Government.
One thing that puzzles me very much and that is that it would appear from a statement in the Newsletter issued a week ago by the Dublin office of the European Communities that there was agreement in principle to this loan over a year ago. The Newsletter states:
The finalisation of the loan thus marks the end of a long period of negotiations which began in February, 1975, when the Council approved in principle the loan to Ireland and fixed the economic policy conditions to be respected by the country.
It would appear from this that over a year ago there was an agreement in principle to give us a loan and also the conditions mentioned were laid down in principle. This would be when the Minister was President of the Council. It would appear therefore that the conditions about not increasing the proportion of national income taken in loans were known over a year ago, had been laid down in principle by the Council over a year ago, and in the light of this it seems incredible that the budgetary rake's progress carried out by the Minister for Finance all through 1975 should have been allowed.
In the budget of January, 1975, the current deficit was estimated at some £125 million and at the end of the year it was £259 million. We had such things as the mini-budget in the summer when subsidies were put on food, transport and so on and the greater part of that was borrowed. We had increases in borrowing for capital purposes. The total amount borrowed last year was enormously greater by the end of the year than was originally envisaged at the start of the year and this, in spite of the fact that apparently, with the Minister in the chair at that Council meeting, it had been decided in February, 1975, that these conditions were to be attached to the loan. They were therefore known to us and we knew that whenever the loan became available we would have to observe them.
The result of this situation is that the problem facing us in observing the conditions is enormously greater than it need be. As soon as these conditions became known, preparations should have been made to ensure that they would be as easy to observe as possible. But the Minister for Finance carried on all through last year, spending money like water, borrowing money everywhere, enormously raising the national debt, the proportion of the national income borrowed last year in loans. He ended up with something like 19.5 per cent of national income borrowed at home or abroad, nearly twice as much as the next most bankrupt member of the European Community, the United Kingdom, and vastly greater, three, four, five times greater than the other members of the European Communities. It is very difficult to understand how any Government or any Minister for Finance could behave with this degree of recklessness when apparently the decision on these conditions which have now been accepted by the Government dates back over one year.
There are various other points I would like to deal with as rapidly as I can because there is not much time in this debate. First of all, the question of corporation taxes. The Minister is aware that at the moment a directive has been produced by the Commission which can only be described as part of a kind of mania for harmonisation. The effect of this, if passed, would be that there would be a universal 50 per cent corporation tax and a withholding tax in our case on top of that of 25 per cent. Without going into the details of this—it has been dealt with with some care by the joint EEC Committee of both Houses—the effect would be if nothing more were done that it would put in danger all our tax concessions to industry at Shannon and the tax concessions for export-oriented industries.
I presume the Minister will oppose this strongly at the Council. He would be entirely justified in doing so. We are entitled to continue these concessions, as the Minister knows, as a result of Protocol 30 which was given to us on our accession and under Articles 92 and 94 of the Rome Treaty. We have been allowed by the Commission to continue them for three years from the beginning of 1975 and one assumes that because of the provisions of Protocol 30 they will allow us to continue them for a further period after that. These things should not be dealt with at all in this directive which should not cover cases where a derogation of this kind has been allowed. It does not really have any relevance at all to the conditions in Ireland or in the United Kingdom. Apparently, this deals with a situation where the general rule in the continental countries is that shareholders are not registered; nobody knows who they are and naturally therefore they do not bother to pay any tax, and this is intended to hunt them down. But since our shareholders are registered and cannot escape the tax-gatherers it is not of any relevance to our conditions and I gather it is not wanted at all by the Revenue Commissioners here. So, I assume that the Minister will strongly oppose this.
A recent very important event has been the formal application by Greece to join the European Communities. The Minister—I think I am right in saying this—has perhaps some mental reservations with regard to this application, but on the whole I would urge him to support it during the negotiations which will be taking place within the next few years.
First, we ought to support the application of Greece because of the general EEC principle that any European country that can fulfil the obligations of membership and is a democratic country ought to be admitted. I think this is an important principle. We ought not therefore to oppose their entry. Secondly, the Greek economy is very like ours. They have somewhat more employed in agriculture, 36 per cent as against 23 per cent with us, but if one goes back to 1962 we had 36 per cent then. It is only very recently that our numbers have fallen so much. Their industry is perhaps slightly more developed than ours, but on the whole their economy is similar to ours. Allowing for great differences in climate and so on, their income per head is only marginally below ours. I think because of the similarity of our problems—they have very severe regional problems as we do, structural problems in agriculture and so on—they would be an ally if they joined the Community. I think we would find that we had a great deal in common with them and that they would be an ally in pressing for matters to do with the Regional Fund. I think it is wrong to think of Greece as a member being a competitor for such things as regional aid. The Commission itself in its opinion on this matter, an opinion which was not on the whole very favourable to Greek adhesion, assumes as a matter of course that the Regional Fund would have to be increased sufficiently to cater for Greece. I think they think in terms of an extra 100 billion units of account a year, I would say, an extra 20 per cent. They assume that this will be done. While the addition of a new financial beneficiary for regional funds might make it more difficult to extract funds from the Germans, as against that the addition of another enthusiastic supporter of the Regional Fund to the Council might make it easier to get those matters through the Council. I do not think we would lose there. If one wants to look at the thing from a selfish point of view, I think we could even gain there. They would join us in pressing for more.
I was recently, as I mentioned, in Greece. I went with some reservations about the possibility of Greek membership but I came back with many fewer reservations because it seems to me that there was great enthusiasm for the European idea in Greece, that they were extremely well informed. In fact, I felt that in Ireland at similar stages in negotiations, when the application had only just been made, we would have been a great deal less informed about the Community institutions and the EEC in general than they appear to be in Athens. It seemed to me that there was great enthusiasm and a great deal of knowledge and that Greece as a member of the European Communities would be an active partner and would not be, shall we say, a Denmark but would be more like an Ireland, an active, enthusiastic member. I think that if we are thinking in terms of the future development of Community institutions, of Community progress, it is not the weaker countries that drag things back; it is the less European countries, shall we say. Denmark is almost one of the richest and is one of the least useful from the point of view of developing Community institutions. I think a country like Greece which could press for progress towards European union, greater powers for Parliament, direct elections, EMU, a greater Social Fund, a greater Regional Fund would be a gain, and not a loss, and I hope that the Minister will be able to cast aside whatever reservations he may have and support entry.
The question of direct election is very much in the public mind. Obviously, it is extremely important. It is clear that the Parliament, which is the only democratic aspect of the European Communities, would gain in prestige and in influence. I think for that reason direct election is important but, perhaps an equally urgent consideration is that it is the only way in which the question of the dual mandate can be solved. Even in the three years since we have joined the Communities, since some of us became members of the European Parliament, it has become clear that the time taken is increasing. Almost month by month, one can see it increasing: the Parliament is meeting more often; the committees meet more often. It is increasingly difficult, not so much for a Senator but especially for a Deputy to take part in political activities at home and on the Continent. It is becoming more and more difficult and in a few years will become quite intolerable and impossible. If that were the only reason for having direct elections I think it would be a most compelling one.
As the Minister knows and as we all know, the question of direct elections by 1978 is becoming increasingly doubtful. Problems are being raised in various countries particularly about the number of seats. Mathematical calculations are being bandied about. So far as I know there are only three official proposals at the moment and there may be more: they are the original proposal of the European Parliament for 13 seats for Ireland out of 305; the Minister's demand for 18, and there is the French insistence that we should not get more than six. For all I know, there may be other such calculations.
Clearly, it is vital that in Ireland we have an adequate number of seats. First, there is the question of national prestige. I do not think that is of any particular interest. Obviously, if we have too few we will be swamped in the sea of Continentals. But there is also the very practical matter that because of the committee system of the Parliament a certain minimum number is needed just to do the work, simply to get around the committees and deal with the matters that you have to deal with. I think the European Parliament number is just about rock-bottom; we could manage with that number. Obviously, one would like to see the Minister's figure of 18.
I would like to put this point to the Minister; I accept that 18 is a better figure and is in accordance with the proportion that was there when we joined, but I wonder is it wise to continue too long looking for 18. There are very serious problems at the moment in view of the French position as we know; we have the Danes being very dubious; we have the English who are more to my mind coming around to the French position because they have suddenly discovered that for electoral reasons Scotland exists and they have been saying: Scotland under the present system, in view of the European Parliament's proposals, would get perhaps six seats and the Danes, with the same population, will have 16, or whatever the number is. They have suddenly discovered that Scotland exists and even Wales and Northern Ireland and the question is how many seats would they get. One feels that they may well come around to the French position before very long. If there should be a consensus, perhaps five or six members of the Council would be prepared to row in behind the European Parliament proposal for 13.
One wonders therefore whether the Minister might not be better advised at this stage to join the majority and say: "Since nearly everyone is agreed on this, let us settle on it" and put those who disagree in the wrong. To stand out as the only one looking for 18 strikes me as adding an encouragement to those who do not want direct elections, who can go around saying: "There are all kinds of different proposals; it will obviously be very difficult to decide; so, let us leave it over for a year or two, until we can get a consensus". If the Minister can jump on the band wagon of some kind of consensus, even if it were only 13, it might be advisable for him to do so. I think he should not be too rigid, although I thoroughly agree that 18 is a fairer figure and one which would enable us to fulfil our tasks better at the European Parliament.
Would the Senator indicate the position of the Progressive Democrats?
The Fianna Fáil members of the Progressive Democrats are entirely in favour of direct elections. Our leader, Senator Lenihan, at the recent debate in the Parliament made a speech in which he reiterated our enthusiasm for direct elections. We voted in favour of the resolution calling for the immediate introduction of direct elections last month in the Parliament.
The Progressive Democrats?
The French members, on the other hand, have had reservations all along and these reservations have strengthened. They did not vote on the recent debate. I should think they will continue to have reservations on the question of direct elections. In so far as the Fianna Fáil members of the European Parliament are concerned, we are in favour of direct elections. We voted quite recently in favour of them and will continue to do so.
The position of the Progressive Democrats is quite clear, but they are internally totally inconsistent.
On the question of direct elections we have agreed to differ. I am not attempting to make any mystery about it. In January, 1975, we discussed the matter and agreed to differ. The Irish members of the group voted in favour of the Patijn Report and spoke in favour of it and the French abstained. There is no group line. All the other groups have this kind of problem.
Not on this issue.
The Minister is not seriously suggesting that the Luxembourg members of the Christian Democrat group do not have their problems? Of course they do.
The Senator's group are the only one which have a vast majority unhappy about direct elections and are opposing adequate Irish representation.
The French Gaullist Party have reservations on direct elections. At the European Parliament, we in Fianna Fáil have supported consistently direct elections. We have voted in favour of them and will continue to do so. In January of last year the group decided that on this direct election issue we would each go our own way.
It does not take long to disagree.
We come to the method of election which, is in a sense academic since we have no definite decision to have elections in 1978. It would be interesting to know what the Minister's thinking is with regard to the method of election in this country. It is important in the sense that while the European Parliament report by Mr. Patijn suggested that the first elections would be held with each country choosing its own method and by 1980 there would be a decision for a universal system, knowing the way the EEC observe or fail to observe these dates the Minister will perhaps agree with me that you could easily have a situation for 20 years to come where this provisional and temporary arrangement continued.
The question of the method of election is important because it may well be the first three, four or five elections and not just the first election that is affected. The Joint Committee have proposed a list system which I think would be the best. For one thing, it is important that since one is not selecting a Government but selecting representatives of the European Parliament there should be as strict a proportionality as possible between all the parties involved. If we introduce a list system this will be much closer to the likely system that would be universally accepted by the nine member States. It is much closer to the Continental system. When there is ultimately an agreement it will be something like this and it is probably the best for us. I would be interested to know what the Minister has to say on this. I ask the Minister whether he has any views as to the chances of any agreement this week. One can only hope that there will be agreement. I am sure the Minister will agree that if there is not a decision on direct elections this week there is a serious danger once this meeting is past that agreement could be put indefinitely on the long finger.
With regard to the powers of Parliament, the Minister has referred to the memorandum of the Taoiseach, which was rather vague. It states at paragraph 14 of page 146:
The Irish Government believe that, in addition to having the role suggested earlier in approving the appointment of the European Commission, Parliament should have powers conferred on it in a legislative sphere, without which the process of direct elections in 1978 may fail to evoke an appropriate interest amongst the peoples of the Community.
That is rather vague. I do not know what is envisaged in the phrase "should have powers conferred on it in a legislative sphere".
The Tindemans Report also deals with this question. He is even vaguer. He says:
The Council should immediately allow the Parliament to take initiatives by undertaking to consider the resolutions which Parliament addresses to it.
I presume there will be resolutions asking the Council to deal with this or that. Later on, in the course of dealing with progressive development, he says:
...this practice should be given legal value through a Treaty amendment which would accord to the Parliament a real right of initiative.
I am not quite clear how the initiative would work in the light of the fact that all the directives are drafted by the Commission. It would not be unfair to suggest that no one is very seriously considering any practical increase in the Parliament's powers. Of course, as the Minister has rightly said, the powers of the European Parliament, even as they exist, must not be minimised. The budgetary powers are already greater than those of the Dáil. It is fair to say that in my experience over the last few years in the European Parliament the possibilities of amendment possessed by the European Parliament, in practice though perhaps not in theory, are greater than either the Dáil or the Seanad.
If I may interrupt the Senator for a moment, I should like to ask why this debate does not appear to have the normal time limits for motions in this House. The Minister is to come in to respond to the debate at 4.30.
The position is that this is a Government motion and not a Private Members' motion. It has been agreed that the Minister should intervene at 4.30 p.m. That would normally conclude the debate. However, if there are Senators who still wish to speak after the Minister, the Chair would not prevent the continuance of the debate.
I will try to finish as rapidly as possible. The number of amendments and particularly the scope of amendments accepted for discussion, particularly on committees, is much greater in practice than is the case here. There is a quite different relationship within the civil service.
On the Continent and in the European Parliament there is a totally different tradition involved. There can be civil servants; representatives of the Commission can come into a committee and explain what is in the Bill and why it was drafted in that way, what the problems are, and they can amend it. The role of the European Parliament in regard to amendments is certainly greater than either House of the Oireachtas. However, it is quite clear that as the powers of national Parliaments are gradually eroded with the development of the Community, on constitutional matters there must be greater corresponding powers given to the European Parliament.
There is a problem for Ireland in visiting a potentially sovereign European Parliament since we have 1 per cent of the population of the whole Community and since, presumably, a completely sovereign European Parliament would have to be elected on some sort of proportional basis. We would have the problem of having perhaps the safeguard of a second chamber representing the national States. This is a long way ahead and certainly it is not a matter for direct elections until 1978, but it is a thing that ultimately we will have to consider. There are problems for us in very radical increases in powers of the European Parliament.
What would the Minister think of a proposition which neither Mr. Tindemans nor the Taoiseach suggested; that ultimately there could be a system where, without giving the Parliament legislative control, the Parliament would have to agree before the Council could act at least on certain issues? This would involve two aspects, the agreement of the Parliaments representing the peoples and the agreement of the Council representing the Governments. This would give a possibility at least for development.
The Taoiseach's memorandum is a very useful one though it is inevitable that on some points it is somewhat vague. He refers to a number of matters, such as EMU. This was envisaged optimistically at the Paris Summit of 1972 as taking place by 1980. One wonders if there is the slightest possibility of its taking place by 1990, not alone by 1980. The Taoiseach rightly says that, while we support it, it would be necessary to have a considerable transfer of funds, particularly regional funds, in order to enable the weaker members of the Community to take on EMU. I agree completely that there should be a preparation of a realistic timetable, not just a vague optimistic hope that we would have it by 1980 or 1990. There should be a timetable made out in budgetary terms of what it would cost and how it could be brought about.
I agree completely with the Minister's reference to VAT. From the point of view of own resources, it could be worked very simply. It is an esoteric, theoretical concept that all the rates must be the same in order to bring in own resources. The Minister minimises the ultimate necessity for having similar rates. Since 1958 for the continental countries, and for the last three years for all of us, there has been a Common Market but there can be no real Common Market until there is equality of VAT rates in all nine countries. Somebody asked a question at the Commission a year or so ago in regard to the six divisions of member States, all of which have been member States of the Common Market since 1958, about the number of customs officers in existence, and they were told that there were slightly more customs officers a year ago than there were in 1958. In other words, in theory in a common market goods should run from end to end of the market with no border problems, no customs officers and so on, but there are now even more customs officers than there were before the setting up of the Common Market.
One of the main reasons for this is the different rates of VAT. Goods could be sent from Britain to Ireland or from Ireland to France and there may not be any import duties but there will be different rates of VAT. Therefore there is a confrontation with the whole customs machinery.
The Senator realises that in the United States there are different sales tax rates between different states but there are no customs duties between states. It does not seem to have caused many problems in the last 100 years.
There are customs duties with us.
Different VAT rates.
If I fly into Dublin Airport from London there is a whole paraphernalia of customs, male and female, waiting for the plane. What are they doing? We have a free trade agreement with Britain so that no customs duty could be involved. If I bring in British goods the only way they can be caught is if I have not paid VAT in Ireland. Is this what the customs officials are in attendance for?
In the US sales tax is dealt with by customs.
We must bear in mind that in the US the sales tax is about 3 per cent, which is quite small, but here we have a rate of up to 40 per cent. What is taxed at 40 per cent in Ireland may be taxed at 10 per cent in Britain or vice versa. If the Minister looks into it he will find that the basic problem is having a genuine common market with genuine liberty to run goods from end to end of it is the different rates of VAT. It is a serious matter and the Minister minimises it considerably, at least in paragraph 6. I agree that from the point of own resources it is foolish for people to say that it is impossible to have own resources without having harmonised rates of VAT. It should be possible to agree on a rate.
In regard to the Commission, paragraph 8 of the Taoiseach's memorandum — and Mr. Tindemans also deals with this — suggests member Governments by common accord, with a President, and he proposes to the Commission that the Parliament would be invited to approve the proposed membership of the Commission. There is a curious tag to this. After the Parliament had agreed to the members of the Commission, member Governments would consider the proposed membership with a view to reaching common accord on the appointment of those concerned only after the Assembly had given its approval.
Supposing the member Governments disagree with the Assembly, do they have to go back to Parliament? It is not clear as to what happens there. Mr. Tindemans, on the other hand, speaks about the Parliament appointing the President who then will appoint his colleagues, in consultation with the Council, which means in effect that the appointment of the members of the Commission would be made with the exception of the President. But in each of these cases, whether it is the Taoiseach's version or that of Mr. Tindemans, I suppose it is fair to say that there would not be much practical change. Parliament would be given a theoretical voice but in practice the Governments would continue to appoint the members of the Commission. Then the Taoiseach goes on to deal with the Council. In paragraph 9 he says:
The Irish Government believe that the logical basis for any budget procedure is that policies be first decided with due regard to the cost and that provision be then made for a budget to implement these policies.
Am I right in thinking that this means that, for example, when the regional fund falls due for renewal in 1978, they say we will have another regional fund for a number of years at such and such a cost? At the moment they say: "Let us have a regional fund and the Commission make proposals". Is this what is intended and, if so, what practical difference will it make since the Council ultimately will decide on the costs? Probably I am misreading this: it may mean more than I have read into it but I would be interested to know from the Minister what change is intended to be achieved there.
Taking Mr. Tindemans' report in general it seems to me somewhat vague. One's impression of it is that it is a declaration in favour of virtue and against sin. We can all agree with that but one wonders how much actual action may result. This is one of the few clear points in his advocacy of a two-tier system. The Minister, in a kindly way, said more or less that everyone realised that Tindemans did not say that at all. It seems to me that it is clearly stated in the report at section 2, page 27:
(1) those States which are able to progress have a duty to forge ahead,
(2) those States which have reasons for not progressing which the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, acknowledges as valid do not do so.
—but will at the same time receive from the other States any aid and assistance that can be given to enable them to catch the others up.
The Minister should be very careful about taking too seriously Tindemans' proposition that those who lag behind can be helped out. I do not like this phrase "assistance that can be given". That is a very sinister phrase. If he said those States that cannot go ahead as fast as the richer ones will be given whatever assistance is needed to enable them to catch up, it would have been a more satisfactory arrangement. "Any assistance that can be given" means that can be given within the problems presented by the internal German budgetary position and so on. Each time I read that section it seems to me quite clear that Mr. Tindemans intended that there should be a two-tier system, a two-speed system. And if in face of objections he has withdrawn from this, I do not think he can get away with it by saying that he did not say it. Paragraph 5.20, page 54 states:
The Government is required by the terms of the Decision to present to the Commission an appraisal of reorganisation of the footwear industry.
Has this been presented? Has the Minister any information about the general terms of the appraisal?
Paragraph 13.6 on the Protection of the Acquired Rights of Workers in the Case of Mergers and Takeovers refers to a new and amended version of this Directive coming from the Commission. It might be mentioned that all these amendments were at the request of the European Parliament. It is an outstanding example of the practical powers of the Parliament in persuading the Commission to accept amendments. A number of substantial amendments were accepted by the Commission and that is the document which has come back. Paragraph 12.14 on cross-border studies states:
In November 1975 the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom agreed to make a joint application for a Community contribution to the costs of cross-border studies in communication and fisheries.
That is a very valuable step. In view of the fact that we were pressing for these for a long time past, why did it take so long for the British Government to agree. It has been patently obvious that one of the best ways of dealing with tensions across the Border is to have co-operation of this kind in an area in the whole northwest of Ireland where on both sides of the Border there are identical and very severe regional problems. It is difficult to see why the British Government should have been so dilatory in agreeing to such an elementary step as this. Apart from the economic and social benefits I would have thought there would have been very valuable benefits on the political front.
On the question of an oil subsidy for fishing last year, the Commission, because of the extreme problems caused by the rise in the price of oil for the fishing industry, authorised Governments to pay an oil subsidy to fishermen to in part pay for the increased cost of oil. Has this been renewed this year? I raised this matter at the European Parliament last October and was assured by M. Lardinois that the Commission would allow an extension this year of the oil subsidy, but it was a question for each Government to pay this. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether he has done this.
I shall conclude by saying that this is an excellent report. I congratulate the Minister on the work he has been doing in the Community during the last three years and also for the increasing excellence of these reports.
Business suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.
It is with some trepidation that I contribute at all to the debate on this motion on the Sixth Report of Developments in the European Communities. When it was suggested that these reports be made available it was suggested that the publication of these reports would spark off a debate in both Houses of the Oireachtas which would provide a systematic review of the effects of membership. I remember the Minister suggesting in this House — a Minister for whose energy and competence I have the greatest respect — that on the occasion of the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the Communities that this Committee too would be able to monitor the effects of Irish entry into the European Community. Another reason for my reluctance to speak is that I must speak as one of those people who are now regarded as "bad Europeans", "reluctant Europeans". The Minister is very well aware of the energy I expended on our campaign against joining. I am in contrast therefore with the previous speakers to quite a great degree.
I remember that very early on in the Joint Committee an attempt at something which was referred to in this report — to broaden out their debate to discuss the failure here to establish an adequate regional fund and the failure to establish principles of regional policy — was ruled out of order. I must confess my gratitude to Senator Robinson who on that occasion seconded a proposal I made which enabled the debate to take place, noting, for example, the tremendous, major breach of trust which the failure to establish regional policy represented. While she did not vote with me, her seconding enabled me to discuss the effects of the failure of the Community to establish a regional policy and what it meant for Ireland. I refer to it as a breach of trust, because it was one of the major planks upon which entry to the European Community was sold.
I must also refer to the contributions of the Press in regard to that debate. I deliberately go slow for the benefit of the gentleman who commented on that debate and who is not now here. He has been promoted in the ranks of the newspaper world. He referred to my contribution and suggested that Senator Higgins was one of the shrillest opponents of Europea-entry and so on.
One of the shrewdest. A misprint I am sure.
I thank the Minister. I wish that the Press were as generous as the Minister in their concern for my remarks. On that particular day I was recalling the campaign for entry. I remember distinctly saying on many occasions that the structure of the Community was such as to make is impossible to realistically expect anything of the nature of an adequate regional policy. I also criticised on that occasion the social policy provisions. At this stage, on this report, we have gained to some extent under the social policy provisions. With regard to regional affairs, the promises made were not lived up to whatsoever. By way of preliminary remarks, I find myself dealing with a fascinating problem concerning language.
In his introductory speech the Minister gave us the figure of £28½ million as our gain from entry.
The figure is £122 million and our contribution to membership is £10½ million.
I am grateful. I am sorry that my notes are so confused. I see now that the figure is £118½ million and £23 million in loans from the European Investment Bank, and then Senator Yeats referred to the £150 million loan as a rescue operation. It was said that because we have benefited economically there is an onus on us to become good members. During the time of the referendum, when I discussed our entry with people who were involved in our membership of the EEC, it was suggested to me, and has been suggested again, that the Community is not merely about economics. They referred me to the originators of the concept of a united Europe: Europe never again at war, Europe united, community of people and so on, and not mere economics.
We use these economic arguments in answer to the Senator's form of shrewd comment.
I am very glad I am having an effect on this House. I was never really carried away at any stage by these notions. I knew that at the end of the day we would end up going back to these economic arguments.
My contribution to this Bill will be very brief. While this report is quite an extensive one, I do not think that it provides within either House of the Legislature sufficient scrutiny by the Irish people of the effects of membership of the European Economic Community. It is my opinion that for the most part those aspects of the Community which were bureaucratic in their nature at the time of our joining and before we joined have become compounded and that what we have seen is a bureaucracy more complex, less movement towards any notion of devolved decision-making, and less participation. I am not surprised at that. I saw the Community in my earlier view as being very much a supernational institution rather than a genuinely international institution. I draw the distinction because I thought it would impose a set of institutions on top of a series of national institutions without any common sense of purpose or endeavour, whereas in the sense of an international purpose I would think it would be based on some kind of political or ideological vision.
That brings me to a very useful starting point. It would appear that the Community had slowed up in its movements towards union, as its apologists refer to it. Senator Yeats, in a very good thorough speech, made reference to the lack of likelihood of achieving economic and monetary union by 1980. He certainly thought that 1990 might be a more realistic year. He was referring to the aspiration of the Paris Summit of 1972.
My view is that economic and monetary union as such is simply not on without a systematic set of checks in terms of social and regional measures. A movement towards economic and monetary union would give major advantages to the existing structures of capital as regards those countries possessing such large resources of labour. Mr. Tindemans has been referred to in the debate. This is where I think the Tindemans Report makes a major mistake. I get the clear impression from the Tindemans' Report that he would wish for regional and social measures to pick up the effects or the consequences of economic and monetary union when it had taken place. In other words, that such measures and policies would be dealing with a residium of effects of monetary union. Obviously this was not on for this country from the very beginning. At the moment there are very serious problems within the Community of a structural nature, and it is of the utmost importance that clearly expanded social measures and the establishment — and I use that word advisedly — of adequate regional measures are necessary to deal with the crisis in the Community now, quite apart from the circumstances that might develop as we moved forward towards monetary union.
Senator Yeats suggested that the Minister might have been charitable in his description of Mr. Tindemans' latest report. I agree with Senator Yeats. I think that Mr. Tindemans was suggesting a two-tier community. This report is very much the approach of a committed conservative without any deep ideological or political vision towards social transformation. In his letter to his colleagues in the European Council outlining the objectives and methods he stated "...whereby Europe can be invested with a new vitality and current obstacles can be overcome". He went on to inform his colleagues that his choice of approach was "based on the belief that at the present time any other approach would either be unworthy of our faith in Europe or else because of its Utopian nature in the present circumstances would lose all credibility with parties in power. Consequently it represents a realistic yet feasible approach."
When a European prime minister of the background of Mr. Tindemans uses the term "a realistic yet feasible approach", what exactly does he mean? What does the word "realistic" mean within such a political vision? If I understand him correctly, "realism" to a conservative means in fact that the present situation is basically fine. We can deal with problems in the Community by giving 2p a week more to the poor does not get rid of poverty. I got the impression from the report that it totally understresses the necessity for structural changes in the Community itself. I might say that my reaction to the report is not one of basically welcoming it. I feel that it is a rather flimsy document. Most of the proposals are old hat and have been hanging around for a very long time and just taken out of storage. I have respect for Mr. Tindemans at the same time. He used the word "realistic" quite advisedly. Again, looking at it historically, I feel that nothing imaginative has ever been created by people who have invoked such terms as "realistic yet feasible". History is littered with examples of what has been accomplished by people using such language.
I think Mr. Tindemans is speaking of a two-tier Europe, a Europe of the strong and a Europe of the weak. I think he is speaking about a two-speed Europe as well, a Europe of the strong that might move at a quicker pace towards integration and a Europe of the weak that might move at a slower rate. The distinction which Senator Yeats drew in this debate so far between, for example, the latter group of countries to which I have referred, which could be helped — in the language of Mr. Tindemans — and which need to be helped — in the language of Senator Yeats — is a valuable and very important one.
Mr. Tindemans reflects, as one would expect from somebody with his views, a curious blind spot to social and economic realities within the Community itself. One wonders about the method. I remember his visit to Ireland very well. He set about meeting people in different member countries and collecting information from them. But I find missing from this report any concern for the weaker sections of the Community. Where, for example, is there any reaction, even advertence to increasing gaps in income per capita in unemployment levels between member countries?
Unfortunately, I did not meet Mr. Tindemans when he visited Ireland. I could have told him a very great deal about income disparities in this country and about levels of unemployment and, projected employment, and about other countries as well. If he had concentrated on the real structural problems within the Community at present relating to unemployment and social distress, he would have produced a much better report. He should have done this first and then moved on to the consideration adverted to in this report as to what institutional reform is necessary. It is logical to require that one would examine the Community's problems first and then move to institutional reform.
What kind of problem was assisted, however, among the group of people within the nine countries who refer to themselves as good Europeans? He says that drastic measures should be taken to effect a significant leap forward. Drastic measures, as contained in the report, mean ignoring social and economic manifestations of structural inequality within the Community as it stands at present, and it means suggesting a distinction in the Community between those who are economically strong and those who are economically weak. More so than that people with a conservative political vision have a basic inadequacy adequately to analyse economic crises in general. This applies not only to Europe but internationally. We all know very well that we are dealing with a world economic crisis, and people who have a conservative viewpoint about the resources of production are at a tremendous disadvantage as the system literally falls down around their ears.
I do not think it is accidental at all, as we review developments within the European Community that we notice the kind of omissions I have mentioned, particularly in relation to Tindemans Report, but more generally the lack of any political will towards the relief of the weaker people within the Community. What happens generally is that, at a time when economic growth is going well at world level and at Community level, people indulge themselves a little in considering the position of the poor. We could have a little excursion into the notion of human concern. At present we have a crisis of tremendous proportion within world capitalism itself. The Community therefore, like all communities, is committed to a conservative economic policy. Being reactionary, it is to some extent jettisoning much of what it promised us at the time we entered. It is not accidental. The context in which it operates is one of recession. The United States is in a major economic recession. Japan has had a 15 per cent reduction in industrial production compared with the first half of 1975. In Federal Germany industrial production dropped drastically in 1975. In May-June the industrial production was 17.5 per cent less than 1974. France and Italy: industrial production shrank between 9 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. Nearly all of these capitalist economies organise around the principle of private enterprise greed quite explicitly. They could not care less. It is quite natural to expect that those aspects of the Community would be ignored.
What precisely has Mr. Tindemans done or said in his report which will help or improve the lot of seven million people within the Community at present? I refer to five million people unemployed and two million people on short time. In the Community this is not the extent of people affected by unemployment at all. If one takes into account the average size of a household, one is talking about an average family of three. One is talking about 20 million people affected at present by structural relations within the Community.
The notion that we would, for example, consider moving forward towards economic and monetary union and then consider another package of social policy or regional policy measures as being necessary at that time is an insult to such people. It is something to be expected from somebody of the kind I mentioned, somebody who is a conservative politician of the first order, as Tindemans is, that they would ignore the seven million unemployed. The unemployed to somebody who believes in private enterprise economics are an accident. They are the outfall of non-growth. Whenever growth does not take place, profits are not up, so therefore people drop out.
The kind of thing I would like in the Sixth Report—I am never quite sure whether one should discuss what it does not include as well as what it includes—in regard to developments in the European Community is a discussion about another phenomenon, that is, the new workers in the Community. The European Community brought into existence a fascinating new group of people, a new kind of proletariat. One of the reasons the German unemployment statistics, which I will not bore people present by quoting, are an understatement of the people actually unemployed in Germany is that Germany is in the position of actually exporting its unemployment problem. When I refer to this new proletariat I am referring to the migrant workers who find themselves within the European Community. Somehow or other this country has not been affected by migration of one form or another. Migration is the human expression of the relationship between labour and capital. Where capital accumulates, where investment decisions are made and profits accrue, labour must follow.
In the Community at present we have not only millions of people unemployed but we have migrant workers largely without rights. This is not an invention on my part. Their conditions have been described. Writers such as Jonathan Power in Encounter, and, more recently, John Berger and Jean Mohr in the book The Seventh Man, have described the tragic conditions of such migrants, carrying with them their photograph of their children, going off to Germany, the conversations that took place in the country of origin as to what it is like to work in Germany, how do they live there, what kind of goods can you buy there, and so on. A particularly unique new form of imperialism has been carefully established by the European Community.
Might I speak about Italy in this regard? I have just been looking at Italian migration patterns. These should be in the report because we are party to this as one of the Nine. Are we partners to this or not? In the case of Italy it is very simple. The Italian workers will move into an area of higher industrial earnings and their places will be taken by people from another country. As one layer of unemployed people moves on because of the attraction of a job, their places are taken by another layer of people. It is the old classical equation. The Community is sucking population into its centre and it has not stopped doing so.
Lest people think that I am totally unaware of what is happening, I know that much has been attempted for such people by sensitive people working for the Commission on Social Affairs within the European Community, but basically their position has not changed very much. Why then did I refer to the Tindemans Report as flimsy, not very important, reiterating a great deal of old hash? Because it said not one whit which will change the lot of such people, this new proletariat to which I refer or the many million who are employed and their dependants within Europe itself.
What kind of Europe would it be if the Tindemans Report were accepted? It reflects one thing quite consistently and it should be praised for its consistency. I have said that Mr. Tindemans is a conservative. He is honest in that respect. In any suggestion of a future Community he is jettisoning all of the rhetoric used by by the people who sought Irish membership of the European Community, those tremendously naïve and idealistic people who wandered around the country suggesting that we were joining a Europe of all the nations, that it was not just economics, that we would embrace each other in a new, tremendously exciting kind of relationship. Organisations were formed——
Living cost may rise by 5 points.
The Arabs had a say in that, too.
Regarding European entry, the Minister has already agreed that I was extraordinarily shrewd during the campaign. I was also extraordinarily active. I predicted what would happen.
When it comes to detail of the report I was very glad that we would have a chance of going through such detail because I want to learn a number of things here. Regarding the benefits that were gained, may I suggest that it would greatly assist this country in its thinking if we drew a distinction between what are sectoral gains and what are social gains. At the time of the referendum I made the point that if agricultural prices rose and you had one farmer left here he would have made a tremendous gain. If, on the other hand, you had a huge farming population—as, for example, in the 12 western counties, which are referred to in the Scully Report, where a group of people are involved in agriculture on small holdings, old people, most of them without successors, they qualify for some schemes but for very few——
That is very wrong. They qualify for practically everything a development farmer qualifies for. The Senator should know that, coming from Galway.
I know exactly what they qualify for. I will come to that. I accept that my viewpoint is a minority one. I hope to be corrected, because I would like to know all these schemes the farmers qualify for. Before Senator McCartin speaks I may be able to help him because I will have the Scully Report and I will have——
The Scully Report was here before we went into the Common Market.
The size of farms has not changed radically in the west, for which the Scully Report is written. If it has changed, I would be delighted to hear that the average farm in the west is over 50 acres. My impression is that the figure is closer to 30 acres. My impression is also that the majority of people who own farms in the west are over 45 and that a significant proportion of them are widows. That is the point. What was suggested in the campaign, quite wrongly and somewhat dishonestly, was that a group of geriatrics would be electrified into fantastic, huge increases in agricultural production because prices went up. That did not happen. They will be still there: tired people afraid to give away their land because, given the particular kind of heartless society we have, their neighbours or even their relations might slap them into institutions. They will hold on to their land. Consolidation will not work. Rushes will grow on it until we have a general social disaster, until we change things more radically.
How? By liquidating them?
No. If the Minister wants to provoke me into that one now he might not get his plane at 6.10, because I can tell you exactly how I would do it.
The debate is on the EEC.
Do not ask me how I would improve the conditions of people in the west, because I have never suggested that there is anything in the Sixth Report or indeed in our entry into the EEC which would help such people. That is the kernel of my argument. The difficulty about contributions like my own is that they are curiously amusing to a number of people.
When the Minister suggested the publication of these reports and when he formed the Secondary Legislation Committee, on which I serve, we were told that we would have the broadest possible regular review of the effects of membership on Irish institutions and on the Irish people. Of course we never have that because we all expected, once the decision had been made, to be either within the spectrum of "bad Europeans" at one end or "good Europeans" at the other. A "good European" is somebody who says: "Things are very bad in Europe. We have made slow progress in the area of regional policy. We have made a bit better progress in the area of social policy. AnCO have gained so much and we are able to retrain people because we are getting grants". A "bad European" is somebody like myself who refuses to be converted to any of the basic principles on which the Community is founded, which are principles of profit. I am afraid it will be hard work to convert me.
The report deals with a number of important points. Might I make some direct requests for information to the Minister? I understand the more conventional kind of European commentary nowadays is to arm yourself with the documents, list little points of complexity and ask the feeling about them.
Regarding environment policy, chapter 9, what is the Minister's opinion of the publications which have emanated from the Community's office on the role of non-governmental organisations in environmental protection? In the case of such non-governmental organisations in environmental protection my own impression from reading a review of them is that they were regarded as being a nuisance at the best of times. The Government agencies were best—best at the general level of the Community and the protection of the environment. They were referred to as NGOs, not non-governmental organisations. They were a nuisance and clogged things up.
The Sixth Report states at paragraph 12.1:
The developments leading to the establishment of the European Regional Development Fund and the principal features of the Fund are described in detail in paragraphs 15.1, 15.2 and 15.4 to 15.9 of the Fifth Report.
It is useful to have that paragraph short. What it is really saying is that the Community has failed to establish a regional policy. Its regional fund has been extremely small as a result. The notion that the more you could do at the national level to solve the regional problem, the more you got from the fund, appears to be the dominating thinking at present within the nine countries. This automatically places small countries like Ireland at a disadvantage because the amount of money available from revenue in an unplanned economy is relatively low. Therefore the amount of money that one could expect is reasonably low. If the Community had ever been serious—which, of course, it was not —about the establishment of a fund it would have established a fund of such a size that it would have shifted capital from its natural investment location to those areas where there were real difficulties and excessive population. This was referred to in the days of the referendum as "moving the jobs to the people rather than the people to the jobs". That became an empty piece of rhetoric.
On page 106, under the heading "Cross-border Studies", the report suggests that Ireland and the United Kingdom agreed to make a joint application for a Community contribution to the costs of cross-Border studies in communications and fisheries. Why these two to the exclusion of other more general items within agriculture? There is the problem as well which occurs to the mind of "bad Europeans" opinions like myself. I am not aware what are the points of common interest in relation to fisheries particularly and their inclusion in this paragraph.
Why has the report no major reference to the very obvious fact that the future long-term development of the fishing industry in Ireland is probably hampered by membership of the European Community rather than aided by it? When I tabled a motion in this House that we discuss the position of Ireland at the Law of the Sea Conference resumed in New York, I felt that whatever gains we might make at the Law of the Sea Conference could be frittered away by obligations which we had acquired by joining the Community itself. Given the fact that the fishing industry within the other member countries has had such a tremendous amount of capital available to it, and the long years of neglect of the Irish fishing industry, we had a lot to lose by moving into harmony with anything like a Community position in the development of fisheries themselves.
Finally, I want to hear of the benefits which indulgence in this education exercise is going to bring. Some time ago I remember documents coming from the Commission. I am particularly referring to a much maligned man, Spinelli, who made an idealistic speech suggesting that the era of growth economics was over and that the era of welfare economics had arrived: no longer would we have the social consequences of harsh martyr decisions manifest within the Community but rather we would see in the Community a new human face, a concern for people. That was before recession. It was the usual holiday of the Community into its humanitarian concern. The residue was available for this little morale building excursion which it regularly takes.
I shall not apologise for my views on the Sixth Report. That will continue to be my opinion. We are not equipped now to assess adequately the impact of joining the European Community to Ireland. My opinion is that the Secondary Legislation Committee, while the staff on it are of excellent calibre, is understaffed and the facilities available to the members are totally inadequate.
I was very glad Senator McCartin interrupted me because it shows that he is interested in the agricultural provisions, but there is a general disinterest in the Houses when discussing reports such as these. The Sixth Report comes before us reflecting an attitude about Europe that has something of an international influenza epidemic about it. Is it severe, very bad, good and so on? Reports to some extent become descriptive documents prepared by people who have been involved in a complex bureaucratic exercise. They are tremendously intelligent people. I read their publication quite regularly when I have time. They prepare these documents. They could be doing something else in many cases. Their work goes largely undiscussed in Ireland.
Supposing we were all "good Europeans". The Minister gave us the little moral suggestion at the beginning of his speech that we were benefiting so much and giving so little that we had it as an obligation on us to be "good Europeans". Is there anything being done to popularise these highly technical reports? I know of fishermen, for example, who are quite unaware of what is available to them. I know of farmers who are unaware of benefits which are available to them.
The mind boggles at the notion in the Taoiseach's submission, which is an ambitious submission, that we should move along to direct elections. In discussing this Senator Yeats raised many questions, not only about direct elections but about the powers of the European Parliament. He discussed the method of election. As I say, the mind boggles at the idea of discussing different systems of election in Ireland at present. I am in favour of the list system. The Joint Committee made a good decision in making their recommendation. The advice given to the Committee by experts proved very valuable and it is probably the best system.
What do the members of what they call the socialist parties in Europe— I agree with some people who regard that appellation with scepticism—want from the Community? The 1973 Conference in Bonn of Socialist Parties had this to say:
The European Community must become a socialist progressive area of the world. The task of developing its social dimensions must be given priority by governments and socialist forces. The Community must not be allowed to become the Europe of dealers and combines. It must serve man Europe must be put on the road to becoming a workers' society.
Later on, in the same communiqué, issued at the end of that congress, they said:
We want a socially just Europe. Every aspect of European integration must be channelled towards this end. The purpose of European integration is to attain a democratic and socially just Europe in which all men can be socially and economically secure, free, at peace and self-reliant and sharing responsibility on equal terms.
It is almost as if we were back at the referendum again. Contrast that statement, which was made in 1973, with the implications of the Tindemans Report with its two-tiered system—a Europe of the strong and a Europe of the weak—with a Europe establishing a social and regional policy to pick up the bits of social disaster left after economic and monetary union rather than a social and economic policy to deal with huge structural problems now.
Mr. Tindemans professed to deal with the short and medium term pros-which had occurred within the Community. I intended giving examples of where he failed to deal with the deep social and economic problems facing Europe at the present time. Any suggestion that there be major institutional reform should come after the advertance to the huge social and economic problems which exist at present.
The flimsy nature of the report itself and of its proposals have been very well illustrated in recent times in the near collapse of the monetary snake which was to form the basis of his two-speed Europe. Politically such a concept is totally unacceptable to the party to which I belong, the Labour Party, because there are many different stages of economic development. At present there are even different levels of decline in member countries of the European Community. This is a situation which requires a commitment to planning and a systematic redistribution of resources. There is not a commitment in the report to such a redistribution of resources to have any major effect in the social and economic problems which exist at present in the Community. The Bonn declaration is socialist, but they are an idealistic group of people, who are, to use a phrase of Tindemans, unrealistic. In their Bonn declaration they say:
European social policy must play an active and forward-looking role if political failures are to be avoided. Europe must develop into a social community.
The Minister referred to some extent to three broad areas of disagreement which had occurred within the Community from time to time. For example, one dealt with defence. The notion that we should become involved in any defence commitment is totally unacceptable. The propositions advanced by the Belgian Prime Minister about relations with the developing countries and the European Community are also unsatisfactory. If I understand the Minister, I am making no attempt to suggest that we as a nation have been sufficiently responsible towards the Third World. In a number of ways we have put selfish interest before genuine international interest. There are products for which we should have allowed Third World countries to develop a market share and we selfishly did not do so. The report, where it deals with the developing world, has a totally unacceptable notion of the new world economic order.
When we had the energy crisis and when the major industrial nations found themselves in what was for them a crisis, what was happening was that the industrial countries which had systematically exploited underdeveloped countries were having the tables turned on them. It was simply a case of the exploited turning on the exploiters. A new world economic order will either be based on greed or it will be based on principles of egalitarianism, that is, allowing the Third World to develop on its own terms. There is nothing in any document I have seen from the Community to suggest that there is the political will within the Community to move towards such concept. Rather I get the clear impression—perhaps I am wrong—that aid will be given to Third World countries certainly, but it would be interesting to know whether such aid generates trade possibilities for the existing developed industrial countries.
Yes, it could for both.
Could for both? Senator FitzGerald seems to misunderstand. I will give him a further example as he seems to enjoy that aspect of applied economics. If the European Community was serious in helping the Third World countries, may I say how they might do it? They may do so by shifting resources, by investing them in fundamental scientific research, enabling fundamental science breakthroughs to be made in the receiving countries, thereby later on enabling such countries to have a spin-off from such fundamental research which would put their technology at an advantage with the host country of aid in the beginning, thereby reversing the relationship. Instead of that it has been the experience of developed and industrial nations that where they have offered technological aid they have offered a dated technological aid and fundamental research can take place in the host country—that is the country of aid—enabling the country that is giving the aid to be always at an advantage in technology with the receiving and developing country. This is referred to in the broad and considerable literature on the subject as the imperialism of technology. The Community are a party to it.
I am grateful to the Minister for having produced this tremendous Sixth Report which has enabled me to remind myself of what was suggested was the human face of the European Community, to remind myself what was claimed as what could be achieved in the name of humanity by the Community. It is with deep sorrow that I notice that when the pinch is felt and as the world economic order moves into crisis, as the tremendously sophisticated Japanese economy shows trouble, as major industrial nations show trouble, one human principle after another is jettisoned in favour of an economic principle.
It is appropriate that we would give so much time, perhaps somewhat incorrectly, to the Tindemans Report because that report puts the cap on it all. It is an invitation to abandon the social face of the Community, to leave those weak nations with troubles behind and to concentrate on moving ahead with the joining together of capital so that we can make greater profit, which was the fundamental reason why the Community was formed in the first place. I strongly suspect that when the Minister is here again presenting the next report much will not have been changed unless a massive expansion in the industrial nations has taken place so that, not for any political reasons but for some vague charitable reasons, they feel like giving something away to their weaker partners and that is the only significant change we will see.
It is very important that we examine developments and lack of developments in the European Community, because Europe itself is I believe at a crossroads and seems to have lost its political direction and its political dynamism. The situation is as serious as at the time of our original decision to join the European Community, and prospects facing Ireland are equally grave in considering the way in which the Community is evolving. For that reason, I would like to thank the Minister for having come to the House today to give us an opportunity of expressing a view on developments in the Community before he goes to the European Council in Luxembourg. I am aware that other Senators wish to express their views so I shall endeavour to be brief and to focus on certain issues.
Before doing that I would like to commend the Minister and his Department on this Sixth Report on Developments in the Communities. These reports have become standard reference works not only in Ireland but in Brussels. I have frequently heard Eurocrats, as they are called, say that the reports from Ireland are the most useful reference, when one wants to know what has happened to a particular proposal or at what stage is a draft directive or regulation. Despite all the literature emanating from the Community every year it is surprising how difficult it is to get actual information about the particular stage of a draft regulation or a draft directive.
Higgins that the way in which we debate these reports—and the parliamentary view on them—is still most unsatisfactory: we had no opportunity in this House of debating the Fourth and Fifth Reports and even this debate today is too general and too diffused. Therefore, I ask the Minister and the House to consider the possibilities of improving the methods of responding to the content of these reports and the fact that they issue twice a year. I suggest that these reports be considered in public by the Joint Committee, perhaps in this Chamber, in a public session which would last for a full sitting day and which would give each member of the Committee and the delegates of the European Parliament an opportunity for a debate on the report.
As I said, I propose to concentrate on three specific issues, first, the issue of why the European Community appears to have lost its political dynamism and direction; secondly, to analyse the proposals and views expressed on economic and monetary union, in particular in the Tindemans Report and, thirdly, to analyse the proposals for institutional reform of the Community. This would include the question of direct elections, the question of the method of appointment of the President of the Commission in January, 1977, and the role of the European Council.
Taking the first issue: what has gone wrong with the European Community, why are so many convinced Europeans very disillusioned and why is Europe apparently so stagnant, so unable to make progress, so irrelevant in many ways to the real economic and social issues of the citizens of Europe? There are many strands to this development. First, it was easier to make progress in the Community when progress concerned implementing what has been called "negative integration", removing customs barriers, removing trade tariffs and such measures as implementing the common agricultural policy, for which there was strong, express Treaty authority with time limits specified. This was the easier part. Also, the economic climate was different in the early days of the Community. It was basically a climate of expansion. Now, the economic climate has changed and the Community is no longer as effective in coping with the particular problems of recession, high unemployment, and of strikingly differing rates of inflation. One only has to remember that more than 70 per cent of the budget of the Community relates to agriculture to realise it could not turn itself in any dynamic way to cope with the particular problems I have mentioned on the scale on which they exist.
However the main underlying reason for malaise, for lack of progress in the Community, is the problem of democracy itself in the western European states. Rather than develop the theme at great length I would like to refer to the analysis—the best I have seen— which is contained in the so-called Spierenburg Report, the report by the Advisory Committee on European Union, established by the Dutch Government. The report was submitted on 1st May, 1975. The Advisory Committee examined the causes of stagnation in the European Community. I quote from what I consider to be the relevant part:
As the influence of public authorities on socio-economic matters has increased, as the demands made on intervention by public authorities and the expectations aroused in that respect have become greater and greater and as the problems facing the public authorities have become ever more complex and difficult, the nation State has to the same extent increasingly become the relevant framework for decision-making or at least has appeared to be so. The contradiction then arises that, while political decision-making is taking place increasingly at national or even regional or local level under the influence of innumerable social phenomena and is seen as a democratic necessity, at the same time the effectiveness of such decision-making, given the increased scale of the problems, is becoming ever more doubtful. European integration is thus taking place in the face of nation states, which appear to be growing not less but more important as decision-making centres as a result of the growth of involvement by the public authorities. The tenacity of the nation state in this respect has been greatly underestimated in recent years. This need not in itself give cause for disquiet if the national governments were also in fact able to tackle effectively the great social and socio-economic problems of the present time. The opposite is, however, the case. The picture which springs to mind is one of national governments which quickly give way under the burden of high pattern of expectations imposed upon them in Western democracies, and which after the scrupulous balancing of interests at a national level no longer have any scope for the give and take which is needed for reaching decisions at Community level.
This picture may be somewhat exaggerated, but it is sufficiently truthful to substantiate the thesis that it is not the strength but the weakness of national governments which stands in the way of the process of European unification. After all, stronger governments would have more scope for negotiation and would thus find it easier to increase the effectiveness of their decision-making by exercising of their powers jointly. The much extended role of the public authorities in Member States also means that the process of integration now depends more than ever on the political will of the governments. In the early days of the EEC it was expected that the mere removal of trade barriers and the resultant interlinking of interests between the Member States would institute a process of political integration, which was an understandable view in the socio-economic conditions at that time. As a result of the increasing government involvement in socio-economic life, however, that automatic mechanism has failed to work. If the governments really wish to make progress in the making of Europe, they will not be able to rely on one or other automatic process but will at every step have to make well-considered and deliberate political decisions.
I apologise for the length of that quotation, but it really sums up the basic problem, the different climate and involvement of Governments, and the need, not so much to expect that certain steps taken will create an automatic process of integration, but for deliberate political will. Indeed, I note in the memorandum of the Taoiseach to the Summit in Rome in December that there was a clear realisation of this difficulty. In paragraph 3 of the memorandum it is stated:
...the key economic decisions and the money to finance them remain firmly in the hands of Member States. Until and unless there is a radical change in both these areas simultaneously, little progress can be made towards the approximation of economic conditions of the Member States and so towards economic integration.
This is a very real problem. We may aspire to certain results but we must have a realisation of the particular climate in Europe today and of the very real difficulties which it poses.
It is against that background that I would like to consider proposals for economic and monetary union. There has been, particularly since 1972, a good deal of discussion on European union; the various institutions have reported and now the latest report is the Tindemans Report. The Minister, in his opening speech, made reference to the key passage in the Tindemans Report which advocates a "new approach" to progress in the field of economic and monetary union. I should like to place the relevant short paragraph on the record of this House. Tindemans stated in the paragraph relating to this new approach:
Within the Community framework of an overall concept of European Union as defined in this report and accepted by the Nine, and on the basis of an action programme drawn up in a field decided upon by the common institutions, whose principles are accepted by all,
(1) those States which are able to progress have a duty to forge ahead,
(2) those States which have reasons for not progressing which the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, acknowledges as valid do not do so,
but will at the same time receive from the other States any aid and assistance that can be given them to enable them to catch the others up.
The Minister this morning went on to say that Prime Minister Tindemans has retracted somewhat from that approach and has said that he has been misinterpreted, which he did at the European Movement Congress in Brusseis. I know that at various European conferences I have attended in the last month or so, apologists for the Tindemans Report say that it was a pity that he put that bit in; it has detracted from the great merit of the report. The interesting thing is that the attitude of those defending the report is that it is a "pity he put it in", because they regard it as a de facto situation, that there is a two-tier Community; that there are countries which are able to progress and are making progress and that this must be institutionalised—if you like, even given respectability. This thesis of Tindemans has been somewhat weakened by the fact that the French franc was not able to remain within the slippery SNAKE and that now indeed the picture is more of one dominant economy, Germany, and other states with different levels of difficulty, but nevertheless great difficulties.
This Tindemans Report has received consideration by the Irish Council of the European Movement in a paper which not only examines the implications of the report but sets it side by side with the reports of the other institutions on European Union. Although Tindemans must be considered and analysed at a very serious level, it would be a pity if it came to be the only report on European Union which was discussed. There are very valuable suggestions, particularly for institutional reform, in the Report of the Commission and in the Report of the European Court, and these should not be forgotten. In the analysis of the Tindemans Report the ICEM pointed to the grave danger if the Community were to adopt a divided approach to economic progress whether in a formal way or even to continue it on a de facto basis. The report looks at the unique position of Ireland. Let me refer to a brief paragraph on page 8 of the report. It is stated that:
There is surely the need to query the harmonisation and equality of application principles under which much Community action is undertaken. This is particularly so with Ireland so substantially different and at so different a starting point to the other Community members. What matters, as Tindemans says, is joint progress towards a common objective. Identical directions from different start points do not lead to the same place. One of the Community's problems may be that is has over-emphasised the harmony of economic routes in recent years and it is only now realising that this produces, at best, parallel progress but not convergence.
This theme is carried on in the report which tries to reverse some of the given wisdom of the Community with its emphasis on harmonisation. The report tries to point up the particular dangers for a country like Ireland, a developing country on the periphery, of partial integration of an integration which involves creating a common market by harmonising certain policies but not providing the substantial balanced development in the Community which would only be realised through a genuine regional and social policy of a scale and magnitude which would reverse the trends at the moment.
Despite the references made by Senator Yeats to the fact that we are such a net beneficiary of aid from the Community from the various funds—such as the Regional Development Fund, the Social Fund, the FEOGA and the particularly large loan recently negotiated to help our balance of payments the gap between us and the average Community of the Nine is widening. We are further behind now than we were in 1972. This is a very serious situation. In 1972-73 we were catching up on the average Community of the Nine; now we are slipping behind again. Therefore, whatever one may say in comparing figures about the aid to Ireland from the various funds, in fact they are not closing the gap. The gap is widening, which is a very serious position for a country like Ireland with our particular problems and with our particular opportunities. Therefore, we need to assess our membership very thoroughly.
I did a study recently for the purpose of contributing to a conference in Germany on the Regional Development Fund. When one examines it, what we get in actual cash terms from the Regional Development Fund is relatively insignificant. The amount allotted for 1975 was £8.30 million to cover 105 projects, the projects being used in order to justify getting the maximum approval from the fund. The actual cash transfer was £2.9 million. In terms of our capital expenditure, of our regional problems, that is a drop in the ocean. The Irish Government should be making an argument that it does not matter quite so much whether it is in terms of a total gift or grant, or in terms of a loan at a somewhat favourable rate, it is the order of magnitude of transfer that is the important thing.
Even if the Regional Fund looks good on paper as a transfer from the developed centre to the periphery it is no good if it is so small as not to matter. It would be better if we could engage in a series of loans at the most beneficial rates, less than market rates, or whatever we could get; but there must be a very substantial transfer if the gap between us and the developed countries of the Community is not to widen further. Therefore on that area there are very substantial problems and we must do considerable homework. We must argue from a position of knowledge and strength if we want to reverse some of the given wisdom of the Community in this area.
The third issue I wanted to refer to was the question of institutional reform, and in particular the matter of direct elections. It is stated somewhat gloomily that there is unlikely to be a decision tomorrow in Luxembourg on the question of direct elections, on the number of seats and on other matters which are left for decision. I would welcome some indication from the Minister of his expectations in this area. The memorandum to the Sixth Report of the December Summit in Rome refers to the question of direct elections by saying at paragraph 13:
As agreed at the 1974 Paris Summit subject to certain reservations, direct elections to the Parliament should be held as from 1978. The dual mandate should be optional.
In the view of the Irish Government the number of delegates representing each member State should be in the same proportion as in Article 138.2 of the Rome Treaty as amended on enlargement of the Community. This is an argument for having 18 Irish seats on the European Parliament as opposed to the present European Parliament Convention's proposal of 13 seats and as opposed to a French proposal for fewer Irish seats. I would put it to the Minister that it is more important at this stage for the European Community that a firm decision be taken on direct elections which allows for the national processes in that regard, than to hold out for an enlargement of the Irish quota. Of course, we would like to sec more Irish seats in the European Parliament: we argue that this gives regional representation. I do not think that that argument is totally supportable. Regions are not evenly or well represented in the Community. If you take Luxembourg, you have Alsace-Lorraine beside it. Comparing them, Luxembourg is grossly over-represented as a region. Similarly, parts of the United Kingdom as regions will be much less well-off than we are.
I would like to mention here the specific case of Northern Ireland. This is obviously not a matter for the Minister but I think it is worth mentioning it for the purposes of comparison. It is my understanding that the present allotment for Northern Ireland will be a matter of two seats. If that is the case there will be no seats for the SDLP, no seats for the minority community. That, in my view, is not power-sharing in a community context. There is a very strong argument for at least three seats being allotted to Northern Ireland. That three compares with a minimum of 13 for our part of Ireland. Obviously, I do not expect the Minister to indicate his bargaining position on that issue. However, I personally would feel that it is better to send 13 good, interested, fighting delegates to the European Parliament rather than delay decisions and be used by others who, for other reasons, want to delay the decision on direct elections so that it is not dealt with at this European Council meeting.
Secondly, there is the matter of the method of appointment of the President of the Commission. Here again the memorandum to the Sixth Report makes reference to this, as the Minister emphasised, fortifying the independence of the Commission and suggests—and I quote from part of paragraph 8:
With a view to further strengthening the Commission in the performance of its role the Irish Government suggest that consideration be given to the following procedure: member Governments would first agree by common accord on a President-Designate for the Commission: he would propose the other members of the Commission: the Parliament would be invited to approve the proposed membership of the Commission: and member Governments would consider the proposed membership, with a view to reaching common accord on appointment of those concerned, only after the Assembly had given its approval.
Tindemans also makes specific reference to the question of the appointment of the President of the European Commission. He advocates an amendment of the Treaty only slightly different from the memorandum of the Taoiseach. Then at page 31 of this report he states:
While we are waiting for this amendment to be made to the Treaty I suggest that the President of the Commission which is to come into office on 1st January, 1977, should be appointed by the European Council at its second meeting in 1976, that he appear before the Parliament and then help the member states to prepare for the Council meeting which will appoint the other members of the Commission.
The meeting tomorrow is the first meeting of 1976. Presumably there are plans for meeting in July which would be the meeting that would have to appoint a new President of the Commission. Again, this may not sound a very considerable advance in institutional terms but I believe that it would be significant in improving European decision-making. It would give a certain authority and cohesion to the Commission and it would reinforce the independence and the role of the Commission. It is important that this particular proposal of Tindemans be embraced wholeheartedly at the European Council and that the appointment of the new President of the Commission is done in this way at the second meeting of the European Council in July.
My final point is in consideration of the European Council itself. The Tindemans Report clearly gives the green light to the further development and further scope of the European Council. There are considerable difficulties involved in this. For example, as a lawyer, and somebody teaching European Community law, I find it very difficult to assess the precise legal significance of the "orienations" of the European Council or indeed, for that matter, of resolutions. I find that this method of approach undermines the independence of the Commission and deprives it of its role in the Treaty, of its initiative as guaranteed by the Treaty. It upsets an important balance, because in so far as the Commission has its initiative it will safeguard the interests of small countries. On the whole, the orientations of the European Council which will matter are the orientations coming from larger countries: they will reflect matter which larger countries want taken into account. The worrisome part of the present strong position of the European Council is that it is giving rise to suggestions from certain member States—for example, the French suggestion of a European Directory—to suggestion of a smaller group of countries who would act in an executive capacity. Presumably the Commission would become some form of secretariat to this smaller directory or executive committee.
These are very dangerous tendencies. They are interdepartmental tendencies; they are two-tier tendencies. They become all the more alarming in a context where the Community may be enlarged. For the reasons given by Senator Yeats I think that the Community should be open to countries like Greece. But if it is open, then the socio-economic problems and the political problems become all the more complex and all the more difficult. It is possible that when we speak of a two-tier Community we might mean a centre core Community, the Community where the States in the Directory rule the economic life of the Community surrounded by a larger Community which is really there for defence purposes which makes the inner Community feel safe, so that you would have an inner and an outer Community.
These are pessimistic assessments of the present trends; they are more warnings of what could happen unless we are alert to the necessity to reinforce the very supranational institutions which are so often criticised by people when they analyse the Community. It is in our interests as a country to reinforce the role of the Commission, to ensure that the Commission has the power of initiative which it has been given in the Treaty. It is of course in our interests to reinforce the European Parliament and to try to get momentum under direct elections. I believe that if the Parliament is directly elected it will take unto itself powers. It has budgetary power; it will take further powers through publicity, through the calibre of people who could go to the European Parliament.
Therefore, I think the European Council as a very minimum must decide in specific terms on the question of direct elections, must decide in specific terms that the new President of the Commission will be appointed, as outlined by Tindemans, at the meeting in July. Thirdly, as a country, we will need to watch very carefully the evolution of the European Council and any attempt by the Council or an inner core of the Council to take strong inter-governmental power which would neither be in the interests of the Community as a whole nor certainly in the interests of this country.
This debate has as a whole tended to focus on Appendix IV of this report. I should like to join in the expression of the other Senators' appreciation of the Minister having made this time available to us for this debate which can have some importance.
I have a rather special approach to this. Could I remind the House of the background to the formation of this European Community? While it is true that the objective of the Community was expressed in economic terms, the inspiration that lay behind those who worked for its establishment was, I think, if I am correct, the establishment of peace on the continent of Europe between peoples who had been fighting for centuries, and they saw this had to come to an end. It was not a materialistic aim. It had the noblest possible aim.
In measuring such economic achievements as have resulted we should look now at the position which existed then which led to their establishing an economic Community, which I believe was part of the intention of the founders of that Community, to achieve not merely the economic union which still remains to be achieved but also a political union which inevitably applies, having appropriate regard, according to the individual member States' particular position, to the defence of the entire Community.
In doing as much as we tend to do on the technical measures which are necessary, and which I believe we all agree are necessary, to strengthen the efficiency of the Community and its institutions, we may be distracting ourselves from a matter of far greater concern. Europe has never been more united than it is at the moment. It has never had a longer period of peace, I think, and yet, in terms of political power and political significance, it has never been weaker.
In this US Presidential year, when the President is by virtue of that fact alone restricted in his capability of manoeuvring, American confidence has been sapped by the decisive defeats by the Communist Powers in various parts of the world. In this situation, where we have a post-imperial Britain coping with great uncertainty with its problems, I wonder are we in Ireland faced with something of a hang-up about neutrality and a hang-up about armament production for utilisation for self-defence as distinct from against ourselves, and are we failing to look at the solid reality? I think it was Cyril Connolly who said that the gardens of the west are closing down. Somebody added "And soon there may be none of them left". I am not presenting the view, because I do not have the capacity or the professional skills to make the assessment, that Solzhenitsyn is right in his judgment that the policy followed by our Government in establishing the agreement in Helsinki has had the effect of strengthening his enemies and the enemies of the values that he cherishes within the Soviet Union. I do not know whether he is right in that. That is a personal assessment. I do not know whether he is right in thinking that the balance of power has shifted so decisively that tomorrow all this debate could end within 48 hours by the simple application of military power.
The most important single task of those who value what is our way of life and the way of life of the peoples of Europe is to look for and achieve a balance of conventional arms. It is only if there is a balance of conventional arms established and maintained that we will avoid the ultimate horror of the use of the nuclear deterrent. The Americans say they have abandoned any attempt to go beyond nuclear parity. Let us accept that that is the position. If these super powers are still at that game, then our position is all the more dangerous. Our position is very exposed indeed if those people are right in saying that the balance of the conventional forces is wrong. In that situation we are utterly distracted from what the strong man ought to do to maintain his house—to defend it, to be aware that his very possessions are in danger. He must look for allies in the defence of that house, as we must look for defence of the institutions in Europe which we value.
There are a lot of conflicting views on the question of what is proper diplomacy. I do not know whether it would be a good thing, a proper objective foreign policy if we had a foreign policy, for the Community to seek, for example, to overthrow the Soviet regime. I do not know that it would necessarily be a good thing that there would result a vacuum which would create greater trouble than the present precarious balance does. What I do know——
The Senator did not say that at the time——
With great respect, I happened to take the great precaution, not wishing to miss one word of the Senator's speech, of going to a room where I could hear it. I put myself beyond the position of interrupting the Senator, so perhaps he would accept that kind of circumstance while I continue to try to develop a very difficult argument for me to develop, as Senator Higgins might appreciate.
If the foreign policy of the west is in any way being distracted in its formulation and elaboration and in the development of a proper conventional defence then we are all engaged in worse than fiddling, which Nero presumably at least enjoyed, while Rome was burning. I do not imagine that even Senator Higgins is enjoying what is going on at this moment, though I must say I enjoyed Senator Higgins when I was listening to him in the other room.
If we are talking about values—and this seems to me to be something that was defective in the Tindemans Report, and the Taoiseach in his submission could not have been expected to anticipate this—there is a great necessity for a consideration of the matter which Senator Higgins, expressly or by implication, constantly questions: whether we have anything valuable in the European Community. If the Community does not have a sense of high purpose—high among these purposes I would put, with Senator Higgins, the question of a social policy—with concern for all the people not merely in this Community but outside it, I would suggest to this House that in some fashion we ought to direct our minds to this very question of what are the values. They are not easy to express. You can express them in historical terms by saying that they are all those things that have come down to us from the Judeo-Christian tradition on the one hand and the Greek-Roman on the other. Valuable progress of a kind which enabled Senator Higgins to study sociology certainly derived from these traditions.
It is not sufficient as did the valuable document that the Irish Council of the European Movement published today, merely to talk about freedom. I have not the precise words used but they are there to be read by all. It is not sufficient merely to talk about freedom of expression and freedom of association and freedom of one kind or another. There is also that aspect in the west, whose value Solzhenitsyn does not fail to point out, the freedom to engage in personal worship, spiritual freedom, which is utterly repudiated, challenged, depressed and cruelly treated in the Soviet Union.
In parenthesis on that, I should like to make a distinction between Marx, who obviously gave, as any student of sociology would know, a new dimension to the meaning of freedom, and what was know even to Aristotle when he said that if a man did not have a sufficiency he did not have a dignified or a worth-while life. The recognition of this matter of freedom is of the very first importance. I do not think this Community will be something for—what was it someone said?—the heroic figure of a hedonist society is the consumer who will not work it. Unless we are satisfied we have got something worth dying for, then we are not going to have anything worth having confidence in. I entirely agree with the view that anything that suggests there are purely materialistic inspirations involved in membership of this Community, though I would wholly accept the view that there have been from the point of view of this Community material benefits gained from membership, is entirely wrong.
But I would think that the Council of Ministers ought to consider the elaboration of what it is. This makes it necessary, for example, to continue examining the charge made by some people that the Helsinki policy has only been an excuse for the strengthening of the totalitarian power in Russia. I am not at all daunted by the thought of pursuing this and I think it is our prime duty to do so. We have great problems and I do not think the Minister touched on them when he spoke here today, nor are they touched on in the Sixth Report. They are implied in the Tindemans Report which is to be considered by the Council of Ministers. The question of how far can we in fact go in accepting, even if we wanted to accept, some of the recommendations, having regard to the manner in which we amended our Constitution and the constitutional questions arising with regard to some of the desirable recommendations of Tindeman has to get a more general consideration than I think it has been given.
The trouble is that it seems to be desirable that the right of the individual to go to the court should be extended. I think this is the sort of human right which would give more value to the institutions and be felt to strengthen the position in the Community generally. But, as I understand the position, we amended the Constitution only to the extent that we accepted the Treaty and the obligations necessitated by it and the obligations necessitated by it are limited to the right of the individual to have access to that court, and if we want to give him a right as against the institutions of the Community we will have to amend our form of referendum.
Then, if we are going to have a foreign policy which is not within the contemplation of the Treaty, if it is to become a matter that we pass away out of the control of the Executive, where it is vested at the moment, that will require a further Treaty amendment. If we want to give what Tindemans calls a real initiative to the Parliament, a co-decision to the Commission, that will involve an amendment of the Constitution.
I wish simply to make my own recommendation that this is not the time for this country or any of the countries in the Community, where their Constitutions so require, such as ours would, to have referenda on the workings of the Community in a time of economic recession, even though we still have, according to public opinion polls, majorities in favour of it. I do not know that these polls can be relied on. There will be great problems attendant on such referenda and I think with regard to a lot of the recommendations, the realisation of the desired objective of getting the institutions made more effcient, it should be done solvitur ambulando as it is in this country.
Take this country. We have a written Constitution, but a written Constitution could not work was there not an unwritten Constitution developing side by side with it. There are all sorts of understandings between, for example, the political parties, that they do not do this in certain situations and that they do not do that in other situations. I searched the Constitution recently in another context for a reference to the words "political party". Where would we have achieved a progress which at the moment we claim we have without the party system operating? A constitutional convention has been growing up side by side with the unwritten one. There are many such, there are all sorts of other constitutional conventions which I could at another time elaborate on, and I would suggest that the Government's policy should be to try to solve these by the elaboration of conventions which would not immediately involve variations in the written Constitution which is there. But the sooner in some fashion, which again can be lying outside the strict legal obligations there is the elaboration of a charter, the better.
The Minister used in the very beginning one phrase which I was slightly horrified to hear him use. I wrote the words "to extort" down. The Minister now says that is incorrect. I accept that is not the spirit of the Minister. I do not think it ought to be our spirit. While we must obviously insist, the matter is quite clear in my mind that there is no question of getting economic union unless we get a well-developed and matching social programme at the same time.
In achieving that, the Minister must recognise the reality. On the Lomé Convention, one of the realities we have got to work on is the inversion in sovereignty that will take place between those countries and our countries over the next 50 years, so great is our dependence upon their resources. There is nothing immoral about recognising realities. Indeed, it is the beginning of morality to start recognising reality.
It is of the greatest importance that it be recognised that the question of social policy and harmonisation cannot proceed at the same rate in every country or in the same way in every country. It is most desirable that a policy for the poor should be adopted which would be universal. Provisions adequate to cover that must first be related to the member State in which it is. I would say that there is an obligation on the member State, when you refer to it as a policy for the poor, to do that anyhow.
There are all sorts of other types of harmonisation which cannot proceed without damage to certain countries. These have been well mentioned in the ICM document. They talk about transport—what is appropriate to Ireland in this respect is not appropriate to the Continent of Europe—fishery limits, fiscal policy, even crafts and company law. When you consider that the vast majority of the companies of this country are close companies, all the talk about work and education would not necessarily apply at all to very many of these companies.
Finally, the diplomatic reality has got to be looked at. It is the people who pay the piper who call the tune. This is a reality which our Government cannot ignore. The League of Nations turned out not to be worth tuppence. It did not recognise the realities of the power enjoyed by the big member States.
Ní bheidh mise rofhada ar an rud seo, ach ba mhaith liom cupla focal a rá air. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh tairbhe don Aire in a lán de na moltaí a thug na Seanadóirí dúinn inniu.
After three years as members of the EEC, it is only natural that we take a look back and see how we have measured up and how we have gained in one way or another since we entered. I am still a firm believer that we did the right thing. We were quite right in advising our people to join up with the Six, not alone for the financial benefits that have accrued but also because of other issues.
For quite a long time in Ireland we have been more or less looking in the one direction towards England so far as selling our manufactured goods is concerned. Consequently, we were working in adverse conditions because we had only the one market. We got an extra window and are now able to look into Europe and ally ourselves with the other eight members. We have diversified in marketing and we have benefited our people very much by doing that. That was a very important decision and one that was not taken lightly by the Irish people. Many people here campaigned in the other direction. They were entitled to their opinions. Seeing that we are committed members in Europe, it is up to all of us to try to make the best of it for our people.
The report presented by the Minister is a very lengthy document of 165 pages and it contains quite a lot of material. I am glad the Minister has come in here and given us the opportunity to review some of the things that have happened since the last report was issued. I find it extremely difficult to keep in touch with the multiplicity of literature and documents that are issued from various Departments. Indeed one would need to have a person who would be able to present them in a more concise fashion where one could read them rather quickly and glean the salient points out of them rather than reading reams of stuff which may not be necessary at all.
It is a fact that on the net issue we have gained financially—roughly about £108 million—by joining the EEC. The farming section of our community has gained very much. This was very much needed because farming is a very hazardous occupation and the incomes derived from farms, in particular small farms, are very low. We have an excellent climate and we produce the raw materials on our farms that are also the basis for many industries that are progressing here. In that way we are able to keep many of our people in our own country, in particular people who are employed in milk powder factories, meat processing, creameries, buttermaking and cheese-making. These are all basic industries and essential to provide job opportunities for the people who have been reared on farms and who would not be able to find employment in our big cities and towns. By joining the EEC we have improved our situation immensely in that respect.
We should not lose sight of this because farming is only developing in this country. I am sure those who are well up in farming would admit that in many aspects we are far behind the standard achieved on European farms. We are probably suffering from lack of capital. At a time such as this when we have been only three years in the EEC, resources should be poured into agriculture and we should go very slowly about imposing any additional tax burden or any other hardships on a developing industry such as farming. When the farmer looks around him and sees that people are starting up new industries and getting Government grants and various types of aids, naturally he must think of the difficulty he is faced with having no fixed hours, no holidays and for far too often during his lifetime being forced to sell in markets that are very unreliable. Sometimes prices are good and sometimes they are down to rock bottom.
I think, too, that in the EEC the farming community, like other sections of the population, do their best to try to keep an eye on what is happening in the method and the way in which it effects them financially. Things have improved within the last 12 months. Whether it is that it was not put across properly to us, it seemed to quite a lot of farming people in this country that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was not strong enough in dealing with the importation of cattle from outside EEC countries. When we voted to join the Common Market we thought we would be protected and that there would be no competition except from countries within the EEC.
It was a grave mistake to allow the importation of cattle from eastern countries, thus depressing the home price at a time when they were just beginning to find their feet. They received a severe blow last year. We know that meat factories, co-operatives and so on cashed in on the position and made large profits, but the farmer was denied such benefit. Very often the intervention price was not passed back to the farmer or the producer. The Minister and his staff should ensure in all negotiations in Europe that the interests of the Irish farmer are protected. We are on the edge of Europe and therefore have high transport costs, so they must ensure for us a fair deal in all negotiations.
Another matter referred to in the report is election to the European Parliament. A list of representatives is given at the end of the document. They have a difficult task, and I should like to compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the good work done by him during his term of presidency. Any Deputy or Minister who travels abroad to meetings should not be hamstrung or tied in any way. They should be given every assistance and an efficient back-up service to ensure that they can reach the right decisions to the best of their ability. It is not fair that Members of either the Dáil or Seanad should have to attend also at the European Parliament for serious deliberations. These men must also keep in touch with their own constituencies.
The time has come for direct elections to that Parliament, and we should have strong representation in it. I ask the Minister, when this matter is being discussed, to do all he possibly can to try to lighten the load of our European representatives. There should be a column in our daily newspapers giving an account of what is happening in the European Parliament in the same way as Dáil and Seanad debates are reported, because many people are unaware of the Herculean work being done by our representatives. Remember, they are Members of a Parliament comprising some of the best brains in Europe. As full Members of that Parliament our representatives should be relieved of the responsibilities of their constituencies. I do not know how this could be worked out, but nothing can be gained by waiting for another five, six or ten years for this to happen. As we are in the Community they should be properly equipped and given all the help necessary to enable them to give a good performance.
People do not realise the difficulties in travelling backwards and forwards to Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. It is difficult to give a satisfactory performance in such circumstances. Members must endeavour to be present at all meetings to ensure that the best decisions are taken for our welfare, and the best way of doing that would be to have direct elections, whatever system is adopted for securing them.
We are disappointed at the amount of the Regional Fund and we think it should be much larger. As I said, we are situated at the edge of the Community; being an island we have transport and other difficulties. We thought the Regional Fund would be of considerable assistance to us but we have been extremely disappointed with it. The Minister should endeavour to secure an improvement in the provisions.
There has been reference in the report to cross-Border co-operation. We are both part of the one country. Some of our largest rivers are common to both parts. This is an unnatural border and there are many matters on which we could co-operate, particularly in regard to tourism. We should do everything possible to ensure that at all times there is the maximum amount of co-operation possible.
With regard to our fishing industry, many of our partners in the EEC have greater finance available to them and they pose a real threat to our fishermen. There must be more help for this industry. I know it is difficult to safeguard existing jobs and to secure more employment in the future. None of us likes to see people unemployed. We would all like to see more job opportunities being created here by some of the member states. Why should our people have to seek jobs in Germany, France or in any other country. Some of the Continental factories should set up here and create jobs for our people.
One thing that has struck me very forcibly over the last two or three years is the need for a knowledge of one or more Continental languages. For many years German, French, Spanish and Italian have been taught in our secondary and vocational schools, but for some reason unknown to me the Department of Education seem to be unable to provide for oral classes in German and French. Language is a means by which our thoughts are conveyed to somebody else. To be good Europeans we must have a good knowledge of their languages. We should not be sending our representatives to Europe without one word of French, German, Italian or Spanish. These very same people boast to their friends that they passed the leaving certificate or have university degrees. We have our national language and we have English, but surely we should be able to keep an eye on this important matter. People will feel inferior. We should not send people out there who feel in any way inferior. I do not mean that everyone going out there should be proficient in every language, but they should have a third language. It should be an essential qualification.
I wish the Minister well in his deliberations tomorrow.
I should like to join with the other Senators who have thanked the Minister for Foreign Affairs for making himself available this afternoon. It is a very useful exercise. I welcome the opportunity of considering this Sixth Report on the workings of the European Economic Community. I hope this practice will be continued. One of the ways of making this House and people generally more aware of the workings of the EEC is to have reports like this available for discussion by the Seanad, which is peculiarly suited to a discussion of this type.
I found the report an interesting and revealing document, interesting because of the amount of substance it contained in regard to the numerous activities of the European Economic Community and its various institutions, and revealing because of the lack of progress in certain very important areas, particularly in regard to political integration and economic and monetary union —basic requirements if the ideal of a European union is to be fulfilled. While it is easy to be critical of the failure to achieve economic and monetary union it is only fair to say that there have been very important significant inhibiting factors. One has been the economic crisis of the past two or three years. Secondly, there has been the demonstrable weakness of certain of the institutions of the EEC and particularly the European Parliament, about which a number of contributions have been made today.
The time is appropriate—and the Taoiseach said that in his contribution to the December meeting of the European Council—for stock to be taken of the progress of the EEC to date. The weaknesses is in the institution and other organisations of the EEC should be strengthened where necessary. It might be no harm to take a quick look at some of the objectives as set out in the Treaty of Rome. It is relevant to much of the discussion that has taken place today. It is as well to remember why the Treaty of Rome was signed and why we and other countries adhere to it. Earlier, Senator Alexis FitzGerald spoke of the idealism which prompted the founders of the EEC to move towards the integration of Europe. It could be said that they were very sensible and pragmatic gentlemen. They realised that idealism would not support an organisation of states like the European Economic Community and that something more was required in political, economic and social institutions. May I quote:
The Community shall have as its task, by setting up a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of member States, to promote throughout the Community a harmonious development of economic activity, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increase in stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and close relations between the member States belonging to it.
Notwithstanding the difficulties, some of which I have referred to—some foreseen, others unforeseen—and in the face of a major world-wide depression, the Community has considerable successes to its credit, primarily, the setting up of a customs union within the scheduled period and, secondly, the establishment of the common agricultural policy, which got more prominence in this country than some of the other achievements of the Community. If we look at it purely from the point of view of material success it is true to say that this country has done remarkably well out of the common agricultural policy. I would not like to think that we would be solely guided by what we are getting out of the Community, but it is fair to say that the farming community, and through the farming community the economy in general, has benefited very substantially from the common agricultural policy.
As of now the economic and monetary union may appear a long-term, even an unrealistic, objective. But without it the concept of a united Europe as visualised by the founding fathers would remain unrealised—at best a prosperous trading group of associated states; at worst a conglomerate of disparate countries pursuing the time-honoured, or perhaps dishonoured, philosophy of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, the hindmost being the weaker nations, of which of course Ireland would be one.
I do not suggest that the Community should expedite its progress towards EMU at all costs. Progress should be made with a full realisation of all the implications involved and be seen to be a fair and equitable arrangement in favour of all the members of the Community. In that regard the first most obvious and most desirable development would be the implementation of a regional policy, something which has been talked about, preached about, and generally discussed at great length in this country and the other less-favoured countries of the Community. Unless assistence is given to the peripheral areas—Scotland, Italy and Ireland—a continuous pull and push of people and capital towards the industrialised centre of the Community will take place.
It is quite useless talking about an economic union much less a political union, unless the peripheral areas can be brought up to the level of the wealthier nations. Then and only then can there be a true European union of states, equal in prosperity and equal in every other facet. Furthermore, it is necessary that an effective social policy be implemented for the migrant workers from the outlying areas to the centre of Europe. These are workers like the Italians, the Greeks, the Portuguese and the Spaniards.
The Irish perhaps?
Possibly the Irish. I mention this because we appreciate what migration and emigration mean to a country. It was not so many years ago when the Irish-speaking Irish suffered so much in the Bowery of New York and the back lanes of London, unwanted, lonely and lost in a vast expanding economy.
That is one of the greatest social problems that concerns the EEC today and I hope it is one of the subjects on which emphasis will be laid in the years to come. That is very much in the context of the preamble, including one of the objectives of the EEC which I quoted a few minutes ago. I realise that it is going to be difficult to achieve equality of nations; but without it we cannot have, as I understand it, a realisation of the dream of a Europe of equal partners.
Almost every Senator has referred to the Tindemans Report, and quite understandably. We should be fair to Tindemans. He was asked to submit a report. He did submit a report. I am quite certain he understood that it would not be accepted unanimously, or even accepted without some severe criticism. The best way to look at his document would be to accept it and to use it as a critical document to improve the institutions of the Community. If it did nothing else it probably helped to put a little bit more political fire into the political belly of the Community, a Community which some people think, having now lost its earlier impetus, is tending to languish. It needed something like the Tindemans Report to bring everybody concerned to their senses, to realise that everything was not perfect in the institution and that some radical changes would have to be made if the ideal of the founders of the Community were to be realised.
Several Senators referred to the question of a two-tier system and rightly opposed it. The two-tier system, as we, one of the weaker nations would visualise it, would be the stronger nations marching ahead while the weaker ones got handouts to keep them happy, but to keep them at a relatively slower growth rate of progress towards equality with the stronger nations. That is not what the EEC was intended to do or to be by the founding fathers. Obviously, that is not going to suit everybody.
Far better to do what I mentioned earlier: to bring the weaker nations up to the level of the stronger nations so that we will have in the EEC a community of equal states. That should be the ideal. In any legislation or economic moves made by the Commission, Council or Parliament, that ideal should be kept in mind all the time. There should be no alternative or second thoughts on the ideal of equality.
There have been references too to the question of defence and security, something this country would want to know a lot more about before making any commitments. There is what appears to be a tendency to downgrade the Commission, to abate the right of initiative which the Commission now enjoys. That would be a disaster. The Commission to a large extent is the keeper of the conscience of the Treaty of Rome and should be maintained as such. It is vastly important for all the countries, but particularly for the weaker members of the EEC, that the Commission's role in that regard should be preserved at all costs. Its right of initiative and its standing and status should be preserved whatever other changes are made in the Council or in the Parliament of Europe. It is very important.
I agree with the Senators who talked of the method for nominating the President, subject to the approval of the Parliament. That is a good thing. It is one section of the Tindemans Report which should be implemented. The great danger about the Tindemans Report is that it may be used by the larger and stronger nations to continue to push their rate of progress ahead and to maintain it ahead of the weaker nations. Any tendency in this regard must be resisted at all costs by the representatives of the smaller nations, of which our must be one.
Plans, programmes, policies and pronouncements cannot of themselves produce results. These can only be accomplished by the desire and application of the public will to the achievement of stated aims. In the democratic system the essential vehicle for the implementation of the public will is a representative and broadly based Parliament. The matter of paramount importance at the moment, apart from the ideals of political and monetary union, is the question of direct elections to the European Parliament and the giving of more teeth to that institution.
If we are to participate in the working of the European institutions it is essential that the people as a whole become more involved in the work of the Community. I know of no other way in which the electorate can become involved until they have the right to vote for their representative in the European Parliament. This is the impetus required at this stage in the evolvement of the Community to give it new life, new idealism and new emphasis. The Parliament of Europe could be a catalyst in the further leap forward of the European Community. This is the thing, above all else, that we should push for.
I know the Minister's own views on the question of direct elections by 1978 and I am certain that he, and I hope a majority of the other states, would pursue this, because it is vitally important to the success of the Community. There is nothing more likely to give it new life, to breathe new life into it, than the actual participation of all the people. Sadly, even though we read about the EEC from time to time in some of the Irish newspapers—some give more publicity than others to the affairs of Europe— nobody really feels involved in the working of Europe. If they read that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries got another tuppence for milk or something more for beef, or that the green £ has been devalued again, and so on, that is important to a certain sector of the Community. But the people as a whole do not feel involved and they cannot feel involved unless they can exercise a democratic right and vote for their representative. I am sorry for over-emphasising this point but I feel very strongly that direct election is an absolute necessity to the further progress of the Community.
In about a fortnight's time it will be the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the first move towards economic union—the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community. Many things have happened in the world since then, not only in the Community but also in the outside world, particularly in what is being termed the Third World. We have seen new nations emerging, throwing off the yokes of empire and standing on their own feet. The European Community has a tremendous part to play in assisting the peoples of the Third World out of their present poverty and giving them the opportunity to live full and satisfactory lives. Europe itself has, first of all, to solve its own problems. Its own peripheral areas must be brought up to the level of the others. Then the united Europe, united equally with all its states, would be a driving force to assist the Third World. Europe has a tremendous part to play in the further development not only of its own economies but of the world economy, particularly in helping the Third World.
I believe that all countries could, and would, give more to a united and peaceful Europe, advancing the progress and standards of all its people and helping to raise the standards of poor people, if the people in each country were more directly involved. I will come back to that point again. This can only be ensured by direct elections to the Parliament of Europe, thereby bringing the affairs of Europe to the man in the street. After all, Strasbourg is much closer to Dublin, Cork and Limerick than Westminster was to these cities 60 years ago.
It was agreed that the Minister should come in at 4.30. It is now almost that time so I have to call the Minister.
I regret that it is necessary to intervene at this stage of the debate. I regret that the House has other business. The debate seemed long enough for all those who wanted to participate to do so before I had to leave. The views that have been expressed have not only been very useful and constructive on the Sixth Report itself but have in all cases of those who have referred to it, been helpful with regard to the Tindemans Report and direct elections. These two major issues should be coming up for discussion at the European Council tomorrow and the next day. I am sorry therefore that it is not possible for me to be here for the remainder of the debate and to give further encouragement and further assistance in order to advise the Taoiseach with regard to the line that will be taken in these discussions over the next few days.
I want, first of all, to deal with what has been said about the Sixth Report itself and points arising from it. With regard to improvement in the report, Senator Yeats suggested that, in respect of one passage, it was a pity that the fact that changes had been made in the original proposals and that this had been achieved as a result of the European Parliament's efforts was not mentioned. I agree with this. We should try in the report to note where the European Parliament has had a particular impact. It is one of the hidden features of the whole system. Because the European Parliament's impact is made after the Commission's proposals are put forward but before they are finally discussed in the Council of Ministers and then amended, very often the European Parliament gets no credit for its work. There is no point at which this is ever highlighted in the papers so that the public can get an assessment of how much of an impact it is making on legislation. The least we can do here is to try to bring this point out. I welcome that suggestion and I will certainly bear it in mind.
Senator Yeats also said that he would like to see more references to the position taken up by Ireland on particular issues. Again, this is a suggestion that has been made here previously. It is one which we have tried to implement and we will continue to try to implement it more fully. It is difficult to do. It is difficult to know just where one starts bringing in the particularised stance. There are some inhibitions about disturbing the flow of a factual report by tending to bring in a particular national viewpoint; yet we ought to be trying to get across in this report the particular positions which we have taken up. We are doing it much more than we have in the past. There is still room for improvement and we shall bear this in mind in the future.
I thank Senator Robinson for what she said about the value of these reports and the international recognition they have received. They are used in Brussels and in other capitals as the best guide to what is happening in the Community. Considering the small resources we have here and the maximum resources available to other countries, the fact that they have achieved this status is a great compliment to the work of the officials of my Department, who have worked so hard on the preparation of them, and so willingly also, trying to improve them in response to the criticisms and suggestions made in this and the other House.
I regret, in relation to what Senator Robinson has said, that we did not have debates here on the Fourth and Fifth Reports and I hope we can arrange this in future. I assure the House of my availability for debates on these reports. I know there are problems of arranging business and there are problems of my absence from the country from time to time. But certainly I would be willing to work closely with the Leader of the House to try to ensure that each report is debated here and indeed that other aspects of our foreign policy will get the opportunity of being discussed in this House, which always has such constructive contributions to make in matters of this kind.
Coming to points raised in the debate, I will deal first of all with them before coming on to the major issues of the Tindemans Report.
Senator Yeats expressed concern at the cuts which were made in the social budget as recently proposed by the Commission. We, too, are concerned about this. We fought very hard to prevent these cuts, and we greatly welcome Parliament's restoration of as much as it could of the cuts. When Parliament did propose a restoration we tried to get the Parliament's proposals agreed in toto and to prevent them being cut back in the final round of the negotiations.
The social budget is important to us. As was pointed out by several Senators, it is one from which we do benefit. Senator Higgins, who had many harsh things to say about the Community, felt that social policy is making an important contribution here. It is important therefore that the resources should be available to it, and we will continue to work hard for that. The problem here of course, as in so many other areas, is one of trying to get all the countries to stand aside from their own interest and to look at the needs of the Community as a whole. There is still the problem of decision making. This country can either exercise a veto or it can so vote, if there are several countries doing so and if the qualified majority system is in use as it is in the budget council, as to prevent resources being made available; and sometimes narrow views of national interest and protection of the national taxpayer tend to prevail.
Senator Yeats had some criticisms to make about the equal pay situation. Because of the time element and because it is being debated elsewhere I do not propose to go into this in detail here. He did make one point as if it were a great criticism, and that is that we do not seem to know how many people will be affected. I take the opportunity of saying, quite bluntly, that not only do we not know how many people will be affected with any precision, but there is no way we could know. This is the great problem about this issue. The question whether work is equal in any particular plant is a matter of fact to be established.
It can be established only when somebody starts to claim that it is equal, and that claim has to be examined and considered and perhaps brought to some tribunal to decide. That process has not begun anywhere yet in any Irish industry or sector, and therefore there is no way of knowing what the scale of the problem is. This when we look for a derogation or for financial aid creates a very serious problem for the Government. The assessments that have been made of the scale of the problem, which vary widely and I might almost say wildly, are ones which all have to be guesses and they could all be wrong.
I hope that there will be some clarification soon.
The clarification will come only when the issue arises in practice and people make a claim and the claim is established as being valid or not valid. It will be quite a while before that situation can be clarified in that way. In the meantime it would be impossible to assess the scale of the problem. I want to take the opportunity to make that one point, which is not widely understood.
On the question of EEC loans a question was asked about it and the conditions, as they are referred to, proposed by the Commission. There is confusion here. Senator Yeats raised this. The fact is that there is confusion between two different things. Conditions that would apply as a general plan to all such loans if they were to be raised were discussed and settled a year ago in the Community, but the conditions specifically relating to this country came up only at a much later stage and the document to which Senator Yeats referred must refer to the general discussions that took place on this question and which led to a decision adopted by the Council on 17th February, 1975. This was a decision establishing the Community loan scheme, not related to any particular country but only to the money being raised for the purpose. That is the document which the Senator saw.
I saw that anyone who used these loans would have to cut down on their borrowings.
No, these do not relate to particular countries and what policies they have to follow. That is a separate issue which arises when a country applies for a loan. The first discussion on that did not take place until in the Monetary Committee on 28th November, 1975, and the conditions were decided upon by the Commission only on 11th February of this year and approved by the Council on 16th February this year. The question of these conditions is something which is of very recent origin.
Secondly, the conditions are the policies of this Government adopted prior to consideration of this matter by the Monetary Committee, by the Commission, by the Council. It is a policy we have adopted with a view to getting our finances into order again after the critical problems that have been raised by the world economic crises which have pushed the finances of every country in the world into difficulties, except the oil-producing countries of course. The conditions laid down are simply the Irish Government's policy in respect of this, which the Commission regarded as proper and adequate and as therefore being the kind of items that could be listed as conditions in relation to the loan.
Of course, three years too late.
Sorry, I cannot offhand, without No. 3 in front of me, reply to that particular interruption of the Senator and I had better not reply to many interruptions or I shall miss my plane, which I think anyway would be to the nation's disadvantage. Not all Senators may agree.
Senator Yeats may feel that I or this country had mental reservations about Greek membership. We have none. I agree with the Senator that Greece will be an enthusiastic and active member with common interests with us and one which will, not merely in relation to matters like regional policy, share an interest with us, but will share in our overall positive approach to the development of the Community.
There are two points about Greek membership, nonetheless, that we have made, and I think rightly. One is that the resources of the Community must be expanded to allow for the extra costs involved so that existing members benefiting from the particular funds do not lose. That is an obvious precondition of membership which, naturally, we alluded to and which I do not think will create a great problem. When I raised it in the Council of Ministers it did not seem to create great difficulties for my colleagues.
The second point is a more difficult and subtle one. It is that the decision-making system of the Community at present is simply not working, because of the abuse of the veto in every matter of minor detail by a number of countries. If the Community is enlarged indefinitely without doing something about this a stage is reached where the Community ceases to operate altogether. The fact is that the original Six should have taken firm decisions about decision-making before we joined. Even the enlargement adding Ireland, though we have not been a difficult country, and also Britain and Denmark, adding these extra members to a group of six countries already in difficulties about taking decisions has slowed down the process. If you are going to continue the enlargement process and not improve the decision-making system, then the whole system may get clogged up altogether. We are anxious that this matter be settled now. This is something which comes up on the question of Greek membership. There is no question of our being in any way other than anxious to see Greece a member.
On the question of VAT Senator Yeats suggested I was minimising the problem of the need for customs if you were going to have different VAT rates. The Senator has a point that if their are to be widely different VAT rates then the process of internal control of these without external control at the frontiers, as in the United States, would become a problem. I wanted to make the point that the mere existence of certain differences in VAT rates does not of itself require a customs system. The United States has differences in taxation, quite significant in some cases, and it does not have customs. It has laws saying it is illegal to bring things across the State line without paying the sales tax, and that no doubt is controlled by the police in the ordinary way without having a special customs force. No doubt the Community will come to that in time.
On the question of footwear I was asked what was the latest position with regard to that. The consultants appointed by the steering committee set up to monitor the problems in the footwear industry have submitted a report on certain aspects of reorganisation. This was conveyed to the Commission on 3rd March, 1976.
On the question of cross-border studies I was asked by Senator Yeats why it had taken so long to agree them. It took so long to agree them because it takes two to agree. We found, frankly, that the British Government for reasons of their own had difficulty in agreeing to a project or projects over quite a long period. I think this was because they had feared that by agreeing to these at a particular moment it might have disturbed Loyalist opinion in Northern Ireland at critical periods when decisions were being taken or might be taken there, for example, by the Convention in part of the period or in relation to the establishment of the Assembly several years earlier. It is certainly not our fault that the delays took place. We never ceased to press to have these studies arranged, and they have now been arranged.
Is there any possibility of these being enlarged to other areas?
Other studies could be undertaken subsequently. These two have been agreed to start with. They are by no means the end of the road. When we get these off the ground, we can come back and see what else may be done. The communications study in Donegal is one which of its nature requires a study of the future economic developments of the Donegal-Derry region and which is fairly extensive. I am asked what our common interest is. Our common interest relates to the conservation of fish supplies, of particular kinds of fish in the Irish Sea on the east coast. This is an area where we and the United Kingdom Government on behalf of Northern Ireland have a common interest.
On regional policy, a number of Senators spoke of their disappointment with the scheme. The House knows how much I and the Government share that disappointment, not merely with the amounts of money in the scheme but with the fact that the scheme is unaccompanied by anything that could conceivably be called a regional policy, other than certain restraints on the scale of investment aids to central areas, which is of some help to peripheral areas, and also by the fact that even the mechanism of the scheme is unsatisfactory. The system under which you have to apply each year for grants to be approved in that year, and if you wish to get any money back in that year from those applications the things you apply for must be things which actually happen within the year, means in the case of industrial projects that it is virtually impossible to apply for a grant for industrial projects that have not got underway. Otherwise it would not have got far enough during the 12 months ahead of you to collect any money. The scheme as devised is quite unsatisfactory and should be substantially revised and reviewed before the next round.
A more general question was raised on fisheries, but I should not get involved in this debate and the general question of the Law of the Sea Conference in relation to the EEC beyond saying that the Government are naturally concerned to build on the important development in the Commission's thinking involved in the idea of exclusive zones of 12 miles around the coasts of member states. Clearly in our case the 12 miles is inadequate, given the conservation problems and given the way in which fishing has been carried on in the immediate vicinity of the 12-mile line, which has had the effect of diminishing supplies dangerously. The question of this negotiation and the interaction from the Law of the Sea Conference negotiation and the EEC negotiation is an extremely important one to which the Government are at present giving priority.
We have here a partial and significant common interest with the United Kingdom and may be able to work with them and will be taking up similar positions to them. This is a matter which may be raised in the next couple of days, at least in a preliminary way. We would wish if possible to harmonise our policy with them, so that in an area where the other seven members tend to take a divergent view at least two of us are talking as far as possible with the same voice and there will be discussions going on between our two Governments on this matter.
Does that mean before or after the Law of the Sea Conference?
The Law of the Sea Conference session is continuing at present. It will not conclude in this session, if it ever concludes. The issue we are primarily concerned with is the Community policy, which is of course related to the Law of the Sea Conference, because part of the reason for their bringing forward to an earlier date the review of the EEC fisheries policy is the desire of the Nine to take up common positions at the Law of the Sea Conference at a later stage. It is interaction. The primary thing now is the review of the EEC policy.
The final point before I come to the Tindemans Report is the reference by Senator Higgins and Senator FitzGerald to a relationship with the Third World, the developing world. Senator Higgins is critical of the Community's attitudes here to some degree, though without going into detail, and indeed of our own attitudes, and I think rightly so. I do not think that we or any other European country have yet been willing to face up to our full responsibilities in this matter. Having said that I think it would be wrong not to draw attention to the remarkable evolution in the thinking of industrialised countries that has taken place in the last two years. The shock effect of the oil crisis combined with the growing militancy of the developing countries of the United Nations has forced industrial countries to take this problem seriously.
The evolution in policy since the energy councils in Washington in February, 1974, right through the succeeding two years and through last year's difficult negotiations preparatory to the North-South Conference which is now getting under way in Paris—all this has seen the flexibility of the economic and political system of our part of the world in facing up to these problems. It has also shown the way in which the European Community has greater sensitivity to these issues, greater flexibility, greater dynamism, and the leadership in the evolution of the thinking of the industrialised world away from consultation and towards seeking agreement on the new world order.
That inspiration, that leadership, has come from the European Community; and we have done our part, small though it necessarily is, in contributing to that. Those who see the Community as a rich man's club and talk in those antiquated terms which never represent the reality of it are simply not facing the fact that so far as the industrialised world is concerned the progressive leadership is coming from the Community. Of course, it is not enough. Of course it is much later than it should be. But at least among the countries of the industrialised world it is the Community that is giving this leadership. It would be ungenerous not to note that fact and unrealistic not to record it.
Senator Alexis FitzGerald referred to the fact that before long we may find that it is they who are exploiting us rather than we exploiting them, that it is they who will have the stronger economic position vis-à-vis us. This could come about. Europe particularly, with its enormous volume of external trade, is very dependent upon raw materials from developing countries. The whole life of Europe is built on the processing of raw materials and the exporting of many of the products thus produced. That dependence has hitherto not been a major problem until the oil crisis, because the suppliers of raw materials are in most cases fairly numerous. They have not been able to get together, to "gang up" on the rich countries which do the processing, and hitherto the industralised world has got away with it. It will not get away with it indefinitely. The signs are there. We have to face the fact that a different kind of economic relationship has to come about between the industrialised countries of the Third World, and if we do not work towards that peacefully and constructively we will find, as Senator FitzGerald has warned that it will be imposed on us at some stage in the future.
I want to turn now to the issues to do with the Tindemans Report that have been raised in the debate. I will start with direct elections. I note what has been said by a number of Senators about the importance and urgency of getting agreement. That was a very notable feature of the debate. The Irish Government and I share this concern. We have particular reasons domestically. Senator Dolan referred to this. The strain imposed on Irish Parliamentarians of trying to undertake the dual mandate, bearing in mind their exceptional vulnerability within their own constituencies and competitions within their own parties, which is unique of course in the European Community, means that we have a particular reason of our own for wanting this to happen even if there were not reasons related to the future development of the Community. I agree with the speakers who have said that it is through direct elections that the Community will make progress in the period ahead. Once there is a directly elected Parliament there will be a new source of pressure on Governments which could bring the present doldrums to an end. We must therefore try to ensure that this proposal gets off the ground.
Some Senators have suggested that we should reconsider our position about the number of seats if this were to become the obstacle to agreement. It is not the only obstacle to agreement. There are other countries which are seeking other changes, changes indeed which, in the case of what the French Government has proposed, could reduce our representation down to six. It is not just a question of our lifting our claim to a larger representation and by a wave of that wand producing agreement. If that were the case, if it were as simple as that, we would have to take our responsibility very seriously; but it is not as simple as that. The negotiation may well be difficult, and it is more probable than not that agreement will fail to be reached at this meeting.
Our concern here is that we entered into the Community on the basis of a European Parliament in which we had just over 5 per cent of the seats. While we fully accept the principle of one man, one vote, in any ultimate evolution of the Community and could accept it at any stage in a bi-cameral system, if others would agree to establish a bi-cameral system, with an Upper House of equal representation, cannot we readily agree to a reduction in our shared representation uncompensated by the evolution of any bi-cameral system of any Upper House in which our interests could be legitimately and properly safeguarded—as, for example, the interests of American States are safeguarded in the American Senate with equal representation of Rhode Island and California. Therefore, as there is at the moment no disposition to consider a bi-cameral system, we must be slow to depart from trying to ensure that we maintain our share of representation.
Then there is the problem of servicing committees, already an intolerable burden on those whom we send out from here to represent us. This is a complex problem. I note what has been said about it and I hope that agreement can be reached on it at this meeting or certainly at the meeting in July. I hope also that there will be no delay from the date in May of 1978 that has been set by the last meeting of the European Council.
On the question of the powers of Parliament Senator Yeats suggested that the Taoiseach's submission to the last European Council was somewhat vague. I do not think he was vague. He was precise in so far as he spoke of giving legislative functions to the European Parliament. He did not spell out in detail what legislative functions in relation to which matters. It would have been premature indeed to do so. What is at this stage involved is getting agreements to this principle and there is not at present agreement to this principle. Unfortunately there are some Governments which are not willing at this point in time to see the Parliament exercising a legislative role. I accept the interesting point Senator Yeats made that the European Parliament has a significant influence on legislation. We argued, and there may be something in it, that in practice it has a greater power than our Houses of the Oireachtas have given the party system of government that we have here, that we inherited from Britain. I think that is true. The European Parliament does have an influence on legislation. But I believe it should have power and that power should be a power of co-decision, as one other Senator suggested as a possible solution. That is, that the concurrence of the Parliament would be required with the proposals of the Commission and the decisions of the Council of Ministers before something becomes law. It is in that direction that we should be moving.
On the question of the choice of a President of the Commission this is something which, as has been pointed out by Senators, our Government proposed in the Memorandum of November last to the European Council. The formula by which it is done is not a matter that we would argue about in great depth if it can be agreed that the President is chosen first, that there is an element of parliamentary approval and that he has some role in the process of consultation leading to the choice of his team. If we can get that off the ground at this stage, this will be worth while.
The exact stage at which he goes to Parliament, where he is appointed, when he has his team and what kind of parliamentary approval, if any, is required—these are matters for discussion and debate. We want to launch the idea of the Presidency of the Commission in the hope that this would stem the erosion of the Commission's prestige and functions which has been taking place over the years and even in the period since we joined the Community. This is something we shall be pressing for later.
Senator Robinson and Senator Russell referred to the problem of the erosion of the powers of the Commission and one Senator referred to it in relation to the European Council itself. I made some reference in my opening remarks to this. We recognise the European Council as a body whose coming into existence does pose some dangers. In that Council the tendency is, and will continue to be, I fear, that certain heads of Government make proposals out of which emerge what are called orientations but not decisions. These orientations are then felt to be absolutely binding.
A good example of that was the orientation of the Summit immediately preceding the first European Council, a similar type body, about regional policy. What was decided there became so fixed that the Council of Ministers then decided that the expenditure must be categorised in a particular way for European Parliament purposes as being obligatory expenditure which prevented the European Parliament from hearing it, on the basis that once the heads of Government had decided something by an orientation it was so final that nobody could even discuss or question it. If that is what an orientation means it is a very serious thing to have happening without a proposal of the Commission preceding it. The working of the European Council is therefore, a matter of concern to us, particularly in its relationship to the function of the Commission.
On the question of the two-tier system, it was suggested that I had let Mr. Tindemans off lightly. Mr. Tindemans did develop his thinking and explained it at the European Movement meeting. I think it is worth quoting what he said in that regard. He said that far from wanting to accentuate the difference which exists today between two categories of Community members, he wanted to put an end to it by giving all countries a role in the decision making about the "source". He then went on to say that in order to emerge from the deadlock the method suggested should mean in concrete and practical terms that the Council of the Community acting on proposals from the Commission would have to settle the terms with the communication of the "snake". He also stressed the need to strengthen all the mechanisms of the State and added that it would be necessary to establish whether the commitment made by each may be executed immediately by all in the same way. "There is no question," he said, "of establishing a two-speed Europe. My proposals go in exactly the opposite direction. It is not impossible to allow the implementations of common commitments to undergo some adjustments for a limited time. The State, which in some cases would be authorised not to implement fully commitments entered into must, at the time the decision is taken, know the concrete measures which will be agreed by the Council to enable them to rejoin their partners in the complete application of the system." That wording is much stronger than the wording in the original draft. I am not sure whether there is a translation problem here; I have not checked. I think Mr. Tindemans clarified his thinking in an important way. It meets some of the points Senator Higgins was making with regard to this.
He accepts the two-tier system.
No, he says that if some countries decide that they cannot enter into commitments fully the question of what aid they will get to enable them to do so will then be decided clearly before they commit themselves to allow that process to happen. That is a different thing to the use of the word "can" to which Senator Higgins drew attention.
This is an area to which we are sensitive. Most Governments in the Community have made it clear that they do not want a two-tier system of the kind that was originally interpreted as being the sense of Mr. Tindemans Report. I do not think this is a great danger. The existing system has a two-tier element already de facto, which is dangerous. I do not think that proposals to institutionalise it will get very far. I hope I am right in saying that.
On the question of economic and monetary union associated with that, the Taoiseach's proposals make our position clear. We feel there should be a quantified programme setting out what needs to be done to enable the weaker countries to catch up over a specific period of time. This would involve our acceptance, as one of the weaker countries, of a measure of discipline—discipline in regard to inflation rates. Otherwise, there is no question whatever of catching up or ever being able to get on to equal terms with the stronger economies in the Community. The corollary of our acceptance of those disciplines must be aid on a scale far beyond anything which they have been willing to contemplate to date.
Senator Higgins made a contrast between the institution and the economic and social side and seemed to say "Solve the economic and social problems first before you go bothering about institutional development." I am sorry, but I do not believe we can operate by such a simple process. It is a hen-egg relationship: if we do not strengthen the institutional structure we will not get the measures accepted and adopted to enable us to resolve the problems. I am not saying that we should not give immediate priority to certain economic and social problems. Some of the countries that are now suggesting that the economic and social problems should be tackled first are ones which are not necessarily concerned primarily with the interests of a country like Ireland. I think we should beware of falling into the trap of weakening on the issue of the improvement of the institutional structure of the Community and being mislead into thinking that without a considerable strengthening we can resolve these economic and social problems.
The question of defence was mentioned by Senator Higgins briefly in a negative sense and by Senator FitzGerald in a different sense. I think his remarks were extremely useful and worth reflecting on. We have never really considered this matter seriously: it is not an issue at this time. I do not think it would be useful from any point of view—either from ours or the Community's or even from the point of view of the North Atlantic Alliance —to have at this stage any significant change in present arrangements or to involve the Community in defence matters. The question of defence is one to which we ought give some consideration. It is useful to have it raised in the House in the way in which Senator FitzGerald raised it. It is something to which we should return at some point in the future.
I was very struck by Senator Robinson's point about the problem in the Community being the weakness of governments rather than their strength, as brought out in the Spierenburg Report. I think we should reflect on that because it raises considerable questions on the whole system of democratic Government within our countries, never mind as between them. The particular experiences we have had and the problems we now face for the years immediately ahead which will involve resistance to many sectoral pressures for increased aid from a central Exchequer deriving all its resources anyway from these sectors to start with—that whole problem of the democratic system being under all these pressures to take money from groups and hand it back substantially to the same groups again, thereby raising the level of taxation to a level at which everybody raises his hands in horror and says: "We cannot afford to redistribute anything to the poor." This is a development in the democratic system which is highly dangerous and anti-social. The Spierenburg Report raises interesting points for domestic policy as well as for international policy and Community policy.
Senator FitzGerald raised the point, as raised in the European Movement memorandum also, of the desirability of some kind of charter of ideals—I think another Senator also mentioned it—some sort of list of the items that we in the Community are concerned about and which in the development of our policy we should be concerned to defend and promote. I think this is an excellent idea. It is possible that some ideas along these lines may emerge at this European Council meeting. If they do, we shall give them strong support.
Finally, Senator FitzGerald raised the point that with respect to some of these matters there could be constitutional problems, that some of the proposals in the Tindemans Report if adopted literally in the form put forward could, with our written Constitution, give rise to difficulties. It is the case that in Opposition some of us pressed the then Government very hard to tighten up on the constitutional amendment so that it would do no more than was necessary to get us into the Community. The Government of the day in their concern to get the broadest possible platform and support for Community membership conceded this to us. We have, as a result, perhaps, an unduly tight constitutional system now which may make certain desirable changes within the Community, changes that could raise constitutional problems. This is something we will have to look at. We certainly have to be sensitive in regard to any proposals for new Treaty arrangements or amendments to the Treaty; we must be sensitive to the question whether these will require constitutional amendment. This is something we have to bear in mind and Senator FitzGerald was perfectly right to raise it.
I hope that deals with the points raised here. I regret having to speak so briefly and so quickly but in view of the desirability of my catching this plane I have no alternative.
I should like to wish the Minister luck as he departs and to thank him for such a thorough and extremely rapid response to the debate. I want to raise something which did not come up in his reply and which I doubt—unavoidably, I was not here all day—came up at all in the response of the House to the report. It is the curious fact that although there are 17 chapters in it and whereas all kinds of issues are covered—institutions, budgets, external relations, trade, customs, movement of persons, agricultural policy and so forth—there is no reference whatever to cultural activities within the EEC. One of the difficulties and one of the elements of disquiet that we have all felt about it was that it did not tend to abate the sense of chauvinism existing in the separate countries within the Community. Indeed, when certain moments of economic pressure came—on as, for instance, when Holland was isolated in the matter of oil or when France confronted Italy on the matter of wine— one could see the old chauvinism arising and there was a great deal of national selfishness involved.
By and large when we look at the EEC at this moment there is no very reassuring sense of the breaking down of the barriers between communities and countries, and it seems to me that the very failure, the intellectual and cultural poverty of the Community are reflected in this report, which is so admirable in so many other ways. There is no reference to cultural exchange and this is an extraordinary lacuna which reflects reality on the ground and, so to speak, at the scene.
Senator Dolan pointed out the problem we have here as an almost monoglot country because the teaching of languages in our schools is so poorly handled. Students can often obtain their leaving certificates in written French or German but they cannot speak these languages with any confidence or fluency, and they have very little knowledge of the cultures of the countries whose languages they are learning. That is why one looked in vain in a report such as this or indeed at the proceedings of this country, an island country, remote culturally from the centres of European life, for some kind of imaginative way in which our young people and the people who teach them could be brought into more vivid, continuous and, indeed, profitable contact with the centres of culture, learning, teaching and education.
We have had complaints from secondary teachers that those of them who go and work for some years in Europe when they return here have to take their place at the end of the queue when it comes to promotion. That position still obtains. People who come back from the Third World or from England are in a far more advantageous position. So, instead of encouraging our teachers to go abroad for a year or two, instead of rewarding them for it, we are discriminating against them. In other words, our educational and cultural philosophy is of a kind which frustrates one of the essential intentions of the founding of the EEC, that is, the breaking down of the cultural barriers, the sharing of culture, the sharing of knowledge, the mutual participation in learning.
There are other ways in which this could happen but one way in which it could happen would be the granting of a sabbatical year to a teacher to go on the Continent. A teacher could be paid his salary at home to enable him to seek employment or to study in Europe the vernacular language which he is teaching. That is only one kind of initiative which could arise. There is no such initiative there and the fact that the question of cultural exchange is never referred to in those 17 chapters seems to me a deplorable and a tragic oversight.
I urge that we, as a community, should pay a little more attention to this matter because if the EEC is going to end up only as a means by which material welfare can be advanced, the idealism of its early founders which has been much vaunted today will be lost. Surely the sharing of human heritage is involved. Surely it should not merely be the moving of currencies back and forth or the bickering over wine or over oil or, indeed, over the sea. All of these things count; but surely if it is looked at purely in an economic way and with the coldest possible calculating eye with regard to monetary advantage, a population which would have a linguistically adequate generation growing up and if people could converse particularly in French, and perhaps less important in the other languages, would be more flexible and would be more adequate in negotiations because they would be able to carry on the pounds, shillings and pence aspects of participation better than if they had to rely on either an inadequate knowledge of the language involved or, even more abjectly still, the mediation of interpreters.
Nearly every other point I would wish to make has been made before. It seems to me to be a matter of considerable importance that there is a total oversight in the matter of cultural relations. I mentioned only one kind, that involved in teaching, but many scholars go to lectures in Europe. How many come here? How much of the national purse is put into that kind of cultural exchange, in history, archaeology, language study, literature? Very little, as far as I can see. This is tragic and we should give it considerably more attention.
Arising from what the Minister said in regard to fish, I found myself rather disturbed when he said that Ireland and Britain could find common ground—or common water, I suppose—on this issue. I hope he does not mean that we are going to be seen as one entity in this matter because one of the biggest threats to our fish at the moment is that the enormous fleet of trawlers off the east and west coasts of England, now that they have been banned from an area of 200 miles around Iceland, will make their next resort our territorial fishing waters. They are already invading them. We are in no way comparable with them. We have nothing like the fleet or the protection facilities they have. Certainly, if our waters are to be mingled in that particular way and if fish within, say, a 12-mile limit or something similar, were to be offered equally to Britain and to Ireland, our position would be much worse than when we started. I credit the Minister and his Department with a little more sophistication than that. It is a pity that he did not have a chance to spell out to us what precisely he meant by finding common cause with Britain vis-à-vis the other States of Europe in the matter of fisheries.
I should like to compliment the framers of the report. The fact that they have nothing to say about culture probably means that there is nothing happening with regard to it. I hope that will not be the case when we come to consider the Seventh Report.
I think I would disagree with Senator Martin in his complaint about the failure of the European Community in the report to deal with cultural activities, not because I think that the promotion of cultural activities is unimportant but simply because it is unfair to blame the European Communities, to blame this report, for not dealing with something which it was not set up to deal with. The Treaty of Rome set up the European Community and it sets out exactly the purpose of the Community. It is, after all, an economic Community and the Treaty does not make any reference to cultural activity. Consequently, it would be quite unfair to blame the Community for not doing something for which it was not given responsibility.
There are thousands of bodies, organisations, national and international, dealing with cultural activities. They are quite competent to promote these activities. One should not expect merely because there is a community of the kind of the European Economic Community, because it is a powerful organisation, because it enters into our lives in various ways, because we rely on it to do many things, that we should get to the point where we expect it to take responsibility for everything. It is the kind of mentality which in most countries expects the Government to do everything and if anything goes wrong the Government are to blame. There are certain responsibilities which Governments have. There are certain responsibilities—and quite limited responsibilities—which the European Community has and, without in any way minimising the importance of our cultural activities, I do not think it is correct to blame the Community for not promoting these activities because that is not one of its functions.
Culture and education must surely come within its limits?
It is not one of the essential parts. Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome sets out the basic aims of the Community and quite positively it says nothing at all about cultural activities. If it does not say it, it should not be blamed for not dealing with it.
The period we are covering in this report—the end of 1975—marked the increasing importance of the question of direct elections to the European Parliament. The official policy of this country is in favour of direct elections. We have had a number of very useful reports and recommendations in respect of direct elections both from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation and from the Irish Council of the European Movement. Although the points of view and recommendations expressed in these two reports differ slightly in emphasis and differ in a few points of detail, nevertheless they agree about the areas of importance in regard to the aspects of importance on the question of the European Parliament and direct elections.
Everyone must be concerned about the European Parliament, concerned that it should be a parliament which will play a real function, and concerned that it will be really representative. It is essential for the sake of the European Community that we have a truly democratic Parliament and that we have a truly representative Parliament. It is only by having direct elections that we can have a Parliament with these characteristics. To have direct elections would give a legitimacy to the Parliament which I think it lacks at the moment. It would ensure that it would speak with the authentic voice of the people.
It would ensure also that the institutions of the Community, that the Commission, the Court and the Council of Ministers and the various institutions. would be kept in touch with popular opinion, with the views of the people. One of the dangers of the European Community is that it will lose touch—possibly that it has lost touch with popular opinion. In a sense, the Commission, which is in many respects a very useful and important concept — it is the centre of the whole idea of the European Community— is very liable to lose touch with popular opinion and for that reason it is essential that there is a truly representative and democratic European Parliament.
The question of communication in the Community and the question of communication on the part of the Parliament, both with the people of Europe and also with various other bodies, is one which will give a great deal of trouble and will be a continuing problem. The European parliamentarians in the new direct Parliament we hope to have after 1978 will have to try, as well as keeping in touch with their constituents, to keep in touch with their own national Parliaments and to keep in touch with their own parties, if they have a party. This in itself will be a problem. Because of the fact that they are normally meeting in Europe, normally dealing with other countries, this ongoing problem of parliamentarians of keeping in touch with their own national Parliaments, with their parties, with their constituents, and so on will remain. One must realise that they will not succeed in doing all this in a completely satisfactory way. They will do the best they can and they must continue to try: this must be their aim. Even though they may not succeed completely they must continue to try to perfect and improve communication with the various bodies and the various people they have to keep in touch with.
Of the various problems which have been touched on in the reports from the Joint Committee and from the European Movement, the initial problem which has been dealt with by previous speakers and by the Ministers is to ensure that we will have a reasonable number of representatives in the new Parliament. We have at the moment approximately 5 per cent, which is quite reasonable representation considering our population and the number of parliamentarians we have compared to the larger countries. Nobody could complain about this and we certainly should not complain. Our endeavour should be as far as possible to maintain a representation of that order or as near as possible to it. A number of pressure groups and a number of countries are pressing for a situation where we would have only something like six out of 350 which would be very small indeed. On the other hand, the Government are pressing for 18. But I think in the long run we are likely to end up with something in the region of 13 or 14 in a Parliament of 350 or thereabouts. Although that is less than what we have at the moment, it would be not an unreasonable number to have in that Parliament.
It is imperative that we have as big a representation as possible for a number of reasons. The basic reason is, of course, that we should have sufficient people in the Parliament to ensure that the points of view of this country are put in relation to our own needs and, of course, in relation to how the Community is developing— that we should have sufficient representation there to make sure that the point of view of Ireland will be fully put forward effectively.
Our voting strength is also important. In the present Parliament, with ten out of 200, our block of ten could be quite important and could not be overlooked in any votes of importance. I hope we will have sufficient in the future to be still of importance when vital votes are taken in the Parliament.
There is another aspect which may not be touched upon so often and that is the question of representation on committees. The Parliament has a large number of committees, something in the region of 16 or 17, and for a large delegation it is quite simple to provide representation on the various committees and to ensure that they always have somebody available. Usually it means that one man can specialise on a particular committee and give it a good deal of time. With a very small delegation, as we have and as we are likely to have, it means that we quite simply do not have enough people on the delegation to provide one for each committee which means that people have to double up and so sometimes even have to look after three committees. A great deal of important work is done on committees.
There is no doubt that one of the major problems and major weaknesses a small delegation have is their inability to provide sufficient people to act effectively on committees and to give sufficient time to the activities of the various committees. When talking about the number of representatives we have, we should always bear in mind—and I will refer to that in a moment—that far more important than numbers is the question of the calibre of the representatives we have, the kind of people who are selected, because it is far more important to have half a dozen really good representatives there than 15 or 21 who are not very effective.
The method of election is another question which is being dealt with in the various committees and I do not propose to say very much about it. The question of having one large constituency with the PR system which would have certain advantages would leave certain regions of the country, or is liable to have certain regions, completely unrepresented. On the other hand, there could be three or four constituencies which would ensure that the regions were properly represented but would give unfair or inadequate representation to smaller parties. The Oireachtas Joint Committee finally recommended the list system which provides, on the one hand, that a person can indicate the party he supports and, on the other hand, can indicate a particular candidate. Apart from the fact that I am a member of the Joint Committee I agree with the proposal that they have made and although it is difficult to come out definitely in favour of one or other of the systems, on balance this particular system has the most to support and recommend it.
The selection of candidates is the other matter which in one sense provides a problem because there is more danger of having the wrong system operating here than in regard to the actual voting. It has been suggested in some quarters that the candidates should be selected by the party executives. Of course, if you do that sort of thing, if you leave it to the leaders of the parties to select the candidates, then you are having a system which is not much different from the system at present where the parties select the representatives who go without election to the European Parliament. So, if the selection is to be made by a small number of people, then the fact that they have to be elected does not seem to make much difference and it takes away a great deal of the democratic and representative character element of the people we would be sending to Parliament. Therefore, it should not be a confined system of selection. As far as possible the selection of candidates should be on the lines of the selection of candidates for Dáil Éireann, and although that might be a little too difficult because of the numbers who would have to attend conventions, nevertheless it should be a modified form of the system of conventions which exists at present for Dáil elections. If there was that kind of local selection of candidates in the various areas that in itself would ensure, or almost ensure, that the candidates eventually elected would be from each of the different regions.
We cannot lean too far towards ensuring regional representation in regard to candidates because, as I said earlier, the important thing is not so much to have every region represented but to ensure that we have a system that will get the very best candidates and representatives to send to the European Parliament.
Another question which has been dealt with by the Minister in his closing speech was the question of dual mandate. This is a question of considerable importance, although people are inclined to shy away from it. The recommendation of the European Community is that it should be optional, and the Government have accepted that recommendation. It is a matter which we in this country should give a good deal of time and thought to, because it is becoming increasingly evident that the idea of dual mandate is difficult if not impossible. That is so at present. But we must realise that the Parliament which will exist after 1978, if our hopes and plans for it materialise, will have considerably more power, and if it has considerably more power then, of course, it will have more duties, it will be more time consuming and it will make the idea of dual mandate even more difficult than it is at present. If we believe that that is likely to be the case we should face up to it as soon as possible.
Of course one of the things which will bring this question of dual mandate to a head and will possibly have a decisive effect is when those who have been attempting the almost impossible act of being a European parliamentarian and a national parliamentarian have to go up for election again. This has not happened in this country yet, but when they see how they fare in the first election, if they all do quite well and if membership of the European Parliament does not seem to have done them any harm as members of the Dáil and does not seem to do them any harm in the support they get, then possibly dual mandate will get a second lease of life. But if the experience is the other way, then I think we will see the end of it very quickly.
What we should realise is that for parliamentarians who live in Germany or France or quite near Strasbourg or Luxembourg, the nearer they live to these cities the easier it is for them to represent both parliaments and be in both parliaments and to make a success of it. But for us who live so far away and where travel is far more complicated and far more time consuming, it is a much more difficult problem. I think it will probably go out of fashion very soon. That being so, we should take the initiative and get agreement, if we can, between the parties to say that people will not be nominated, will not be encouraged or allowed to go forward for both the national Parliament and the European Parliament, that they must opt for one or the other. We should be entitled to do that because it is optional for each country to have any system it likes.
If dual mandate goes, the question of communication by the European parliamentarian with his national Parliament will arise and will have to be dealt with in a detailed fashion. It will have to be considered whether he should have a right of audience in the Dáil or the Seanad, whether he should be allowed to take part in certain debates, whether for instance he should be allowed, even if he is not allowed to take the party line in every debate, to take part in the kind of debate we have had here today — the bi-annual debate on the European Community Report — and whether he should be allowed to be a member of committees such as the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation. It may take some time to find the right formula, the right balance between giving parliamentarians rights of audience and rights of membership and so on, but I think it is something which might by trial and error have to be finally perfected.
We will also have the problems of whether he should have the right to be a member of the parliamentary party, to take part in debates within the party, to influence policy, to play a hand in selecting leaders and that kind of thing. These are all problems which will arise in the future, particularly if the dual mandate is eliminated.
In dealing with all these questions of direct elections to the European Community we are perhaps jumping the gun, because one of the problems that arose towards the end of 1975 and in the last few months is the question mark about whether we are to have direct elections in 1978, whether we are to have them for a considerable time to come. Some of the countries in the Community are very lukewarm about the prospect. France in particular is even less than lukewarm and seems to be opposed to the idea for reasons which are not quite clear.
Even if we have these elections, we would likely have a very serious problem in dealing with the question of apathy, with the question of whether the people will be sufficiently concerned and sufficiently interested to turn out in the kind of numbers that they turn out at general elections. The last two general elections had a vote of something in the region of 76 per cent. On the other hand, for one of the recent referendums on the amendment of the Constitution it was down to 50 per cent. It will be a difficulty, if we get over the various other difficulties, to get people to take an interest in these elections, to persuade them that they are of importance that the selection of candidates for the European Parliament is a matter that concerns them and will sooner or later, directly or indirectly, affect them and their lives. This emphasises the necessity for ensuring that really outstanding candidates will be chosen, that well-known competent people, experienced politicians, are selected or at least are nominated, because this in itself would help to get the interest of the people and to inspire their confidence in the candidates and in the work they will be doing.
The parties will probably take relatively little interest in these elections, certainly not the same as they will take in the general elections. Whereas one must accept that they are going to take relatively little interest, the least they can do and the thing they should concentrate on doing well is ensuring that the very best candidates will be chosen and then perhaps leave it to them to go forward and get the support. If the parties select good men and give them a chance to go before their people, then I believe that the electorate will do the rest and will select the best people put before them. Because of the fact that we have such a small delegation there, it is imperative that what we lack in quantity we make up in quality.
As regards the wider questions which have been raised in the report before us and in the debate which has taken place here today, I think the end of 1975 was characterised by the lack of progress towards European union. In fact in many respects we seem to be going backwards. The Community is falling far short of the aims set out in Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome. The assessment which has taken place in that period was, of course, very largely due to or stimulated by the Tindemans Report — a report which, although not satisfactory in regard to the solutions which it put forward, was of considerable importance in highlighting the problems that had to be dealt with and in suggesting the priorities that we should be concerned about generally in stimulating reaction, particularly by those who disagreed with the main proposals and recommendations in the report.
In saying that Tindemans played an important part, I am not overlooking the various other reports which have been put forward during the last year by the various institutions in the Community, all of which were of great importance and most of which were, from the point of view of proposals and assessment, better than Tindemans; but because they were not so provocative they did not provoke the same interest and reaction.
We must accept and recognise that the European Community, membership of it, is still something of great importance and considerable value to this country. I say that in spite of the disappointments we have had in regard to regional policy and various other areas. But because we have been disappointed and because the Community has not lived up to some of its promises and hopeful ideas we had about it, it would be wrong to suggest that it was a complete failure and to underestimate the importance and the value of it to this country. These disappointments were due to a number of things — a change in attitude, a change in direction, a change in emphasis on the part of certain of the countries in the European Community. They were also due to the fact that the recession which affected all the countries in the Community meant that they were less generous in regard to funds such as the regional fund.
As well as criticising the Community for not living up to our expectations we should blame ourselves to a considerable extent, because we must realise and accept that we have not been entirely clear about what we want from the European Community. We started with some relatively simple ideas of what the Community could do for us, particularly in regard to the common agricultural policy. What we wanted in regard to agriculture was relatively simple. We had a rather simple idea of what we wanted from the regional fund and the social fund. But as time went on we have not kept in touch with the complications and ramifications of the various plans. We have not continued to go into detail and work out exactly what we wanted from the Community or how we could use the help that might be available or even to tell the Community exactly what they could do for us — and I think this is very important — within the terms of the Treaty of Rome. As I said earlier, the Community is a rather tightly controlled organisation.
The Treaty of Rome sets down with considerable detail what it can do and by implication or otherwise what it cannot do. We have not really appraised or re-appraised our position and formed an accurate, concise and detailed picture of what we want from the Community, how the Community can do it and how we would use what we could get from the Community. This is something we can only blame ourselves for. It is something we must apply ourselves to as a result of the re-appraisal that is going on at present about the success or otherwise of the Community and its relationship with this country.
Economic and monetary union is the ultimate aim of the Community but at present economic and monetary union would be a complete disaster for Ireland because we are not ready for it. I should like to refer to the Sixth Report, page 144, where the Government set out the memorandum presented by the Taoiseach for discussion at the European Council in Rome in December, 1975. It says:
The Government believe ... it is essential to prepare a realistic programme for the achievement of EMU.
It goes on at the top of page 144 to say that:
Such a programme must include an objective assessment of the steps necessary within member states and as between member states in order to make such a union possible. Included in this there should be at least an approximate quantification of the scale of Community action that would be necessary to counteract the centripetal effects of EMU and to ensure a smooth transition during which the disparities in the economic and social spheres between member states would be narrowed sufficiently to make the achievement of EMU practicable.
What is really necessary at this stage is not merely to anticipate the effect of EMU but to take steps to counteract the effect on this country of the actual achievement of EMU. That is something in the future. The Community has not reached the stage of bringing this country or the less developed countries of the Community to a stage where the experiment of EMU could be started with anything approaching safety. We have a long way to go before even the kind of programme that is mentioned by the Government in the Sixth Report could be put into operation.
The fact that we are not ready for EMU was recognised by Tindemans and it was arising from this that he made his reference to what has become known as the two-tier system. The Minister was at some pains to say here that Tindemans was not really in favour of a two-tier system and that the initial interpretation of his report was not the proper interpretation and that another view of it is being taken now. What we are concerned about is what he did say in the report. It was very vague in many ways. However, it was relatively clear about the concept of a two-tier system. Even if Tindemans has now asked to have his report interpreted in a different way and if he is now making statements which suggest that he did not really say that, what is important is that, whether he said it or not, he appeared to say it and to envisage a situation where there would be different countries progressing faster than others and some being allowed to fall behind. Whether he said it or not, certain sections in the Community adopted that idea as being something that should be considered, that could be envisaged, could be acted upon and could be a way in which the Community would progress.
The fact that there are sections in the Community who have adopted it with varying degrees of enthusiasm is in itself a very dangerous development, whether or not Governments are against any such development. The fact that there are important sections in the Community who are talking about it, and talking about it with a certain amount of approval is of course a dangerous development.
If the less developed countries, the smaller countries, were left behind, even if it was alleged to be a temporary situation, the danger is of course that they would never catch up and that they would become second-class countries. As I say, it is something that is full of danger, not only for this country and the smaller countries, but full of danger for the European Community. It is at complete variance with the aims of the Community, with the aims set out in Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome. If it were allowed to take place, not only would it be a disaster for the smaller country but it would inevitably end with the disintegration of the European Community.
Earlier on I referred to our failure to understand or work out exactly our relationship with the Community, the failure to make more progress towards a European and monetary union, the failure to give the kind of economic support that would ensure that all the countries in the Community were making approximately equal progress, making approximately equal economic wealth. This failure is certainly a failure of the Community, as a whole and not the failure of this country or, indeed, of any of the smaller countries in the Community.
Certain essential principles have been set out in the Treaty of Rome. These principles do not need to be changed in any way but need to be identified, need to be re-defined and used as a guideline to enable us to try and get back on the track of progress within the Community. The Irish Council of the European Movement, on page 4 of the document which they produced, made an attempt to identify the principles which should help the European Community in making a start again on the road towards economic and monetary union. They suggested that these principles should be as follows:
(1) Participation in the building of European union requires maintenance of a limited number of fundamental principles including freedom of opinion and expression, free democratic elections, free movement of people and ideas and the protection of human rights. (2) The European Union recognises the interdependence of the economic prosperity of our States and accepts the consequences of this. (3) The aim of the European Union must be social progress and the diminution of regional and social disparities, particularly those which exist among the peoples of Europe. (4) The European Union should retain the principle of legal unity already recognised by the Treaties binding together the present Communities. It is implicit in this principle that the union institutions would exercise their power in all fields within their competence in relation to all the member states. (5) A union founded on principles such as these must inevitably present a united front to the outside world. This will require the development of a common external policy.
This re-defining of the principles, which should guide us, is a very helpful and useful one, and one which I think we can bear in mind when we are re-appraising our relationship with and our position in the European Community. The overall impression that one got of the Community during the end of 1975 was one which showed very little co-ordination in policy, very little cohesion between the various countries and the various policies, between the various regional policies, the agricultural policy and the social policy. There was an element of trading between the various countries, trading between the various Commissioners and Ministers. One got the impression of bargains being done on a quid pro quo basis, that one country would agree to certain things in the regional policy if somebody else agreed to some progress in the social policy.
That is certainly not the spirit; it is certainly not the kind of attitude, the kind of atmosphere, which is going to make any progress towards the economic and monetary union. We must be alarmed by the kind of suggestions that were made in the Tindemans Report, the idea — and again this is the kind of quid pro quo atmosphere I mentioned — that, in return for allowing some countries to go ahead, certain sops, certain awards, certain monetary grants would be given to the smaller countries. The idea that those who are able to progress should forge ahead sounds well. But how far ahead are they going to be allowed to forge, and do they ever look back and do the others ever catch up with them? The idea that any aid that can be given should be given by the countries forging ahead is much too loose because it suggests that it is not mandatory that they should give aid. Any aid that can be given is far too loose and dangerous and is, I am afraid, very much in accordance with the kind of spirit, the kind of lack of co-ordination, lack of cohesion, lack of dedication to the aims of article 2 of the Treaty of Rome which was, I think, very much in evidence during the period under review.
Having criticised the European Community, and having pointed out that a great change must take place within the Community, our parliamentarians, our representatives, our Minister and everybody representing us in the Community must play their part in attempting to get a changed attitude in the Community in the years ahead. In this respect some of the reports by the European institutions were more helpful than the Tindemans' Report. But even these reports, although they pointed the way with more confidence and made more acceptable proposals, were not very satisfactory in showing how these movements forward would be implemented.
Both in the Community and here at home there is a great deal to be done in regard to our own assessment of our situation. We can do more about what has to be done at home than what has to be done in the Community. That is what we should concentrate on. There is an urgent necessity not only for the Government but for all the institutions and organisations in the country to reappraise our position in the Community, our relationship with the Community, to reappraise what we want from the Community and how the Community can help us. This needs not merely seminars, not merely speeches, but investigation in depth. It means investigations by experts. It means producing really detailed expert reports on what is required by all the important institutions—farming organisations, industrial organisations, trade unions and all the various institutions in the country, as well of course as the Government—to make this investigation in depth of what needs to be done.
If we make that our objective during this year, then when we are debating the Eighth Report at this time next year we will be able to take a more optimistic and more favourable view of the Community. Now is clearly the time to do this, because it has been highlighted by Tindemans, because he has provoked discussion, because he has provoked reaction. In spite of the fact that his report is not really a very good one, it is good in the sense that it has provoked this reaction and reappraisal of the whole position. Now is the time for our institutions, organisations and Government to do something realistic that will make a very definite change and improvement in the working of the Community.
Finally, I want to say briefly that Tindemans has touched on a wider field. He has raised four issues about the European Community's foreign relations. He has raised the question of a new world economic order, the question of relations between Europe and the United States, and the question of security and crises occurring within Europe's immediate geographical surroundings. These are all of great importance, but not of such immediate importance as some of the other things we have been discussing here today. They are in a sense long-term—long-term in the sense that we can afford to put them to one side for a few months. Because of other pressing problems we can afford to put them aside, certainly as far as this debate is concerned, for a while. Unless we succeed in solving some of the problems that we have been discussing here today then the question of the European Community's foreign relations may never prove to be of any great significance or of any great impact to this country. I think we can afford to put aside detailed discussion and detailed analysis of these four questions at least until we are dealing with the Seventh or Eighth Report, by which time we may be taking a happier and more favourable view of the workings of the Community.