Today we have the opportunity to consider the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1992. The passage of this Bill is one of the requirements necessary to allow Ireland to ratify the Treaty on European Union. The Bill is required because certain provisions of the Treaty on European Union must be made part of the domestic law of the State.
As Senators will be aware, Ireland has undertaken to ratify the Treaty on European Union by the deadline envisaged in the Treaty, that is, 31 December 1992. We held our referendum on 18 June and the Treaty was endorsed by a very large majority of the Irish electorate. The President signed the Bill into law on 16 July. Yesterday, the Bill completed its passage through the Dáil. The Dáil also agreed a motion approving the Treaty on European Union which was required under Article 29.5 of the Constitution to allow ratification of the Treaty. The Seanad is being asked to complete consideration of the Bill today to enable the deadline of 31 December to be met.
In other circumstances we could have enjoyed a longer and more leisurely consideration of this Bill, but I am satisfied that since the signature of the Treaty on European Union in February the major issues involved in Ireland's membership of the European Union have been debated frankly and intensely. In particular, the referendum campaign in this country allowed detailed consideration of the terms of the Treaty and of Ireland's future role in the European Union. It allowed many of the fears of the future that inevitably will be raised to be aired and addressed. The European newspaper concluded that Irish people were well informed about the Treaty in a recent survey. This is not surprising given the level and intensity of the debate during the referendum campaign.
Senators may wish to have an idea where other member states of the European Community stand in relation to the completion of their respective ratification procedures. To date, Luxembourg, Greece and Italy have completed their ratification procedures. France is in the process of depositing its instrument of ratification with the Italian Government. Of course, Senators will know the situation in Denmark, of which I will speak later, and in the UK. In Belgium the Treaty is being discussed in Parliament at present and formal ratification is expected shortly. In Germany, parliamentary consideration is underway and ratification should be concluded before long. In Spain, following a vote in the Lower House on 29 October, the Parliament will meet later this month to give formal approval to the Treaty. In The Netherlands and Portugal parliamentary discussions are likely to continue to December.
In Ireland, one of the necessary steps to allow ratification of the Treaty on European Union is passage of this Bill through the Oireachtas. Certain provisions of the Treaty must be made part of the domestic law of the State. The provisions are those which affect the European Community Treaties. As Senators can see, section 1 (1) of the Bill makes provision for Titles II, III, IV and relevant parts of Title VII to be made part of the domestic law of the State. Title II contains provisions amending the Treaty establishing the EEC; Title III amends the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty; Title IV amends the European Atomic Energy Community Treaty.
The final provisions of the Treaty on European Union are contained in Title VII. Certain articles of this Title are provided for specifically in this Act and certain others are not. Where the Articles provide for action under the Union and not under the Treaties establishing the European Communities, a reference in the European Communities Act is not required.
Section 1(2) of the Bill provides a Table setting out the complete list of the "treaties governing the European Communities". Since the passage of the European Communities Act, 1972, amending Acts have been adopted by the Oireachtas on six occasions.
Section 1 (2) of the Bill amends section 2 of the European Communities Act, 1972 and provides for "bodies competent" under the European Communities Treaty. Senators will recall that the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution made provision for these "bodies competent". The reference is to "bodies" which will not be "institutions" of the Communities. These are the European Central Bank and the European Monetary Institute.
As Senators are aware, the institutions of the European Communities are defined in the Treaties as the Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. Prior to the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution the legislative powers of these institutions only could have legal effect in Ireland. Following the referendum, and provided for in section 2 of this Bill, measures taken by the two bodies defined in the Treaty on European Union may have legal effect in Ireland.
I have already referred to the situation regarding ratification in the other member states of the European Communities. I would like to refer, briefly, to the position in Denmark. As Senators know, the Danish people voted against the Treaty by a narrow margin in a referendum on 2 June. Last Friday, the Danish Government presented the member states with proposals for an arrangement which would enable it to put the question of ratification to the Danish people. We are in the process of considering these proposals. In our consideration we are taking the following concerns into account: our interest in seeing the Treaty on European Union ratified and in operation at the earliest possible date; our willingness to help Denmark, so long as the steps taken uphold Community achievements and do not impede the dynamics of integration, and our commitment to no opening of the text of the Treaty as has been affirmed by the European Councils of Lisbon and Birmingham.
Later this month the Foreign Minister of Denmark, Mr. Uffe Elleman Jensen, will be in Dublin to discuss these proposals. It is in everyone's interest to find a solution to the problems posed by the Danish vote and I look forward to Ireland making a full and positive contribution to the forthcoming negotiations.
There are a number of issues where the attention of the Community has focused recently. I have described the situation with regard to ratification in the member states and the current position on Denmark. There are a number of other issues, some of which were discussed at the Birmingham Summit last month, to which I would like to refer.
As Senators know, the importance of stability of exchange rates for the smooth functioning of a common market became very clear during the past few months. As a small open economy, Ireland knows the cost and barriers created for all by the different currencies. Our exporters experience acutely the problems of currency fluctuations. It is a measure of the progress we have made in recent years that our currency has maintained a strong position in the ERM in spite of the fall in the value of sterling. Ireland intends to be in the first group to move to full monetary union.
Structural Funds play a key role in helping to bring the less developed regions of the Community up to the Community average. The Treaty on European Union provides that these will be reviewed and that a new Cohesion Fund, specifically for the four least developed member states will be established. The Commission's proposals on future financing of the Community, the Delors II package, include provisions for the doubling of funds for these cohesion countries. We are looking forward to the Edinburgh European Council in December when decisions on the future financing of the Community will be taken. The aim is to have the Cohesion Fund in place early in 1993.
Another area being examined at present in some detail is that of openness and subsidiary. It has become clear, since the signing of the Treaty of European Union in February, that the Community must make a grater effort to inform its citizens of the work which it does on their behalf. For example, the Maastricht Treaty has been described as a "user unfriendly" document. There is no doubt that out of context it is difficult to understand. If sufficient time and energy is spent in analysing and discussing its different provisions and implications it can be understood, but I think that in future the Community will have to make a greater effort to present its legislation more clearly.
In producing the White Paper, the short guide and the other informational material provided in the run-up to the referendum in June the Government aimed to make the Treaty accessible. We are continuing our efforts to demonstrate the benefits of the Community and of the Treaty on European Union. There is a plethora of complex policies and programmes which are vital to Irish interests and which are familiar to only a few people. There is a great need to encourage more people to become involved and active in the issues of fundamental interest to us such as, the Common Agricultural Policy, the Single European Market, the GATT talks, the Structural Funds and Environment Policy.
Our views on subsidiarity were made clear at the Birmingham European Council. We supported the insertion of the principle in the Treaty of European Union. Subsidiarity can be a positive principle which helps guide the formulation of Community legislation but we do not agree that the principle of the Treaty on subsidiarity should be implemented at the expense of the existing institutional balance. We do not agree that subsidiarity should be a kind of code used to undermine the status of the Commission or the achievements of the Community to date.
As Senators can see from the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, no provisions are made to cover Title V or Title VI of the Treaty on European Union in this legislation. Title V concerns provisions on a common, foreign and security policy where no requirement for domestic legislation is envisaged. Title VI concerns provisions on co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs. Legislation may be required at some stage in the future to cover some of the articles in this Title. However, no legislation is required, nor would it be appropriate, at this stage to cover the provisions of this Title.
Closer co-operation in the area of foreign policy and on justice and home affairs is an essential part of this Treaty. The Community has yet to develop to a point where foreign policy and justice and home affairs matters can be the subject of full Community decision-making. We have not reached the same level of development in these areas as has been reached in the economic and monetary field. Nonetheless, the Treaty represents a valuable step forward.
Decisions will still be taken by the member states by consensus. Implementation will be by national action and not by directly applicable Community legislation. Nonetheless, the new arrangements for foreign policy and justice and home affairs co-operation will allow the Twelve to act together more effectively than has been the case to date.
International conditions today require a strengthening of the mechanisms through which the Community develops common approaches in the foreign policy field. From Ireland's point of view, an active forward-looking role for the Community gives us an additional opportunity to promote values for which we have traditionally stood on the world stage — the rule of law, respect for human rights, support for the United Nations, disarmament and the responsibility of the international community to address the problems of poverty and underdevelopment.
The provisions of the Treaty dealing with justice and home affairs represent also a significant development. The challenge to the Community is to devise ways and means of generating greater economic activity, removing barriers to trade and the movement of people, goods, services and capital so that the people of Europe can benefit. We must ensure also that as we remove these checks, alternate systems to detect criminal activity are in place. The Community must ensure that its great achievements are not exploited by the criminal elements of society. The provisions of the Treaty on justice and home affairs allow us to do this.
Finally, there is one other element I would like to address today. The Community is not a static organisation. Already a number of countries have applied to join the Community/Union. The Lisbon European Council agreed that the interested EFTA countries were in a particularly strong position, following the European Economic Area Agreement, to pursue their case. It was agreed at Lisbon that official negotiation could begin once the Maastricht Treaty has been ratified and the Delors II package has been agreed. We look forward to the realisation of this step with the EFTA countries with which Ireland has excellent relations.
As for other possible applicants, the Treaty on European Union provides that any European state whose system of government is founded on the principle of democracy may apply to become a member. We look forward to further enlargement when the economies of the former eastern European countries are sufficiently developed to allow for the obligations of membership. In the meantime the Community will continue to develop the range of relations it has with all its European neighbours.
I look forward to the debate in this House today. The issues involved in this Bill are important. Discussion in this House represents the culmination of a major national debate which, given the vital importance of the issues involved, rightly involved the people in the June referendum. Our approach to the Community has been reinforced and enhanced by the national debate over recent months. I am sure the discussion here today will be a further important contribution.