That the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, be referred to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs pursuant to Standing Order 84 (1) and paragraph (5) of that Committee's terms of reference.
Vol. 141 No. 6
That the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, be referred to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs pursuant to Standing Order 84 (1) and paragraph (5) of that Committee's terms of reference.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the Seanad for this debate on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994. This Bill amends the European Communities Acts, 1972 to 1993, and makes provisions of the Treaty of Accession of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway part of the domestic law of the State. Passage of this Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas is a necessary step which will allow Ireland to ratify the Accession Treaty. All member states of the European Union and all accession countries have undertaken to complete their ratification procedures by 31 December 1994 at the latest. I am also pleased to be able to speak on the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs' —The Enlargement of the European Union.
As Senators will be aware, referenda will be held in all four accession countries to decide on membership of the EU. To date two referenda have been held — in Austria on 12 June and in Finland on 16 October. On both occasions the people of these two countries decided to vote in favour of membership of the EU. May I say at the outset that I welcome the results of the referenda in Austria and Finland. Both countries will be very welcome additions to the European Union.
On 13 November in Sweden and on 28 November in Norway the remaining two referenda will be held. We will await the outcome of these referenda with great interest. While it is up to the people of Sweden and Norway to decide for themselves on membership of the European Union, it is true to say that all four accession countries will be very welcome additions to the European Union.
The negotiations on the enlargement of the European Union began in February 1993 for three of the applicant countries — Austria, Sweden and Finland — and in April 1993 for Norway. After a relatively short period of approximately one year the negotiations were brought to a successful conclusion. The Accession Treaty was signed in Corfu last June. With ratification by all signatories due by the end of this year, accessions are due to take place on 1 January 1995.
The completion of the accession negotiations in such a relatively short period of time reflected the already existing close relations between these four EFTA countries and the European Union. Before negotiations opened on accession, the European Economic Area Agreement was in place. The EEA agreement allowed the four applicant countries to participate in the Single Market.
The fact that the European Economic Area had been agreed paved the way for this round of enlargement. It allowed the negotiations to concentrate on the issues not covered by the EEA Agreement. This is not to say that the negotiations were without any difficulty. However, a large body of work that otherwise would have been part of the negotiation was resolved. As a result, attention could, and did, focus in these negotiations on more defined issues from the start than was possible in previous negotiations.
The Government approached this round of negotiations for membership of the European Union from the start very positively. From the outset of the negotiations the Government welcomed the prospect of accession by member states of EFTA. These are countries with which Ireland already has close relations. It shares with them a similarity of outlook on a range of international issues.
The Government was of the view with regard to this round of enlargement that what is good for the development of the Union was good for Ireland. The Commission opinions on the applications for membership preceded the opening of formal negotiations. The opinions had pointed to the strengthening of the Union in various areas of its activity that could be expected from accession by advanced industrialised economies of the EFTA type.
The four EFTA applicants to the Union also have a lot to offer the Union. All four countries have long democratic traditions, a refined respect for human rights, an advanced level of social protection and high environmental standards. The Nordic countries, in particular, have a system of openness in Government and the contributions they will make to the ongoing debate in the European Union on this issue will be very welcome.
As the negotiations progressed it was clear that within the Union the interests of the applicant countries and Ireland would coincide on a number of issues. For example, all the applicant countries have specific agricultural and regional concerns, a range of which overlap with ours. This will have its own implications for the continuation and development of agricultural and regional policies within the European Union.
While the three Nordic accession countries have a large land mass, all four accession countries have relatively small populations. Again, in the forthcoming debate on the need to adapt the European Union's institutions to cope with a membership of over 20, the accession countries' interests and ours will overlap in certain key areas.
All four accession countries have played a significant role in the development of policies designed to enhance the peaceful settlement of international disputes. We also share with the accession countries a similarity of outlook on a range of international issues.
All these factors will have a bearing on discussions and negotiations that will shape the European Union and its relationship with the world in the years to come. The most contentious part of the negotiations, from the point of view of the European Union, involved the difficulty of reaching a decision within the Union concerning the institutional adjustments required to accommodate this round of enlargement.
After lengthy discussion, a linear transposition of weighted voting at Council was agreed. This will allow the blocking minority to move after accession from 23 votes to 27. In addition, the member states agreed to a delaying mechanism when it was clear that at least 23 votes were opposed to a proposal. A solution must be found, or a blocking minority of 27 must emerge within a reasonable time, otherwise the measures on the table can be adopted.
The basis for a solution to the deadlock in the Council over the weighted voting issue emerged following discussions at the informal Foreign Ministers meeting at Ioannina in Greece last March. The agreement paved the way to the successful conclusion of the negotiations. The Ministers also agreed that the question of the reform of the institutions, including the weighting of votes and the threshold of the qualified majority in the Council, would be examined during the conference of the representatives of the governments of the member states which will be convened in 1996.
It is widely accepted both by the accession countries and the member states of the European Union that the outcome of the negotiations was a good one. A balance was struck between the legitimate needs of the applicants on the one hand and the need for the Union to ensure uniform application of its laws on the other. Where specific national concerns were raised, the Union showed flexibility without undermining in any way the integrity of its legal system. Where specific national needs were raised, the Union responded imaginatively. One example of the imaginative response of the Union to specific national needs was in the creation of a new objective six region, based on low population density, which brought a large portion of the northern part of the Nordic countries within the ambit of regional policy. Initiatives by the Union in this and other areas went far in persuading the peoples of Austria and Finland to vote in favour of European Union membership.
The Government was aware from the start that if Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway decided to join the European Union, the shape of that Union would become different. On the assumption that all will join, the land mass of the Union will increase by more than 1.2 million square kilometres to 3,560,000 square kilometres. For the first time the Union will include an area of the Arctic Circle and the borders of the Union will stretch as far east as Russia. The population of the Union will increase by more than 25 million people to a total of 369 million people.
Now that a successful end to this round of accessions is in sight, the attention of the Union will focus on other possible enlargements which will further change the shape of the Union. In the meantime, the strengthening of the Community's relations with its neighbours to the south and east is an essential element in promoting greater European prosperity and stability.
It is appropriate here to acknowledge the report, The Enlargement of the European Union, prepared by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. This report is a substantial contribution to the important debate on the implications for the Union and for Ireland of the enlargement of the European Union to encompass 20 and more member states. The report examines the issues which will face the Union in the institutional, budgetary and political spheres. Many questions are raised about the implications for both Ireland and the Union of future enlargement. While the report acknowledges that there will be challenges ahead, it also refers to the opportunities both for the Union and for Ireland which will accrue from future enlargements. I welcome this report and I welcome the opportunity presented by this debate to address some of the issues which will face Ireland and the Union in the coming years.
Both before and after the negotiations with the EFTA countries, the European Union received applications to join from other countries in Europe. The longest standing application to join the European Union is that made by Turkey. In 1989 the Commission opinion on Turkey's application recommended that for economic and political reasons the time was not ripe to begin accession negotiations. Since then, the European Union and Turkey have been deepening their relations within the framework of the association agreements. Switzerland's application to join was put on hold following the rejection of the EEA Agreement in December 1992. At the European Council in Corfu last June it was agreed that the next phase of enlargement will involve Cyprus and Malta. The Commission opinion on the applications to join the European Union made by Cyprus and Malta recommended that negotiations could commence once certain political developments in Cyprus and economic developments in Malta were achieved.
The countries of central and eastern Europe will be the focus of much attention within the European Union in the years to come. To date, two of the countries of central and eastern Europe, Poland and Hungary, have already made applications to join the European Union. Applications from other central and eastern European states are expected. The applications both received and pending to join the European Union pose a variety of challenges to the Union. Through the negotiation of Association Agreements the European Union has responded positively to the desire of the central and eastern European countries for closer integration with the European Union. These agreements aim to establish close and lasting relations between the parties. The European agreements which have now been negotiated with Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Romania and Bulgaria recognise the aspiration of these countries to membership of the European Union. It is expected that Europe agreements will be negotiated in the near future with the Baltic States and with Slovenia.
These Europe agreements are wide ranging. However, the central and east European states have argued that they are not sufficient in themselves to meet their desire for integration with the European Union. In recognition of this, the Copenhagen European Council in June 1993 and Corfu European Council Conclusions last June developed and added to the provisions of these agreements. In Copenhagen, the European Council established that countries could become members of the European Union as soon as they were able to fulfil the relevant obligations.
In Corfu, the European Council asked the Presidency and the Commission to report to the Essen European Council in December on the strategy to be followed with a view to preparing for accession. It was expected in Corfu that the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference would create the institutional conditions required for future enlargement to the East. In the meantime, the European Union is preparing its approach to the future accession of the associated countries. Discussion on this issue is expected to be a major issue at the European Council in Essen next month.
Among the issues under discussion is the way the countries of central and eastern Europe can be associated more closely with all three pillars of the Union's activity. Such association includes the holding of advisory meetings between the Council of Ministers of the countries of central and eastern Europe on matters of common interest. Agreement has been reached to associate the countries of central and eastern Europe with the common foreign and security policy and consultations are taking place to work out the modalities to achieve this.
The first multilateral meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers, the Commission and their counterparts from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia took place on the occasion of the General Affairs Council of 31 October 1994, which was, of course, a bank holiday in Ireland. The meeting took place within the framework of a structured dialogue with the countries of central and eastern Europe and included joint discussions of a number of common, foreign and security policy topics. In addition, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers from the two sides have met informally in Berlin in September and discussed increased co-operation in combating drugs and organised crime in Europe. Further consideration is to be given to co-operation in the areas identified at the Berlin meeting. Ministers for Finance, the Internal Market and Environment have also met recently. The preparation of central and eastern European countries for accession will be one of the principal external issues facing the European Union for the remainder of the decade.
The approach Ireland has taken to such developments is to welcome the openness to enlargement reflected in the Conclusions of the Copenhagen and Corfu European Councils. We have recognised that the prosperity and the stability of Europe as a whole would be influenced by the progress made towards political and economic reform in central and eastern Europe. In our view, it is right that these countries should have confidence in the European Union and in our willingness to support the political and economic reform process.
Enlargement to the East is a challenge to Ireland and the European Union. The policy implications of the eastern enlargement will be assessed in the context of preparation for the Government White Paper on foreign policy and the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference. The parameters within which we will continue to examine the issues will be the need to maintain both the character of the Union and a Union which operates effectively. We must, therefore, proceed at a realistic pace. A balance must be struck between the interests of the applicants and the need for a functioning and effective Union.
At the same time as the Union is developing its relations with countries to the East, new opportunities for Ireland will be created which will allow us to develop our bilateral relations with these countries. These new opportunities can be explored and our existing relations can be developed even further.
The report by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs correctly draws attention to this major issue on the international agenda. I will look forward to hearing in this debate the views of Senators on this important area which will be the focus of much attention within the Union and indeed, in Ireland, in the years to come.
At this time I would like to express the thanks of my party and all the Members of this House to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs who published the report on The Enlargement of the European Union. It is comprehensive and informative and is presented in a manner which enables the reader to obtain points of particular importance. All the Members of the committee, together with those who assisted in the preparation of this report and the people who attended the deliberations of the committee and made contributions, deserve the thanks of this House. It is a pleasure to obtain such an important document with an excellent index attached.
The vast majority of Irish people will go along with the view expressed in this report that the joint committee believes that the increase of the European Union from 12 to 16 members will be of great benefit to Europe. In fact, I believe Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden will add to the strength of the economic, social and cultural life of the European Union.
In the past, Ireland has favoured a united approach to Europe and has been to the forefront in supporting the ideal of European union. Our approach to having a fully united Europe as distinct from a two-speed policy Europe has been the correct one. A two-speed policy would be divisive and particularly unhelpful to small member states such as our own.
Thinking in government circles in France and Germany appears to favour different levels of participation in some European structures. In fact, in September this year a grouping of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union in Germany advocated a new treaty. Such a proposal would allow some countries to proceed towards monetary union while others may or may not be included. At the time this proposal was made, the French Prime Minister spoke of the creation of a three-speed Europe with France and Germany being alone in the fast lane. This would be unhelpful and totally unsatisfactory for countries like Ireland.
The fact that the British Prime Minister has rejected such calls and has clearly stated that a two-tier Europe is both unacceptable and out of the question is a welcome development. Ireland must be careful that a European fast lane including Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain does not develop.
Since the passing of the Single European Act and the establishment of the Delors Committee on Economic and Monetary Union, it is regrettable that there has not been a more positive movement towards a single European currency. The turmoil in European Union currencies that ended in the virtual collapse of the European exchange rate mechanism created tensions and fears which still exist among many member states. The general public is also worried about interest rates rising to levels at which people are unable to cope with repayments. A single currency would obviously create tight discipline as regards the monetary policy of all governments. Doubtless, it would create an enormous challenge for small countries, especially Ireland — an island member state on the edge of Europe. Nevertheless the advantages of a single European currency would appear to far outweigh the disadvantages.
Following the completion of the present enlargement with the accession of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden, it will be essential to take stock of exactly where Europe is heading. Turkey applied for membership as far back as April 1987. Cyprus and Malta both applied for membership in July 1990 while Hungary and Poland applied in April 1994. In a report entitled The European Community: The Challenge of Enlargement, published in 1992, Dr. Wallace H. Malisky stated categorically that the European Community was going to be enlarged. Quite a number of other East European nations are also anxious to join the European Union. The proposed extension to 16 members will take a lengthy period of time to cope with both in administrative and legal terms. As many as nine or ten extra countries are seeking to join the EU.
The report before the House welcomes the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway. The joint committee supports the continuation of the enlargement process, and I go along with this approach. It is important for the EU to take stock at this time. The appointment of the new President of the European Commission, following the completion of Jacques Delors' term of office, led to a considerable amount of public dissatisfaction. This is a key position and the existing method of appointment leaves a lot to be desired.
Similarly, the allocation of portfolios by the President of the Commission is unsatisfactory. While the European Parliament has the right to vote on the Commission, its vote is nevertheless confined to either acceptance or rejection of the Commission as a whole. In the event of the European Parliament being unhappy about the appointment of one Commissioner, it is faced with the prospect of rejecting the entire Commission or accepting an individual Commissioner about whom it may be unhappy.
Members of this Commission will make key policy decisions relating to employment and tax policy, transport policy throughout Europe and energy and conservation policy. Members of the European Parliament who may object to an individual Commissioner will be unable to express their democratic right to vote against that Commissioner without rejecting the full Commission as recommended by the President. This matter must be addressed in the public interest at the earliest possible opportunity.
The report deals with the enlargement of the European Union. At present with 12 member states the level of bureaucracy has grown; it has continued to mushroom and expand. It is essential that such bureaucracy is controlled. We have seen the dismantling of barriers and the clearing of customs controls at points of entry to countries. However, the laws of the EU and its day to day interference in the lives of citizens must be curtailed and remedied. Standardisation and compartmentalisation appear to be the order of the day in the EU. The outflow of laws and regulations emanating from the EU seem to be increasing. That is something which must be looked at.
A worrying aspect of the EU as it exists at present is its failure to tackle serious environmental issues which arise. While the environment, the necessity for a clean water supply and clean air to ensure the good health of the citizens of the EU may be addressed in some fashion, it is not sufficiently addressed and requires a greater degree of urgency than is apparent at present.
Approximately 18 million people are unemployed in the EU. Can jobs be found for some of these people? Can that huge number be provided with worthwhile employment? Will the number remain static or is it likely to increase? This is a startling figure and it is alarming to see so many people unable to obtain employment.
In Ireland we are witnessing increasing depopulation in rural areas and in small villages and towns. The situation is similar in France, Spain, Italy and other countries with large agricultural bases. Rural depopulation is not attracting sufficient urgent attention and the remedies it requires. If this trend continues, it bodes ill for the future of those living in such countries. Ireland is an agricultural country and a primary producer of agricultural produce. Existing trends in agriculture are a cause of concern for people in Ireland. I hope the new Parliament will seek answers to this continuing problem.
I agree with most of what is in the report. The Minister spoke about the accession of Malta and Cyprus which is being examined at this time. Will he tell us what is the situation in regard to Turkey and some of the eastern European countries?
I support the report and the Bill before the House.
We are dealing with two items — the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs: The Enlargement of the European Union and the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, a technical Bill which makes legal provisions for the accession of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. I am pleased that the Bill is before the House today. I am pleased also that we are to debate the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding enlargement of the European Union. That report represents another major step in providing information about the ramifications of enlargement, about the problems and benefits that can accrue from the accession of the four EFTA States and, subsequently, the possibility of the accession of the increasing number of other states which are attempting to join the EU.
As a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs I would like to pay tribute in this House to Professor Brigid Laffan from UCD who did a tremendous amount of work on behalf of the committee. I compliment her on the research and deliberation she put into her draft report and on the quality of the material she presented to the committee which was of excellent value. I also wish to compliment Mr. Barrington and Mr. Fahey, Assistant Secretaries at the Department of Foreign Affairs, who took part in the deliberations when we had briefings and submissions. The Institute of European Affairs played a major part in the report as did the ambassadors of States wishing to become members of the EU. Apart from the ambassadors, parliamentary delegations participated and their input into this report was of inestimable value.
An enlarged EU will create its own problems but the four countries joining now will create less of a problem than many others. They are expected to be net contributors to the EU.
I am delighted that the relevant referenda in both Austria and Finland have taken place and produced a positive result. It is important that one country from the centre of Europe and another from the periphery of Europe have voted to accede to the European Union. This gives a balance as to the opinions of people in those two countries as to where we are or the direction in which they believe Europe should go. I sincerely hope that within the next few weeks Sweden and Norway will also agree to accede to the European Union. In the case of Norway the decision is expected to be very close.
It is important that of the four countries which are in the process of joining the European Union, three have neutrality policies similar to, but not the same as ours. It is important to realise that, with further accessions, more countries which are not involved in NATO will be involved in the EU. The question of involvement with NATO or with Western European Union will be of major importance in the debate that will take place between now and 1996 because we will have to analyse what we mean by a defence policy, what we mean by neutrality and what we desire from the European Union in these areas. As a result of the advertisements in the papers seeking submissions on the White Paper on foreign policy, a broadly based group of suggestions will be obtained from outside the Oireachtas, including those from groups and individuals who are interested in the evolution of European and foreign policy over the next decade. This is the first opportunity people will have to give their opinions as to what they consider should be out foreign policy, particularly with regard to the problems which could arise in relation to neutrality and defence within the European framework.
I attended a meeting a short time ago of the Western European Union as an observer. It was the first occasion on which Ireland had observers at a Western European Union meeting since we obtained observer status following the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty. There are huge conflicts of opinion and a profundity of confusion within the existing membership of the Western European Union as to what the organisation is about, what the nature of the relationship between the Western European Union and NATO is or should be, and how this problem should be addressed. The meeting was attended by many countries seeking membership of the EU and there were large delegations from Russia and other countries of the former USSR.
The debate on neutrality and defence will be of major importance over the next few years. The result of the debate is uncertain, but I appeal to anybody who has an interest in our foreign policy to make a submission, either verbally or in writing, and give the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Government the benefit of their opinions. It is public opinion, which is afterwards expressed through legislation, that will materially change the situation, both within the country and with regard to foreign affairs.
The four states who are seeking membership of the EU at present, two of which have already held referenda, are probably easy for us to accept in that they will be net contributors. There are and will be other applicants which will not be net contributors and this is the crux of the matter. Are we prepared to enlarge the EU for the benefit of countries which would not be net contributors given that, at present, we ourselves are not net contributors? It would mean that the input from the EU to us would be diminished. Is our economy strong enough to accept this and to take it into account when we decide on the inclusion of any applicant country to the EU?
Turkey's membership of the EU has not yet been accepted, although its application was submitted in 1987. Turkey is a country of major importance in Europe, and being on the periphery of Europe and the Near East, its application must be considered carefully. It has been suggested in the past that because of the problems of civil and social rights in Turkey it may not be a country which could be accepted into the EU. It is very easy to say that Turkey is the only one with civil rights problems. However, we must look at Turkey in particular as it has always been a major power in that area.
With regard to the successful outcome of the negotiations with the four EFTA countries, the sensitive issues were ones which were also important to us — agriculture, peripherality of certain areas, regional policy and the institutions of government. I accept what Senator Enright said, that we do not want a build up of institutions which do not work. There is no doubt that we have been more successful in Europe in creating unemployment than anything else. I do not like saying that but it is a fact. Unemployment is the biggest growth industry in Europe which results in another great growth industry — the support system for those who are unemployed. We must address unemployment and the elimination of the support system. The only way to eliminate the support system, which is costing Europe so much, is to create employment. The main debate has to be about the provision of acceptable jobs for people within the EU.
There is no doubt that these four countries will strengthen the trading element of the EU. That is of extreme importance in our search for a European economic area which is self sustaining and expansionary in terms of the creation of jobs and an ambience where people can live in an environmentally friendly situation. These four potential accession countries have a much better record in environmental matters than some of the countries which have applied to join. We have to be as sensitive in the environmental area as in the employment area.
There are no real adjustment problems at present with these four countries. They have a reasonable similarity of views in terms of social, trading and foreign policies. Generally speaking, they would be acceptable as members of any club within Europe.
We also have the problem of the accession of the former Communist states. If we are to have an integrated Europe we must take all these states into account. Enormous economic and environmental problems were created in those countries by running down agriculture, industry and so on. The cost of bringing them up to even minimal levels of economic, social or environmental viability would be enormous.
The joint committee welcomed the decision of the European Council in Corfu to have a report drafted on how the Union can work with the countries of central and eastern Europe to prepare a strategy. The strategy for accession of these countries will be an area of tremendous problems and will take much longer to achieve than that of Austria, Finland and Norway.
The criteria for membership are: appropriate and compatible political systems, functioning market economy and an acceptance of the acquis. We will have to have to determine where we stand on the acquis between now and 1996, which is not too far away.
The recommendations of the committee on the social dimension of the EU are of paramount importance. It recommends that in any future enlargement there must be insistence on complete adherence by the applicant states to the provisions of the Social Chapter of the Treaty on European Union. My difficulty with that is that certain member states, in particular Great Britain, do not adhere to that chapter. If the Union includes a very important member state which does not adhere to the provisions of the Social Chapter, how can we then insist, as suggested, that applicant states must adhere to them? There is a dichotomy of opinion. Why should somebody who does not adhere to something suggest that somebody else must adhere to it? It does not make sense.
The debate on foreign policy and enlargement will be a developing one. It is important that more and more debates on foreign policy matters should come before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Seanad spent an admirable amount of time over the years since the time of the joint committee on secondary legislation in debating at least the results of all the committee's decisions and reports. We are now discussing the enlargement of the EU.
It is the first time that a committee report went before the Dáil before it came to the Seanad. I am not saying whether that is good or bad but, up to now, it generally came to the Seanad first and in many cases these reports were not even addressed in the Dáil. I hope that the Dáil and Seanad will in future give as much time as possible to the reports of the committees. Otherwise, these reports can be shelved or left in libraries. They will be used by academics but if they are not debated they will not be much use in informing the public about what is happening.
The institutional issues to which Senator Enright referred are important if we are to have a coherent EU which will give the people what they demand. It is not doing that at present. They say that macro economically we are doing well but I cannot tell that to someone in Kilkenny, Laois or elsewhere who has no job. We say to them that we are supporting them with the social welfare system but 99 per cent of people receiving social welfare would rather have a job. If we are going to have a strong Europe we must ensure that those who want to work — the majority of people — can get work which is not of a "make work" nature but genuine work from which they can get satisfaction. That would be of fantastic benefit, not alone to Ireland but to the European Union.
Ireland has a major part to play in the evolution of the European Union. Even though we are a very small nation, we have played an important part in the evolution of many of the objectives of the United Nations and international policy. We are listened to because we have not been part of any major power block which has tried to impose its wishes on others. We have played our part in the international community and have been important in highlighting problems. This is an important part of the debate on the European Union. I reiterate that there is now an opportunity for people to address themselves to Irish foreign policy decision making by sending recommendations to the Foreign Affairs Committee. These will be addressed in the White Paper which will be presented within the next 12 months.
I could not help smiling when listening to Senator Lanigan. I agree virtually entirely with what he said but I was thinking of the response in Mayfield or Gurranebraher this week to the canvasser's assurance that, macro-economically, we are doing very well. I cannot see many votes being won by that. I agree with the Senator's use of that concept to indicate how distant from reality are many of the spokespersons and much of the rhetoric at European Union level and perhaps at home.
The Tánaiste played his cards close to his chest which is perfectly reasonable in current circumstances. I agree with Senators Enright and Lanigan that this is an excellent report. It bears the impress of the clarity and coherence one has come to expect from Professor Brigid Laffan. I was glad to hear the tribute paid to her role in formulating the report.
I welcome the report partly because the conclusions on the whole are very balanced. It is stated that:
It is in the Union's interest that the transition process in the east is successful. The common objective must be to integrate the former communist states into a continental wide system that ensures stability and security.
I am sure nobody would take exception to that but I would add that it should happen reasonably rapidly. There is uncertainty about the time scale. That is what will determine how genuine the Union is about the rhetoric of integration which, of course, nobody opposes in principle.
I am a little worried about paragraph 10.4. I do not know who can explain the thinking behind this paragraph because it does not come from anything in the report. It is one of the few non sequiturs. It states:
in any future enlargement, there must be insistence on complete adherence by the applicant States to the provisions of the Social Chapter of the Treaty on European Union.
Senator Lanigan referred to that and drew attention to Britain's opting out. I am a strong supporter of the Social Chapter. I believe that Britain's opting out and noises in that direction by some of our own employers are misguided and short sighted.
I am not challenging the ethos of the Social Chapter or the thinking behind it. However, if the very weak economies of eastern Europe are to be asked immediately to accept or adopt complete adherence to the provisions of the Social Chapter I can see grave difficulties arising in terms of their budgets and public finances. I would like to hear some teasing out of the thinking behind that paragraph from a competent person who can provide an explanation of what the committee has in mind.
This point is not, to the best of my recollection, discussed anywhere else in the report, nor does it arise from a discussion or analysis in the report of the likely socio-economic consequences of membership of the eastern states. I could visualise a situation where there would be a graduated integration by the eastern European states into the Social Chapter as their economies strengthened. However, as it stands it is a very bald statement and I would like to know exactly the thinking behind it.
I welcome the last paragraph of the report on page 70 which states:
The Joint Committee recommends that the Government should deepen political and economic ties with Central and Eastern Europe and should take specific measures to alert Government agencies and the private sector of the mutually beneficial economic opportunities...
I would not want it to stop there. We have a major opportunity to establish close and constructive ties with all the eastern European states.
We enjoy an extraordinary high standing among these States. This is partly because they admire our political success in having established political democracy in this country while they, for the most part, failed to do, having achieved their independence at about the same time. We take this achievement for granted but they know from sad experience that it is difficult to achieve. In my view we do not adequately value our achievement.
While we may criticise individual politicians — no doubt justifiably at times — the success of the political process in this country in sustaining parliamentary democracy is something they value very highly. They are anxious to know how we did it. As we do not reflect very much on such issues we may actually have to think systematically about how we did it in order to be of assistance to them.
They regard us as being a little more economically successful than is objectively the case but we will not haggle over that at the moment. One of my few criticisms of the report is that it lacks a recognition of the importance of cultural factors. I hope I will not sound excessively esoteric in talking about cultural factors. They are quite relevant to politics and to the development of fruitful relations between ourselves and eastern Europe.
In a range of areas we have an opportunity to make an impact on the thinking of eastern Europeans, not least through their admiration for our cultural achievements and specifically in terms of relationships between educational institutions at all levels in this country and eastern Europe. Dr. Miriam Hederman O'Brien — whose name is likely to be invoked elsewhere in the course of the day — among her many other contributions to Irish public life wrote excellent reports on the TEMPUS exchange scheme and on the possibilities for closer contact between educational institutions. I do not believe we have acted on those reports which were published a few years ago.
There is scope for closer cohesion between Government thinking, public policy thinking in this country and educational institutions in advancing general Irish interest in countries such as these. We should identify young students in Ireland to travel to eastern Europe and others to travel here in an effort to build up the latent fund of goodwill among future leaders in these countries.
Almost all young eastern European people who come to Ireland like it very much. They might not like it quite as much if they had to live here all the time but that is a different matter. They go back with a very positive attitude towards Ireland. Instead of adopting a laissez faire attitude to such matters, as we do at present, there should be a greater attempt at the development of coherent relations, the identification of people whom we would like to invite to Ireland and the fostering of closer contacts among the emerging leadership cadre in these countries.
One of the reasons Hungary looks so positively on Ireland, for instance, is that the last Hungarian Ambassador is now in charge of Hungary's application to enter the EU and he returned to Hungary with a very positive attitude towards Ireland. There are many opportunities which of course include political and economic aspects but they should not be confined to those areas because they all overlap. I would like to see a little more thinking about the cultural dimension of our relation with eastern Europe as a mutually beneficial contribution towards the idea of European integration.
The report, in paragraph 10.8, refers to the role of small states and the importance for Ireland to associate with other small states to ensure that the general role of small states in the EU is not damaged by the division that appears to be emerging to some extent between smaller and larger states and the pressures that may emerge for institutional adaptation which would could reduce the role of small states in the institutions. The report states:
The Joint Committee recommends that Ireland should play a leading role in elaborating and ensuring the adoption of appropriate and effective mechanisms to protect the unique contribution of small member states.
What is the unique contribution of small member states? If I were German or French and did not want to be persuaded about the beautiful blue eyes of small member states, it would take more than a simple statement about our unique contribution to persuade me to continue to part with my tax money to sustain what the more ungenerous Germans or French might see as the welfare spongers in the European Union. I do not see small states in that light but one hears such phrases used in parts of Germany by those who are querying more closely than heretofore what they are putting into the EU, what they are receiving and why they should continue to subsidise people who do not appear to make the same contribution that the Germans, in their self image, are making to European integration.
We require more than rhetoric. In the short term, objectively, small member states may not have much to contribute towards European union in political and economic terms although, practically, I think Ireland has contributed in political terms. This is not a criticism of Ireland qua Ireland, it is a question of how we position ourselves in the general context of small states to impress bigger states with the value of our contribution. This brings me back to culture. Helmut Schmidt once said of us to Garret FitzGerald, when discussing what Ireland contributes and what it has done for the EU, that we could not expect to contribute anything economically, we cannot contribute much politically and we contribute nothing militarily; however, he said that the EU expected at least ideas from us and some sense of cultural style. That is not an unreasonable expectation and we have the capacity to contribute both.
I will not use this occasion to talk about the importance of the Irish language. Nílim ag trácht anois ar sheasamh na teanga ná ar a hionad sa tsochaí seo againne. Táim ag déanamh trácht ar cheist i bhfad níos leithne, a bhaineann ní amháin le féiniúlacht na hÉireann, ach le féiniúlacht na hEorpa. If there is not a European identity over and above the identity of the individual states it is very difficult to see why larger states, concerned solely with their material interests, should wish to make any sacrifices or what they perceive as sacrifices for smaller states.
What if they were to adopt the attitude or mentality behind some of the phraseology in this report? "Small states must be compensated for their size as the larger states exercise more power in the system". Why must small states be compensated for their size? We have moved from being compensated for peripherality to being compensated for size. There is not much left for which we can be compensated. I dislike the language of compensation. It is far better to use positive language about contributions than negative language about compensation.
By and large, the rhetoric in the report is positive: "Ireland should take a leading role in identifying areas of common interest with the acceding countries..." etc. We have the potential to do that. The more we think positively of ourselves and of what we can contribute rather than thinking defensively of what we can get out of it, the more we are likely to get out of it from now on. That is being opportunistic and utilitarian about the issue as well as feeling good about it; it is nice to be able to combine the two from time to time. There is scope to be more constructive and positive rather than falling back on what compensation we can get for the designs of the Almighty when He defined our borders — unless Hy Brassil or Atlantis rises in the Atlantic and we can suddenly become a large state in which case, no doubt, we will seek compensation for something else. The balance of the report is positive but there is an opportunity to make it more positive.
I wish to refer to some general points in the report. The report rejects the idea of fast lanes, slow lanes, two tiers and so forth. I am not bothered about lanes. However, I am bothered about which lane we will be in if it comes to that. With an expanding union I do not think one can always go at the pace of the slowest member or even at the pace of those who would constitute 23 or 27 blocking votes. It is up to ourselves to ensure that if lanes emerge — and there is sufficient indication of subterranean thinking in Germany in particular and quite close to the centres of Government to suggest that this item will return on the agenda if they are not satisfied with the way things progress over the next few years — we must have our house in order. I deplore the contributions of Mr. Tietmeyer which are unhelpful to Ireland, to Europe and, indeed, to Germany.
The report refers to a democratic deficit in the European Parliament. Of course there is a democratic deficit in the European Parliament. However, putting our hands on our hearts, would we say that the democratic deficit in the European Parliament is much greater than the democratic deficit in our own Parliament?
It is less.
How far have the Houses of the Oireachtas significantly influenced legislation in the last two or 20 or 70 years? I am not suggesting the abolition of the Houses of the Oireachtas. They play an indispensible role in legitimising decisions taken, for the most part, elsewhere. However, when we talk about democratic deficits let us not confine ourselves solely to deficits in Europe. If we are genuine we might look a little closer to home.
A sentence in the report welcomes the accession of the Nordic countries because of the openness and transparency of their governmental system. I have complete confidence in the capacity of our institutions to resist any threat from that quarter. The stamina that will be shown in sustaining our honourable traditions will see that threat off the playing field very quickly.
Having expressed such slightly sceptical views, I welcome this report. The positive attitude displayed towards how we ought to, as far as we can, take charge of our own destiny and the consideration of our potential contribution to Europe as distinct from what we can get out of it, are commendable changes in rhetoric. Change in rhetoric is the beginning of change in perspective, if one says something often enough one might begin to believe it.
There are threats, and we are all aware of them, to legitimate sectoral interests in the expansion to the east. However, there are also enormous opportunities. We have the political skill to seize those opportunities. We should never underrate our political skills in a European or other context. However, if we also have the intellect, the imagination and the courage to reinforce those skills we could be entering very exciting decades in terms of Ireland's role in Europe.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak on this important matter. I welcome the report from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Having taught history and geography in post-primary schools for a number of years any debate on the EU and Europe in general is of great interest to me.
A massive transformation in the geography of Europe has taken place since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in the early 1950s, which was the forerunner to the present EU. If we think of Europe stretching from the Arctic in the north to the Mediterranean in the south, from the Atlantic in the west and the Urals in the east, there have been some fantastic changes since the establishment of that Community, one of which is the ending of the Cold War. This leads to the point where Austria and Finland were positioned during that time.
These two countries, which voted on 12 June and 16 October to join the EU, were buffer states. Quite rightly, they had to be well maintained to avoid being swamped. This could have happened in the 1950s, but definitely in the 1940s, if they had not been supported by the West, and particularly America. It is a change to find that these countries can now independently join the European Union.
Norway and Sweden, which go to the polls on 13 November and 28 November, may also join the EU, enlarging it to 16 members. Originally, there were six members and three countries joined in 1973. This is a second bite of the cherry for Norway because it voted against joining the EEC in 1973. I welcome these countries into the EU because their cultures are similar to that of Ireland. They have well developed economies and they stand out in terms of democratic principles. They have great regard for civil and human rights.
The lack of a single European currency is one of the biggest hindrances to and the source of the greatest division in the EU at present. If one goes to Britain or the northern part of this country, one loses both ways in terms of money. Previously, if one went from one to the other, one gained but now one loses both ways. Thankfully, petrol stations and shops near the Border accept both currencies; this is a great way around the problem. However, in overall terms and particularly for eastern European countries who seek to join the EU, the lack of a single European currency is a major hindrance. Currencies will continue to float up and down and this will cause great difficulties for economic development.
Europe has always been a continent of many small countries. There were some large countries — France, Italy and Spain — but it consisted mostly of small countries, such as Liechtenstein, about which we may only hear when there is a World Cup game, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, etc. It makes it much easier for the people of Europe to have a regulated life if more borders are eliminated and there is free movement of people, goods and money from one area to another. Countries would not be left adrift if there was a united states of Europe — perhaps modelled on the present day USA — rather than a situation where one small country has a tax code and people try to skip to another country to lodge money or whatever.
If the four current applications are successful, a huge market of 369 million people will be created. This poses great challenges for Irish businesses but no doubt there will be pitfalls. There is the Norwegian fishing industry and we know what happened when the Spaniards were fishing in our waters. The Norwegians will not be as covetous or as daring as the Spaniards but this issue must be properly negotiated. Austria is an inland country which has a well developed winter tourism industry in terms of skiing and winter holidays. Ireland has not entered this market and should have done so. We should not try to sell Ireland as a country with sunshine because we cannot compare with the Mediterranean areas when it comes to holiday in the sun. We must adopt a different approach and Austria could be a major competitor as regards developing tourism in Ireland.
I am glad Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Switzerland have applied to join the EU. The sooner all the countries of Europe, from the Urals to the Atlantic, are part of the Union the better. With EU expansion there will be movement of people all the time. In the past many Irish people were forced to emigrate to America, Britain and other countries but now they are going to Europe. They are a great loss to us.
I must also mention the movement of people to Ireland. There is a problem in west Cork at present with new age travellers coming from Britain. I fear the movement of these people into remoter parts of our country will cause a major strain on our social services.
That is hardly consistent with socialist thinking.
It is reality. If the system in Ireland was geared in the past towards our people leaving the country, we do not have a system in place at present to cater for mass movement inwards. Our people left the country to genuinely seek work. Many fell by the wayside abroad but many more worked hard in countries to which they moved. They settled there and are doing well for themselves. In addition, the country to which they moved did not bear the cost of rearing or educating them. People are coming to Ireland to avail of our social services. Given the new law in Britain, which is due for royal assent, what are the implications for Ireland if people who stayed on the side of the road, wandered around and trespassed, can get the boat to Ireland and move into a nice, clean and friendly environment in west Cork?
They should be made very welcome.
The answer to that question has the same implications as people from Ireland going to England. How are we to change that?
Senator Calnan without interruption.
Senator Calnan — who is straying slightly from the report — without interruption.
We are talking about the EU and the four countries that have applied to join. Finns and Swedes could join also.
Senator Calnan without interruption.
Irish people went abroad to work. Some did not find work but the vast majority did. It is not correct to make a comparison with people who, as soon as they arrive, sign on at the local exchange or go to the local health clinic and draw supplementary welfare allowance. They are entitled to do so by law but we must do something to rectify the matter, otherwise, there will be a strain on our social services.
I am glad of the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the enlargement of the European Union. Countries such as Norway, Sweden, Austria and Finland have much to give to the EU and we can benefit from them.
In danger of being rapped on the knuckles I would like to refer to Senator Calnan's contribution. Many refugees come into Shannon Airport and I have heard similar arguments about the drain on social services.
Hitler had some good lines on that.
I do not accept those arguments. We have international responsibilities and we should accept them. We get a lot from the EU and other sources and we should give a little. If such a yardstick had been applied to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who emigrated over the generations they would be in a sorry state. I would not like to think that Ireland as a host country would treat people in other than a humane and civilised way, and that we would show generosity of spirit regardless of the circumstances in which those people come into the country.
There is a thriving community around Feakle as far as I know.
Yes, all around Feakle and north Clare.
Enhancing the culture of Clare.
These people with their variety of cultures and backgrounds add a lot to the local environment, contribute to the local economy and manage to establish their own business and craft industries.
I am delighted the Seanad is discussing this report because one of its recommendations was that it should be debated in the Seanad and in the Dáil. It is good that the Seanad has taken the lead in discussing the report in conjunction with the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, which amends the legislation of 1972 and 1993 to allow for the accession of Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
I compliment Professor Brigid Laffan for her research in compiling this report. Her depth and range of knowledge and expertise are considerable and impressive. She had much to contribute in her submissions and at meetings of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. This report is in no small way due to Professor Laffan's work and she deserves full commendation for her work.
We are confined to 15 minutes and I will confine my contribution to the recommendations of the report as it is not possible to deal with all aspects in the time available. The report makes specific recommendations arrived at after a lot of discussion and visits from ambassadors from existing member states, prospective members states — including the four members of EFTA who will accede shortly — and from a number of the eastern European countries, in particular, Hungary and Poland. We were in a position to question the ambassadors and other representatives.
Senator Lee referred to the role of the small member states. Paragraph 10.8 on page 69 states that: "...Ireland should play a leading role in elaborating and ensuring the adoption of appropriate and effective mechanisms to protect the unique contribution of small member states." Senator Lee asked what was their unique contribution. As the EU has evolved there has been a fundamental principle — which we believe should remain in place — that small states should have a disproportionate presence in the institutional system.
We are concerned about the danger that may arise — particularly coming toward the intergovernmental conference of 1996 — that the position of small member states may be threatened. Their position must be protected and, while they may have greater political representation in proportion to their population, it is important that they be there for their political input. A number of the states which are about to accede are neutral, as is Ireland, and we could develop communication, contact and a common stand. There is an opportunity for small member states to establish contact at that level.
Senator Lee was critical that the report does not deal with the cultural aspects of enlargement. Since Ireland entered Europe our intellectual skills and our ability to deal with issues and to find remedies to problems have been highly respected. We can contribute in a substantial way via these skills. In the discussions that have taken place in Brussels to secure various benefits for Ireland, the benefits have been obtained due to the wit, humour and ability to negotiate of our representatives there and our officials here.
We have managed to establish and maintain good contacts in Brussels. We are respected for our intellectual capacities, our humour, our ability to enjoy ourselves and our cultural contribution. Such capacities are invaluable: their value may not be economic or monetary but one has to put a value on finer things, and these are our strengths. We should develop and strengthen those aspects of our contribution to Europe in the future.
The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs also recommended that countries gaining accession in the future should adhere to the Social Chapter of the Treaty on European Union. The thinking behind this is that while we have adopted the Maastricht Treaty in its entirety, our neighbour, Britain, has adopted the treaty minus the Social Chapter. It was felt that we could be disadvantaged by such a situation and we have seen examples of this over the past year where, to our loss, industry has gone from this country to Britain. We cannot afford to allow that to continue. Everything must be done to redress this situation; in future negotiations the onus should be put on Britain to adopt the Social Chapter.
If we are to be in an EU with equality, a union of integration and common policy, it is important that such situations do not arise in the future. That was the thinking behind the recommendation and it must be adhered to in the future. I would ask the Government if possible, to get existing member states, Britain in particular, to accept the Social Chapter.
Paragraph 10.3 of the report states that: "The Joint Committee endorses the broad criteria for membership agreed at the Copenhagen European Council..." and lists three criteria. However, the committee also recommended that a further criterion must be respect for human rights. It is important that the human rights issue be included in future discussions.
In the east European countries previously under Communist regimes the respect for human rights often left much to be desired. Any agreements these countries now sign should include provisions for the respect and maintenance of human rights. This is a fundamental issue which should not be ignored. This report recommends this move and I welcome that.
We are all delighted about the accession of the four EFTA countries, Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. It will be more difficult when the applicants from eastern Europe join. The joint committee states that the policy implications of an eastward enlargement should be fully assessed in preparation for the Government White Paper on Foreign Policy and the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference.
The eastern European countries are important to European unity but they used to have a much different political, social and economic structure. They are now attempting to become democratic states and develop market economies. Needless to say, they are experiencing difficulties. Germany and Austria are concerned to have political stability in the eastern countries and the position should be addressed sensibly in a coordinated and directed manner. If we do that, then when these countries do acquire membership, which may happen as early as 1999, they will be in a similar position to the rest of Europe.
There is a huge debate about institutions because the current EU institutional structures have been in place since its foundation. They are almost 50 years old and date from a time when there were only six member states. The current institutions will not work in an EU with up to 30 member states. There is a real need to address this issue and arrive at a specific view. The Foreign Affairs Committee recommends that the implications for Irish policy of the evolutionary and federal constitutional models be thoroughly examined and debated. I hope the Government does that before it presents its White Paper.
The report also recommends that Ireland deepen its political and economic ties with central and eastern Europe. There are great opportunities for semi-State bodies such as the ESB and Telecom Éireann to be involved in those countries. The Ministers responsible should direct those organisations to do so, and also encourage the private sector to set up more joint ventures in those countries.
Senator Lee referred to the cultural and educational aspects of EU enlargement. There is great potential for the Minister for Education to establish liaisons between educational institutions here and in eastern Europe. That could have considerable long term benefits and it is important to understand the thinking, the culture and the background of our new neighbours, who will be part of the EU before the turn of the century.
Having called many times for this House to debate EU enlargement, I welcome the opportunity we are now afforded by the presentation of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs' report on the subject. Enlargement is probably the most important issue facing the EU. It is largely welcomed but many people feel the process is moving slightly too quickly and that insufficient thought has been given to the implications of enlargement.
Earlier this year Members of the European Parliament turned out in force to give a warm welcome to the applicant member states. They voted overwhelmingly in favour of the accession to the EU of Austria, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Malta, Cyprus and Turkey have applied for membership and other countries such as Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are discussing joining.
Senator Lee mentioned that the former Hungarian Ambassador to Ireland, Dr. Istevan Pataki, is now in charge of Hungary's accession negotiations and left Ireland with the impression that Hungary would receive considerable support from this country. He and his former second in command, Dr. Gabor Foldvari, were good ambassadors for that country and did much to establish good relations between Hungary and Ireland.
When I thought of Europe when I was young, I imagined the centre of Europe as being in Switzerland or Austria. In recent times the centre seems to have shifted towards the west, but Europe is larger than we sometimes recognise. Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all European countries, as is Russia.
That mighty nation, Turkey, is also European. Its application to join the EU has been put on hold. That must be for economic and political rather than geographical reasons, for surely Turkey is attached to Europe rather than Asia and is clearly separated from the Levant. It is interesting to note that when the old USSR was a force in world politics Turkey, as a member of NATO, served as a bulwark against Soviet repression and aggression.
I hope this friend in need will not be now conveniently forgotten when it seeks to join the enlarged Union. Turkey, because of its history, location and dynamism, can form a bridge between east and west, between Muslim and Christian. Istanbul may once again adopt the central role it played in the governance of Europe. It is not for nothing that Constantine chose that city as his capital.
The EU is committed to the creation of economic and monetary as well as political union. Despite the problems inherent in adding to the complexity of working within a community of 12 nations, it is becoming clearer by the day that the destiny of the EU cannot be defined by the present boundaries. The members of the EU will gradually rise from 12 to 16 and eventually perhaps to over 20. In addition to most of the present EFTA states, there will be countries from central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region.
Article 237 of the Treaty of Rome states: "Any European State can apply to become a member of the European Economic Community". It does not define the geographical limits of Europe and, as I said earlier, the limits can be widely interpreted. Russia merges at some point with Asia, but it is essentially and intimately a European nation.
However, irrespective of where the applicant country is located it must meet certain criteria, namely, that it must be democratic; capable of fitting into the EU in economic, political and institutional terms; and that it is prepared to accept the acquis communautaire— that is, it must accept the full corpus of European Community and European Union law and policy put into place since 1957. Current applications have met these criteria and no doubt those applicant countries which at a future date successfully negotiate membership will also have to meet these criteria.
Even where the criteria are met there are still issues and challenges which must be tackled. One such issue for Ireland is the development of a common foreign and security policy and the implications of that for our neutrality. Austria, Sweden and Finland have policies of neutrality. Austrian neutrality is based on its federal constitution law of 26 October 1955, in which is enshrined non-membership of military alliances, a ban on foreign bases and permanent neutrality. Sweden has a law enjoining its non-participation in military alliances in a time of peace to allow neutrality in time of war. Finland has a 1948 friendship treaty with the USSR. It has an agreement not to place its territory at the disposal of a foreign power and there are no threats to the former USSR from Finnish soil.
Article J of Title V — Provisions on a Common Foreign and Security Policy — of the Treaty on European Union states that "A common foreign and security policy is hereby established which shall be governed by the following provisions." Article J.1.4 states that:
The Member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity. They shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations. The Council shall ensure that these principles are complied with.
Although we are traditionally neutral, it is surely not unreasonable to expect that we should, if required in future, come to the defence of the Union.
There are other special economic issues for Ireland, notably concerning the impact of enlargement — for example, the demands of the less developed applicants for Structural Funds. These will give rise to major calculations for Ireland and, not least, the future of the EU Budget. I have no doubt these issues will be ably dealt with by our Government representatives, whoever they will be at the time.
There is also a need for a wide-ranging public debate on what it means to be a new European. We need to address the information deficit but we also need to recognise that historical attitudes will have to be reassessed. Our commitment as a nation to a European ideal must be examined on a continual basis.
The philosophical underpinning of social policy must be particularly examined. I am glad to say that we have in place Protocol 17 to protect Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution which prohibits abortion. This will hopefully protect the unborn in this country and not allow abortion to become a service, as it is in many of the other European Union countries.
We have to ask questions as to who directs the overall development of the Union. We must be careful about the leaders of the Union and see that the Commission and the other organisations that run the Union are well balanced and that we do not end up with a fascist or a totally socialist Union but with a balanced one which will help all people. Does Ireland stand to gain more from the policy line of the Commission and the Parliament or from working largely at the level of the Council of Ministers and the European Council? We should not fear enlargement. We need to be constantly reminded that the whole basis for forming a Union is to pursue a process of peace to preserve life rather than destroy it.
I do not see the difficulty in the future as one of reaching agreement on major issues but I see us, as other Senators have mentioned, dividing on small issues which will be important at the time but not so in the overall scheme of things — for example, the languages we will use, moving the Parliament from one place to another at absolutely needless expense, representation at Commission and other levels, voting procedures and so on. We need to keep in mind the ultimate objective, which is to foster harmonious relationships between the people of this Continent.
We will never forget the First and Second World Wars. Over 40 million people were killed and 135 million injured and displaced during the Second World War. No matter how large the Union gets, it will help our aspiration to foster harmonious relations between its nations. We must at all times be steady in that resolve and never falter in it. I welcome this report because it will in some way contribute to the debate on enlargement and help us come to terms with it. We must keep in mind why we have a Union, which is that we never again want a war on the European continent and want to see the peoples of Europe living together in peace and harmony.
I have only one negative point to make about the Bill but I want to begin by drawing attention to it. Because of the geography of Europe, any extension and enlargement of the Union must be towards the east or the south. This puts us in a more peripheral position on each occasion. I am concerned that with the huge opportunities being created by an enlarged Europe through a hugely enlarged market, we will fail to reap that potential because of transportation difficulties. I wish to raise again an issue which I have raised on a number of occasions since joining this House in 1987. This relates to the peripherality of Ireland. Brussels is effectively the capital of Europe. I know there can be a major row between Members of the Union about this, but in order to do business Brussels is the capital. If I decided to go to there by plane tomorrow morning, the cost of the flight would be about £700 or £800. I know there are all sorts of deals available but if I decide now that I want to do business there in the morning this will be the cost of the flight.
It could be worse. The Senator could be on the Government jet and the journey would cost a great deal more.
That is true: perhaps the way forward is to make the Government jet available to other people. We need to look closely at the impact this is having on bargain making, market making, seeking new arrangements and so on in Europe. I am speaking of one flight, the same applies to many others. We need to see how we can subsidise the air corridor between ourselves and the main capitals of Europe, particularly Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt. There should be support from Europe for the subsidisation of these flights.
Notwithstanding the cock up on top of cock up we have seen with regard to the Channel Tunnel, in the early days of the proposals for a new rail system for Europe a 56 mile rail link under the Irish Sea was envisaged. This has fallen from the agenda because of costs and other factors and would be very low down the priorities of European proposals. It is no longer included in any of the proposals or prognoses for the development of European rail. This impacts on us very negatively. When the hiccups in relation to the tunnel are sorted out, business people will be able to travel from central London to central Paris by train in under three hours, in a slightly less time to Brussels and in a similar time to other major European capitals. This puts us at a major disadvantage. We should look at this very seriously.
I listened carefully to the comments of previous speakers on culture and neutrality. I was appalled at the comments made by Senator Calnan. No more than what I said earlier today about ethics in Government, he probably did not realise the import of what he said, but if he were to make that speech in a European context with European representatives present, this country would be seriously embarrassed. His party should talk to him about this. His contribution was negative and worrying.
Senator Calnan is not here to defend himself.
I recollect you intervening to ask him to keep to the substance of the debate and I appreciated that. This leads us clearly into the great attraction of European enlargement, which is cultural diversity. The differences and tensions of different cultures and learning about them can bring us forward to a greater understanding of each other.
Free movement is a cornerstone of this.
Free movement was the beginning of the Treaty of Rome and we can do nothing to stop it and should not want to. I was recently in the Czech Republic. There is a view there that its Bohemian influence on Europe will be a good softening influence on the more puritan approach to life of our colleagues and friends in the Nordic countries. The great differences, to which the French always referred, will be important to us in the future. As regards our Irishness, nothing has protected, developed and enhanced our cultural identity as much as joining Europe. Where are all the pessimists who said many years ago that culturally we would be swallowed, flooded and overrun? The reality is that Irish culture has blossomed in Europe.
And that our language would be a burden.
It also raises an issue we must address. The Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare, Deputy Burton, and I share, the same views on independence and neutrality. However, I recognise that the strong views I held for many years must change. I have searched for a definition of neutrality through world history but I failed to find it. Three of the four countries which are joining the EU — Finland, Sweden and Austria in particular — have had similar difficulties in approaching and dealing with the thorny question of neutrality. They dealt with it while being sandwiched on both sides of the great political divide for many years — Finland shares a border with Russia and Austria shares a border with the eastern bloc. For many years I admired the way they did this and it would be good for us if they joined Europe.
It is important to reassess our position on this issue. We need a lively debate about what neutrality, independence, nationalism, being a republic and being European means. There must not be a diminution of neutrality as a result of a decision that we protect ourselves. No one would argue against this. It has always been one of the great contradictions on the left of Irish politics that the same people who put their lives, limbs, families and jobs at risk in the 1930s to fight on the right side in the Spanish Civil War, were the same people who, when they came back, said we should wash our hands of the problems of the globe. We cannot tell our grandchildren that we were the people who stood around while Pol Pot massacred a generation or while other massacres were taking place, no more than our parents can explain to us how great it was to stand back and watch Belgium being overrun by the Nazi war machine. This difficult question must be considered.
I am opposed to joining the Western European Union and NATO but I would support being part of a defensive pact because it is our duty to defend our colleagues and other people in Europe in an acceptable way. That acceptable way, in global terms, should be a strengthened and restructured UN, but that is a debate for another day. We should consider this matter carefully. We now have a great opportunity to do so with at least four non-aligned countries in the enlarged European Union. We should debate this issue. The Government should grasp the nettle. This discussion must take place. If we see wrong being done to our colleagues in Europe through the aggression of people from outside Europe, we must ask the people where our duty lies.
Another question which bothers me is the tendency in Europe towards the dissolution of republics and the impact this would have on an enlarged Union. For example, if the Czech Republic joins, as it probably will, an enlarged European Union in the future, and if the Czech Republic is subdivided into Bohemia and Moravia, what impact would that have? Do the people and the land join the Union or is it the state as recognised by the UN? I suspect the same rules which the United Nations uses to define what is a state would apply. If a state subdivided, would there be two more members in the Union? I would appreciate an answer to that question because the legislation does not help me in this regard.
I agree with the points made about opening up the markets because the possibility of doing further business in Europe would be great for our growing economy. Recently, I met people who work in eastern Europe: one young man is working on the development of Slovenia. I sometimes fool myself by thinking I am a reasonably informed person, but I could not remember the name of its capital. This shows how uninformed I am about developments in eastern Europe. When he told me the name of the capital city, I could remember it and a lot more. Irish people are now developing infrastructures in those countries and we have a lot to give them, both in services and markets. The Irish services industry also has a great opportunity to develop the infrastructure of these new countries.
The Tánaiste said in this House that we share with the accession countries "a similarity of outlook on a range of international issues". He should spell out those issues, although neutrality is one of them. That should be dealt with up front and we should have a discussion on it. He mentioned that the accession of these four countries will lead to a population increase of 25 million in the enlarged Union, which gives an average population size of five to six million; that means there will be more countries our size. That is good for the internal dynamics of Europe and is an important aspect which will help our cause in Europe and help us to make a stronger contribution. In enlarging the Union we should now seek to develop the best of those countries culturally, economically and infrastructurally and try to spread through Europe a different type of cohesion policy, a conversion policy, where we would take the best from each country.
One of the things we lack at present is greater interaction. There is a need for movement between the population of this island and the rest of Europe. At the outset I mentioned the impact this could have on business but it is more than that. We must start somewhere if we are to ensure that the next generation understands the cultural values of the gypsies and bohemians of Europe and can accept a people and modify their social behaviour if it is unacceptable. That is important because a welcome does not mean they can tear down our houses but rather that they must conform to our social norms. Until we reach that position of strength and confidence, we will have failed in Europe. We need interaction to do this and the process must start early.
On numerous occasions I sent proposals to Brussels which suggested that I would be more comfortable if teachers in primary and post primary schools had experience of teacher and pupil exchanges. It would not matter if these exchanges took place between Belfast and Dublin or Dunquin and Paris. It is only when people meet and realise there is no great difference between them that they can move forward.
We should develop our links with Europe in terms of transport and also in technology and communications so that people can communicate with each other; they do not always need a common language. Children of four years of age in different European countries can communicate by drawing on a screen and talking about themselves.
There is a great future in an enlarged Europe. It is an exciting time to be a part of European politics and I hope we will live to see us play our role in it. With the acceptance of these countries and with our great economic growth, it will mean that in some stage in the future we will no longer be takers from Europe but will also be able to give.
I welcome the Bill. I thank the members of the joint committee for the contribution they made to our consideration and the report they have presented to us. I would especially like to thank and commend its chairman, our good friend Deputy Lenihan, and to wish him a speedy return to full health. He has been a totally committed European in every sense of the word, in terms of its culture, roots and future for as long as I have known him and as long as he has been involved in active political life.
This Bill is of considerable significance. Similar Bills are being passed through other parliaments in Europe. The Europe we are now looking at, as a consequence of this Bill when passed, is a far cry from that of the six members in the Treaty of Rome and indeed it is even further from the Coal and Steel Community, which originally started among the Benelux countries. Ironically, the purpose of that was to develop an internal cohesion and independence, economically and otherwise, to cope with the possible consequences of domination from the European Communist countries. That is what gave the original Benelux, the Coal and Steel Community and the Common Market its particular raison dêtre at the time. Now that things have changed dramatically, we obviously have to renew the direction, dynamism and vitality of Europe during those years, even up to and including our own accession.
The six original members became nine when we joined in 1973. The Union subsequently increased to 12 and is now made up of 16 members. Significantly, when we joined — I recall this because it was the first time I was involved in Government — the condition for our membership was that we had to be economically ready to take on the responsibilities of membership. That was adjusted somewhat later when the other three applicant member states, Greece, Spain and Portugal, joined. This was proper because then the European Community saw it as being essential to underpin these newly emerging democracies after periods of either dictatorship or military rule. It succeeded very well and demonstrated that the European Union has always been capable of adapting to the reality of change around it, of embracing that change and not being negative and defensive. I hope that will remain our approach, because the Europe and the world in which we live is changing every day.
There were many institutional reforms considered to deal with that change from time to time — I want to focus on a few of them because I was involved as Commissioner when some of these were presented — to ensure it would not creak under the weight of new members and that the administration could be effective and efficient. These reforms included the orderly reform, Le Troissage or the three Wise Men, the Manscholt reform and so on. The libraries of the Commission are piled high with these reforms or proposals for these reforms. Each one of them in respect of the Commission has one thing in common: they recommended that there should be one Commissioner per member state. I was there when our Commissioner and the Three Wise Men recommended that and it is a consistent theme in all of those proposals.
For that reason I am surprised and apprehensive that we are now hearing suggestions that instead of following the reform proposals that were never implemented, because it did not suit the larger powers, some are now suggesting — I think this should be nipped in the bud — that perhaps some of the small member states might only have a Commissioner in alternate periods. This would run completely contrary to the whole direction and ethos of the European Union. There are suggestions too that the Presidency might not be applied according to the normal rota, in alphabetical order for every six months. That too flies in the face of the contributions the smaller member states have made to the European Union. The Presidencies of those smaller states, be it Belgium, Luxembourg or Ireland, have done a good job by achieving objective consensus throughout the European Union. It is acknowledged, for instance, that the Irish Presidency has made significant contributions to the efficient functioning of the Union.
Without being big headed in any sense or overstating our role, our unique role as an independent country in terms of foreign policy was able to bring about new and healthy relationships with many member states of other European countries, especially in the field of external relations. Here I am referring to the Lomé Conventions, which are of great importance to the Union. Significantly, with the exception of the last time, each of them was negotiated and concluded during an Irish Presidency. The first convention took place under the Presidency of Garrett FitzGerald, my predecessor, the second under my own Presidency and the third under the Presidency of Deputy Peter Barry. It was no accident that the ACP countries wanted to do business with a small country such as Ireland which had an experience that would be more sensitive to their problems. Therefore, it is important that we remind those colleagues, if they are of that view, that the Presidency should not alternate. This would even run contrary to the interests of those large member states.
There are also the practical problems of enlargement which simply have to be faced. We made a concession when we joined that we would not insist that Irish would be a working EU language. Almost every other member state at the moment insists on its language being a working language. I want to make an open confession, a Chathaoirligh. It is sometimes thought that when those poor Agriculture Ministers, for instance, spend days and nights negotiating around the table of the Council of Ministers, they are engaged all of the time in fighting the cause of their home country in holding firm against the demands of the Commission or the Presidency, that that is what keeps them there for all of this time. The reality is very different. The reason the nonsense of late night, all night and three night negotiations at the Council of Agriculture and many other councils goes on and on is because each of the documents has to be translated into all of the official languages of the European Union. I sat waiting for four to five hours to get documents in Spanish on the latest proposal from the Presidency of the Commission. That issue has to be looked at in terms of whether this system will be maintained efficiently.
If the current practices are to be continued within an enlarged Union, I can tell the House that from my experience in the council over the years since 1972 — I was also on the Commission for one and a half years — that it will literally collapse from the burden of its own frustrations in terms of the official languages and matters of that sort. Cost alone is a major factor. I was responsible for personnel and administration in the Commission. It is a fact that over 60 per cent of the personnel in the Commission during the period 1981-82 were engaged in language translation in one way or another, were interpreting or were experts in jurisprudence, linguistics or whatever. How can any institution survive with that undue burden based on language? While I respect the difference of languages, we have to make it clear that even the existing working languages need to be reviewed, much less taking into account the working languages of the member states that are about to join us.
In relation to the Presidency of the Commission, I am going to say something that I refrained from saying some months back because of my experience with a Luxembourg Presidency. I had grave apprehensions about the prospects of another Luxembourg Presidency and saw it as risking the kind of compromise that would suit the major powers while ensuring that there would not be a strong, independent President of the Commission. I refrained from saying that at the time because I felt it would be inappropriate in view of the Government's position. Having experienced the compromising attitude under a Luxembourg Presidency, the weakness of a Commission that accommodated demands from a British Prime Minister even in the allocation of portfolios, as well as demands, insistence and directions from the French and Germans, I want to put on record now that I hope Jacques Santer will be more resolute and determined in insisting upon the independence of the Commission, which is crucial to the functioning of the European Union, than the last Luxembourg President was. I will leave the rest to the kindness of history. If he is not, then we and other smaller member states will pay a huge price.
I am encouraged by the resolute position taken by the new President in allocating Commission portfolios, but both the President and the Commission will come under severe pressure. I hope that those of us who are representing the overall interests of Europe will support the independence of the Commission because that pressure is bound to arise. I say that, having regard in particular to the achievement of Jacques Delors and the weakness of a Commission of which I was a part. The record will show that almost all the policy positions implemented by Jacques Delors and his Commission were all proposed by the previous Commission, of which I was privileged to be a member, in the famous Mandate Range of policies. While we proposed them, we did not have the political muscle to implement them. I hope we are not going to see a standstill again now. We should be vigilant.
The collapse of Communism has brought about major changes. The raison d'étre of the European Union has totally changed because it was formed to protect itself against Communism and the forces of totalitarianism. Understandably on the part of our German partners, that collapse has placed a new focus on Eastern Europe, and trade between the former Comecon countries and the European Union is growing apace every day. Exports from the former Comecon countries, which are now the newly emerging democracies of eastern Europe, to the EU are growing. But let us not delude ourselves that from the point of view of Germany, for instance, the market outlets of eastern Europe are part of history; they are contiguous. We will constantly have to adjust our trade patterns because the German interest will tend more towards strengthening the developments with Eastern Europe rather than looking north and west towards the periphery, or south towards Spain, Greece and Portugal. Given the new enlargement of the EU, we will have to bear these realities in mind over the coming years.
The longest standing applicant for membership of the European Union is Turkey, and I entirely support what Senator Lydon said in this connection. Turkey has had an association agreement with the European Union since 1963. It applied for membership a number of years ago and was put on hold. As President of the Council of Ministers, I attended a meeting in Ankara in 1979 where detailed discussions were held on Turkey's association agreement with the then EC, on the understanding that Turkey would submit an application which the EC would seriously consider.
I know that, as has been suggested, there may have been reservations in respect of previous political conditions in Turkey, in addition to the human rights position sometime before that. All that has changed, however, and it is time that we looked at the reality of what Turkey can contribute to the EU. Its long-standing economic and cultural ties with all the newly emerging democracies of the former Soviet Union are of great potential for all of us. As nothing has stood still in the past, so nothing will stand still in the future. We should look at Turkey's application in a much more positive way. Having had discussions with Turkey's partners then, and with representatives of trading interests more recently, I see this as a matter of huge potential for Ireland. We would do well to establish a new understanding with Turkey on joint ventures as well as helping, advising and sponsoring, if possible, that country's accession to the EU.
The budgetary consequences of the new EU members are properly referred to by the joint committee. In the short term we will have a net gain of 6,500 million ECU from 1995 to 1999, but that must be viewed in the context of a 1994 budget amounting to 70,000 million ECU. The issue is not about money alone but about culture and independence in foreign policy.
The view was expressed that we should be careful about the wrong done to our partners in Europe by those outside, that we must defend our partners in Europe against outside aggression. Perhaps, however, we should be more vigorous in protesting against the wrong being done by our partners in Europe to innocent people outside. Maybe we would be truly independent if we protested against our partners' armaments industries which, ruthlessly and in a totally amoral way, caused suffering during the Iran-Iraq war, all over Africa and in other areas. Instead of reacting against a potential external attack on Europe which now seems unlikely, we could express our independence and neutrality by reminding all our partners on the inside that that is not the type of neutrality and independence we want to see.
I welcome Minister Browne who has just joined us in the House. We are asked to consider two matters, one of which is the referral of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. There is no problem about that, but I hope that in its deliberations on the Bill the joint committee will take into account the remarks that have been made in this debate.
I welcome the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. It is one of the better reports which have been brought to our attention in recent years. It is clear and concise and whoever is responsible is to be congratulated. I suspect one of the people responsible for that clarity is Professor Laffan who has already been praised by several speakers. She brings a quality to these discussions which is unusual and her contribution is significant.
I welcome the enlargement of the EU but not without some reservations. My reservations relate to the deepening of the Union compared to its enlargement. This is matter which is addressed in the report, although I do not believe it has been addressed conclusively. It was said that the two points are not inconsistent and I would agree with that to an extent. As the EU enlarges, particularly if it does so at a rapid pace, there will be a difficulty about the deepening of the Union and about keeping the train on the track which has been quite successful over the years when we consider the achievement of the Single Market, the Maastricht Treaty and the momentum for a single currency. Enlargement may put a single currency further down the track than where I would like to see.
There has been a lot of debate about the institutional balance in the EU and there will be genuine difficulties. I endorse what Senator O'Kennedy said about the Commission and the fact that each country should have a Commissioner and that the Presidency should rotate sequentially from one state to the next. However, that contradicts the remarks he made about the Luxembourg Presidency because one cannot make that argument and then make such remarks. I have a good deal confidence in the Luxembourg Presidency.
Senator O'Kennedy also mentioned the all night sittings where deals are hammered out which we are accustomed to seeing on television and which he experienced as a Minister. He suggested that part of the reason for this was that people had to wait around for translations of the various languages, but I am not sure about that. I believe it was Bismarck who remarked, some time predating the EU, that the best way to reach agreement was to put people into a room and leave them there until they reached one because nothing concentrated the mind quite like that.
The EU has achieved an enormous amount. In respect of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation I believe there are cogent lessons to be learned from our experiences in the EU and the way it was built. I thought it was significant that the only person to allude to that in Dublin Castle was Mr. John Hume who could draw on his experience as European parliamentarian and on his experience of building Europe to show what we could achieve if we referred to that experience. In that respect what Senator O'Toole said was important. He spoke about the need for young people and the population as a whole to experience what is happening in Europe, to see at first hand the cultural diversity and what has been created from such appalling ruin in a single generation. Although we cannot send every school going child on a trip to Europe, I wonder about that and whether it might be a better use of money to send young people on educational trips to Europe rather than on some of the training courses they are sent on at present. It is questionable which would be more useful. Certainly young people need to be trained and skilled, but exposure to the wider European community of peoples would be as beneficial and, in some cases, more beneficial. All of us who have travelled throughout Europe have benefited from that experience.
The report points out that three essential qualities are required when one considers enlargement, first, European identity through geographical, historical and cultural identity. Senator Lydon dealt with the geographical aspect of the matter at some length. I would draw the map widely on that and I would include what was said about Turkey. Second, there is the question of a functional democracy. That is one of the essentials which applicants should bring to bear. We should ask if we have a functional democracy. That was dealt with by a few speakers. Do we have a truly democratic society in terms of parliamentary democracy where Government is ultimately answerable to parliament? Third, there is respect for human rights. When it comes to the Nordic countries and Austria, none of those essentials poses a difficulty.
There are, however, difficulties in relation to the question of the acquis communataire— I get tired of this European jargon which is pedalled about Seanad committees. It is totally foreign to us. Perhaps it is to make everything impenetrable so that people cannot understand it and we surround ourselves with an aura of invincibility.
The question of the acquis communataire— in other words, countries must be able to take laws on board, implement and enforce them — is a more serious difficulty, particularly for eastern European countries. It was easy in the case of EFTA countries where there was the European economic area but if we are serious about bringing eastern European countries like Hungary and Poland into the EU we should introduce an institutional framework which brings them into a family where the association becomes closer and closer over time until eventually there are no difficulties about joining the Union.
Something the Seanad should do before the end of the year is to express our gratitude to Jacques Delors for the contribution he made to the EU during his period in Brussels. At least he had that vision of what the Union was about and he drove towards it. I hope we do not go back to the old "Euro sclerosis" where everything stopped or, as I said, the train stopped on the tracks.
A fortnight ago on the Order of Business I welcomed the decision of Finland to join the EU, and I do so again. I also welcome the decision of Austria in that regard. A useful contribution was made last week by the Finnish Ambassador, Ulf-Erik Slotte at the Irish Council of the European Movement. He outlined the reasons Finland had joined and the fact that it had voted in favour by a 57 per cent to 43 per cent margin, a convincing one. However, he expressed disappointment at the turn out in the referendum which was 74 per cent, much lower than that for general elections. If asked the same question I believe we would be pleased with such a turn out, although it was significant when we decided to join the EU.
Another important point is that this was only a consultative referendum in Finland, parliament must decide by a two-thirds majority to enter the EU. On a lighter note, the Finnish Ambassador said that Finland only had one referendum in 1932. That was a significant referendum about whether alcohol should be legalised. Obviously, joining the Union was a matter of equal importance which had to be put to the people. Agriculture was a difficulty for Finland but their reasons were different to ours. Agriculture has been very heavily supported by the Finnish Government above levels at which it would be supported by the EU and obviously, there was far less enthusiasm for European union in the farming community.
There are lessons for us in the Nordic experience. The most important lesson is to do with neutrality. I know that Austria, Sweden and Finland are looking at their policy of neutrality and it is important to say that there is a huge qualitative difference between their policy of neutrality and our policy of neutrality. They have a policy of neutrality which they have been prepared to defend by force of arms, and they have done so, particularly in the case of Finland.
No, they did not. Sweden rolled over and let them walk all over them.
I said Finland. The ambassador made the point, which I endorsed, that the stability which they generated as a result of their policy of neutrality has benefited all of Europe. There is an identity of interests there. He said that it is a policy of military non-alliance with a credible independent defence, and that is different from what we perceive our policy of neutrality to be. They are observers of the North Atlantic Co-operation Council and they are members of the Partnership for Peace. They have, as we know, a huge emphasis on peacekeeping as we have ourselves. That is another area of identity of interests.
They can bring a perspective to bear on the European Union which will be very beneficial and which will be of assistance to us in arguing our case. They are very strong on environmental issues. They are very strong on women's rights. The question of openness has been considered and they do have a policy of openness. I would submit in support of some of the speakers, particularly Senator Lee, that we do not have a policy of openness here.
I wish to return to the question of the widening and deepening of the Community. The report says, on page 66, that the choice between deepening and widening no longer holds. It states elsewhere in the report that the Union has no clear cut choice. It says:
The issue of enlargement is often posited in terms of deepening or widening of the EU. In fact the Union has no such clear cut choice. Both deepening and widening will feature in EU politics in the 1990's. The Union must deepen if it is to widen successfully. It cannot restrict its membership in the long term.
The Community must surely deepen if it is to widen successfully, but there is a difficulty in doing the two at the sort of rate that might be hoped for: so the question arises of whether we can deepen the Community while widening it at the same time. The question of a so-called multi-speed Europe has arisen. Will we all be in different lanes? Senator Lee said he was not concerned about that provided we knew which lane we were in. I would be very concerned about that, because if we get into a two-speed Europe where some nations progress at one speed and others are left behind, there is potential for genuine major political division within the Union. The achievement of the Community has been to get rid of some of those divisions. I would see some of those old wounds reopening if we do not make sure that there is a single speed. I made the point earlier that we could learn from the experiences of the European Community.
My final point is to do with Northern Ireland and what we hope to achieve in terms of peace and reconciliation. There are so many models to look at in the European context which can be of benefit: the achievement of Schumann, Spaak and Monnet and that what they did arose out of a determination that what had happened in two world wars could never happen again. That is the magnitude of the achievement of the European Union and there is a lesson for us there. If people who slaughtered one another, not just in thousands but in millions, could sit down to construct a peace that they were determined they would survive and that they were determined they would never allow those things happen again, why can we not do the same on this island?
I do not share the orthodoxy which seems to exist in the House, this support for the idea of continuous expansion of the European Community. Like Senator Dardis, I do not believe that it is possible to have continuous expansion and deepening of the Community. On 9 May 1950 Schumann, in his own words, "dropped a bombshell" in the Quai d'Orsay, when he announced the functional integration of the Steel Community and the Coal Community of Germany and France and those other nations that wanted to join up. The activity that was put in train and the idealism that was unleashed at that stage stand a very real chance of coming to a grinding bureaucratic halt unless somebody says stop and re-examines where we are in Europe and what Europe is all about.
I accept, and the point was made very well by Senator Dardis, that there are extraordinary lessons, not just for this nation but for the whole of humankind, from the achievements in Europe. It is extraordinary to think that literally in a matter of hours in the beginning of May 1950, an experiment which was quite unprecedented in terms of world affairs could be put together by idealists in France, Germany and in four other member states who shared a number of common views. People like Schumann, Monnet, Adenauer, De Gasperi and Spaak had a very clear idea of what Europe was about. They all had a very clear central thesis. This was to integrate the people of Europe, particularly and specifically the people of western Europe, and to make war unthinkable and unwageable. That was the simple yet complex group of objectives which they set for themselves.
Europe has become a tower of Babel. Senator O'Kennedy illustrated this well. It has become an extraordinary bureaucracy, self-perpetuating, cynical in its observation of its own self-interest. It has become a pastiche of what was originally intended, feeding on itself, a huge, bloated bureaucratic organisation which has long since lost sight of the objectives and of the idealism which underpinned the foundation of what we now call the European Union. This is not a terribly fashionable view because there are so many people on the gravy train, but the reality is that those people, who have fed so high off the hog of the gravy train, undermine with their cynicism the idealism on which the extraordinary success in Europe has been based.
I accept that we have no problem with the accession of the new member states we are talking about — Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. We in Ireland have a particular reason for welcoming their arrival into the European family. As has been said, Austria, Finland and Sweden have different views of neutrality, but their neutrality is the one feature they have in common with us. Finland waged a war with Fascism and subsequently effectively a war with Communism to protect her neutrality. In Austria, neutrality was the product of war and it was put in place because of the treaty of 1956. In the case of Sweden, their neutrality was tested and found wanting; but that is in the past, it is history. The reality is that they have very solid views about neutrality and about military alliances which are broadly speaking in line with our views. For that, I welcome their membership. I welcome their membership also because they are developed democratic states with very fine traditions of human rights observation. I welcome them because they will help to re-establish a north-south balance within the Union.
I have been an interested and enthusiastic observer and participant in the European experiment. However, I would be less than honest if I did not say that I have a much more jaundiced view of expansion to the east and what it entails. I do not accept — Senator Dardis made specific reference to this — the validity of the report we are discussing. I do not accept that it is possible to broaden the European Union at the same time as it is being deepened. It is manifestly not possible to do that because the new member states to the east that we would be talking about taking on have vastly different traditions to our own. In many cases there has been a deficiency of democracy. That is not to say we should abandon them. In Senator Dardis' closing comments he made a point that I was going to make myself. Some form of association to support them, to help them to grow to democracy, is the responsibility of western Europe; but to take them fully on board in the foreseeable future would set the whole process of European integration backwards.
Untrammelled expansion would not be in Ireland's selfish interest, which it is not fashionable to speak about. Indeed, one Senator suggested that the bohemians should be on board, perhaps because their baritone voices would add a little to the glee club. However, that is not reality. The reality is that we joined Europe for very specific objectives. We do not want all of the mumbo jumbo jargon which has grown up around Europe, the kind of jargon which has been developed by rather well-heeled diplomatic gentlemen and ladies who have gone to Brussels.
We should not let this cloud the reality, which is that we had fairly selfish objectives in going in to Europe. So too did the other member states who formed the European Community. The six who originally formed the Community had one overriding selfish objective. They wished to establish an alliance so close that they could never war between themselves again and they therefore dismantled their coal and steel industries. The Belgians closed down their coal mines and became dependent on coal from the Ruhr. The French and Germans married their steel mills and the Italians came on board also, because they had to depend on the new arrangement for raw materials.
The objectives of these countries were not a product purely of starry eyed idealism; they were selfish. First of all, they wanted to create a Europe where war would not be fought, an objective which any European would have held at that time. Second, they wanted to regrow their economies. A previous Senator made reference to the growth of the European movement. It is very interesting. If you look at Europe and see how and why it developed, you will see that self-interest was strongly to the fore. It was always couched in other terminologies, because it is not fashionable to speak about self-interest; but Europe grew because people were sufficiently clear headed about what they wanted to do with Europe and what they wanted to get out of Europe.
What we have now is a muddle, a total confusion. Nobody quite knows what we want out of Europe. People speak of first rate nations or nations in the fast lane, nations in the slow lane and nations which are undoubtedly consigned to the lay-by. That is not what European integration should be about. The more we broaden Europe and the more diversity we bring into it, the harder it will be to achieve any progress at all. This is something which should be recognised and said.
When the Greeks visited this country in regard to the extension of Europe, I recall, as an official in the Department of Finance at the time, being unfashionable and talking with starry eyed individuals about balance — for example, the balance in temperate agriculture, an issue which Senator Dardis has referred to, not only in the House but in writings elsewhere. I recall being concerned that the balance was being lost in that particular expansion, and I am pleased that the north south balance is being reintroduced to a degree by the next expansion. However, the expansions which are envisaged beyond that will totally destroy that balance.
I do not believe that the institutions of the EU will be able to cope with a community of 23 or 24. Senator O'Kennedy, with his extraordinary experience, as a Minister and as a person involved at the Council of Ministers and Commission level, must be listened to when he speaks on this issue, because he knows what he is talking about. He is not like another Senator, who suggested that we should expand and bring a couple of bohemians on board because it would soften us at the edges. By contrast. Senator O'Kennedy spoke with realism. He pointed out that these EU institutions have become so massive that they are finding it impossible to work. For example, at one stage 65 per cent of officials were involved in building a linguistic jungle in Europe. That is a farce and a nonsense. So many people with so much talent are simply polishing words as opposed to producing ideas and strategies. If we expand further and go on the same route as we have gone now, that nonsense will become deeper and the possibility of progress will lessen.
I would be deeply concerned for another reason. The western European nations who are currently member states of the EU share some common experiences which, unfortunately, we do not share with many of those countries which constituted what used be the command economies of eastern Europe. Senator Lydon touched on this, and I think he was right. We share common recent experiences in democracy which many of those nations do not have. I know we have a responsibility to support them as their infant democracies grow into full-fledged democracies — and I take the point: who are we to start lecturing or hectoring anybody about the level of democracy?
Although he was criticised, there is validity in the point Senator Lydon made to the House that we should try to start evolving some idea of where the boundaries of Europe lie. There is a valid rationale in this suggestion. It is no mistake, for instance, that the original six shared some extraordinary common experiences, out of which grew European integration. It is unfashionable, for example, to speak of the religious background of those six, but in those days this was an issue of some significance. I recall reading a Fabianist document produced in Great Britain, and a document produced in 1973 in the North of Ireland, arguing that Europe was a Vatican conspiracy and advising people to keep out of it. This religious background was a common feature of the original six member states. The leaders of these states had been the products of wartime opposition to fascism, they had all been people with fairly common experiences and backgrounds and they had one other common feature in that they were fearful of an external threat. This made it possible for them to discuss adventurous and far sighted institutional arrangements.
The institutional arrangements which were put in train at that stage only succeeded because of the common experience and common background of the six member states. I make no apologies for putting the point that General de Gaulle was correct, in that when the six was opened to the nine — and one of the nine was the UK with a very different attitude towards European integration — the whole process started to slow down. Senator O'Kennedy referred to that period of sclerosis which attacked Europe before there was a revision under Jacques Delors, a man of some vision.
I share Senator O'Kennedy's view that the Commission will now simply become another bureaucratic organ, expanding and expanding, rather than focusing on the challenge of deeper integration. We have to remind ourselves that in the Treaty of Rome there was a passage which clearly delineated a course indicating where we were then and where we should be now. The original customs union idea was achieved ahead of target, because the six were cohesive and formed a relatively small group of nations. The next step was the move towards economic cohesion and economic and monetary union. We are aware of how far we have to go before that level is reached.
There is another stage beyond that which we are supposed to attain — political co-operation, closer political integration and common citizenship — before we would have a European political, economic and monetary union. We know today how far we are from that objective. The more people and diversity we bring into Europe, the less likely we are ever to reach the final objectives which were implicit in the Treaty which was first launched in May 1950 and subsequently effectively rewritten in the Treaty of Rome. The kind of Europe we aimed to join in 1973 will never be achieved unless there is more realism in the debate about expansion than there has been to date.
I am very tempted to seek a wider audience for the Minister's speech but I will resist on this occasion.
I wish to thank all who contributed to the debate on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994. Enlargement of the European Union will be one of the major challenges which the Union will have to face in the years to come. The debate here today on the European Communities Bill and on the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the enlargement of the Union was timely. It has allowed this House to focus on what will continue to be a major preoccupation of our time. It has also allowed the many complex and interrelated issues which will face the European Union to be discussed in a constructive manner.
It is clear that this current round of enlargement to include Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway poses few major challenges for the European Union in general, and Ireland in particular. Indeed, it has been argued that this round of enlargement has opened up a range of new opportunities for us all. Future enlargements may not be so easy however. The implications both for the European Union and for Ireland are wide ranging. Nonetheless, it is clear from the quality of the interventions in this debate that Members of this House have given considerable time and thought to the challenges which will face the Union, and Ireland as a member of that Union.
I have no doubt that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs report on The Enlargement of the European Union, which was published at the end of last month, has had a positive impact on the thinking in the House on the issues associated with the enlargement of the Union. The committee is to be congratulated on this report which sets out very clearly the major issues which will face the EU.
Senator Enright outlined some of the issues which will need to be addressed by the European Union in the coming years. For example, he mentioned the concern of many for the environment and the continuing problem of unemployment. These are ongoing concerns which the EU will continue to address.
Senator Enright also asked about the Union's relations with Turkey, Cyprus, Malta and the eastern European countries. Turkey has the longest standing application to join the EU. In 1989 the Commission's opinion on Turkey's application recommended that for economic and political reasons the time was not right to begin accession negotiations. The Union's relations with Turkey are being strengthened throughout the long standing association agreement.
On the application of Cyprus and Malta, the Commission recommended that negotiations could start once certain political developments in Cyprus and economic developments in Malta were achieved. The Commission's opinion also highlighted the challenge faced by the Union as a result of the institutional implications of membership due to their small size. At the European Council in Corfu last June it was agreed that Cyprus and Malta would be involved in the next round of enlargement.
Ireland is committed to developing its political and economic relations with the countries of central and eastern Europe and fully supports the position set out in Copenhagen and Corfu with regard to future membership of the European Union by these countries. Together with our partners in the European Union we are currently engaged in a strategy designed to prepare the countries of central and eastern Europe for accession to the Union. One of the principal tasks of the pre-accession strategy will, of course, be the creation of an appropriate environment for economic development and integration and the preparation of the economies of the associated countries for the challenges of membership.
Ireland has been through this process of preparation. The success of our efforts was the logical outcome and result of the economic and political policy choices pursued by successive Governments in the years prior to our accession. These were directed at inter alia modernising the Irish economy, accelerating our growth rate and raising our standard of living. The policies and processes of structural and sectoral adaptation were far reaching and, at times, difficult. However, without this effort the fulfilment of Ireland's European vocation and our ability to play a full and active part in the process of European construction would have remained a distant and, perhaps, even unattainable dream.
The challenge facing the associated states of central and eastern Europe in pursuit of our shared goal of greater European integration is certainly no less significant today than it was for Ireland three decades ago. The specific problems and issues arising in modernisation and adaptation may involve a different perspective. However, the essential truth remains. Prospective members of the Union need to be helped to put in place an economic, legislative and regulatory environment and to effect structural changes and adaptations, all of which must be compatible with the membership of the Union.
We in Ireland are anxious and ready to play a full and active part with our European partners in assisting the associated countries along the road to Union membership. We are also ready to share our experience with them in any area or on any topic where this may be considered useful and relevant.
Reference has also been made today to the importance of what may be described in a shorthand fashion as the human dimension. By this I mean culture, education and youth affairs and the need to enhance our co-operation with the associated states of central and eastern Europe in these fields. I can agree with this. During the dark years of the Cold War it was frequently the efforts of artists and intellectuals which helped to serve as a bridge between the sundered halves of Europe. Today, the importance of enhanced co-operation in the area of cultural affairs, education and youth is recognised in the EU and in the central and eastern European states. Ireland intends to play its part in developing such co-operation between the EU and associated countries with full respect for regional and national diversity and priorities.
Some questions were raised during the debate which I hope to clarify. Senator Dardis raised the question of simultaneous deepening and widening of the Union. There is no question of an enlargement of the Union to the east in advance of the conclusion of the next intergovernmental conference. As Senators will be aware, the function of the Intergovernmental Conference is to undertake a wide ranging and fundamental Treaty review and to ensure that the Union and its structures are fully capable of meeting the challenges of the future. In a nutshell, deepening must precede widening.
Senator O'Toole asked what would happen if a new member state divided after it had become a member. There are no provisions in the existing treaties governing the EU which take account of such an eventuality. I have no doubt, however, that if such an eventuality were to occur the EU would deal with it in a manner which would respect the wishes of the people concerned, as expressed democratically.
I thank the Senators for their valued contributions. As Senator Roche said, many Senators from the different parties and Independents made strong contributions, and also a former Commissioner, Senator O'Kennedy. All of those views are very relevant and will be passed on to the Minister.