I welcome the Minister to the House. Before we commence. I wish to remind Senators that they may speak only once on Report Stage.
European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994: Report and Final Stages.
I wish to explain the implications of Norway's decision not to join the European Union and to refer further to an issue which arose during the Committee Stage consideration of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994.
On 28 November, the people of Norway by referendum decided not to join the European Union. Unlike Austria, Finland and Sweden, therefore, Norway will not become a member of the European Union on 1 January 1995. I, personally, regret the decision because Ireland's experience has been that it is through the European Union the strongest relationships are forged with our neighbours and friends in Europe. Nonetheless, the decision is the democratically expressed wish of the Norwegian people and must be respected.
We are aware of some of the reasons so many Norwegians rejected membership through the very intensive opinion poll data which has been made available. Fears of a loss of sovereignty in Norway and perception of a democratic deficit in Europe were among the factors. There was uncertainty in many Norwegian minds about the possibility of maintaining traditional means of livelihood and concern about the future of the extensive social benefit system, especially as it was perceived to impact on women.
While the Norwegian referendum outcome was the exception in this round of accession, and we will still welcome Austria, Sweden and Finland as members of the European Union, there is a lesson to be learned from the Norwegian referendum process and from the referenda campaigns in all the accession countries. The President of the Commission, Jacques Delors, summed it up well when he said that "nothing is possible without the support of the people". That is certainly the case in Ireland and for all member states. While we in Ireland have had significant majorities in favour of membership of the Community or Union in the three referenda held to date, the experience of these referenda and the Norwegian result this week is a reminder that support for Europe must be won; it can never be taken for granted.
The Government is fully conscious of the need to increase European awareness among our citizens. It was for this reason that the Government launched the Communicating Europe initiative earlier this year. I was given responsibility for this initiative.
A major aim of this initiative is to tackle what might be termed the comprehension deficit between the public on the one hand and the institutions, policies and performance of the European Union on the other. It is evident that even in Ireland, where there is strong support for the European Union, as evidenced in the three referenda to date, and where the benefits of European Union membership are tangible, there is still a sense that the Union is an unknown quantity for many.
As Senators are no doubt aware earlier this year I established a task force to assist and advise me as to the best strategy to follow in communicating Europe to the people. The task force, which I have chaired, engaged in extensive consultations with a wide range of interest groups and I am pleased to inform the Seanad that its report is currently being finalised and will be published shortly. I am confident that the strategy mapped out by the task force will have a significant impact in helping to ensure that the policies of the European Union are better known and understood. My overall objective is to raise public awareness of European issues and in the process to ensure the retention of the traditionally high level of support for Europe in Ireland.
Nonetheless, it is the case that, unlike Norway which has to a degree been insulated from the vagaries of the world economy, Ireland has to a large extent seen the benefits of being at the table and having an input into the rules that govern much of our economic, social and political activity. We have seen the range of benefits that the European Union has brought to us through the CAP and the Structural Funds.
While the Norwegian referendum result will have a resonance in each country of the European Union there is no doubt that the increasingly close relations between Norway and the European Union and between Norway and the member states of the Union will continue to develop and flourish. The European Economic Area Agreement, to which Norway is a party, remains in place. This has given Norway access to the Single European Market of the Union. On a bilateral basis Norway and Ireland will remain Atlantic neighbours and will continue to have many interests and concerns in common.
The most immediate issue that must be addressed by the European Union is the adjustment of the Treaty of Accession for Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria to take account of the fact that Norway will not become a member of the European Union. None of the provisions of the accession Treaty negotiated with Norway can now apply.
There is, of course, a precedent for non-accession following the signing of an accession treaty. It will be recalled that Norway was unable to ratify the accession Treaty of 1972 which provided for the accession of Ireland, the United Kingdom and Denmark to the EEC. On that occasion a Council decision was taken which provided for adjustments of the Treaty or allowed provisions of the Treaty to lapse.
In Article 2 of the accession Treaty, providing for the accession to the European Union of Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway, the European Union addressed the possibility that not all the accession countries would be in a position to ratify the Treaty by 31 December 1994 as required. The Treaty provides that in the event of an accession country being unable to ratify, the Council of the European Union, acting unanimously, is permitted to make the necessary technical adjustments to the accession Treaty to take account of this. It will not be necessary to renegotiate the Treaty.
As Norway will not now proceed with membership of the European Union the necessary adjustments will have to be made to the accession Treaty to take account of this. For example, Title I of the accession Treaty provides for 15 members of the European Parliament, and three votes in Council for Norway and stipulates that there will be 21 members of the Commission. These provisions, and others, having institutional implications will have to be adjusted.
Title II of the accession Treaty provides for transitional measures specifically concerning Norway covering free movement of goods, persons, services and capital as well as fisheries, external relations and customs union and financial and budgetary provisions. These provisions and any relevant annexes and Protocols will have to be adjusted, or they will be allowed to lapse, to take account of the fact that Norway will not become a member of the European Union.
The Council legal services in Brussels will, within the next few days, provide member states with a report covering all aspects of the implications for the accession Treaty of Norway's decision to stay outside the European Union. It is envisaged, at this stage, that the Council will take a single unanimous decision which would have the effect of making the appropriate adjustments to the accession Treaty. It is also envisaged that this decision will take effect on 1 January, 1995.
The decision by Norway not to join the European Union does not affect Ireland's ratification process. Ireland's ratification involves, inter alia, an amendment to the European Communities Acts, 1972 to 1993 and passage through the Dáil of a resolution approving the terms of the Accession Treaty. As Senators are aware, the motion approving the accession Treaty was adopted by the Dáil on 26 October and the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, passed all Stages in the Dáil on 22 November and has reached Report Stage in this House.
The European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1994, contains the title of the accession Treaty signed in Corfu on 24 June 1994. Although the accession Treaty will be adjusted to take account of the fact that Norway will not become a member of the European Union, the title of the accession Treaty, as signed, will not be adjusted. Thus, the title of the accession Treaty, providing for the accession of four new member states to the European Union will remain the same as the title of the accession Treaty in the European Communities (Amendment) Bill before us. No adjustment to the Bill or to Ireland's national ratification procedures will be required.
A question arose on Committee Stage as to why the term "European Communities" is used in the last line of paragraph (r) in section 1 (1) of the Bill. I wish to explain the use of this term. The purpose of the Bill is to make the new accession Treaty part of the domestic law of the State in so far as it is necessary to do so in order to enable the State to adhere to its obligations under that Treaty. Austria, Finland and Sweden, by becoming members of the European Union, are also acceding to the three original communities of that union, which are: the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Community — formerly the European Economic Community — and the European Atomic Energy Community. These three communities are collectively called the European Communities.
Although the accession countries are joining not just the European Communities but the European Union, the accession Treaty only needs to be made part of the domestic law of this State in so far as it relates to the European Communities. This is what section 1 (1) (r) of the Bill says.
This is consistent with the fact that under the Treaty on European Union as it stands, and the three pillar structure that it established, only measures taken under the first pillar — the Communities pillar — have been made part of the domestic law of the State. The other two pillars established under the Treaty on European Union, the Maastricht Treaty, and that make up the Union structure — justice and home affairs and common foreign and security policy — were not made part of the domestic law of the State in 1992 by the required amendment to the European Communities Act, 1972, as amended. The same policy was followed in our legislation to give effect to our obligations under the Single European Act in 1987.
That clarifies the issue raised on Committee Stage. "European Communities" refers to domestic legislation. The other two pillars — the common foreign and security policy and justice and home affairs — relate to intergovernmental relations between the members of the European Union.
The Minister has clearly explained that this Bill introduces to domestic law the first pillar of sections of EU legislation which deal with the communities. There is nothing controversial in the Bill. However, it is disappointing that, since we last discussed this Bill at the committee, Norway has decided not to become part of the EU. Any independent sovereign state is entitled to make such a decision and a strong democratic decision was taken in Norway by the vote of the people. We respect that decision but we must look at the situation as it now stands. The Minister outlined some of the issues that should be examined.
Among the most serious long term repercussions for the EU as a result of Norway taking a decision not to join will be the security and defence aspect which comes up for discussion in 1996. Norway has a strategic geographical location in EU terms, particularly since one of its closest neighbours is Russia. This is a serious factor which must be closely examined at EU level. Norway is a member of NATO and there will be repercussions in that area also. We must examine the implications this may have for long term European security. I hope the Minister and his Department will examine this important issue in the months ahead as there is not much time before it comes up for discussion.
We must learn something from Norway and the reasons it took a decision not to join the EU. Fisheries was one of the central areas of controversy, given the dissatisfaction Norway felt with overall EU fisheries policy and how it would affect its fishing industry and its economy. As an island nation which has claimed since 1972 that we did not get what we required in the negotiations at that time or subsequently in terms of the fishing industry, there is an onus on us at all times to fight for Ireland's fishing industry by promoting it and trying to secure a better deal. It is a controversial issue and the Norwegian people took a specific line because of EU fisheries policy. This should not go unnoticed at EU level. It gives Ireland a stronger arm in terms of arguing its position, vis-a-vis the Spanish position in particular, within the EU on fishing agreements and policies.
We are witnessing the development of a most serious situation in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in the town of Bihac which the Serbs are attacking. There is huge controversy between NATO, the UN and the US. This debate is an opportunity for us to express our dissatisfaction with America's stand on this issue. It voted in favour of a UN Security Council resolution but has subsequently acted differently by passing a resolution that arms should be provided to the Bosnians. Clearly, if that line continues to be taken, the definite message will go out to the former Yugoslavia that war is deemed the alternative to the peace process. I hope the Minister will take every opportunity to castigate America's actions in this matter. Certain EU members are expressing firm views as regards what should take place there but it is regrettable that the EU as a whole does not appear able to act. We should remember that we are talking about fellow Europeans and we have responsibilities to them. Our commitment to our European neighbours outside the Union is not as strong as it should be.
It is regrettable, given an expanded European Union with great economic and political power, that we cannot collectively do something to protect, assist and bring peace to that war torn part of Europe. I hope the Minister in the course of meetings in Europe and elsewhere will encourage greater cohesion on issues which affect the broader Europe. The EU should act responsibly in that regard.
The Bill is not controversial. We regret Norway's decision but we must examine closely why it was taken. In examining it we may find that the Norwegians felt they were facing too bureaucratic an institution with no relevance to national government. Criticisms have been made about the lack of communication and the relevance of national parliaments to the EU structure. These issues should be included in an examination of the reform of institutions in the EU so that it becomes relevant to all member states.
While recognising that the responsibility and the onus is primarily on national governments, they must look for greater accountability as to their role in Europe. The Government should report back in detail to the Houses of the Oireachtas — the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, does so on a regular basis — as the public needs to educated. This is important if there is to be more cohesion in the EU in the future. There is a danger that, as the EU expands, it could become more unwieldy and disconnected and that would not be in the interests of any of the member states. We must be vigilant in that regard. We must learn from Norway's decision which could have serious consequences for the long term security and defence of the EU given Norway's strategic position.
I welcome the Minister to the House. There is a definite sense of paternalism creeping into Europe. The members of the EU have come to think that they have all the answers to all the problems associated with economics, defence and social attitudes in Europe. As with all cases of paternalism we should not be surprised if, at some stage, the child fights against the perceived paternalism. In this case the Norwegians have decided that they will fight against their parents, so to speak, because they can stand alone. Somebody had to stand up, disagree with the EU and tell them they can do things better and live as they are.
There are implications for Europe beyond economic and defence matters. When we consider the number of countries who greatly desire to join the EU, what will they make of the Norwegians voting against membership? In a sense Norway will have the best of all worlds: since the economic union will be maintained, it has lost nothing in economic terms. However, it may lose in the future but I cannot perceive that happening. The Norwegians have contacts giving them access to our markets and we have access to theirs. Norway would have been a net contributor to the EU.
With regard to fisheries and agriculture. Norway may have some problems in the future although I cannot see what they might be. The fishing industry in Europe is in chaos and nobody seems to be able to so anything about it.
On defence and security, mention has been made of former Yugoslavia. The attitudes taken by the US, NATO, the Western European Union, France and Britain must all be taken into account because each has its own agenda on European defence. The Western European Union does not know what it wants to do or how it will reach an accommodation with NATO. It wants to be in NATO and yet be separate. We are now observers in the Western European Union and the amount of confusion within that organisation is unbelievable. People talk about a cohesive defence policy in Europe but as long as we have NATO and the competing states of France and Britain — who consider themselves to be world powers, and they are not — this confusion will continue.
Between now and 1996 we will have to decide what our attitude will be on security and defence matters. We are entering a minefield and I do not know how we will get out of it.
The Senator should not use military terms like "minefield" in the context of defence.
I once nearly stepped on a mine, but nearly never hurt anyone.
The fact that Norway will not join the EU but will remain a member of NATO will cause problems in the future, and it is not clear how they will be solved. I am delighted Austria, Finland and Sweden have decided to join because it makes the EU more cohesive.
I welcome the passage of the Bill through the House and I am glad we will not need future legislation because of the Norwegian decision. This Bill covers that eventuality. I believe Norway was wrong but the EU tried to force that country to join by claiming it was a great institution.
We can claim credit for some growth within Europe. Nevertheless, unemployment was the main problem Ireland faced before joining and it has not been addressed by the EU; it is still too high. The EU has created more unemployment than any country or any group in the world; we are not good at anything else and unless we tackle this problem not many countries with a reasonable standard of living and low rates of unemployment will want to join the EU.
Complicated issues will arise when dealing with the next group of countries which have applied to join the EU. We must now closely examine them because Norway, which would have been a net contributor to the EU, has now opted out.
I welcome the Minister; I am sure he is glad to be in the calm and civilised waters of the Seanad rather than somewhere else. He obviously had a civilising influence on us because the atmosphere improved dramatically once he came into the House.
It is important that Parliament continues to conduct its legislative functions during the present period, albeit that we are in a curious constitutional position. It is important that we deal with the Bill before us, although we have strayed from it. It is curious that the Bill is progressing through the House at the time when Norway decided not to join the EU, and that it is not amended to take this into account.
I accept the Minister's remarks regarding the accession treaties, that they stand, there is no difficulty about them and the enactment of the legislation does not materially affect the outcome of the accession of the other member states or our relations with the EU. However, the legislation should take account of Norway's decision, and this should be done before 1 January 1995.
I welcome Finland's decision to join the EU in the House. I am disappointed that Norway has decided, by a very slim majority, not to join, but I recognise the democratic right of the Norwegian people to make their decision and to say No. If Norway were to join the EU, it would be of benefit to Ireland, just as it is beneficial for us that Sweden, Finland and Austria decided to join, because of the nature of the societies in these countries and given that they are unaligned, are on the periphery and have an identity of interests with Ireland. It would have greatly improved our capacity to argue our case at European level if all those countries were to join the EU. The fact that one of them is not joining dilutes in some way, but not entirely, the view that it would be beneficial to us to have those countries involved.
As it is, these countries will contribute enormously to the quality of the EU in the years ahead. Apart from their unaligned nature, and the fact that at least three of them are agricultural and fishing communities similar to us, they have a far better awareness of environmental matters than most of the mainland European countries and they can bring this perspective to bear on the EU, which would be of benefit to us.
There is little theology involved in the accession treaties and whether the Bill should be amended. I believe this underlines the point the Minister made earlier regarding the comprehension deficit. We are getting to the point where the jargon has become impenetrable and it is impossible for the ordinary citizen to understand what is happening. In this respect, I can claim some personal responsibility for contributing to this jargon. According to the Chairman of the Institute of European Affairs, I am credited with having provided the phrase, "comprehension deficit" to the lexicon of European jargon. At a meeting of the institute there was much debate about the information deficit and the fact that citizens were not getting information from the EU. I said it was not a question of a lack of information as there was a deluge of information but rather that people could not understand it and that led to the comprehension deficit. As one who has been very critical of the jargon, I must claim some responsibility for contributing to this unfortunate growth.
It will be remembered.
I understand there are proposals to bring the EU to the people. I welcome this and wish the Minister well with regard to this exercise. However, on the day after the result of the European elections, I was annoyed when one of the daily newspapers gave us a lecture in its editorial columns about the fact that European issues were not dealt with by the candidates or the parties in the election, and that the only issues dealt with were Malone v. Guerin, Cox v. O'Malley, or whatever road show was of interest at that time.
However, the candidates — and there were many — who addressed European issues got no coverage from those papers. I do not criticise them for this; newspapers are interested in news. Nevertheless, if they are interested in news, they should not lecture us the day after the polls close that we have not dealt with the issues when we did address them but did not publish our comments. To be fair to local radio, this medium dealt in a more substantive way and in more detail with the European issues in the course of that election campaign.
The question of Bosnia is not relevant to the Bill but it has been alluded to. The current situation is unfortunate; there are difficulties between the EU and America and NATO is involved, but we must not under-estimate the complexity of the issue and to what extent it is acceptable for outside forces to intervene militarily in what is a largely domestic situation. We are into very difficult areas of international law and it would be easy, on a superficial level, to say this or that should be done. However, the situation is extremely complex, it is unfortunate, it is a human tragedy and obviously the EU and Ireland must do what it can to alleviate that tragedy; it would be unfortunate if we were to rush in blindly.
Reference was made to the strategic importance of Norway and its proximity to Russia. I think this strategic importance is highly questionable given the changed nature of Russia and the changed nature of international relationships. In this respect, the balance will shift fairly dramatically to the extent that from a strategic and military viewpoint, the importance of the Nordic countries will diminish somewhat in the future.
The high participation rate of the electorate in the referenda which were held on the decision to join the EU is notable. At the Irish Council of the European Movement, the Finnish Ambassador expressed serious disappointment that only 73 per cent of the electorate voted in the Finnish referendum — we would have been pleased with such a turnout — and the turnout in Norway was much higher. There is a great tradition of participative democracy in these countries. People vote, not by virtue of any compulsion by law, but because they are democracies. This is another area where they may influence the EU.
I do not have a serious difficulty with the Bill but it is a little curious, given the Norwegian decision and accepting the Minister's remarks on the accession treaties and the fact that they stand and are not altered, to continue to include the references to Norway. From a practical viewpoint it would have been preferable to amend the legislation to exclude these references.
I agree with Senator Dardis in that the Minister's remarks on the accession treaties are not logical. These treaties deal with those countries which have acceded to the EU, but because this Bill has already been passed by the Dáil it would appear that a decision has been taken not to amend it for the Seanad. It appears to be a fait accompli, but from a practical viewpoint there is no reason the Bill could not be amended to accord with reality.
Since the Kingdom of Norway has not acceded to the EU it should be written out of the Bill. I question an attempt to ignore the views of the Seanad on a Bill, and to ignore the realities of the situation. I question the acting Government bringing the Bill forward as it stands. I hope this is not an example of things being in written form and therefore, being ignored.
I wish to clear up this issue. The Senator has raised a valid point. We signalled that the Bill was cleverly structured to allow for this to happen. We anticipated that Norway might not join the EU and always knew this was in the balance. Everyone appreciates that we were up front in the Dáil and in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
I accept what the Minister is saying but it does not seem logical. I have a logical mind and am used to seeing what is stated as the position. However, this is not the case here. The Bill says that Norway is part of the European Union, but this is not the case. I accept how this has come about, but I am point out that that seems illogical to me and I stand by this.
It is no wonder Norway did not vote to join the European Union. It now has the best of both worlds — this was alluded to by a previous speaker. It has the benefit of trade and economic links with the EU but, it does not have to contribute in financial terms to the Union and it does not get bogged down in what I consider to be Union's excessive regulations and answering the commands of European institutions. It does not have to sacrifice its independence in any sense or the high level of individual rights its people have. I am not surprised it did not join.
This reflects what Senator Dardis said earlier; it is not often I agree with him. Both of us, having been through a European Parliament election campaign, have a great deal in common in what we have concluded, that is, that there is a great deal of ignorance among the general public as to what is happening in Europe. I do not blame them for this. Certain groups, clubs and private institutions, etc., receive funding from Europe on the basis of disseminating information. These people advertise by invitation only and charge fees to attend. I do not agree with this. Information must be made available to Mr. and Mrs. Soap and not only to certain people who are invited to these meetings to listen to speakers from the EU. There is a great need for more information. I called for this before and was accused of wanting it during an European election campaign. Having offices in Molesworth Street or elsewhere is not enough unless EU matters are explained to parliamentarians — there is a lack of understanding by many of us through no fault of our own. EU jargon must also be explained.
There is no real link between this country and the European Parliament. It is crucial that we consider setting up a forum in the Seanad or the EU subcommittee of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to allow MEPs to address us on current issues. We read about such issues in newspapers after they happen. When one hears about regulations or directives having been passed last week on the measurement of bananas — these are the only things about which we hear — it is no wonder people are disillusioned and do not vote in elections to the European Parliament. I have many gripes about the Government's efforts to disseminate information. Perhaps it has put a system in place but I do not think this is getting through.
I regret the absence of Norway from the EU. We will miss what it would have contributed in terms of its advanced system of social welfare, taxation and the rights enjoyed by its women. Some 50 per cent of its parliamentarians are women; no specific system had to be put in place to achieve this. Norway is much more advanced in these areas, and has been for centuries. We would have gained a great deal from its experience. We saw a great example of democracy there. It had an open debate on EU membership which the people decided on in a referendum. We will miss its membership in that sense.
I am glad Finland, Austria and Sweden will be members. They will be in a position to contribute a great deal to the Union. I am not thinking in the narrow-minded sense of their being net contributors. We must examine their systems of democracy and learn from them. We must examine the advanced individual rights people in these countries have. I hope that in years to come we will be in a position to learn from them and provide in EU legislation for the introduction to this country of what they have had for years. I welcome and look forward to this.
The major change since we last discussed this legislation has been the decision of Norway not to join the EU. Everybody here has admitted this. The Norwegian people have made their decision. It is my view that there is the possibility that, at a later stage, should Norway decide to change its views on membership, a mechanism can be put in place to facilitate this. I hope that the Norwegian people make a different decision in the future. However, their present decision does not require a change in the legislation. We have ratified the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden and I welcome the Minister's statement that no adjustments to the Treaty or to this legislation are necessary. This is reasonable and understandable.
The decision to enlarge the EU from twelve to fifteen member states is important and significant at this time because, in the view of many people, Europe now needs stability to enable it to further develop and strengthen its connections and to enlarge further. Even though the Norwegian decision is a temporary setback, there are countries in Europe which are anxious to join the EU, and it is essential that they do so. As a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, I recently attended a meeting in Bonn which was addressed by Mr. Helmut Kohl who had just been elected Chancellor of Germany, which has a population of 80 million and is probably the most powerful country in Europe. He outlined in a very long, detailed and well thought out speech how he thought the EU and Europe in general would evolve over the next number of years. He clearly indicated that the view of Germany and of Europe was that Europe would expand, deepen and strengthen and would create a stability which would enable some of the problems mentioned by Senator Taylor-Quinn to be overcome. There will be many problems of this nature. The view of Germany would also be the view of a majority of people in Ireland.
As the EU strengthens as a result of this new enlargement and deepens because of closer economic connections between member states, it will make a significant contribution to the overall prosperity and stability of Europe for the foreseeable future. In the view of everyone who is looking forward, it will make a major economic impact and will improve the standards of living of millions in Europe as far as the Mediterranean and beyond for the next two or three generations.
This legislation is timely and will chart the future course of Europe for the next number of decades. I do not think the impact of Norway remaining outside the Union will be as significant as some commentators might like to suggest. The fact that Norway is part of the European Economic Area Agreement will to a large extent minimise this impact. Nevertheless, those who were involved in the negotiations on behalf of Ireland did an excellent job, especially in relation to fisheries.
A major problem facing fisheries is not Spanish, Norwegian or Danish ports but the stock of species of fish in the Community which is under threat from over-fishing and from the lack of a proper management regime. If anything damages international fisheries in the future it will be the failure of communities, such as the European Union or the enlarged European Economic Area, to deal with the huge problem of over-fishing and the over exploitation of resources which need the opportunity to be replenished. The damage done to fisheries in the Irish Sea as a result of over-fishing is well documented and highlighted. The damage being done to some of our unique fisheries in the south-west, such as hake fishing, through over-fishing and poaching by Spanish boats in particular, is something to which all the countries in EFTA must pay more attention in the future.
I am disappointed that in the regime worked out with Norway we will not have the benefit of the Norwegian expertise and the research work done in Norway in relation to fisheries. Nevertheless, we will be able to deal with this in the future. I compliment those involved in the negotiations with Norway as regards EU enlargement. We had a good deal in Ireland and one which would have benefited our industry, particularly in relation to further opportunities for employment in the fishing business.
There are many opportunities in the aquaculture industry. I would like the Marine Institute to work more closely with Norwegian researchers to see how they have managed to create employment from a resource which is as scarce in Norway as it is here.
We have a unique opportunity in Ireland because of our key location, especially in the enlarged Union, to play an ever increasing part in the development of our fishing business. I hope the Marine Institute and those involved in the Department of the Marine will avail of this opportunity in the enlarged Union to open up new markets and to introduce techniques for developing the business, especially aquaculture, because this will create more jobs in the fishing industry.
I agree with those who expressed a view about transparency — a word which is abused at present. My own view is that until such time as we decide to have 15 single seats, smaller constituencies where individual Members of Parliament will represent that constituency and a transferable vote in the system, there will continue to be a gap between what is taking place in Europe and what people are familiar with at home.
I would remind people that one of our best Members of the European Parliament, Mr. Paddy Lane, lost his seat in the European elections because people were not fully aware of the important work he did. I want to express my appreciation for the work he did in the Parliament and for his achievements there. However, it is regrettable that someone like Mr. Paddy Lane, who worked hard in Europe and was able to achieve a lot there, could not get reelected. This highlights the necessity for more communication.
I welcome the initiative taken by the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, earlier this year and by the former Minister for Foreign Affairs to provide funding to initiate movement in that direction so that information on Europe would be more readily available. That was a success and I would like to see it continued.
Those who look at developments in Europe see that we are now entering a new era which will have a dynamic impact across a range of economic activities, especially employment and job creation. In that respect, it is important to keep a close eye on our economy because we can deal with these matters ourselves. We must ensure that we keep our inflation rates low, watch our balance of payments, reduce our unemployment levels and keep our borrowing under control. We do not want to see — and it is important to emphasise this today — Ireland relegated to a second tier in a two speed Europe. The enlargement of the European Union is now bringing in more prosperous countries and wealthy economies and there is a real danger that we will be relegated to a second grade. This would be detrimental to Ireland and our economy. Although we now have great opportunities, we must be fully aware of the responsibilities this places on us. During the next few years we must ensure that our economy is soundly managed and that we have a good Government so that we keep Ireland in top gear, as we have been in since we joined the European Union. We must continue, as we have done in the past, to play a leading role in the developing European Union.
I thank the Senators who contributed to the debate because it is important to deal with this issue. The Senators have facilitated the passage of this legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas. This process of ratification is not only happening in Ireland and in the 12 member states but in the 15 member states.
I share the Members' regret that Norway did not choose to join the European Union but that is its democratic decision. I also agree with those who said the Norwegians would have brought many positive elements to the development of the European Union. However, we have means of continuing our links with Norway, both bilaterally and through the European Economic Area Agreement. Senator Lanigan correctly pointed out that Norway will not miss out in the short term, but there will be drawbacks in the long term. I participated in the lengthy discussions during the enlargement negotiations and we dealt with the question of access to markets as regards fishing. I am conscious that we made gains in many areas, as did Norway in the long term, but it must deal with customs, which those of us in the European Union will not have to do.
I understand the concerns expressed by Senator Dardis and Senator Gallagher about the technical nature of the Bill. I said earlier that the Bill was cleverly prepared to allow for this situation and I agree that we should try to make changes to facilitate the reality. I made the point when bringing this Bill before the House and the Dáil committee that not only Ireland but all other member states of the European Union were conscious this might happen. Certain procedures were laid out which we could follow if the people of one country decided not to join.
The most important point is that we ratify it before the end of December and this problem is not peculiar to Ireland. We have an impasse because we have an acting Government. I appreciate that the Seanad was able to take this Bill because I was concerned that we would not be able to do so when I heard the debate this morning. It is important legislation. Other countries still have to ratify this measure and each member state, as well as the three new states, must do as we are doing today. If this happens — and we must wait and see — then the three states will become members on 1 January 1995.
In understanding the points made by Senator Dardis and Senator Gallagher on the logic of it all, we are bringing in the same kind of procedures as other member states of the European Union and Finland, Sweden and Austria.
Members mentioned the question of providing the people with communication about Europe. My report is ready for publication. There are many exciting new proposals and, hopefully, we will get a chance to deliver, some aspects relate to points that were raised in this debate. There is also the question of education. We must get the message across to our younger people that there is an important debate with regard to Europe that needs to be addressed. I can assure Members that part of the focus on the communicating about Europe strategy will be on the schools.
Reference was also made to the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament are entitled to come to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, and they often do. I agree that we must not keep this debate within our own politicians and experts. I am keen — and this is part of the communicating about Europe strategy — to bring this debate to the people; Senator Gallagher and other Members mentioned that. Senators will be satisfied when they see the final recommendations in this report; it is almost ready for publication.
I especially thank the House for facilitating the passage of this legislation before the end of the year.