European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2006: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Not unexpectedly, Committee and Report Stages of the Bill have moved very swiftly through the House. As we said on Second Stage during our quite lengthy discussion with the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, this is a positive further step on the road to broadening the European family, although the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania will not necessarily be cheering on the streets today or will not be tuning into "Oireachtas Report". The fact it is only a few decades ago since similar legislation was passed by other Parliaments throughout Europe to allow the accession of Ireland to the European Economic Community in 1973 shows we are taking a significant step and are moving towards the accession of two more countries into the European Union. These two countries were under the influence of the Soviet Union and were behind the Iron Curtain for far too long.

I noted the Minister of State's enthusiasm for the project last week and his realism in terms of further European Union integration in that it must be done in a careful and planned fashion. We must ensure the business of countries joining the Union is sorted out from governance, democracy and fiscal points of view. That is the challenge we are laying down for Romania and Bulgaria and, hopefully, they will meet it in the near future.

This is another part of project Europe, which is welcome. Eventually, we will have to conclude that project, although there are still quite a number of countries whose future is in the European Union. I congratulate the Minister of State on bringing forward the legislation and I was glad to have the chance to co-operate. Hopefully, Bulgaria and Romania will meet the necessary criteria in the not too distance future and will join us as partners in the European Union.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, for his presentation on the Bill which, although short, is very important and involves the expansion of the European Union. It heralds the way for two further countries to join the family of the European Union in peace. After all, that is what this is about. It is not about trade, commerce or anything else; it is about peace. People of my age who as children remember the last world war when so many people lost their lives and so much destruction of property and infrastructure took place, can not only look forward to the future but to the expansion of the European Union as more countries adopt democratic reforms and become democracies. We welcome, in particular, as friends countries such as Romania and Bulgaria which have suffered so much from oppression. I hope their accession goes ahead on 1 January 2007.

As we look towards the completion of the fifth enlargement of the European Union, I reiterate my pleasure at the strong support of this House for the European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2006. On behalf of the Government, I sincerely thank the Senators and political parties for their valuable and positive contributions. This is a short and critically important Bill which is a major instrument in enabling Ireland to ratify the accession of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union. There was a very good debate on the Bill in both Houses, which was important. I thank my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Killeen, for dealing with the Bill in my absence yesterday.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of deputising for the Taoiseach at the European Council where a solid, consensual approach was taken by all the Heads of State to welcoming Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union. They expressed the hope that both countries would be able to meet the 1 January 2007 deadline. I echo what Senators Bradford and Lydon said in that we all wish both countries well and hope they meet all the necessary criteria to enable their accession on 1 January next.

We have looked forward to the passage of this legislation and to Ireland's ratification of the accession treaty in 2006. I also look forward to welcoming Bulgaria and Romania as full partners in the European Union. Their presence among us will be to our mutual benefit in the future. It is critically important that we are able to continue with the European project and that we give equal opportunity to other countries in the greater European landmass and those adjoining it in the old European continent to be able to join us in the great democratic opportunity the European Union has created for all of us over the years. We have benefited immeasurably from it and we always have a strong desire to ensure we can confer similar benefits on those who want to join us in the European Union.

I wish Bulgaria and Romania every success and look forward to working with them as full partners and as equals in the European Union in the exciting years ahead for all of us. I thank the House.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 2.40 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.