1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if the arrangements for his forthcoming visit to Luxembourg and Germany have been finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17793/05]View answer
Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 21 June 2005
1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if the arrangements for his forthcoming visit to Luxembourg and Germany have been finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17793/05]View answer
2 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the European Council in Brussels has been finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17794/05]View answer
3 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will bring forward proposals for a referendum on the EU constitution within the next year. [18088/05]View answer
4 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the referendums being considered for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18372/05]View answer
5 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach his priorities for the upcoming European Council meeting to be held in Brussels in June 2005. [18935/05]View answer
6 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he has received an agenda for the upcoming European Council meeting to be held in Brussels in June 2005. [18936/05]View answer
7 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if the resources available to the National Forum on Europe will be enhanced to take account of its remit in bringing information regarding the EU constitution to persons here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18586/05]View answer
8 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach his plans for constitutional referenda during the remainder of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19036/05]View answer
9 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19037/05]View answer
10 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the European Council in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19097/05]View answer
11 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the visits abroad he plans to undertake during the remainder of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19098/05]View answer
12 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the outcome of his meeting with the Prime Minister Juncker of Luxembourg on 2 June 2005 in regard to EU issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19099/05]View answer
13 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the outcome of his meeting with Chancellor Schröder of Germany on 2 June 2005 in regard to EU issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19100/05]View answer
14 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he plans to meet or have discussions with other EU leaders in advance of the European summit to discuss the implications of the referenda results in France and Holland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19102/05]View answer
15 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he has received a final agenda for European summit meeting on 16 and 17 June 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19103/05]View answer
16 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the agenda for the June 2005 European Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19362/05]View answer
17 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visits to Luxembourg and Germany; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19363/05]View answer
18 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on any communications he has had with the French President, Mr. Jacques Chirac, or the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr. Jan Peter Balkenende, following the recent referendum results in their respective countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19365/05]View answer
19 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the referenda that will be held in 2005. [19881/05]View answer
20 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed and any conclusions reached at the recent European Council summit. [19879/05]View answer
21 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on bilateral meetings held on the margins of the recent European Council summit. [19880/05]View answer
22 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of the European summit on 16 and 17 June 2005; if it is intended to proceed with the planned referendum on the EU constitution in view of the outcome of the summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20737/05]View answer
23 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the referenda it is proposed to hold before the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20738/05]View answer
24 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the June 2005 meeting of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20753/05]View answer
25 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the bilateral meetings he held on the margins of the recent meeting of the European Council in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20754/05]View answer
26 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his participation in the European summit in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20934/05]View answer
27 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the EU constitution. [21834/05]View answer
28 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the outcome of the European summit of June 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21056/05]View answer
29 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the matters discussed and conclusions reached at the European Council summit meeting on the EU budget. [21255/05]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 29, inclusive, together.
I travelled to Luxembourg on 2 June at the invitation of Prime Minister Juncker, who was meeting each of the EU Heads of State or Government in advance of the June European Council meeting, to discuss the EU constitution and the financial perspectives for the period 2007 to 2013. I informed Prime Minister Juncker that we will continue our preparations for a national referendum on the EU constitution and that we looked forward to a full discussion at the European Council meeting where the implications of the outcomes of the French and Dutch referenda were to be assessed.
On the financial perspectives, we discussed the revised "negotiating box" which had been circulated by the Presidency just prior to the meeting. I outlined Ireland's position in these negotiations, and emphasised the importance of respecting the October 2002 agreement on the funding of the Common Agricultural Policy. Later in the day, I travelled on to Berlin to deliver a lecture at Humboldt University and also met Chancellor Schröder. We discussed the European constitution in the light of the negative outcome of the French and Dutch referendums. We also exchanged views on the financial perspectives and informed each another of our negotiating positions. I met the Prime Minister Mr. Blair on 15 June in advance of the European Council. The discussions at that meeting included current EU issues.
As Deputies are aware, we will have a full debate on the outcome of the European Council today. I attended the Council in Brussels on 16 and 17 June. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Treacy accompanied me to the European Council. While a broad range of issues on the European agenda was dealt with at the European Council, the key business was that of the European constitution and the financial perspectives. I have arranged for the conclusions of the Council and its declaration on the constitution to be laid before the House.
I very much regret the outcome of the French and Dutch referendums. We must fully respect the democratic right of the French and Dutch peoples, just as we must respect the decisions of the ten member states that have already ratified the European constitution. I spoke to President Chirac on 3 June and conveyed those sentiments to him.
It was agreed at the European Council that the ratification process should continue. However, the Council took note of the negative outcome in the French and Dutch referendums and agreed that a period for reflection, clarification and discussion was called for, both in those countries that have ratified the Treaty and in those that have still to do so. It is accepted that the timetable for ratification may be altered in some member states and there is a general understanding that the original target date of 1 November 2006 for entry into force is now almost certainly not tenable.
The European Council understands that those member states that must hold a referendum before ratification may need a longer and more intense period of reflection, clarification and discussion in the light of the French and Dutch results. Member states that intend holding a referendum should do so when they deem it opportune. It is still the Government's view that the constitution is strongly in Ireland's interest and that of the European Union as a whole. The European Council will assess the situation in the first half of 2006 under the Austrian EU Presidency.
The Government remains committed to ratifying the European constitution. Obviously, following the discussion at the European Council, we will not at this stage set a date for the referendum or progressing the Referendum Bill. We will continue to prepare for a referendum. We will use the period of reflection to intensify our engagement with the European constitution and Europe in general.
The failure to reach agreement on the financial perspectives was a further setback for the European Union at a time when it is still coming to terms with the results of the French and Dutch votes on the European constitution. The package put forward by the Presidency would have been good for Ireland and for the Union. Our particular national concerns were to safeguard the October 2002 agreement on the funding of the Common Agricultural Policy, to ensure adequate cohesion arrangements for our regions in transition, to reach agreement on a further PEACE programme and to ensure as fair a deal as possible with regard to our contribution to the EU budget.
The issue of the British budgetary rebate was one of the main stumbling blocks to reaching a final agreement on the financial perspectives. Following failure to reach agreement, the issue will now be taken forward under the incoming British Presidency and possibly the Austrian Presidency. The European Council will return to this matter. It is important that an agreement on the financial perspectives be achieved sooner rather than later. With regard to the resources available to the National Forum on Europe, I understand the forum is satisfied.
I advised the House on 18 May on my plans for foreign visits to the end of the year. Since making that statement, one additional visit to Hungary in November has been agreed. This visit is part of the ongoing schedule of bilateral meetings with European heads of Government to discuss EU issues.
I was disappointed at the outcome of the summit meeting in Brussels. Last year, at the summit of leaders of the EPP, I proposed that all countries requiring to hold a referendum should do so on the same day so that one country's decision would not prejudice another's. Unfortunately, that is what has happened. Arising from that, does the Taoiseach intend to put the Bill dealing with ratification of the EU constitution through the House before the summer recess? Can he confirm that, arising from this debacle, it is not intended to hold a referendum in Ireland, at least this year? The Taoiseach is aware of my party's position regarding the European constitution. There are obviously practical difficulties that must be considered arising from the clear prejudice that exists. People ask why they should vote if the constitution cannot be passed after the French people's decision.
My second question concerns the fall-out from the budgetary discussion at the summit meeting. Does the Taoiseach agree the attack on the Common Agricultural Policy by the British Prime Minister was simply outrageous and that, as the CAP has been radically reformed on a number of occasions in recent years, the Irish people who voted for an expansion of the European Union did so on the basis of every other farmer having the opportunity to bring themselves up rather than being forced to endure a cutback which will cost Irish farmers dearly? Will the Taoiseach now use what some of the media refer to as his much-vaunted special relationship with the British Prime Minister to contact him directly about this matter? Britain, and particularly the British Prime Minister on the eve of his assumption of the European Presidency, should not have opened up something that was negotiated and overhauled already.
Does the Taoiseach believe this attack on the CAP by the British Prime Minister puts the European Union in a very much weakened position as a group heading into the next round of the World Trade Organisation talks? Does this not considerably weaken the impact of Europe? Does the Taoiseach agree that it means countries such as China and to a lesser extent India, and some personnel in the United States, will be more than anxious to see a fractured Europe, unable to agree on a budget, unable to agree on a constitution and very much heading in a backward and negative direction?
This requires cool heads and strong and clear leadership. Unfortunately, there was no evidence of this from the most recent meeting in Brussels. A return to ego trips and national cases will not help build the European process that Jean Monnet spoke of so eloquently many years ago.
We will continue to keep the matter of the constitution under review. Deputy Kenny is correct that the referendum will not take place this year. I have made clear that we will publish a White Paper in September. I have made no decision about the Bill but I will consult the Opposition parties before moving on that. It will certainly not be before the summer.
The position is that the European Council will look at the constitution again during the Austrian Presidency. That period of discussion and reflection will probably take place closer to next summer. However, if the Austrian Chancellor believes it could be after Christmas, it may prove be the case. A number of countries will proceed with a vote while others will continue with a parliamentary ratification process, which will build up the number of states who have dealt with the matter.
We will see where we are at the beginning of the Austrian Presidency. Some 18, 19 or 20 countries will have dealt with it at that stage. A number of countries will continue with a ratification process. Luxembourg has decided to go ahead with a vote and Poland is likely to do the same from what Prime Minister Marek Belka has said to me. It is important for us not to lose momentum. We should continue on with the European project, explaining the issues and putting forward a White Paper for debate in the autumn. I welcome Deputy Kenny's support for this initiative.
On the financial perspective, I do not disagree with anything Deputy Kenny said. It is a fair analysis of the situation. Members are aware that I was anxious to meet the Prime Minister Mr. Blair because I knew the position he was taking from the COREPER meeting and from the newspapers I saw last weekend. It is diametrically opposed to our position. I will not fudge on that. I agree with Mr. Blair on many issues and we get on very well but I disagree with him totally on this. He does not accept the position that the rebate should be changed and argues that any negotiations on the rebate should be effectively funded out of totally changing the CAP.
He is not seeking a modification of the CAP — I could understand that argument but not accept it — but a fundamental redraft of the entire budgetary position of the Union. I told him on Wednesday that I did not believe we could do that by Friday night. It was not his stated position a month ago and I do not believe it will be the position in six months' time. The entire basis cannot be fundamentally altered. Deputy Kenny correctly noted the changes that arose from the 1992 proposals of the then Irish EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. MacSharry. In Berlin in 1999, significant changes were made to the CAP. In 2002 breaking the link between subsidies and production and moving to a total basis made a fundamental change. I agree with the latter change and, since 1997, I have been on the record in this House as saying that I did not believe the CAP could continue as it was but that a realistic position would have to be taken. I made this point at every meeting I held with the IFA and ICMSA. I have support on this from Deputy Kenny's party.
It is unfair to express the view, as was done in recent days, that the CAP is old-fashioned, negative for Europe or an organisation for backwoodsmen or that reforms have not taken place. I said at this weekend's meeting that this is a dishonest way to present the issue. Regardless of the rows that take place on reform of the CAP, an agreement is an agreement. The third round agreement reduced the CAP budget to approximately 40% whereas it was over 70% in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1988, I was involved in the first round of negotiations with Mr. MacSharry as Minister for Finance and thethen Minister for Agriculture, Mr. MichaelO'Kennedy. As Minister for Labour, I addressed the social fund. The CAP then represented approximately 73%. It is now 40% and is likely to decrease further.
The British position is that the entire matter ought to be totally re-phased and the 2002 agreement and its ensuing restructuring should be disregarded only after which could discussions on the rebate begin. I believe this to be a dishonest presentation because, if the negotiating position of countries such as the UK was that there are no resources for other issues, why did they lead a campaign to limit the scope of the EU budget to 1%? I spelled this out at the March Council meeting of the Irish Presidency. Why stick to a 1% argument before the Commission's proposals are seen?
There is no logic in this but a debate was not held. The answer at the recent Council meeting was that logic would not be used nor a debate be held and, as agreement would not be reached, we should all go home. I do not accept this position, which represented a bad day's work for Europe. Deputy Kenny is correct, however, in that one has to move on in order to look for a more logical position. It is neither the first nor the last occurrence of such an event, which probably indicates that long meetings are not the best idea, even for European leaders.
Does the Taoiseach accept the verdicts of the French and Dutch people in rejecting the draft EU constitution? I am happy to state for the record that I welcomed these verdicts. Does he accept that, if an EU constitution is introduced, it will differ from the current draft constitution because the latter cannot secure the unanimous support of every EU member state? Will he join me in rejecting the view that the EU member states that have not yet voted have been intimidated by the verdicts in France and the Netherlands? An Irish MEP and Member of this House recently expressed this view.
I ask the Taoiseach to clearly explain the motivation for delaying the ratification period beyond November 2006. I would like a clear answer on this. Was it because the verdicts of the people of France and the Netherlands were respected, which implies that the constitution as it stands is, to all intents and purposes, dead in the water? Is it, as many suspect, an exercise to buy further time by placing the draft constitution for Europe in cold storage so it can be resurrected at some future time viewed as more auspicious in terms of the intent of the Taoiseach and others to have it approved? Perhaps the Taoiseach can advise us exactly what is the position as we would like to know. Does the Taoiseach still intend to proceed with a referendum on the draft constitution for Europe already rejected by both the French and Dutch electorates and, if so, when?
I answered almost all those questions in my opening reply but I will briefly state again that I fully respect the democratic right of the French and Dutch people just as much as I respect the decisions taken by the ten member states that ratified the constitution for Europe. I respect both positions.
The European Council has made a decision to have a period of reflection, clarification and discussion in all member states during the next 12 months. Analysis is under way in the Netherlands and France to examine the issues. Parliamentary debate is taking place in some countries working towards ratification while other member states have temporarily stalled the process to hold more intensive debate. A referendum will still take place in Poland and Luxembourg. Each country is examining the issues that create problems and difficulties for the Union and seeking ways to explain them and make progress on them.
I assure Deputy Ó Caoláin that it was clearly decided recently there is no possibility of anyone within the European Union renegotiating the draft constitution for Europe. No one will cherry-pick it or remove parts of it and it will remain in its entirety the same document that has already been before parliaments and peoples in many countries. The only reason for the delay is to give more time to member states for the period of reflection, clarification and discussion than was available. What the French or Dutch peoples, Governments, parliaments and administrations will do is a matter for them and not for me.
It is interesting to hear the Taoiseach discuss how he respects the decisions of others. Does he agree that the best way of respecting those decisions is to recognise that we also agreed to be bound by the rules established? Does he still recognise that the constitution for Europe requires unanimity? On that basis, can he indicate why he believes it is not effectively dead?
Is he aware — and I would be surprised if he were not — that the spokesperson for the French President indicated France will not hold a second referendum? The Dutch Prime Minister stated the Netherlands will not vote again. Does the Taoiseach agree this indicates the constitution for Europe is dead and, if not, what does he know that he may not have already told us? Would it be more honest and upfront to adopt the Swedish position? They will not proceed with a referendum or ratification unless matters change, which is not stalling but stopping.
Does the Taoiseach now regard the White Paper on the Nice treaty as being slightly inaccurate as it stated that treaty was intimately linked with plans for enlargement and was intended to complete the process? Is it now unclear as to what was meant there, although I took it at face value? If that is the case, has more evolved than was the case at that time?
The Taoiseach stated that ten countries have ratified the treaty but will he recognise that only Spain had a popular referendum? On that basis, would it not be right to re-examine the proposal made by my colleague, Deputy Gormley, at the convention that a referendum should be held in all member states on the same day to reflect the decision of the European Union and all its people as opposed to what is now a failed piecemeal way of going about the process? I accept that was the agreed rule but it may be the wrong rule from the Taoiseach's point of view in that unanimity is needed and it can only be based on everybody voting to accept the convention. If we are to go back to the agreed rule, does the Taoiseach believe Deputy Gormley's proposal has merit?
To answer the first question, everybody around the table at the European Council agreed that the constitution remained the valid response to the concerns of citizens and the best available compromise. The situation is difficult because two countries voted "No" by popular opinion — the ballots were very high — but ten other countries, including Spain, voted for the constitution by popular opinion. Another four or five countries are moving ahead with the ratification process and very quickly the number in favour will be 15. Others have delayed their process, as we are doing here. We will not deal with the Bill before the House. The rule that everybody must agree by unanimity will not change. The only change is the date by which the final decision must be made and then discussed by the European Council. It will not be 1 November 2006, it will be some date after that, perhaps not long after that but it will be a matter for the Presidencies next year to make that determination. There is no point in making it now.
I know what the French President and Administration have said and I know what the Dutch have said. As the Deputy is aware, they have equally said that they want everyone to continue with the ratification process, but I cannot interpret what they might do in the future. That is a matter for them.
Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the state leaders accepted that the French and Dutch working class were making a very strong statement on the current direction of the European Union in rejecting particularly the rampant neo-liberal economic policy orchestrated by the European Commission, the privatisation of public services and attacks on pension rights and hard-won working conditions by European workers? Does he agree that the rejection by the French and Dutch people was on those fundamental issues and, as such, their attitudes will not be reversed to embrace what has been referred to as the Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal model of profiteering and privatisation?
Because of that, does the Taoiseach accept it is clear that the proposed constitution is dead in the water? Is that not clear from the failure of the French and Dutch Governments to explain how they intend to proceed in current circumstances, unlike the Taoiseach who, after the rejection of the first Nice referendum, flitted quickly across to Europe to say we will put it to the people again? Does the Taoiseach agree that the rejection and the current position of crisis in the European Union shows that the political and business elite of the EU are divorced from the real problems and concerns of working people? Even the Taoiseach, as President of the EU last year, looked like a man suffering from semi-Napoleonic delusions as he flitted from castle to castle and chateau to palace to get the constitution agreed among the elite.
He is a castle socialist.
I imagine the Taoiseach was very relieved last Saturday night to retreat to a watering spot in Drumcondra, far from the Elysée and other such places.
The Deputy should confine himself to the question as other Members are offering.
The Taoiseach stated in the House, when looking forward to the summit, that external affairs would be on the agenda. I asked him through correspondence to raise the freezing of further significant monetary aid to the Pakistani Government in view of the arrest of hundreds of trade unionists — members of the telecommunications union — who were fighting privatisation in that country. Did the Taoiseach have an opportunity to raise this matter?
I have answered most of the points raised. The Deputy knows he is even out of line with the Socialist Party in France, which had a long debate about the constitution and voted for it. It was the only party that had such an extensive——
It is not a socialist party any longer.
They are not the Deputy's kind of socialists, who do not exist anywhere. The Socialist Party in France voted strongly for the constitution following a protracted debate. Unfortunately, the "Nos" came from the bourgeois and elites in France, who were most opposed to the constitution.
That is not true. The Left was active.
Just because they can read does not make them bourgeois.
I am glad Deputy Higgins is associated with such people, which is par for the course. The constitution continues; there will not be any change to it or renegotiation of it.
The kind of issues to which the Deputy referred in regard to social dialogue were precisely the issues that the convention debated and got into the constitution for the first time. The European Trade Union Confederation, ETUC, did a good job. We worked closely with it, making sure the issues of social dialogue, protection for workers and respect for public services were promoted. The work of the Irish Government in this regard was widely acknowledged by ETUC at European level. I am shocked to find the Deputy is so totally out of touch with what was negotiated one year ago.
I studied it until late last night.
I will arrange to send a copy of the constitution and the White Paper to the Deputy so that during his summer break in Kerry, he will have an opportunity to read it closely. He will then be better informed when the White Paper comes out in September.
The Taoiseach could bring him for a pint.
On the one serious point made by Deputy Higgins, the Pakistani authorities are reported to have on 13 June detained approximately 300 staff of a Pakistani owned telecommunications company following strike threats. I understand the strike was sparked by the announcement that the Pakistani Government, which owns 88% of the company, planned to sell 26% of the company, a move which trade unions fear will result in large scale job losses in Pakistan. Tensions were reportedly high among the approximately 65,000 people who currently work with the company. After ten days of the strike at the beginning of June, the Pakistani Government and the trade union action committee signed an agreement and believed the matter was completed. However, recent reports indicate that the Pakistani Government has gone ahead and sold the 26% share of the telecommunications company to a telecommunications company in the United Arab Emirates.
I took up the matter. Acting on our request, the Heads of Mission in Islamabad have agreed to raise the issue with the Pakistani authorities during the biannual human rights démarche that will take place in the coming days.
That is one positive thing the Taoiseach did.
I thank the Deputy.
The Taoiseach said he knew about the British position from the COREPER meeting prior to the Council. When did he learn of the position of the British Prime Minister on the reform of CAP as a quid pro quo in terms of the British rebate? Will the Taoiseach explain the sense of the British Prime Minister being prepared to put so much at risk for a rebate of the order of £1.7 billion sterling, which is not very significant in the context of the British budget? Will the Taoiseach state how he sees the way forward? Is there likely to be progress under the British Presidency, given the double whammy of the failure to agree a budget and the Dutch and French decisions on the constitution? What are the implications for Romania and Bulgaria? Is it intended to proceed with the discussions, due to be initiated in autumn, with the Turkish Government? Is it not being flippant to dismiss out of hand the points of Deputy Joe Higgins on why the electorate in France and the Netherlands did what it did? I refer to, for example, French views on some of these issues regarding the direction of the economy and the opening of discussions with Turkey. Is there any point in not admitting there is an issue there? Does the Taoiseach agree that, in terms of attending meetings around the country, it is alright for us on this side of the House to state there will be no referendum on the constitution prior to a general election in Ireland?
There is an analysis in the Netherlands and France of what they perceive to be the main issues. They would rather present the results of that analysis. Obviously Turkey is one of the issues but there is a range of issues. The view of French people whom I trust in the debate is that a coalition of the far-right and far-left came together and in no category did it win. People right across the board voted against the constitution. Having spoken to both sides the number one issue put forward by them was unemployment. Unfortunately that was not in the constitution, as happens in referenda. Reasons numbers two, three, four and five in the analysis were not part of the constitution. In fact none of the six or seven issues identified in the analysis were dealt with in the constitution.
The Deputy makes a fair point on enlargement. Last night I met the President of Serbia and Montenegro and he is deeply concerned where the commitments lie for them. I was able to reassure him that, despite the difficulties in this European Council, the conclusions of the Thessaloníki European Council meeting of June 2003 were restated, namely, that these discussions would take place and that the stabilisation agreements would continue. Hopefully these issues will be finished in the autumn. There is good progress being made in those areas and they are not being abandoned. In spite of the difficulties of last week, work on all of these areas will continue.
The position on Turkey is now outlined, following events last December. Everyone knows this is going to be a protracted period but I do not see the discussions being deferred or delayed from the present programme. That will continue but it will take considerable time. I said it will be six or seven years before we see the end of those discussions. As the Deputy knows there is much pressure from the Ukraine concerning its position. All of these issues are there and they are of concern to people in many ways.
The position on the constitution is that it is not all right for people to say there will be no referendum. Sometime in the Austrian Presidency a call will be made on where to move next. At that point 19 or 20 countries might have ratified the constitution. A number of countries are very strong and do not want to stop at all. They will use the period for reflection but they want to move on. Ultimately people want to know what the Netherlands and France will do but that is not going to happen at this stage, if it happens at all. We will have to wait to see what happens. When British Government Ministers come under pressure, they say they will not agree to the rebate until they get a fundamental review of EU funding. That is nothing new — it has been their standard answer — and the more pressure that is put on them, the more they maintain that position. Prime Minister Blair repeated that to me last week also. They maintain that the British rebate applies to all expenditure, other than non-agricultural spending in member states. They say that the annual British rebate will average approximately €5.5 billion. While this would have increased the UK's net contribution, the UK would by no means be the largest net contributor in per capita terms. The British make that point all the time.
The difficulty is that there is an agreement, signed in 2002, and, despite what the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw continually says, there was no way out of that. He gave two different quotes about two references, with which nobody else agrees. He has his argument to fight for but none of the others agreed with it. In addition, Mr. Straw does not accept that the 2002 deal effectively meant that by 2013 the EU's CAP for 25 member states would be less than the EU budget for 15 member states. In itself, therefore, it is a major reform.
Deputy Quinn knows that, as I have said on the record of the House many times, I never expressed the view that the CAP, at 70%, could remain as it was and that we could all go on ignoring it. I had many a row with the IFA and ICMSA on this issue but the reforms were made, thus moving to an entirely different system. Because so much more was saved within the CAP budget of €295 billion, which I realise is a big figure even in today's terms, the Commission would have been able fully to accommodate Romania and Bulgaria. Changed production methods meant that less financial resources would be required and, therefore, there was plenty of capacity for a reduction.
I have no difficulty with the British position, which was that they felt money should be spent on other areas. I agree with the British on research and development, training and other areas, but they should not have been so tough about keeping the budget at 1%. Before the British saw the Commission's proposals, they were out fighting the campaign for the 1% club. The British Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said he would not go beyond 1%, but it is somewhat disingenuous to say, a year later, that they will not agree to an extension to 1.06%. The British wanted the whole issue restructured before they would agree to anything.
On where it goes from now, last weekend's European Council is over and it is not much good for anyone to go on about it. I certainly will not do so after today's report on it. A number of important projects must be taken up, including the financial perspective. While it does not have to be agreed right now, it is important that it is agreed over the next six to nine months. The financial perspective requires, particularly for the new member states, a position of setting in the subheads.
When the European Union was enlarged from 15 members to 25, nobody believed that when we came to deal with the next financial perspectives, the ten applicant countries would not be fighting for €1 in resources, but asking other member states to stop arguing and move forward. That was the saddest aspect of the summit. Nobody in their wildest dreams ever thought that would happen, including myself. In fairness to the new member states, they need decisions to be taken as quickly as possible on the EU financial perspectives so that they can make their own budgetary preparations, including new programmes, subheads and arrangements. The deadline for that is probably in about nine months' time, but it is putting pressure on the new member states. Whatever our differences, the last thing we should do is make life difficult for the new member states as they have already introduced significant reform and have enough further reform to implement. They need funding so they can move on. Otherwise it would be very unfair. Whatever else we do, we should assist them and show solidarity.
Does the Taoiseach accept that elected Members in this House have major concerns about the EU constitution? The Taoiseach remarked earlier that everybody around the table at the Council meeting was in agreement. That might represent the people at the higher political level, but many citizens throughout the European Union have major concerns about the constitution.
Does the Taoiseach accept that the outcome of the French referendum represents the view across Europe and the view of other people in this House such as myself? Many people have these concerns. It was not just a question of the far left but of a broad coalition in France against the EU constitution, including the broad left and community and trade union groups. They read the constitution, which was a best seller during the debate in France.
Is the Taoiseach determined to push through this constitution, regardless of the consequences? The impression people are getting is that certain governments are determined to push it through against the wishes of many of their citizens. These are legitimate and democratic concerns.
Parliaments in different parts of Europe are voting 100% or in excess of 95% in favour of the constitution. The politicians in those parliaments have been elected by the people and know their feelings and their moods. If issues such as those mentioned earlier, for example, not extending Europe further, keeping Turkey out or not giving it the opportunity to join, keeping the western Balkans out, or saying "no" to the Ukraine, represent the Deputy's views — in line with the views expressed — I will respect that. He can, ultimately, explain to the people in those countries that this is the way it is.
I do not share that view. I think countries that have been out of Europe that want to return to it should have the opportunity to be part of it. They are entitled to that. Many of the issues, such as social dialogue and competencies of industries and state companies, are ones that were fought for by the trade unionists of Europe who are happy with them as part of the constitution. By and large, trade unionists throughout Europe supported them. While the Deputy may be against those issues, I do not accept that is a majority view. It is not my view. Ultimately, the Irish people will have the chance to give a view depending on circumstances. I hope we will not find that is their view either.