I agree with much that Deputy McCartin said in the first part of his speech but I would have to hear his 15 minute elaboration on the policy of neutrality before I could decide whether to agree with him on that.
The contributions that have been made to this debate today encourage me to strike a note of optimism. The views expressed on all sides of the House have reasserted the continuing vitality of the decision to join the Community made by the large majority of our people in 1972. And for all the concern expressed today about the need to protect vital national interests, it is striking that a theme common to almost all speeches is that one of our more vital interests is our continued membership of the Community itself. Therefore, it is at all times in the context of continued membership of the Community that we view the present process towards further European integration.
Our approach to European Union is different from that of all other member states. All of our partners suffered in the Second World War and there is consequently an emotional basis for their pursuit of this ideal. Ireland, on the other hand, was spared this searing experience. Additionally, unlike our partners, we are young in statehood and have a pride in a sovereignty, the absense of which is still within living memory for some. There is therefore a major task ahead in creating in Ireland, if not an emotional appeal for union, then at least the recognition by the public that further integration is in Ireland's long term interests.
As Members are all no doubt aware, the European Council in Fontainebleau last year, in consequence of the Genscher-Columbo Declaration on Union, the Parliament's draft treaty on union and President Mitterrand's appeal for a relaunching of Europe, decided to set up the Ad Hoc Committee on Institutional Affairs to map out the next stage of integration. The committee reported to the European Council last March and its recommendations will be the main topic for discussion at the Council's meeting in Milan this week. Others have already discussed these recommendations but for the purpose of my exercise I shall repeat them briefly.
They include a call for a genuine political entity; for a series of priority objectives which include, first the completion of the present treaty through the creation of an internal market, through increased competitiveness of the European economy and through the promotion of economic convergence; secondly, the promotion of what are called common values of civilisation and which include measures to protect the environment, the gradual achievement of a European social area, the gradual establishment of a homogeneous judicial area and the promotion of common cultural values; thirdly, the search for an external identity which includes the strengthening and improvement of European political co-operation and its extension to cover consultation on security and defence matters.
To facilitate the achievement of these objectives and to reinvigorate the institutions for their own sake, the committee proposed a series of institutional reforms. These include recommendations for easier decision making in the Council, for a strengthened Commission, for an enhanced role for the European Parliament and for increased scope for the activities of the Court of Justice.
Finally the committee proposed a method by which the member states might institute the recommendations. It suggested that a Conference of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States should be convened in the near future to negotiate a draft European Union Treaty based on the acquis communautaire (the body of Community legislation), the specific Dooge Recommendations, the Genscher-Columbo Declaration on European Union and would be guided by the spirit and method of the European Parliament's draft treaty.
These then are the proposals for the next stage of European integration. Reactions to them vary. Common to all of them is an acceptance that, unlike other efforts in past years, Senator Dooge and his colleagues have set forth a range of objectives which, in the light of present realities, one can at least conceive of being achieved.
Let us now look from an Irish perspective at a selection of the recommendations and at their implications for Ireland. The first recommendation for a genuine political entity, that is, for a form of European union, is an ideal to which we can aspire and towards which I believe significant progress will be made in the present process. However, its ultimate realisation, in part or in whole, will be in no small way dependent on the degree to which the other more immediate recommendations are acceptable to member states.
The first priority objective for a homogeneous internal economic area includes a recommendation for the creation under the present treaty of a genuine internal market. In common with all member states we see particular advantages in easing access to a single integrated market. We therefore support the achievement of a Community-wide internal market and the promotion of economic convergence in the Community. In working towards the achievement of an internal market free of any remaining obstacles to trade we will simply be meeting obligations to which we are already committed. The proposals in the Dooge report include recommendations for the increased competitiveness of European industry and the European economy. This we very much favour. The promotion of economic convergence is clearly in Ireland's interest and I shall deal with this subject in more detail later.
Under the same heading are recommendations on the opening up of access to public contracts and the mutual recognition of national standards. Here we recognise that two major elements in the abolition of the remaining obstacles to intra-Community trade are first, the adoption of common technical standards for products and secondly, the opening up of public contracts in the Community. These are keys to a resurgence in European industry. The prospect of markets will provide the incentive to industry to make the advances in research and technology required to remain competitive on the international plane. I can point to the fact that we have done our part in this area. During the Irish Presidency, the Community adopted what is called the "Single Administrative Document". This is a virtual European passport for goods which considerably eases customs procedures and will result in the elimination of excess cost, estimated at 5 per cent of frontier formalities.
The simplification of formalities in trade between the member states will have a positive impact on the future development of intra-Community trade. In particular it will provide an incentive for firms, especially small ones, to view their activity in terms of the whole of the internal market. In Europe we cannot take our prosperity for granted. As we look to the future we must work to ensure that our European economy is securely based on advanced industry, efficient agriculture and competitive trading.
On transport policy the Community's failure to develop a satisfactory common transport policy, despite the objectives laid down in the Treaty, is depressing. It exemplifies the crippling caution and the obsession with niggling details to which the Community has too often been prone. In practical terms, it means that the movement of goods between member states is slower, more expensive and less efficient than it could be. It is clear that without a common transport policy the creation of a truly homogeneous internal economic area — one of the Dooge committee's priority objectives — is impossible. We accordingly support rapid progress towards full liberalisation of road haulage, and can accept the parallel need for the harmonisation of conditions pointed to by other member states. As already mentioned, it is a matter of some pride that our recent Presidency was quite successful in this area. Both producers and consumers, notably on this comparatively isolated island would benefit from the cheaper and more competitive transport services thereby provided. Moreover, I believe that Irish hauliers are in a position to compete vigorously in a more open market. As far as air transport is concerned, there is obviously scope for greater competition within the constraints which arise from the special nature of the industry.
I turn now to the European Monetary System. The strengthening of the EMS is an essential condition of further European integration. Ireland has participated in the system since its inception on 13 March 1979. We have found participation most useful in helping to promote exchange rate stability, particularly given the very wild fluctuations being experienced by the major currencies and given our relatively high dependence on international trade. This stability is evidenced by the fact that over two years have elapsed since the last realignment of EMS currencies.
Stability in exchange rates within the EMS has, in turn, resulted in a moderation in import prices and this has been accompanied by a dramatic convergence of Community inflation rates. The rate of inflation in Ireland, at 5.2 per cent this year, is below the Community average and the lowest nationally for 18 years. EMS membership has also been of benefit in that it has necessitated the development of the foreign exchange and money markets in Dublin.
When the EMS was founded the support arrangements for the less prosperous states participating in the system took the form of guaranteed access to subsidised Community loans. Ireland received its subsidies in capitalised form and these amounted to 66.7 million ECU each year for the five year period 1979-83. We received our full entitlement to the subsidised loans which were used to finance capital investment in the economic infrastructural area, mainly telecommunications and energy projects.
Further development of the EMS would be welcomed by Ireland. It will reinforce not only its technical mechanisms but will also improve prospects for economic development, including higher growth, employment and the raising of living standards in the less prosperous member states. There have been calls on Britain to join the system. Ireland, with its high proportion of sterling-denominated trade, would welcome the pound sterling into the EMS. I take this opportunity to call on Britain to join the EMS to enhance the stability of the exchange rates in the Community. The bulk of our trade would then be covered by the EMS arrangements and some of the problems with which we have had to cope in recent years, as a result of sharp movements of sterling outside the system, would be reduced.
Given our view that a European Union must repose on a solid economic foundation, the promotion of economic convergence must obviously remain a priority objective in this country's approach to the deliberations and decisions arising from the Dooge report. Translated into concrete terms, the pursuit of this objective will involve, among other things, advocating the exploitation of such possibilities as may exist for greater concentration of the economic policies of the member states of the Community, notably to combat unemployment; support for further increasing the Community's own resources in order to equip the Community to discharge its responsibilities and to meet the challenges facing it; and support for increasing the resources of the Community's structural funds in order to enable them to adequately discharge their tasks. Despite the budgetarily restrictive views of a number of member states, we intend to pursue a policy of securing adequate resources to meet present needs and future objectives.
I should like to say something now about the enlargement of the Community to include Spain and Portugal. The impetus towards further enlarging the Community was in large part based upon political factors. As the founding fathers of the Community made clear when they were drafting the Treaty of Rome, the Community is open to all democratic European states who share the European ideal. We, therefore, welcome the accession of Spain and Portugal, which will do much to give added strength to the democratic institutions of our two new partners and will also help to widen the geographical, cultural and historical idea of Europe which underlies the European Community.
The accession negotiations were long, complex and difficult. I believe, however, that the final outcome is a balanced one for all parties concerned. The opening up of the large Iberian market, which will add 48 million consumers to the existing Community, will provide a stimulus for European industry that is particularly important at this time of economic difficulties.
One of the central problems of the negotiations was to secure agreement on the rate of dismantlement over a seven year period and the rate of dismantlement will lead to a reduction of over 52 per cent on duties over the first three years. Moreover, apart from a limited number of products, quantitative restrictions between Spain and the Community will be abolished from accession. This, like the early opening up of the Spanish market, should be of considerable assistance to some Irish exporters who in the past have experienced difficulty in gaining access to the market on account of non-tariff barriers. In the case of Portugal, industrial tariffs will also be abolished over a seven year period involving a 50 per cent reduction over the first three years. The opening up of the Iberian markets will also permit us to begin to develop our export potential on these markets for meat and dairy products.
While I do not wish to anticipate now the debate which will take place in this House later this year when we consider the question of the ratification of the Accession Treaty, I wish to reaffirm now that the agreements reached in the fisheries chapter of the negotiations represent a very positive outcome in terms of the protection and further development of our fishing interests. One of the most important elements from our point of view is, of course, the fact that Spanish and Portugese fishing vessels will be excluded for ten years from the Irish 50 mile box around our coast. The achievement of this negotiating objective was all the more creditable when one realises that Spain had continually pressed for access to the Irish box with immediate effect from the date of accession.
The accession of Spain and Portugal has significant implications for the future shape of the Community. For instance, enlargement will almost double the size of population in regions with serious development problems. Yet it is clear that one of the major shortcomings of the existing Community has been its failure to develop a regional policy effective enough to come near to fulfilling the Treaty objective of reducing the economic disparities between the Community's regions.
If this were to continue to be the case the regional disparities in the enlarged Community would be even more pronounced than in the existing Community. This clearly would be an unacceptable situation, not only for us and for other existing member states with serious problems of regional development, but also for Spain and Portugal. I am confident that the alignment of forces working for genuine economic convergence, involving the progressive elimination of imbalances between the Community's various areas and regions, will be considerably stronger in the enlarged Community than at present. We shall work closely with those who share with us a common interest in promoting economic convergence involving, among other things, the desirability of increasing the Community's structural funds and to assign a greater proportion of these funds to the regions most in need, including Ireland.
Turning again to specific Dooge proposals, I note that the report calls for the creation of a technological Community backed up by a genuine internal market which would enable Europe to become a powerful competitor internationally in the field of production and application of advanced technologies.
Although the December and March European Councils also referred to this in their conclusions, the first more concrete initiative came in the form of a letter in April from French Foreign Minister Dumas to his Community colleagues. In this he outlined his proposal for establishing a new agency, with legal and financial autonomy, for the purpose of organising and co-ordinating research and development activities of interested European countries in a number of high technology sectors. First reactions to the French initiative linked it to the United States "Strategic Defence Initiative" proposal and saw it very much as a rival undertaking.
However, France has stressed that its proposal is motivated by long standing concerns, and is a logical conclusion of its thinking to date. Furthermore, the French emphasise that, unlike the SDI, Eureka is a civil research programme.
Reactions to Eureka in other member states have mostly been very positive. This is due in large measure to the widespread recognition of the technological challenge to Europe from Japan and the USA and from the fear that participation by European allies of the United States in SDI research could lead to a siphoning off of European research capability. Motivated by these same concerns, the European Commission has more recently put forward ideas of its own for a qualitative leap in Community research activities.
We regard the French proposal as interesting and significant and as one which seeks to address the challenges presented by the present state of European co-operation and the place of Europe in the world. Naturally enough, there are aspects to the proposal which require further examination. These would include such aspects as the way in which it relates to the European Community framework, the idea of variable participation in individual projects and the extent to which non-members of the Community can participate in it bearing in mind here precedents of successful extra-Community co-operation in ventures such as JET, COST and the European Space Agency.
We are examining the proposal actively and also positively, out of the conviction that an initiative of this kind is essential to make up the ground Europe has lost and to maintain our competitiveness in the medium and longer term. We are also examining the Commission ideas in the same spirit. Of course, our overall concern is to ensure that whatever finally emerges, Ireland's technological needs and capacity are taken into account. Incidentally, this is a concern shared by other small countries, especially in the context of Community funds.
The Dooge report also makes recommendations in the areas of the environment, social policy and the harmonisation of national laws. From an Irish viewpoint there are no difficulties here of a fundamental nature. However, there are certain interests which must be accommodated. For instance, in the environmental area we must ensure that moves to harmonise anti-pollution measures do not tie us to a standard which might apply in, for instance, the Ruhr. Again in the area of social policy there is a need to ensure that account is taken of the particular conditions and the level of development which apply in Ireland. The Irish view in relation to the proposed harmonisation of laws is that such harmonisation presents greater difficulties for a country with a common law system than for one with a civil law system and must therefore be seen as a long term objective. However, as already mentioned these considerations are not of such a fundamental nature as to preclude an overall positive approach to the report.
Progress towards European Union is not confined to the economic sphere. Closer political co-operation and integration is also part of the objective of European Union and moves towards European Union must take account of this reality.
The White Paper of January 1972, on the subject of Ireland's accession to the European Communities, stated the policy of the then Government succinctly and I quote from it:
The Irish Government, in applying for membership of the Communities, declared their acceptance of the Treaties of Rome and Paris, the decisions taken in their implementation and the political objectives of the Treaties. The Government have, furthermore, declared their readiness to join as a member of the enlarged Communities in working with the other member States towards the goal of political unification in Europe. It should, however, be emphasised that the Treaties of Rome and Paris do not entail any military or defence commitments and so such commitments are involved in Ireland's acceptance of these Treaties.
The political objectives of the Treaties have been accepted by every Irish Government since that time. Accordingly, we are in principle prepared to consider proposals aimed at furthering the political objectives of the Treaties. Nonetheless, the Government and their predecessors have consistently argued that progress towards European Union should be balanced, systematic and coherent. In particular, we believe that greater political co-operation and integration should proceed hand in hand with closer economic co-operation and convergence. This entails the creation of a genuine community of economic interests.
The Dooge report, which in our view should form the basis of discussions at the forthcoming European Council in Milan, contains a number of proposals aimed at enhancing European political co-operation, the arrangement whereby member states consult and co-ordination on a range of foreign policy issues. These proposals fall into three main categories.
First, proposals that are aimed at improving the technical functioning of political co-operation — for example, by the creaton of a separate Secretariat as distinct from the present situation whereby the country holding the Presidency assumes all the tasks of a Secretariat. Under this heading there is also a proposal to transfer the official level meetings from the capital of the Presidency to Brussels, with the aim of harmonising and ensuring a closer link with the Community framework.
The second set of proposal in the Dooge report is aimed at strengthening the commitment to European political co-operation, in particular by formalising the commitment to consult and by seeking to ensure that consensus, the basic rule of EPC, be sought in keeping with the majority opinion. The thrust of this latter proposal is problematic. Some of our partners appear to favour a departure from the rule of consensus based on unanimity. We, and others of our partners, are resistant to such a dilution of the consensus principle. There is unlikely to be a broad measure of support in the Community for any change or dilution in the existing consensus principle in European political co-operation.
The third set of proposals expressly concerns security and defence. Senator Dooge put down a reserve on this section. The section aims to enlarge co-operation on security beyond the current guidelines which explicitly state that co-operation on security matters is restricted to political and economic aspects of security. It envisages what could be broadly termed as politico-military consultations which would be complementary to the aims of the Atlantic Alliance. This section of the report also envisages co-operation on arms procurement and production. We have put down a reservation on that.
Our general approach to these sets of proposals has taken into account certain considerations. First, the merits of the proposals themselves. That is, are these proposals justified on their own merits? Do they meet objective needs? Would they lead to a situation where political co-operation works any better than it does at the present time?
Second, we view these proposals within the framework of our overall approach to European construction. In effect, this means that we believe that closer political co-operation should be based on the systematic creation of a growing community of economic and social interests.
Third, in relation to proposals concerning security and defence, we shall not agree to any proposal which conflicts with the Government's policy of neutrality. Our partners have been made well aware of that position, which applies not only to proposals contained in the Dooge report but also to analogous proposals contained in the British draft agreement on European political co-operation which have been reported in recent days.
I should like to turn now to the proposals for the institutions. Looking at them in reverse order, we have no problems with the recommendation for the Court of Justice. Indeed, most member states seem to have accepted the recommendation without comment, evidence that the proposal is sensible without altering the fundamental role of the Court.
The Irish Government accept in principle the proposals for the European Parliament. It is clear to any observer that the European Parliament has an inad equate role which is inconsistent with its status as a directly elected body and that this inadequacy has a distorting effect on the way in which the Parliament handles its business. However, there are some fears on the part of member states which need to be dissipated before the recommendations will find ready acceptance among all partners. Some states are reluctant to support an enhanced role for the Parliament because of a fear that further powers will seriously complicate the decision making process and perhaps also because of a fear, less often expressed, that the recommendations will set a precedent which could in time affect the sovereignty of national parliaments. Behind this opposition one can detect a consciousness of the ad hoc way in which the Parliament has developed and the absence of a prior concept of the ultimate role of the Parliament. Unless there is a shared perception among member states of its future development, it will be difficult to bring about any fundamental change in its role. The Irish view is that the role of Parliament will have to be improved in some measure but that this should be done after due reflection and in the spirit of confidence which progress in other areas will create.
The proposals on the Commission are ones which were part of Irish policy on the Community a decade before the Dooge Committee made them. We have long felt that the Commission's powers of initiative and its role as guarantor of the Treaties have been eroded by encroachments from the Council, by its own growth as a Community bureaucracy and by the failure after two enlargements to reduce the number of its Commissioners in line with the number of real portfolios. We will pursue the report's recommendations in this area as being in the best interest of the Community as a whole.
I will deal now with the proposals for the Council. For the past few years the Council has shown a creeping paralysis in the area of decision making. The British budget problem, the creation of new own resources, budget discipline, reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the accession of Spain and Portugal and integrated Mediterranean programmes are stark examples of areas where the Council decision-making process had almost ground to a halt. The breakthrough of the past 12 months or so in dealing with these issues and in clearing the way for the reform of decision making has been unfortunately marred in recent weeks by a resurgence of decision-making problems on the question of cereal prices. While member states have different views on what should be done, they are all agreed on the need for reform. Problems, however, do develop over the degree of this reform.
Taken in conjunction with the proposals for a strengthened Commission, those on decision making are, in my view, the most significant of all the recommendations in the Dooge report. They are significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are relevant to the immediate problems of the Community. Secondly, if realised, they have the potential to clear logjams going back many years. Thirdly, a whole range of Treaty objectives in, for instance, competition, transport, social policy, free movement of workers, right of establishment, and so on, become that much easier to achieve. Fourthly, they will add a real measure of othodoxy and predictability to Community decisions which will have the effect of making them more acceptable at national level.
For all of these reasons we find the report's recommendations in this area acceptable, subject to Senator Dooge's reserve on the retention of the veto. This retention of the veto is a matter of some importance to us. We are quite convinced that, without provision for recourse to it, we will not be in a position to safeguard the vital interests threatened by Community action. Having said that, we do recognise that the veto has been abused and that it must be modified so as to restrict its use to genuine, sustainable cases.
Deputy O'Kennedy characterised some comments by the Taoiseach on benefits to Ireland from the Community as an acceptance of the principle of Juste
retour. This seems to me to be a unique interpretation of the Taoiseach's comments. It is obviously not a case of us receiving back simply what we have put in; clearly the output has been much greater that the input and we have no plans to change that.
I wish to refer to the report of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the Members, including Deputy Manning and his group, on their detailed analysis on the Spinelli Draft Treaty. I have spoken as a committed European, as someone who sees European Union as a desirable objective. Let me be clear about this. My commitment is not based on any sense of idealised attachment to this objective. Rather I have arrived at this commitment from a pragmatic assessment of where Ireland's best interests lie. As already mentioned, we all seem to be agreed that one of our more vital interests is membership of the Community itself. It takes no feat of imagination to envisage further integration coming about as a result of the force of events.
In Ireland already we can see such a process under way at a psychological level with demands for Community, rather than national, action to combat major international problems whether they be oil crises, unemployment, or international competition. It is both logical and inevitable that this should be followed by measures of real integration. Seen thus, the question one should ask is not whether we support union, but how best to benefit from it.
For the second time in 40 years, through the medium of the Dooge report, an invitation has been issued in Europe to move further along the path to union. We in Ireland have made our assessment and judge the invitation to be worth accepting.