Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 Mar 1998

Vol. 488 No. 2

An Bille um an Ochtú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1998: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1998: Second Stage (Resumed).

Atairgeadh an Cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair."
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

When I moved the Adjournment last evening I was making the observation that the common market, which was the vernacular Anglo Saxon phrase to describe the European Economic Community, had transformed itself from being truly primarily an economic association to being truly a social community. Much of the problem that the Euro sceptics, not just here but in the United Kingdom, have with regard to the relentless progress that has been made towards an ever closer union of the European people is that they regard a market, such as the common market, as simply that and no more. A community, such as the one we are in the process of slowly but relentlessly constructing, is a much wider and deeper thing. It contains values and aspires to address issues which markets, by their nature, neither aspire to nor are capable of addressing or resolving.

I wish to address the way in which this debate will be conducted between now and whenever the referendum is held and the manner in which this House will communicate, to a largely indifferent public, the momentous nature of the project in which we are engaged. The press gallery is empty. The young people who now occupy the Visitors' Gallery and who have not yet sat the junior certificate will be trading and earning their salary in a currency yet to come into existence, the euro. By the time they are 25 years of age the European Union will have 20 member states; the Republic, with a population of just 3.5 million, will be part of a Union of 500 million people and the constitutional and legal structure of what I describe as a post-federal Europe is slowly but surely being put in place. If the young people in the gallery are to take away one memory of their visit to Leinster House — and for some it is the only time they will come here — they should recognise they were here at a time when another important brick in the reconstruction of Europe was put in place by elected democrats in this Assembly on the same day in the aftermath of the murder, by Nazis and Fascists of Northern Ireland, of people who were simply going about their business.

Europe is being reconstructed by democrats to ensure that future generations of young people, from whatever country in Europe, never again go to war. If somebody thinks World War II and European nationalism and the devastation and havoc it has brought about is something we watch on television in romantic black and white war movies they have only to look at what is happening in part of Europe, Serbia, where rampant nationalism is causing the deaths of people. Across central Europe problems of nationalism and tensions associated with Europe's failure to resolve national conflict can be found in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The Amsterdam Treaty, and it will never win a prize for being the most elegantly written, is building upon the foundations put in place by the European Coal and Steel Treaty, the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. There are those who say this is the wrong way to construct a new Europe, that this is a messy way to put complicated and obscure structures in place, whose comprehension, even to the specialist, is extremely difficult to realise.

Europe did not start its construction with a cleared site. Comparisons with that of the United States, where the indigenous peoples were effectively cleared away by the settling Europeans, presented themselves with a tabula rase upon which the 13 founding states, which became the United States, were able to construct a remarkable Constitution which has stood the test of time. To use an analogy from a previous profession, architecture, the tabula rasa presented to the constructors of the new European Constitution was the devastated landscape of Europe after the Second World War, not all of which was cleared and much of it had to be incorporated into a new construction. The edifice of post-federal Europe, which we are in the process of constructing, must, for political reality, include elements of previous structures and components that relate to the political culture of the various parts that make up the European Union. Nothing could be a better illustration of the difficulties surrounding the architects of the new Europe than the difficulties in the second and third pillars of this Treaty.

The first pillar relates to the clear linear structure of the Treaty of Rome, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament on the one hand and the Commission on the other and the role of the courts in Luxembourg as a mechanism for dispute resolution. This is truly a community in construction, moving relentlessly to a post-federal constitutional structure, that will become the hallmark for such regional groupings of sovereign states in the middle of the next century. The timidity with which issues relating to policing, justice, immigration and related matters have been addressed by Justice Ministers from all countries is reflected in the intergovernmental nature of those deliberations and the failure to incorporate those elements of European concern into the main framework of the Treaty structure.

I welcome the limited but necessary transfer of some elements of the justice and home affairs provisions into the main structure of the European Treaty on two counts. I welcome it, as an Irish member of this Assembly, where we will see the transfer of powers to super European institutions and as a European democrat on the basis that the behaviour of some of the activities covered by the treaty provisions will be accountable, however limited that form of accountability may be, to the courts in Luxembourg and the European Parliament.

If we wish to proceed down the road of a European construction, to which I am committed, we will have to be courageous and effectively transfer more sovereign powers in the areas of justice and home affairs and a common foreign and security policy, to democratically accountable institutions on the European platform. In time that means the common European foreign policy and its related security policy will be implemented in a coherent manner, which tragically did not happen in regard to the break-up of former Yugoslavia, and will be accountable in a democratic manner to the European Parliament and to the national parliaments of the 15 member states of the European Union.

There is a communication problem in explaining to the electorate what it is we are trying to achieve. To date, because of our economic status and relative underdevelopment compared to the rest of northern Europe, we have been in receipt of substantial transfers from the Structural Fund, the Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and under the mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy. Before the students in the Visitors' Gallery complete their leaving certificate examinations and enter the world of work we will no longer qualify for such transfers. The current round will come to an end in 1999. I hope satisfactory transitional arrangements will be made — the Government will have our full support in this respect — covering the duration of the next tranche of funds which is expected to be of the order of five to seven years, depending on the realpolitik of the day. Within eight years, certainly no later than 2010, by virtue of our economic development and because of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, this country will be a net contributor to a union which will then have at least six additional members giving a total of 21 member states with a total population of the order of 500 million.

It is the public's perception that it is good for Ireland to be a member of the European Union because we are takers rather than givers. We receive money from the taxpayers of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland and we are not expected to give much in return. We have, collectively, achieved success. That gives cause for celebration. The figures Deputy Gay Mitchell quoted were extraordinary. They show that we have moved from a position where per capita income was 50 per cent of the European average when we joined the European Union on 1 January 1973 to the point where it is now in line with the European average. In many respects, our quality of life and standard of living based on such indicators as the rate of home ownership are higher than those of many citizens in what would be described nominally as the richer countries.

The Labour Party is vigorously committed to pursuing the idea that Ireland has a contribution to make to the European Union which has an important contribution to make to world affairs in the next century. Ireland, as a small neutral country which finally gained independence after the War of Independence and the Versailles Treaty was signed in 1922, with countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland and Slovenia which gained independence in the past four or five years, as distinct from the big imperial powers, has to make a positive contribution. This treaty will go some of the way towards redistributing wealth to tackle the problem of poverty within Europe because of the competences granted by its provisions, including the chapter on employment. However, we have to ensure the new post-federal Europe which is rapidly being constructed does not take on the attributes, arrogance and assertions that characterised the French, the Germans and the British in their heyday when they thought they could write a French, German or British agenda that best served their economic or geopolitical interests.

I welcome the fact that there is no provision for Ireland's participation in a military or defence alliance without the express consent of the people in a referendum. In the post-Cold War period, the role of neutral countries such as Ireland, Austria, Finland and Sweden and of countries which have a policy of non-aggression such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium all of which were neutral at the start of the Second World War and invaded by their neighbours, has to be stated clearly in the legal statutes in a post-federal Europe to which we must make a positive contribution. Concern about what is contained in the treaty is increasingly being expressed by people outside the House who do not share the consensus celebrated inside it. This concern is being distorted and misrepresented.

A number of key issues that we thought would be addressed in the Treaty were not dealt with in the negotiations in Amsterdam. They include the concept of one commissioner per country with Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy having two commissioners and the issue of qualified majority voting. Instead of reacting passively to proposals from other member states or groups of member states in the construction of a post-federal Europe and trying to defend what is euphemistically described as the Irish interest but which really means protecting the income stream of Structural and other funds to which I have referred, we should start to actively, progressively and positively propose structures that would give shape to a humane, socially progressive post-federal Europe. The Amsterdam Treaty is a small but significant step in that direction.

I appreciate the manner in which the White Paper has been drafted. I am concerned that the debate on this issue will not take place in the context of a referendum to change Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Now that we are facing a different Europe in which Ireland will have a changed role because of its economic success we have to move from a position where we respond passively to proposals relating to the European project to the point where we react positively and seek with other small member states to dictate the future we want for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

Deputy Gay Mitchell referred to the trauma of war being the godfather of the European project and spoke movingly of Helmet Kohl's family as a symbol of that experience. The future of Europe and its security will depend critically on the role small nation States play in its construction. We are all familiar with the stone wall boundaries of fields. Anyone who looks at their construction, whether in County Down, Connemara or County Wicklow, will note that while the big stones provide the cover and structure, the small stones and the little ones wedged in between the big stones provide the stability necessary to ensure the edifice does not fall. That is an honourable role for small States to play in the future construction of a post federal Europe. It is the role we must actively take on and communicate, with enthusiasm, to our fellow citizens when we ask them, as my party will, to vote in favour of this Treaty, bearing in mind that the safeguards in regard to the exercise of options contained in the complexity of the Treaty have been doubly stitched into the amendment. First, their application is ringfenced to certain prescribed articles set out in the Minister's speech and, second, before any Administration or Government wishes to exercise any of the options contained in those provisions or Articles it must get the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I support the legislation to ratify the Amsterdam Treaty. I thank the Minister for his comprehensive statement last night setting out the Government's position on this important referendum. I was elected to the Dáil 25 years ago, around the same time Ireland joined the European Community, and my presence here has coincided with Ireland's membership of it. I have seen the major developments that have taken place since we joined it. I pay tribute to the politicians, diplomats and officials who in those early nervous days of our membership played an outstanding role in advancing Ireland's position in the Community. I also pay tribute to members of this Parliament who represented Ireland in the European Community at that time. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Patrick Hillery, our first Commissioner, and to the many officials and negotiators who dealt with many of the complex issues at that time. Ireland has benefited enormously from membership of the European Community. A close inspection of any sector will reveal the beneficial impact of Community membership on our economy, family and social affairs and the political sphere over the past 25 years.

The Amsterdam Treaty is the nuts and bolts of the Community. As the previous speaker said, it is its keystone. It builds on the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the Single European Act, 1985, and the Maastricht Treaty, 1991. It further underpins the work of the European Community and offers the prospect of development and enlargement in the years ahead. A few areas of our economy have greatly benefited from our membership. I recall the depression in the agricultural industry when I was elected to this House 25 years ago. Agricultural prices were falling, calves were sold in cattle marts for £1 and industry was in crisis. The Common Agricultural Policy has been the key focal point of agricultural development over the past 25 years. It ensured our agricultural industry not only offered the prospect of security but provided the great possibilities for expansion and development we have seen in the past 25 years. There has been a transformation in our agricultural industry mainly because of the support of the Common Agricultural Policy, FEOGA funding, marketing funds, research funding and the various incentives, such as Leader programmes, which were available to encourage people to stay on the land and to engage in successful agricultural enterprises. I pay tribute to those who negotiated on our behalf and to the representatives of farming organisations, many of whom were involved in the European farming lobby. They put forward farmers' views, with successful results.

When we joined the Community our fishing industry was fragile. It was barely able to cope because of job losses and a serious erosion of fishermen's incomes. Even though there was strong criticism of the way the Common Fisheries Policy was negotiated, the end result offered the prospect of security to the industry. Through FEOGA funding and grant aid, it offered not only direct support to fishermen in respect of fish prices and quotas, but also support in marketing, development of harbours and other necessary infrastructure to help the industry thrive and prosper. Even though there may be some criticism of the level of activity in the fishing industry any objective assessment of our fishing industry since we joined the Community would reveal it is stronger than it has ever been. The prospects for employment are better than they were on our entry to it and the prospects in terms of income and job opportunities for those engaged in the industry are brighter and more secure today than before we joined the Community. Through the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy we have seen the Community at work and its beneficial impact on the most remote coastal communities in the west, as in the case of the success of fishing harbours like Killybegs. The success of the fishing industry in that area is an example of the success of our membership of the European Community.

The representatives of the fishing industry also played a vital role in those early negotiations and in negotiations to date. I single out the commitment of and contribution made by Joey Murrin to the development of the fishing industry. Even though I did not see eye to eye with him on some issues when I was Minister, as a representative of the fishing community, he has seen the benefit of the Common Fisheries Policy and the necessity, as the Community enlarges and develops, to be vigilant in ensuring the Irish case is adequately made. The agricultural and fishery organisations were not found wanting in that regard.

I wish to single out the Community's valuable contribution towards the advancement of women in our society. Many here may have forgotten the early days of our membership where equality legislation on equal pay and equal opportunities for women was advanced and supported by the Community. We have seen far reaching advances in the social area in regard to women's issues.

To a large extent, the momentum and drive for that came from within the Community and was very much part of its policies in the early days of our membership.

The Community has also had an influential role to play in employment. We are now enjoying unprecedented economic success and the prospects for jobs are better today than ever before. The long-term future of this economy is secure and stable. I recall the difficulties with rising levels of unemployment in the early 1970s. Many Members will recall the difficulties we faced on joining the Community when the initial shock of membership shook out many industries and created much unemployment.

We learned very quickly from Europe of the desirability of the unique position here between Government, employers and unions. To some extent, we borrowed from the success of Europe in that regard. The framework we set down to collectively deal with our employment, social and taxation problems — the partnership between Government, employers and unions, which was a tripartite arrangement fundamental to the economic stability of this country — has its roots in Europe. We have gained significantly from our experiences in dealing with our partners in the European Union. If we look back over the past 25 years of our membership, we will see that we have had outstanding success on social issues and on economic grounds in sectors of the economy which have had difficulties.

Nevertheless, there are areas which need attention. I underline the need for continued vigilance, in relation to the development of the western coastal areas, in particular. In a new and enlarging Community where there will be pressures on agricultural incomes and perhaps on fishermen and others, it is desirable that the funding we have received over the years from the Community continues to ensure that the imbalances in isolated rural areas, along the west coast, in particular, are rectified.

In ratifying the Amsterdam Treaty, we will underpin the work done over the past 25 years. We are setting the parameters of how the new Europe will evolve, develop and prosper over the next 25 years. The objective of the Amsterdam Treaty to bring the citizen closer to the Community is laudable and must be supported. The treaty contains provisions on unemployment and on the fight against drugs. We have seen the escalation of the drug problem not only throughout Europe, but in our cities, towns and communities. The Amsterdam Treaty will give a further impetuous to the European Union drive to deal effectively with drug trafficking and the escalation of the drug problem and to come to grips with this ever increasing menace which threatens so many young people in the Community, especially in the most remote parts of Ireland.

Earlier this year there were suggestions that the European Union might take part in a coastal protection service to ensure the Irish coastline is protected from the menace of drug traffickers. I direct the attention of Government to the need to work with the Community and to seek funding from it to establish a coastal protection service around our coastline to ensure that illicit or illegal trafficking in drugs is effectively dealt with. In that regard, we can see the success we have had with the search and rescue service and fishery surveillance, for which we have received some financial support from the European Community. It is necessary to get such a financial commitment at European level to enable this problem to be effectively dealt with.

Although I explained the significant impact membership of the Community has had in dealing with some of our problems over the past 25 years, all our problems have not been resolved. The problems of poverty and social exclusion need to be dealt with and the Community can assist us greatly in helping to deal with those issues. We can learn from the experiences in other countries in dealing with these problems but we can also find ways to obtain Community support to deal with our problems. The elimination of poverty in this country and in the Community must always be foremost in our minds. The issue of homelessness was debated in the House last night. We cannot accept a situation where young people are sleeping on the streets of this city each night and there is an obligation on the Government, the corporation and on anyone involved in this area. The Community should support the provision of services and facilities to deal with this crisis in our city.

Perhaps the strengthening of the Community and the Amsterdam Treaty will further stabilise the situation in relation to international affairs, especially European affairs. I draw the House's attention to a recent document which came from the Council of Europe, at which I, and others here, represent Ireland. It would be wise to study some of the recent documents emanating from the Council on developments in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the implications of what is taking place there on the Balkan area and the impact it may have across Europe. The tensions in the former Yugoslavia — Kosova, Serbia and Montenegro may possibly be drawn into it — form a serious threat to the stability of those eastern European countries.

The heads of the south eastern countries of Europe at a meeting held in Crete last year, which was the first in the history of those countries, sought support from the European Union and the international community to help them with the crisis they face and which could threaten the security and stability of Europe. At a time of developing tensions in south eastern European countries, it is important that we, as a member of the Community, play our part in negotiations and in ensuring support for these delicate democracies is forthcoming, otherwise the powder keg might erupt and cause the type of death and destruction we have seen there in recent years.

A resolution was passed at that meeting of the heads of Government to work together in a framework for peace and security and for good neighbourliness and stability in the counties of south eastern Europe. They would like a contemporary European identity to be established which would have a major impact on international affairs. We have an important role to play in that regard, as we have always had in our peacekeeping efforts in places like the Lebanon.

I draw the Minister's attention to a number of areas in which I, and perhaps the public, have some fears which need to be addressed before the referendum. There are fears in some sections of the community that monetary union may erode the value of savings and pensions. It is therefore necessary in the debate on this Bill and on the treaty to give an assurance that savings and pensions will not be depleted or undermined by our participation in monetary union, especially during the changeover. It is also necessary to clarify the matter for people who are worried about it.

Although national radio did not have time to cover the Minister's contribution yesterday, it did make time available for a Danish Member of the European Parliament and a member of the Green Party to say why we should not accept the treaty. I find this extraordinary. I have never heard members of the Green Party elected to the European Parliament say they are not satisfied with the way it conducts its business, nor have I ever heard them offer to resign their seats or leave the Parliament because they believe our neutrality or currency is jeopardised by membership. It is time an end was put to this sort of hypocrisy. I thought Brian Boru dealt with the Danes in 1014 but it seems they are returning. I believe people will not be fooled by these newly found spokespersons from Denmark who come here to influence the electorate. Voters are capable of making their own decisions and, on this occasion, they will decide to ratify the Amsterdam Treaty. They will see the Union has played a central and dynamic role in every facet of Irish social and economic development in the 25 years since we joined. I would like to see that continue for the next 25 years.

I support this Bill and my party will be asking for a "yes" vote in the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty. We do so because the treaty takes the European Union closer to the kind of Europe to which we aspire. It takes a small but significant step towards a more social and democratic Europe. Amsterdam seeks to put the people of Europe, and not just the market, at the heart of the European project. The Amsterdam Treaty places the European Union on democratic principles. It strengthens the rights of workers, consumers and citizens, helps protect the environment, makes it easier for Europe to tackle organised crime, anticipates the enlargement of the Union and protects our positive neutrality.

If the Amsterdam Treaty is open to criticism, it is that it does not go far enough and that it is tentative in areas of social policy. There is still a long way to go in bringing the market under control and the treaty postpones institutional reform. It is moving slowly but definitely in the direction of a people's Europe. As such, it should be supported, especially by those who criticised earlier European treaties as being too preoccupied with economics and not enough with people.

The European Union is the product of 50 years of effort. It started out as a form of economic co-operation between previously warring states in Europe with the hope that it would at least help prevent further war and lead in effect to a shared prosperity. It has succeeded in both these objectives but it has gone beyond that. Its development until the end of the Cold War was essentially based on economics. However, in recent years since the end of the Cold War, it has developed a more overt political dimension and has taken on a more urgent momentum, driven especially by EMU and all that goes with it. There is no doubt the European Union, with its single market, common currency, common political institutions, common foreign and security policy, its increasing body of common legislation and the European Court, is developing into a federal superstate, a United States of Europe, though not in precisely the same form as the more familiar USA.

We are now part of a regional, continental form of government to which many aspects of our State or national sovereignty have been subordinated. Many regret the loss of sovereignty and argue for its complete restoration. However, this is the end of the 20th century, not the 19th. One hundred years ago, it was possible and preferable for people to seek to exercise democratic control through the nation state. In the modern world, where economics, communications, transport, environment and other areas of life are global, it is almost impossible to exercise effective or adequate control through the nation state. How can the sovereign nation state exercise control or restraint on global economic markets where wage levels in Taiwan can result in redundancies in Tralee? How can the individual state exercise effective control or influence on behalf of its people on satellite television? How does it stop pornography or libel on the Internet? How can an individual state effectively protect its environment or the health of its people when nuclear radiation or global warming refuse to recognise national or state boundaries? The issue for politics today is how we make people sovereign in the new information age. How is the citizen or the individual to exercise any kind of control in the changing world? How do we collectively assert the common good in a world where capital and material power are transnational? Inevitably, it must be through the development of democratic, global and regional political institutions.

As a socialist, I believe the market cannot adequately address the issues which face humanity, such as disease, poverty and environmental degradation. The market produces great inequality. It makes some very rich while leaving others very poor. It ultimately produces a social and economic jungle, where strong animals like tigers, Celtic or otherwise, can thrive. However, who wants to live in a jungle? The market must be controlled and disciplined in the common good and in the interests of civilisation. Given that so much of the market is now global and regional, our political institutions must follow suit. The European Union may have begun and may have been developed to serve the needs of capital, but it is also an institution which can and should be turned to the service of its people. It may have started life as a political aid to the market. It can and should now be harnessed as a means by which people in this continent and in this region of the globe exercise some democratic control on the market.

The Maastricht Treaty brought the European Union to its highest point as a servant of the market. It was a product of the neo-liberal thinking then in the ascendant in the post-Cold War Europe. It intended to create the perfect capitalist market which was both deregulated and liberalised. It intended the European Union to be the new world superpower. Maastricht was a victory for European toryism, although it is ironic that it was some of the British Tories who first spotted the red hand in the velvet glove. If the political will exists, the same European Union can be turned to serve the needs of its population in ways not initially envisaged by some of its earlier enthusiasts.

The Amsterdam Treaty has begun that process. It has begun to take the rough free market edge off Maastricht. First, it makes clear the European Union was founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. It defines the human rights standard as that of the European Convention. It provides for enforcement of these principles through making them a condition of membership, through sanctions and through the European Court. The inclusion of these principles in the treaty is our guarantee that the European Union in which our children and grandchildren will live will be democratic and will respect human rights.

Second, the Amsterdam Treaty provides a range of new competencies for the union: to develop a common employment policy all member states will now subscribe to the social policy; there will be action on social exclusion; there will be new European standards for public health; better consumer protection; action to combat discrimination based on sex, race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation; the rights of churches and religious freedom will be guaranteed and environmental considerations are to be integrated into all areas of policy making. These are the areas which matter most to people. Previous treaties addressed the economy of Europe and freedom of capital, this treaty puts the emphasis on human freedoms and the rights of European citizens.

While moving forward the process of European integration, the treaty also protects and enhances cultural integrity and diversity. Under the treaty Irish citizens who wish to use the Irish language in official matters will have greater guaranteed language rights in the European institutions than in Ireland. The protocol on broadcasting guarantees the principle of public service broadcasting and will be critical in the promotion of our cultural identity in the rapidly changing world of television and telecommunications.

The principle of the free movement of people within the EU's boundaries is being established in the treaty. I regret that because the UK will remain outside this arrangement, we must also remain outside to protect the common travel area with the UK. I hope it will not be long before the UK decides to opt in. If there is any delay in the UK opting in we should consider opting in independently as allowed by the treaty. Increasingly, our point of reference is with the European mainland not with the UK. If necessary we should go it alone into the Schengen arrangements, we should not wait for very long for the UK to do so.

The changes in policing and judicial areas which go hand in hand with Schengen will greatly increase the EU's ability to deal with organised and transnational crime. All over Europe people want effective action to tackle the drugs menace, to defeat terrorism and combat crime and I welcome the provisions in the treaty. The treaty anticipates the enlargement of the union and postpones institutional reform until then. This is a pity. The citizens of Europe do not feel connected to the European political institutions. There is a low turnout in European Parliament elections, the council operates in private and remains a mystery to the public and the Commission continues to be regarded, unfairly, as a large Euro-bureaucracy. Even amending the treaties does not excite public passion. However, increasingly, it is in the European institutions that the critical decisions are being made which affect all our lives. The big weakness in the European project is that the people are not actively engaged in it — they do not even understand it. Institutional reform is not a numbers game which results from enlargement. The reform and the relevance of Europe's political institutions is an imperative if the European project is to engage its citizens and be democratic.

Ireland has played a positive and highly respected role in the development of the European project. We should take the lead in promoting political and institutional reform within the EU. Our Government should not wait until the next Intergovernmental Conference to advance proposals for political reform. By advancing proposals for institutional reform now, we may place ourselves in the best position to ensure that the rights of small states are protected in any new arrangement.

The aspect of the Amsterdam Treaty which is likely to cause most debate during the referendum concerns the common foreign and security policy and specifically the provisions relating to defence. This is the area of the treaty which has produced most discussion within my party and there are understandable concerns about where the European Union is taking us on foreign, security and defence policy. Democratic Left is committed to positive neutrality. We oppose war, we support the peaceful resolution of conflict, we oppose the sale of arms and we demand disarmament. We are opposed to military blocs and to Ireland becoming a member of a military bloc. Specifically, we are opposed to membership of NATO or the Western European Union. However, neutrality does not mean that we abstain or that we are indifferent to the security issues of our time. Who can be indifferent to the slaughter of innocents in Algeria or the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia? Neutrality does not mean that as a country we stand aside from decisions and policies on security. We have a role to play in Europe and the world which extends our neutrality and is active in the cause of peace, disarmament and solidarity. The Amsterdam Treaty will allow us play that active role, while at the same time exempting us from any involvement in military pacts.

The Maastricht Treaty committed the European Union to a common foreign and security policy and made it clear that security included defence. Maastricht made the Western European Union an integral part of the EU and it declared the Union's intention to develop a common defence policy. It acknowledged Ireland's neutrality but only in a way which permitted Ireland to stand aside while the rest of the Union made the decisions. Amsterdam changes this arrangement. It reaffirms the common foreign and security policy and the intention to proceed to a common defence. However, it provides a means whereby neutral countries like Ireland can fully participate in decision making while retaining our neutrality. The treaty considerably strengthens the scope for Irish and neutral influence on European foreign and security policy.

Common positions will have to be unanimously agreed. The implementation of decisions does not commit Ireland to participation. The ‘constructive abstention' mechanism provides a more refined mechanism for opting out than was contained in the Maastricht Treaty. The ‘emergency brake' provision effectively gives Ireland, or any other state, a veto on EU action in the common foreign, security and defence areas. In addition, the procedures for arriving at a common defence have been clarified. If the Union agrees on a common defence, that position remains purely a recommendation until agreed to by the member states. Ultimately, it is the people who will have to ratify any common defence arrangement in which we participate. Successive Governments and every party in this House have committed themselves to holding a referendum on the issue.

The biggest worry that most people have about a common defence is that Europe will develop into a superpower which behaves in a belligerent manner towards its neighbours and that European troops will be committed to the EU's Vietnam. The architects of the Maastricht Treaty may have been wedded to the superpower idea. However, Europe's foreign and security policy and its defence component does not have to follow that model. If Ireland and other neutral states play their role effectively, the EU can develop as a force for peace in the world. There are already strong indications that this is the direction which the EU's common security and foreign policy could take. The EU persuaded France to stop nuclear testing in the South Pacific and it was a powerful voice for a peaceful resolution of the recent Iraqi crisis. At the Kyoto conference it was the EU which led the way, showing that it can play a role in world affairs to the benefit of the people of the world.

The Maastricht Treaty set up the common foreign and security policy and directed the EU towards a common defence, leaving Ireland aside. On the other hand, the Amsterdam Treaty strengthens the position, influence and power of the neutral countries. On this basis alone, it is a considerable improvement on the Maastricht Treaty.

Democratic Left will support the Amsterdam Treaty but we have criticisms. The treaty redresses some of the imbalance between the strong legal and financial instruments which are available for economic policy and those which are available for dealing with poverty, unemployment and the labour market. We will have to wait and see how member states and the EU's institutions respond in practice.

The practical effects must be in doubt given that the guiding principles are short on substance and specifics and, above all, extremely vague as regards details of the financial programmes to give effect to them.

The constant iteration that employment policy is the exclusive responsibility of member states flies against the clear wishes of European citizens who are inclined to ask what is the point of Europe if it does not take effective action on unemployment and poverty. Of the 350 million people living in the European Union, 50 million, or 15 per cent, remain too poor to consume the goods and services offered in the European market. The challenges for the future of Europe are how to address poverty and social exclusion within its boundaries, how to manage enlargement by bringing in countries and people who are currently poorer than the European mainstream and how to relate to the Third World.

The answers to these questions will be different for those who regard the market as supreme and those of us who believe it is necessary to keep it in check. For those of us who believe in controlling the market, who believe that people, not economics, should be at the heart of the European project, the Amsterdam Treaty represents an advance and a measure on which we can build. I am, therefore, happy to recommend its approval by the public.

I welcome the decision by Democratic Left to endorse the Amsterdam Treaty. The Bill proposes to amend the Constitution. Under our internal arrangements any extension of the powers or scope of the European Union requires a constitutional amendment under which the people permit the State to ratify the relevant treaty.

Given that this is our domestic practice and that there will be a referendum in some weeks, the first question the public will ask is why we have a treaty at all. The first technical reason is that the Maastricht Treaty required a review of its provisions by an intergovernmental conference within five years of its conclusion. We committed ourselves to a review of the Maastricht Treaty when we signed and ratified it. This modest treaty — it has much to be modest about — raises questions about whether it is appropriate in European matters to adopt a procedure which commits one in advance to holding an intergovernmental conference.

Be that as it may, the intergovernmental conference was convened at a time when Europe faced many challenges. The first challenge was enlargement, which was brought about as a result of the disintegration in Eastern Europe of the old Communist ideology. There was a natural demand by the people of Central and Eastern Europe for accession to the European Union. There was also the challenge of the common currency. There is a danger that the issue of the common currency, which has nothing to do with the Amsterdam Treaty, may somehow become part of the debate on the treaty's provisions. We agreed the common currency when we ratified the Maastricht Treaty and adopted the previous referendum. This will have to be spelt out loud and clear to the public during the referendum campaign. There is a grave danger that this referendum could simply become a plebiscite on the common currency. The common currency has been agreed and will come into effect next year. We use phrases such as "a citizen's Europe". For the vast majority of the public "a citizen's Europe" is the impending common currency. That is how the citizen is affected by Europe.

Other challenges include the general state of the fragile global village and whether there is an adequate European response to the various problems which face us on the international field. As the European Union becomes larger there is a demand for what is termed "variable geometry" where different States want to proceed at different paces. There is also a demand for a people's Europe, a Europe which is somehow brought closer to the citizen.

These are the challenges which faced the intergovernmental conference, and the treaty attempts to respond to these. I described the treaty as modest because that is what it is. Was it required in a strict constitutional sense to submit the treaty to the people? This Government and the previous Government took a decision from a political perspective that the treaty had to be submitted to the people.

The philosophy of this modest treaty is well summarised in Article 8.1 which deals with citizenship. It states:

Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a member state shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall complement and not replace national citizenship.

This confirms what was decided at Maastricht, that one is both an Irish and EU national and the citizen has a dual nationality in the new evolving European entity.

The first provisions of the treaty I wish to examine relate to institutional change. I referred to the challenge of enlargement. The great challenge facing Union institutions in this regard is its ability to cope with the very large number of member states. I congratulate our negotiators on protecting the interests of the smaller states in securing adequate representation in the Commission. The fact that each member state will continue to have representation in the Commission is a valuable acquisition from our point of view. Clearly the object of our diplomacy was to strengthen the position of the Commission which is seen as a guarantor and protector of the interests of the smaller states. I congratulate the negotiators on securing this concession.

The view has been canvassed that this concession was obtained at a price. The price is that in future concessions will readily be given on the precise number of votes required to secure a qualified majority in Council decision-making. I would like to hear the Minister's views on this point. One of the reasons it has been suggested the Union has a democratic deficit is that there is a qualified majority voting procedure in the Council where, in effect, Ministers are no longer accountable to their national parliaments, yet there is no democratic control over them on the European plane. I agree that this is a very difficult issue for a smaller state because the influence of a small country like Ireland in the European Parliament is diluted, notwithstanding the excellent contribution made by many Irish members over many years.

We should look at the experience in the United States where the founding fathers in devising a constitution provided for an inequality in representation in the House of Representatives — they allowed the Parliament to reflect the population — and also provided for a Senate with a strict equality between states. One of the difficulties I see in terms of the way the Union is evolving is that the rights of smaller states are not being protected in this manner. In other words, while there is weighted representation in the Parliament, the larger delegations from the larger member states have a preponderant influence. There is also a preponderance of qualified majority and weighted voting in the Council which suits the larger states. I appreciate our interests were well protected in the Commission but the time may have arrived when we will have to do some fundamental thinking on where future institutional development in the Union takes place.

Deputy Gilmore referred to the protection of human rights. The Council of Europe has not been incorporated as a pillar of the new Europe. Respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law will become a basic acid test of whether a country is entitled to belong to the Union in the first place. This is a necessary provision we must introduce given that the number of member states of the Union is being extended. There was a problem with Greece in the l960s when moves were taken to expel it from the Council of Europe at the time of the colonels' take-over. Eventually the colonels obliged by denouncing the European Convention on European Rights and Fundamental Freedoms so the Council did not have to take action against them. The power is being given to these institutions to deal with a similar problem if it arises.

We hope it will not arise but it is important that the Union be equipped with this power as it embarks upon enlargement.

In the context of institutional change I wish to raise the future of the European Court of Justice which has been a very successful community institution. Whatever about the democratic deficit, the construction of a judicial Europe has been fairly successful as have been the devices adopted to ensure a uniformity of community law, as adopted by the courts and the treaties, throughout the EU. However, it seems unsatisfactory in such a large community with so many member states that so much of the jurisdiction of the ultimate court of resort is original and that so many disputes are referred to the court or determined by it at first instance. The court of first instance, established under previous treaties, should be broadened to have universal jurisdiction while the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice should be exclusively based on appeal, similar to our own Supreme Court.

The provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam are welcome in the context of a common currency as they complement monetary union and market development with firm objectives in employment and social policy, as referred to by Deputy Gilmore. This is most welcome as balanced economic thinking requires that these factors be taken into account. It is a welcome change that such issues are at the forefront of the Treaty of Amsterdam as objectives to which the Union subscribes.

In the context of social policy I welcome the fact that the UK will no longer seek to opt out of the social provisions of the treaty. This is very welcome from Ireland's point of view as a disadvantage would have been imposed on Irish business and competitiveness if the UK had been permitted to opt out of the social provisions of the treaty while Ireland signed up to them. This is a distinct advance for Ireland and should be stressed in public debate as a welcome aspect of the treaty. I note that a legal basis has also been provided for the social programmes which the community adopted on a pilot basis in some members states. The Irish Commissioner, Pádraig Flynn, has taken a particular interest in these developments. The legal basis provided for them is to be welcomed as some member states had questioned whether such a basis existed for these programmes.

The precise verbal formulations which diplomats adopt in treaties in the context of foreign and security policy are not of great importance. The Single European Act contained provisions concerning a common foreign policy which were built upon in the Maastricht Treaty. They are again built upon in the Treaty of Amsterdam, but the principle that important decisions must be taken by unanimity remains. Therefore, the question of closer co-operation on foreign policy remains primarily in the political sphere. Whether the Union wants to act in unison in relation to particular international incidents is a matter of political will. I welcome the initiatives taken within the framework of political co-operation in regard to Iraq and the positive role that was played. It is difficult to secure agreement among the larger member states in this area as they have different historical and regional allegiances. It is understandable why in the 1960s General de Gaulle had reservations about UK membership of the community because of the special relationship between the UK and the US, with which we are familiar. The other larger member states have their own historic allegiances outside the community which tend to affect the formulation of a common policy. I welcome that fact that the Petersberg Tasks may be performed within a community framework.

I welcome the comment by Deputy Gilmore that Democratic Left considers that the treaty protects our position on neutrality to a greater extent than the Maastricht Treaty and that the party does not see it as a threat to our policy of military neutrality. This was an interesting comment as a nihil obstat from that quarter carries more weight than anything I could say. I wonder about the view of the Green Party given that the provisions on neutrality have passed the strictly, orthodox litmus test of Democratic Left. I suspect the Green Party has taken an opportunistic political position in relation to the treaty. The party may see some mileage in opposing on the basis that other parties have decided to support it and present it as a constructive, logical step in our participation in European institutions. The party is claiming that those who, for whatever reason, are not prepared to consent to this change are disguised supporters of it. However, it is that party's prerogative in a free society to oppose the treaty.

It is regrettable that unity cannot always be achieved between member states in the context of variable geometry and the concept of member states proceeding at different paces. However, the larger the number of member states the greater the probability of a varying pace. Regional arrangements between member states are inevitable given the evolution of the community and the increase in the number of member states. The treaty contains various provisions facilitating this process.

I described the treaty as a modest document, but there are real improvements in the context of a people's Europe. However, we should not over state such improvements. There is an attempt to forge a closer identification between the citizen and Europe through increased provisions on consumer protection, employment, social policy and free movement of persons within the enlarged Union. The concern of the economic model of the Union was with the free movement of workers. We are now attempting to move towards the free movement of people in general.

Ireland has always had a common travel area with the UK. I disagreed strongly with Deputy Gilmore's suggestion that we should attempt to go it alone and accept the Schengen agreement as soon as possible. The harsh geographical fact is that the bulk of transit in and out of Ireland is to and from the United Kingdom and I do not understand how we can subscribe to the Schengen arrangement, desirable though it may be. Our negotiators made it clear that we have no objection to subscribing to the agreement in principle. However, there is a practical objection as long as the UK does not to subscribe to it. Unlike the common currency, this is not an area where we can go it alone as there is little sense in introducing passport controls with Great Britain and Northern Ireland in order to avoid such controls with other member states. Perhaps there is a special reason in the ideology of Democratic Left which makes it desirable to have passport controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but it would be undesirable to introduce such a principle. Our negotiators did a very good job on the issue of free movement of persons. They secured the right for Ireland to opt into this arrangement in the future. They also made clear to our partners in Europe that we have no objection to the free movement of persons within the EU but have a practical problem which makes it impossible for us to be part of the Schengen agreement as long as the UK objects to it. This is understandable given the number of people who move between the two states. We are free to adopt the flanking measures in the treaty associated with the free movement of persons relating to asylum policy, border controls, etc., throughout the EU. We can examine the issue of harmonising arrangements with our partners. However, we cannot opt for free movement until the UK does so.

The treaty is a modest document but is a real step forward for the State. I and my party are happy to endorse it as a valuable contribution to the process of European development.

The Green Party will be campaigning for a "no" vote in the upcoming referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty. This decision is based not on opportunism, as Deputy Lenihan implied, but on both the failure of the new treaty to live up to its own proclaimed goals and the inclusion in the treaty of provisions which the Green Party believes endanger democracy, human rights and international peace and security.

The Green Party is internationalist in outlook. We strongly support European and international co-operation. We also believe in strong democratic control of decision making and therefore support decentralisation and the taking of decisions at the lowest appropriate level. The Green Party welcomes European Union involvement in areas which are best dealt with at European level, such as environmental protection and the safeguarding of human rights, but is wary of the EU usurping the role of the United Nations in the area of international peace and security or the roles of local and national governments in the determination of economic policies.

I want to deal with areas of the Amsterdam Treaty with which we have problems. The Green Party will be opposing the treaty on a number of grounds including the democratic deficit, as it is known, the Employment Chapter and the Social Protocol, which we believe are too limited. We have major concerns about human rights and civil liberties and we believe the environmental issues in the treaty are inadequately tackled. An issue we feel strongly about is the fact that Ireland's neutrality is weakened and the EU is further militarised.

On the question of the democratic deficit, despite the fact that the European Parliament is the only directly elected institution of the European Union, it is unable to function as a real parliament. It cannot initiate legislation. The Amsterdam Treaty has increased the areas of co-decision between the Council and the Parliament but this increase is in no way commensurate with the extension of the areas of competence of the EU. For example, Parliament's budgetary powers have been increased somewhat in the Second and Third Pillars' operational expenditure but it has virtually no power in regard to EMU where the co-operation procedure applies. It is the unelected Commission, which has been strengthened under the Amsterdam Treaty, that proposes legislation, while the real power of legislating rests mainly with the Council which is infamous for its lack of openness. Even the Parliament has difficulty gaining access to Council's deliberations, and the Council fails to adequately brief parliamentary committees.

The Amsterdam Treaty provides some improvement in transparency and Article 191 provides to any Union resident or citizen the right of access to Parliament, Council and Commission documents, but these rights are restricted at the discretion of the relevant institutions.

In terms of EU citizenship, the Amsterdam Treaty has not added much to the Maastricht Treaty. The Green Group wanted citizenship extended to non-EU citizens who are resident but this did not happen thereby excluding ten million residents from voting in local and European elections and denying them fundamental rights and petition rights. This will have serious implications for refugees and migrants across Europe.

The Green Party welcomes the inclusion for the first time of an explicit statement, Article F.1, on respect for fundamental human rights. We welcome the fact that respect for these rights is a criterion for EU membership and that violation of these rights can cause expulsion of an existing member. The European Court of Justice now has power explicitly to ensure EU respect for human rights in the First and Third Pillar areas of its competence, which is limited.

The anti-discrimination and social exclusion sections of the Amsterdam Treaty, while making some positive advances, fall short of what we had hoped. References to the elderly, who were mentioned originally in Article 118(2), have been deleted. There was also a request from a number of NGOs to initiate a civil dialogue in the EU involving a broader range of organisations than just the social partners. This, too, failed to happen.

Despite some advances, therefore, the Amsterdam Treaty has failed to remedy the anti-democratic nature of the European Union and has failed to make substantial gains for those living in the EU. This lack of democracy and accountability in the EU will be a point of criticism by the Green Party when considering a number of other areas of the Amsterdam Treaty.

The Green Party welcomes the fact that a new Chapter on Employment, Title 6a, has been added to the EC Treaty and that the Social Protocol has now been brought into the body of the treaty. However, gains in social policy in general have been deemed only as modest by a number of commentators and social policy has been seen as the poor relation in EU negotiations in the run up to the introduction of EMU. Considering the disruption EMU is seen to be causing in many EU states, as member states make economic adjustments to qualify for the first EMU wave, this relegation of the social dimension is a cause for concern. The Social Policy Chapter is positive in its defence of workers and employers in terms of working conditions, health and safety but does not apply to pay, rights of association and the right to collective action and bargaining. It also primarily refers to the rights of the employed and therefore has little impact on unemployment.

Given the high rates of unemployment in a number of EU states — Spain has nearly 20 per cent, France has 12.6 per cent, Ireland has 10 per cent, Germany has 12 per cent and rising — the inclusion of an employment chapter is a welcome development. Of the active population in the EU, 18 million, or approximately 11 per cent, are officially unemployed. Half of those have been unemployed for more than one year. More than one-fifth of all young people in the EU have no work and nearly 52 million people live below the poverty line.

An employment committee is to be established to monitor progress of the EU in co-ordinating employment policies in co-operation with the member states, and there will be annual reviews and reports from each state in an effort to assess progress in achieving a high level of employment. The Green Party is disappointed, however, that there is no commitment to full employment in the treaty and that there is no injection of Green economics. The old ideology of fostering growth to overcome unemployment remains. Indeed, the word "unemployment" does not even appear in the treaty.

The Greens believe that full employment should be an EU objective. This would be assisted by policies involving the reduction of working time, the transition to production methods which are more resource effective and the production of goods and services which are more ecologically and socially sustainable. The Amsterdam Treaty has ignored calls from the European Parliament to shift the tax burden from employment to environment consumption and pollution in order to foster sustainable investment.

The Green Party is also concerned at the impact EMU will have on unemployment and believes it is a major failing of EU policy that EMU criteria concentrated on the achievement of low public debt and low inflation and ignored any inclusion of low unemployment.

The Amsterdam Treaty adds a new EU objective to Article B of Maastricht "to maintain and develop the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice, in which the free movement of persons is assured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime". The Green Party welcomes the development of freedom of movement and advances in the combating of crime. We are concerned, however, that some of the provisions involving refugees, asylum and other operations of Schengen and Europol could have adverse effects on humans rights and democracy.

The Green Group in the European Parliament fears that nothing will change in the undemocratic and uncontrollable functioning of Schengen and calls for an enhanced role for the Parliament, both from the legislative and supervisory point of view, and for the European Court of Justice.

No citizen, NGO or even the European Parliament can bring an action before the European Court of Justice. For the first time the European Court of Justice has been given some very limited jurisdiction over provisions in the Third Pillar dealing with police and judicial co-operation on criminal matters, but the court has no jurisdiction over the behaviour of police or law enforcement bodies or the exercise of responsibilities incumbent on member states with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security. One could argue that every measure or decision of the justice and home affairs sector deals with law and order and internal security.

There is very little judicial control over Europol, which will now have powers to deal with 18 policing roles, from illegal immigration to drugs. Not once during the two year drafting was the European Parliament consulted. Article K.6 of the Maastricht Treaty calls for such consultation on principal developments in justice and home affairs and states that Parliament's views must be duly taken into consideration. Parliament was not and will not be consulted. Article K.11 of the Amsterdam Treaty provides for the Parliament to be consulted on laws on police co-operation already agreed by the Council of Ministers, but Parliament's powers extend only to delivering opinions, asking questions and holding annual debates. National parliaments also will have no power to exercise democratic control over Europol. The day to day activities of Europol will be the responsibility of a management report and national parliaments can only request their governments to instruct their representatives on that board. Decisions are by a two-thirds majority and individual states can be overruled.

Articles 7 and 10 of the Europol Convention give Europol powers of data collection which go far beyond what is needed to combat crime and which raise grave questions about civil liberties. Not only can Europol collect data on known and suspected criminals but also on those it is presumed may carry out a criminal offence and any potential victim or witness, which is a very wide net. Data can be collected on lifestyles, racial origin, religious or political beliefs, sexuality and health. The key question is: who is monitoring Europol?

The Green Party shares concerns expressed by Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Quakers and a number of NGOs about the provisions concerning asylum and refugees. While expressing its support for the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, the Amsterdam Treaty appears to ignore the Convention in several instances. For example, there is no reference to adhering to the Convention when dealing with temporary protection of refugees, responsibility-sharing, some immigration matters and incidents of sudden mass influx of refugees — they are dealt with in Articles 73. k.2 and 73.1.2. Both Amnesty International and the UNHCR have taken issue with the EU's interpretation of the term "refugee" in the Geneva Convention, which sees the EU excluding those persecuted by non-state agents, for example, rebel groups. The UNHCR has attacked the EU's narrow definition as one that erodes refugee principles and could leave large numbers of refugees without adequate protection.

The Amsterdam Treaty contains a protocol on asylum which has been heavily criticised by human rights organisations. The protocol suppresses the rights of EU nationals to seek asylum in another member state except in exceptional circumstances. The UNHCR similarly attacks the protocol, and in a press release following the Amsterdam summit in June 1997 the UNHCR expressed serious concern about the EU's decision to restrict EU citizens' right to asylum and said the protocol weakened the Geneva Convention on Refugees. It stated:

If the EU applies limitations to the Convention, others can follow and could weaken the universality of the instrument for the international protection of refugees. We do not, therefore, share the position taken in the preamble [of Amsterdam] stating that the protocol respects the Convention.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy — CFSP — is dealt with under Title V of the Amsterdam Treaty. Contrary to some comment the changes brought in by Amsterdam constitute significant new powers. Under the Treaty the EU is given an enhanced role at the expense of member states in foreign and security policy. It is now the "Union", not "the Union and its member states" as stated in the Maastricht Treaty, that shall define and implement a common foreign and security policy. A new Article J.2 allows the Union to define the principles and general guidelines for the CFSP, to decide common strategies and adopt joint actions and common positions. Article J.3 states that the European Council shall define the principles of general guidelines for the CFSP, including matters with defence implications. Article J.7 states that the CFSP will include the "progressive", as opposed to "eventual" in the Maastricht Treaty, framing of a common defence policy and that this defence policy has to be in accordance with the involvement of the Western European Union.

The European Council is given power to decide whether an EU common defence should be established, with the proviso that this decision must be referred back to member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. More decisions in the CFSP will be taken by qualified majority voting. A new high representative, the present Secretary General of the Council, will be appointed and assisted by a new planning and early warning unit whose personnel will include individuals from the Western European Union. This can be viewed as an embryo Department of Foreign Affairs. The Western European Union, a military grouping based on nuclear weapons and inextricably linked with NATO, will be further integrated into the EU and a protocol has been attached to Article 7 promising the drawing up of arrangements for enhanced co-operation between the Western European Union and the EU within a year of the Amsterdam Treaty being ratified. Article J.7 states that the progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported as member states consider appropriate, by co-operation between them in the field of armaments.

The Green Party disagreed strongly with the Maastricht Treaty for forming links with the Western European Union, a military grouping based on nuclear weapons and the European wing of NATO. The Maastricht Treaty recognised the Western European Union as an integral part of the development of the EU and charged it with elaborating and implementing decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications. The Green Party is opposed to defence issues being brought into the EU. The fact that a nuclear grouping is seen as the vehicle for dealing with EU defence only serves to underline the reasons the EU should never be dragged into this area.

The Amsterdam Treaty does not incorporate the Western European Union completely into the EU, as a number of member states wanted, but it provides in a protocol for the possibility of such a development when it refers to arrangements for enhanced co-operation within a year of the Amsterdam Treaty being ratified. Article J.7 adds to the Maastricht Treaty by stating that the Western European Union provides the EU with access to an operational capability and that it supports the Union in framing the defence aspects of the CFSP.

The most significant development in terms of the Western European Union is the inclusion of its so-called Petersberg tasks as provided for in Article J.7.2, which include not only humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, as often claimed, but also tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. Peacemaking gives a very broad licence and could involve Irish troops in various military enforcement missions. This opens the way for endless possibilities for the EU to intervene militarily around the world. The adoption of the Petersberg tasks means that for the first time Irish troops may be sent abroad to peacekeep or peacemake for someone other than the UN and without a UN mandate. This is a major foreign and defence policy departure.

I wish to refer to the way the CFSP makes its decisions.

I refute the view expressed by previous speakers that the treaty is not a danger to Irish neutrality. It represents a significant erosion of our neutrality. Much has been made of the fact that three Opposition parties support the treaty. They negotiated it and therefore find themselves in a position where they have little choice but to support it. Diarmuid Ross Phelan, barrister and Jean Monnet lecturer in European Law at TCD, have written on this aspect and take the view that there is no requirement for a further referendum. The key element which the public will want to know about concerns our neutral stance. They support it. The Green Party also supports it and will oppose this referendum.

This is the fourth referendum on Europe to be presented to the people. We approved the previous three by debating issues which were not central to the main aspects of the treaties put before the public. However, people may be able to identify with the main provisions of this treaty because it is the people's treaty. The Single European Act was concerned with an internal market and the Maastricht Treaty was the blueprint for EMU, all of which was irrelevant to the voter. By contrast, this treaty deals with the citizens of Europe and attempts to improve our quality of life. It deals with recommitting the EU to basic human rights and freedoms. It considers the issue of co-operation in trying to combat drugs and crime, puts the fight against unemployment at the heart of EU policy, considers equality and ways of improving the situation of the disabled, establishes consumer protection and commits the EU to a high level of human health. It also strengthens workers' rights and has a special chapter on unemployment. These issues, and not the more general philosophical ideas which we have discussed over many years, are relevant to the people.

Through our membership of the EU we have had success in economic and social terms which has been felt throughout the country. That is what people relate to. Despite this, they may not appreciate the extent to which money has been made available to local areas in the form of EU grants. For example, in my constituency of Dún Laoighaire, £432,000 was allocated to the county enterprise board in one year and the southside partnership received £2.5 million over five years. There is a new Dún Laoighaire theatre and the Dalkey heritage town project has received £500,000. With regard to the waste management strategy, £120,000 was recently allocated for waste recycling. Fortunately many signs on projects indicate the extent to which we are being helped by Europe. People see that Europe is money.

However, we have a long way to go before a sense of European citizenship and community is developed. There are identifiable symbols of European citizenship. Examples include the little red common passport, which I suspect is widely disliked throughout the EU, the little red driving licence, the flag with the stars and the anthem. Beethoven has suddenly come into his own.

European citizenship is very important and we need to feel a part of it. While 63 per cent of Irish people support the concept of European citizenship, I believe 100 per cent support the concept of national citizenship first. It is interesting that one of the most successful small Irish businesses in recent years has been the development of a green leather cover, which shows the harp, for the common passport. I welcome that. The common passport is not disliked because of its usefulness or its size — it is more convenient — but because people consider that it removes an aspect of identity, which we cannot afford to lose in an overall European identity. In view of this, it is very important that people understand we are considering a dual citizenship and partnership; it must be made clear that we are concerned with joint identity.

This is also very important with regard to our language.

Chonacamar le déanaí go raibh baol ann go mbeadh an Biúro um Theangacha Neamh fhorleathana le scuabadh amach as an tír seo. Tharla sin roimh Nollaig. Níl aitheantas ceart faighte ag an nGaeilge. Tá siad ag troid leis na blianta chun an t-aitheantas sin a fháil. Tá fhios agam gombeadh deacrachtaí ann aitheantas oifigiúil a tabhairt don teanga. Ach níl a cearta fiú á tabhairt don Ghaeilge agus tá dul chun cinn gur féidir a dhéanamh. Is féidir aitheantas a thabhairt i measc tíortha a bhfuil mionteangacha acu — Éire ina measc, an Bhreatain Bheag, An Fhrainc agus tíortha nach iad. Ba mhaith liom mar sin go bhfeicimis ins an bhféiniúlacht seo, an féiniúlacht náisiúnta agus an féiniúlacht Eorpach atá ann, níos mó cabhrach á thabhairt do na nithe a thugann an féiniúlacht sin dúinn, ár dteanga ina measc.

The human rights issue has been addressed in this House on a number of occasions, even since my election. While we can deal with it at a local level it is, above all, an international issue. Human rights and democracy go hand in hand and the promotion of democracy, both within the European countries and outside the EU, is at the core of the Amsterdam Treaty. In one year, 1996, the promotion of human rights cost the EU £67.5 million. This work deals with combating corruption and helping cross border partnerships, especially in central and eastern Europe, including those countries which are about to become a core part of the EU.

Linked to this is our commitment to combating racism. I regret, as I am sure everybody did, the photograph in a newspaper yesterday taken in Ennis, County Clare, which depicted a swastika with the words "white power". This kind of racism must be wiped out before it takes a foothold in this country. It can be done at a Europe wide level because the foundations of racism reached us from there. Last year was the European year against racism and much work was done with young people, especially in the schools. I raise this issue now because the Amsterdam Treaty has a specific clause on anti-discrimination. There will be a monitoring centre for racism and xenophobia which will work closely with the reinforcement provisions set out in the treaty.

Human rights, fundamental rights and non-discrimination are the key principles on which our society is based and which the Amsterdam Treaty seeks to enshrine. The social rights are defined in the European social charter and the Community charter of the fundamental social rights of workers is confirmed as fundamental in the treaty. The anti-discrimination clause does not just refer to racism but aims at promoting equality of the sexes and prohibiting discrimination on grounds of disability, ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation. It also includes a specific declaration on persons with disability, which I welcome, and which says that when drawing up measures, the institutions of the community shall take account of the needs of the persons with a disability. This puts the onus on all policy makers to ensure that policies are disabled friendly.

The Amsterdam Treaty is more clearly based on the interests of citizens than any previous treaty. The changes are wide ranging and positive and give citizens increased rights. They provide states with even greater means of enforcing the principles of non-discrimination, particularly through the active promotion of equality between men and women. It should be recognised that the development of equality for women in legislation, pay and work over the past 20 years would not and could not have come about but for Ireland's membership of the EU. Successive Governments, occasionally on their own initiative but mainly because they were forced to enact EU directives, had to introduce measures to improve equality of the sexes. This is further developed in the Amsterdam Treaty and it must be a principal consideration when drafting all EU legislation. The EU is empowered to take action against sexual discrimination and the policies of pay, opportunity and treatment are reinforced in the treaty.

I welcome EU directives over the years which led to equal pay for men and women, equal access to employment, training, promotion and working conditions, equal treatment for men and women in social security and the implementation of parental and adoptive leave measures in 1996. The Government was recently brought to court for discriminating against women in the social welfare system because men received a higher unemployment benefit rate than women. Ireland was not the only country brought to court so we should not be embarrassed about it. The case was successfully appealed to the European Court of Justice and many women received social welfare back payments. The UK was caught in a similar position in the European Court of Justice, although it related to a different case. If the House fails in its responsibility, there is a higher court which will insist that Ireland meets its responsibilities and ensures that equality is introduced.

In relation to money from the EU, a quarter of the European Social Fund is directed towards promoting equality for women, the disabled and minority ethnic groups. All funds are monitored for gender equality and this is welcome. However, women in the EU are still more likely to be unemployed than men. Women hold more part-time jobs than men and women throughout the EU are paid approximately 20 per cent less than men. I welcome the important provisions which recognise that women need to be encouraged to take their place in the workforce, particularly in relation to part-time work because the majority of part-time workers are women. In 1997, European employer and trade union bodies agreed to extend to part-time workers the same rights as full-time employees. This is most important for the female workforce.

Over the past 20 years the number of women in employment has grown from 46 million to 61 million, but we have a long way to go in terms of facilitating women re-entering or staying in the workforce. I welcome the recent introduction in Ireland by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, of the directive on parental and adoptive leave. Parents will be able to take up to three months' unpaid leave at any time up to a child's eighth birthday. These types of measure are initiated in Europe and then enforced in Ireland. This makes Europe relevant to people.

Small and medium size enterprises are most important. It is interesting to note that the majority of small enterprises established in the EU in the past decade were set up by women. I welcome the increased support for SMEs in Europe and in the context of employment under the Amsterdam Treaty. European statistics show that women live longer than men and, therefore, perhaps women should be promoted more. The life expectancy is 80 years for women and 73.7 years for men, but I would not discriminate against men in any of these matters.

The main provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty relate to the fight against crime and drugs. In recent years, we have witnessed the decimation of areas and young people by drugs. We have tried to tackle this problem at local and national levels. Perhaps one of the most significant measures was the proceeds of crime Act introduced in 1996 following the initiation of a Private Members' Bill by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, when in Opposition. However, wiping out the gangs does not wipe out the problem. It will continue because Ireland is an island and any measure introduced at national and European levels should be welcomed.

When one considers the number of ports in Ireland, one must welcome the extension of Europol. It is not a police force and does not mean German, French or Italian guards running round the ports of Ireland. Europol is a method of exchanging information between the police forces of the member states. Ireland ratified the Europol Convention and this means information can be fed through our computer networks. A recent example in this area is the arrests in Amsterdam. This benefited the Irish system and people in so far as it removed persons from the distribution of drugs network.

There are a number of EU regulations to combat the manufacturing and trafficking of illegal drugs. The amount of drugs seized in Ireland is a credit to the Garda Síochána. According to the 1996 Garda report, 10.8 kilos of heroin and almost 20,000 ecstasy tablets were seized that year. However, if that is the level of drugs seized, we can be sure it is only the tip of the iceberg. Consumption has not been reduced. It is important the EU looks beyond its member states and devotes some of its budget to combating the drugs problem in non-EU countries. Some money has already been spent in this area. For example, in 1987, 5.5 ECU was spent in that regard. In 1996 in the EU, the sum spent on trying to combat drugs and their distribution from other countries increased from IR£4.1 million to IR£40 million. European statistics show that the average age of drug addicts in Ireland is 24 years. This is the lowest age in the EU and makes us realise that the young people of Ireland are suffering most at the hands of drug trafficking. Therefore, we benefit most from Europol and EU directives in this area.

The Amsterdam Treaty provides an even stronger role for Europol in the fight against drugs. It extends responsibility in this area and the scope for co-operation between member states. For the first time a European treaty cites the fight against drugs as a specific objective. Each member state will be asked to account for its actions in this regard and the EU will take action to provide citizens with a high level of safety. We welcome this for all our young people.

The other key issue in the Amsterdam Treaty relates to employment. I referred to women in employment and the provision of new funding measures to create jobs, greater co-operation between member states to produce better employment opportunities and new incentives from the European Council to promote employment are listed in the treaty. The Treaty of Rome recognised this area in the late 1950s and the Amsterdam Treaty brings it another step further. To say the Amsterdam Treaty is above and beyond the people and should be opposed for that reason, as the Green Party suggests, fails to recognise its value.

An rud a chuireann ionadh agus a thugann dóchas dom isea go mbeimid ag vótáil ar dhá ábhar ímbliana — nó ar Bhunreacht na hÉireann a leasú ar dhá rud. Táim ag súil go pearsanta, agus déarfainn go bhfuil an-chuid daoine sa Teach seo ag súil, go bhfuilimid ag dul i dtreo ní hamháin na hEorpa aontaithe ach i dtreo na hÉireann aontaithe ins an Eoraip aontaithe sin.

Ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl don Teach seo agus don phobal go bhfuil mé mar ionadaí agus go bhfuil mo pháirtí glan i gcoinne Chonradh Amsterdam. Is céim eile é Conradh Amsterdam chun deireadh iomlán a chur le neodracht mhíleata an Stáit seo. Tá an rialtas agus na páirtithe móra sa Teach ag iarraidh dallamhullóg a chur ar an bpobal. Níl na páirtithe sa Teach seo ag tabhairt ionadaíocht cheart do mhuintir na tíre atá go láidir ar son na neodrachta agus ar son polasaí neamhspleách i ngnóthaí eachtracha.

I oppose this Bill and pledge my party's opposition to the proposed amendment to the Constitution to ratify the Treaty of Amsterdam. Deputy Quinn remarked on the lack of reporters in the gallery for this debate. I note a greater omission: the almost complete lack of representation in the House of the views of the vast majority of people who want to retain Irish neutrality and independent Irish foreign policy. That majority is almost voiceless in the House, but it is also clear that there is no great enthusiasm for this referendum on the Government benches. It is the latest step on the road to a united states of Europe. Many Members on all sides would be very happy if this amendment to the Constitution could be slipped past the people with minimal scrutiny or debate. Once again an attempt is being made to hoodwink the public.

However, many in political life and other spheres are profoundly opposed to the erosion of our independence on the world stage and to our entanglement in a nuclear armed European superstate. This also applies to monetary union. I note that contrary to comments made by Gay Byrne this morning on radio, many elected public representatives have not joined the blind stampede to complete EU integration regardless of the damaging consequences for our economy. My party stands firmly for Irish national sovereignty. Vital elements of that sovereignty are military neutrality and an independent foreign policy. It is ironic that on the anniversary of 1798 the Government is seeking to dilute again the degree of sovereignty we have retained in the 26 counties. Wolfe Tone was the first to make the case for an independent Irish foreign policy, and that has been a principle of all progressive movements in our history. It is supported overwhelmingly by the people. That is why the Government and the other political parties that want the Amsterdam Treaty approved are so anxious to convince the people that our neutrality is not under threat.

The signing of the Amsterdam Treaty last year received minimal media coverage in Ireland. Even less was heard about the implications for Irish sovereignty and neutrality. On this occasion, however, the people are being alerted to the dangers of making the 1937 Constitution subservient to the EU. For many years the process of EU integration has been eroding our neutrality. Successive Governments have given a little more away at each stage. On the few occasions they have had to go to the people for approval for their latest abandonment of our rights they have assured us that nothing has really changed. Repeatedly we have been told in recent months that this treaty does not affect Irish neutrality. Yesterday the Taoiseach went further by claiming that it strengthens Irish neutrality. The wording of the treaty could not be clearer, however, and it is patently incompatible with Irish neutrality.

The Amsterdam Treaty reiterates the EU's "common foreign and security policy" and the progressive framing of a common defence policy. It states:

The Western European Union [ which is the European wing of NATO ] is an integral part of the development of the Union, providing the Union with access to an operational capability. It supports the Union in framing the defence aspects of the common foreign and security policy as set out in this Article. The Union shall accordingly foster closer institutional relations with the Western European Union with a view to the possibility of the integration of the Western European Union into the Union should the European Council so decide.

Neutrality is totally incompatible with the declaration adopted at Amsterdam which commits the State to support the following:

In the declaration on the role of the Western European Union and its relations with the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance [which we know as NATO] of 10 December 1991, Western European Union member States set as their objective to build up Western European Union in stages as the defence component of the European Union. They today reaffirm the same as developed by the Amsterdam Treaty.

This is damning evidence. I ask Fianna Fáil Deputies to note Fine Gael's recent announcement of support for this State joining NATO's so called Partnership for Peace. Do those Fianna Fáil Deputies, who profess support for neutrality, want to amend the Constitution in this way and trust a future Fine Gaelled Government with our neutrality?

As well as moving on the project for "common defence", the Amsterdam Treaty significantly hardens the EU's common foreign policy. The State will thus be obliged majority voting on foreign policy. An unelected EU official will be appointed High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. In effect, he or she will be the Foreign Minister for the entire EU.

The Government has also signed up to a paragraph of the treaty which gets very little attention. It states:

The progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported as member States consider appropriate by co-operation between them in the field of armaments.

It is ironic that while we are attempting to create a peace settlement in Ireland, to remove the gun forever from Irish politics, the Government is asking the people to sign up to a treaty that supports the European arms industries. This part of the treaty points out the real agenda behind the drive to a common so-called "defence policy". In all NATO and Western European Union countries there are military bureaucracies linked to arms industries for whom the end of the Cold War was a very unwelcome step. Where now the excuse for the existence of this hugely profitable military based industry? Instead of widespread nuclear disarmament, the wholesale reduction of armies and the conversion of arms industries, the nuclear infrastructure has been kept intact. We have seen the expansion of NATO and the Western European Union as well as the ever growing arms industries fuelling wars throughout the world.

The Irish people do not want to be part of that and we should reject the Amsterdam Treaty. My party will urge the people to do so and will urge the Government to return to its EU partners to renegotiate the treaty. The Government should also deliver the constitutional referendum that safeguards neutrality which was promised by two successive Ministers for Foreign Affairs: one from the Rainbow Coalition and the incumbent.

Unquestionably the responsibility is ours to reflect the views of the people and not to lead them blindly into future oblivion.

Above all, we have a responsibility to the people to tell the truth. One of the things that has astonished me about the debate so far is the manner in which the truth has been distorted and ignored. It is ironic that 1798 should be cited as a reason to vote against the Amsterdam Treaty because in that year Irish leaders looked to Europe to ensure our freedom.

The Amsterdam Treaty has correctly been described as the people's treaty. It is the first of the many treaties signed in Europe since 1950 that can be described as such because its focus is on the people. The treaty is a welcome addition to the small library of treaty provisions. It strengthens the existing treaties in areas which are important to all our citizens. It strengthens the Union is so far as the rights of citizens and workers are concerned. It also strengthens its commitment to the battle against poverty and unemployment and in connection with basic human rights. In spite of the positive elements in the treaty there is a perverse and even mendacious attempt in this House and elsewhere to portray it as a negative document. This is particularly evident in the Green Party's approach whose attitude to the treaty raises a fundamental question about its credibility on any issue.

While the Single European Act paved the way for the completion of the internal market and the Maastricht Treaty predominantly set out the blueprint for economic and monetary union, the Amsterdam Treaty provides new powers for the Union in a range of areas aimed at protecting the citizens of Europe, enhancing their quality of life and protecting fundamental rights. The treaty recommits the European Union to basic human rights and freedom. Can any Member or citizen of this State argue against that? I do not believe they can. The treaty allocates new powers to the European Union to combat discrimination. Can any rational person argue against that? It reinforces co-operation between customs, judicial and police authorities of the member states in the fight against crime and drugs. It was stated here recently that our drug addiction problem hits the very youngest. I have attended far too many funerals of young boys and girls in my constituency who have gone to meet their maker because of the drugs problem. How could any Member of the House argue against such co-operation between the authorities. How can the Green Party portray this as not helping in the fight against drugs?

The treaty places the fight against unemployment at the heart of European Union policy. Having regard to the ravages of unemployment and the social deprivation we experienced for many years, how can anybody argue against a treaty that seeks to elevate unemployment as the main priority for the Community? The treaty places the protection of the environment as a core objective of the European Union and provides a series of amendments aimed at making the Union more mindful of environmental practices. The Green Party has been silent on that aspect of the treaty. The treaty commits the European Union to the highest level of human health. Can any rational person object to that? It aims to strengthen the rights of workers in terms of recognising the Charter on Fundamental Workers' Rights which incidentally includes the right to be represented by trade unions. How could anybody on the left argue against that? Above all, the treaty gives the Union not only new powers but new responsibilities to combat the problems of poverty. How can any rational Member of this or the other House argue against that?

The treaty elaborates the roles of the institutions. In many ways it focuses on institutional matters which are arid and boring for many people, but that does not suggest it is a sinister document. It also endorses the right of each member state to nominate a commissioner and gives additional powers to the European Parliament. Those aspects of the treaty have been largely ignored. A false claim has been perpetrated that we could lose our right to nominate a commissioner when large member states are contemplating the surrender of their right to appoint a second commissioner. How can anybody argue against a treaty that wishes to give greater democratic oversight to Europe by enhancing the powers of the Parliament?

The treaty also aims to strengthen coherence in European foreign policy which has failed in the case of Africa and more recently in the case of Europe. It has failed to support weak nations, to bolster democracy or to support human rights. Europe has had to stand by and witness ethnic cleansing in eastern and central Europe in recent years, a scandal which should not have happened in a Europe which only 50 years ago witnessed the holocaust. How can any Member argue that coherence in foreign policy is a threat when it is aimed at preventing abhorrent events on the continent of Europe?

The treaty also clarifies the role of the Union in regard to humanitarian and rescue missions in terms of peacekeeping and peacemaking. Those laudable objectives have been perversely misrepresented, particularly by the Green Party which claims we will be compelled into becoming part of an armed and aggressive European group. Nothing could be further from the truth or the intentions of the treaty.

The Amsterdam Treaty continues the success story of the European Union. It seeks to create the building blocks for a future Europe. I note the critics inside and outside the House, including some on national radio, have not taken the trouble to even give a nod in the direction of what the European Union has created. Since the establishment of the Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, we have had the longest single period of peace and progress in the recent history of this continent. Yet that is swept aside on the most spurious of bases. It is astonishing that any citizen who has honestly examined the treaty's provisions and is aware of the State's commitment could be concerned about any aspect of it.

I will deal with specific elements of the treaty. I will emphasise issues relating to the rights of citizens, fundamental human rights and non-discrimination because they have not been well covered. The treaty places the interests of citizens at its heart. Article 8a establishes citizenship of the Union and stresses that this European citizenship is complementary to, not a replacement for, national citizenship. Fundamental rights and non-discrimination are key principles of the treaty. Within the chapter on fundamental rights, social rights, as defined in the European Social Charter 1961 and the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights 1989, are confirmed and enhanced.

The new article 6a has a significant anti-discrimination clause which aims to promote equality between the sexes and prohibit discrimination on a variety of grounds. Article 100a is worthy of specific mention because it requires the institutions of the Union to take into account the needs of persons with disabilities. It is the first time the needs of citizens with disabilities have been mentioned in a treaty. The treaty sets out measures to ensure the application of the principles of non-discrimination and the principle of upholding fundamental human rights applies across the board through all the operations of the Community. In the event of a breach of those principles by a member state, sanctions can be imposed by the Council of Ministers acting by qualified majority. How could anybody suggest the operation of sanctions against a member state who denies fundamental rights to citizens is a threat to the nation's sovereignty. I have never heard such preposterous nonsense.

The provisions of the Treaty make it easier for action to be taken to combat racism and discrimination, something to which every Irish person should sign up for. The Amsterdam Treaty is more clearly based on the interests of citizens than any of the previous documents relating to Europe.

The second area worthy of mention is the fight against crime and drugs in the European Union in which the Amsterdam Treaty provides a much stronger role for Europol. The aim is to incorporate elements within the Treaty that will produce across-Community unity in the fight against this menace. The Amsterdam Treaty goes much further than the Maastricht Treaty to combat drugs. It attacks this problem by extending the Union's responsibility in the area and the scope for co-operation. It is astonishing that intelligent Members of this House, at least one Member of the European Parliament from the State and somebody from Denmark today, argue that giving Europol power to harmonise the police information about the drugs barons is in some way a threat to the civil rights of individual citizens. This type of latter-day Luddite thinking means we would prefer to remain apart and combat single-handedly a multinational and international pan-global menace. It is nonsense to suggest that Europol, which is no more than a clearing house for police information which is vital in the war against drugs, is somehow or other another threat. The only people who have any reason to worry about the treaty provisions on the fight against crime and drugs are the criminals and the drug barons. I do not know why anyone would decide to look after their interests.

On the question of employment the treaty is clear in a way that other treaty provisions have not been. The Amsterdam treaty reinstates the commitment to improving employment opportunities across the Community. The inclusion of an employment chapter provides a strategy for combating a growing menace in parts of Europe. Measures provided in the treaty include, for example, the requirement that member states are committed to developing a co-ordinated strategy across Europe for the creation of employment. Why would any Member be alarmed by that? The Council and the Commission are required to produce annual reports on employment in the Community. Guidelines will be issued and the Council will be allowed to use incentive measures to encourage co-ordination in the employment creation area.

The treaty is progressive in every single regard on social policy. It revives and consolidates the work done in the social policy area and, following the UK decision, provides for harmonisation which did not exist at the time of Maastricht. The treaty provides that the Union will support and complement the work of member states in areas of social policy on issues such as working conditions, training, social security, occupational development, occupational hygiene, the rights of association of workers etc. — a topical issue which is topical here. Yet there are Members who are worried about this. Are they worried about creating a commitment across Europe to giving workers recognition for their trade unions?

For the first time there is a reference to consumer protection in this treaty. In the original ECSC Treaty and the two treaties of Rome, the merger treaty and all the other treaties that followed there was no reference to consumer rights.

The Amsterdam Treaty places consumer rights at the heart of the responsibilities of the Community. Under the terms of this treaty the European Commission must put forward proposals in relation to consumer rights and the European Commission must take to itself responsibility for ensuring that consumer rights are protected. Why would any Member be alarmed at that?

I cannot understand the Green Party's silence on the issue of the environment. The Amsterdam Treaty has explicitly enshrined the principle of sustainable development within the treaty. Sustainable development has become a catch phrase here. This treaty gives specific and detailed recognition to sustainable development. Those people who argue at the drop of a hat about sustainable development are urging that we reject the treaty that contains that very issue.

The integration of environmental protection into all sectoral policies is another requirement in the treaty. Under the terms of the treaty, the Commission will have to ensure that in each policy area, each sectoral area and each functional area environmental policy is an issue and there will have to be an attempt to establish precisely the impact of any new measures in terms of the environment.

The treaty elevates women's rights. In the original Treaty of Rome women's rights were enshrined in one article. For many years, up to the time Madame Defrenne took her case before the Court of Justice, member states thought the concept of women's rights was something it would like to achieve down the road. I recall, as an official from the Department of Finance, when we became a member of the EEC, that all the legal advice about women's rights in the treaty was that it did not apply. That was until the Court of Justice said otherwise. It pointed out that was a fundamental freedom and right granted by the treaty. The single greatest boost for women here, who represent 50 per cent of the nation, was when Madame Defrenne took her case to the Court of Justice which vindicated the rights of all citizens to be treated equally. On women's rights the treaty elaborates on existing rights. It provides a new article on non-discrimination. Discrimination cannot be based on sex, race, religion, disability, ageism and sexual orientation. There are Members who regard themselves as progressive and yet oppose this article but have not given their reasons. They prefer to peddle half truths and innuendo about this treaty but will not deal with facts.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy has been mentioned by two speakers in the most derogatory terms. The Common Foreign and Security Policy aims to address the scandalous lacuna in Europe. In Europe, in the past few years, we stood by and witnessed the slaughter of innocent citizens, the mechanised slaughter of people in the former Yugoslavia, the events in Albania and the problems with ethnic Albanians in east European States. Human rights were flagrantly and scandalously abused. We witnessed war trials. We in Europe do not have the right to sit in our comfortable positions and let these appalling atrocities happen again. Europeans knew what happened in Germany and in German occupied Europe in the period 1939-45. To the discredit of Europeans, they did absolutely nothing about it but yet our friends in the Green Party would suggest we should ignore the monstrosities, that we have no responsibility in that matter. If every decent Irish citizen was asked if they wished to prevent those horrors recurring they would say yes. This aspect of the treaty has been perversely and maliciously interpreted.

The mechanisms of the Common Foreign and Security Policy are no threat to our neutrality. They do not commit us to anything to which we do not wish to be committed. Above all they do not commit us to anything we are not willing and proud to involve ourselves. This nation has been involved in peacekeeping and in peacemaking. We know we have a responsibility outside this island, that we live in a world where borders are becoming meaningless, that we enjoy not just rights but responsibilities. The people are willing to take that on. The little Irelanders who have treated the people with contempt by misrepresenting the treaty should think again. There are issues which need to be teased out. There is a responsibility on the Government to explain what it is we are trying to achieve. It would be an abomination if the treaty was defeated. I support the Bill.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this issue. For reasons of which the Acting Chairman and I are aware as members of the Joint Committee on European Affairs, we have a duty and responsibility to participate in the debate in the run up to the referendum. The proposed amendment to the Constitution is welcome. One of the lessons we learned in the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was that there was much misinformation. By the time we became aware of this it was too late to do anything about it. Scaremongering tactics were used by those who were opposed to that treaty. I hope the implications of the current proposal will be examined fully and that if people have reservations, they are based on factual information.

During a debate on the Maastricht Treaty the audience was informed by an eminent personality that once the referendum was passed they would no longer be in control of their own destiny, that they would be subject to the combined wisdom not of the European Heads of Government but of banking and other institutions. That assertion gave people cause for concern but it was not examined at the time to establish whether it was solidly based. I hope on this occasion there will be an enlightened and informed debate.

The powers to be given to Europol and police forces throughout Europe have been mentioned. On whose side are we? We respect and reserve the right to protect the human and civil rights of the individual. It is imperative, therefore, that each member state ensures that those who have criminal intent cannot escape from one jurisdiction to another with impunity because of lack of co-ordination of the efforts of the various police forces. It is in everybody's interest that life is made as difficult as possible for those who peddle drugs.

I cannot understand the logic behind the arguments which have been advanced against the proposals contained in the treaty. It could be said that the rights of the individual will be curtailed to some extent. Perhaps the rights of those who have criminal intent should be curtailed. Having considered the matter rationally, we have no option but to support the proposals contained in the treaty. On a different issue, that of enlargement, somebody said to me recently that there was no alternative. One could say that there are many alternatives on this issue but this is the one we are pursuing.

On the thorny issue of neutrality, those of us who are committed to European integration will adopt a positive attitude. There are, however, two lines of thought. Many people are reticent about neutrality. Having examined the matter closely, I do not know why they are so reticent. If another member state was attacked, would we wait until everybody else had become involved before entering the fray and declaring that we were no longer neutral? As a member state which is committed to the European concept, we have a responsibility to protect Europe. If we do not pursue such a policy, somebody somewhere will ask who is responsible for protecting countries which are neutral. I am not suggesting that Europe should become an aggressive super power or become involved in extinguishing fires all over the world but it should not be forgotten that throughout Europe there are a number of simmering conflicts.

We declared that we were neutral during the last world war. We were very lucky, not because we were neutral but because no one got to us. It was the right thing to do at the time and we got away with it. There are no guarantees that we would be as lucky again. While we should continue to pursue a policy of neutrality, we should not attempt to divest ourselves of our responsibilities within Europe. The alarmists will ask whether I am aware that people will be killed but that is an extreme argument which does not deserve a response.

I wish to address in some detail the question of the relevance of Europe to the individual. This treaty identifies a large number of micro issues which affect the individual. The European Union was criticised for being remote from the people. It is ironic that this happened in a country which has benefited to a considerable degree from the Union.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.