I wish to address some of the external relations issues discussed at Gothenburg and perhaps comment on some other developments raised in the debate.
The European Council issued a declaration on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in which it reaffirmed the necessity of a political solution in that troubled country while recalling the EU's strong attachment to the inviolability of borders and the sovereignty of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The EU reaffirmed the necessity of a political solution based on the opening of a true dialogue between all parties covering all issues, including key constitutional matters, and the establishment of a durable peace. President Trajkvoski has presented a plan for disarmament, which has been adopted by his government. This is a good basis for progress. It is imperative that the ceasefire is maintained and consolidated. The Prime Minister of FYROM is due to report on the progress of the political dialogue to the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg next Monday. I am aware of some developments in the interim since those Council conclusions were agreed and we will take up those very serious matters when the President comes to discuss those issues on Monday.
The Swedish Presidency's report on European security and defence policy covers both civilian and military aspects of crisis management. Five annexes are attached to the report, focusing largely on civilian crisis management issues. The report and annexes are generally favourable from Ireland's perspective. The report confirms that the development of European security and defence policy strengthens the Union's capacity to contribute to international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter. The primary responsibility of the UN Security Council for the maintenance of peace and security is also well reflected.
In this context, the European Council took note of the important steps, which have been taken to reinforce the political dialogue and strengthen co-operation between the EU and the UN. It was agreed that the EU-UN partnership should be further strengthened by ensuring that the Union's evolving military and civilian capabilities provide real added value for UN crisis management activities.
Significant progress was also made at Gothenburg in the areas of civilian crisis management and conflict prevention. A Programme for the Prevention of Violent Conflicts was approved.
The European Council also noted developments in relations with NATO and with non-EU countries. Developments in these areas are in accordance with the important principles of the autonomy of decision making of both organisations and of non-discrimination against any State.
The conclusions of the EU-US Summit on Thursday 14 June included a statement on the Middle East, welcoming the Mitchell Report and urging both Israel and the Palestinians to implement the report's recommendations in all aspects, including ending the violence, taking confidence building measures and reviving negotiations. The Middle East was the main topic of discussion at the dinner held that evening between the EU Foreign Ministers and US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
The European Council itself gave full support to the Mitchell Report recommendations seeing its implementation by both sides as a window of opportunity. What is needed now is a continuing and effective commitment to the cessation of incitement and violence by both sides in the lifting of closures. It welcomed the recently agreed Palestinian-Israeli security implementation work plan. This requires effective commitment to bring about sustainable progress in the security situation and the lifting of closures. Importantly, the European Council called for the total freezing of settlements activity. A cooling off period should start as soon as possible to allow for the implementation of confidence building measures, leading to the resumption of full and meaningful negotiations for the final status agreement on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The European Council agreed with the view of the High Representative, as set out in his report to the Council, that rebuilding confidence needs urgent improvement of the situation on the ground, that rebuilding faith in peace needs EU support for the restoration of co-operation between civil societies and that aid to the Pales tinian institutions and economy remains a European commitment that we should maintain as part of the international effort to further the peace process in the region.
On Algeria, the European Council called on all those responsible in Algeria to act to end the present confrontations and violence and called on the authorities to initiate a political initiative aimed at overcoming the crisis by means of a dialogue among all Algerians.
On East Timor, the European Council expressed full support for the forthcoming elections for the constituent assembly and agreed that the EU would make a substantial contribution to the international monitoring of the elections.
On the Korean peninsula, the European Council welcomed the result of the EU mission to the two Koreas, led by Prime Minister Persson. The inter-Korean dialogue and co-operation, non-proliferation and human rights will remain issues of vital importance for further progress in developing the EU-Korean relations.
On Chechnya, the European Council agreed that a political solution to the conflict in Chechnya is urgently needed. Repeated violations of human rights have to be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators brought to trial. Russia has confirmed its readiness to co-operate with the EU in delivering humanitarian assistance programmes.
On the media in Russia, the situation of the independent media in Russia concerns the EU as a strong civil society, freedom of speech and pluralism in the media are key components of a modern democratic society and are vital for a genuine EU-Russian partnership.
On Kosovo, the European Council called on all parties to engage constructively in the implementation of the UN sponsored institutional framework for provisional self-government in Kosovo and to participate in elections scheduled for later this year.
On non-proliferation, the European Council agreed that the EU would draw up a common position in the fight against ballistic missile proliferation based on the universalities of the international code of conduct proposed by Missile Control Technology Regime. This initiative could lead in time to the convening of an international conference.
On EU-US relations, the Taoiseach spoke at the working dinner which took place between the Heads of State and Government and President Bush. The European Council meeting had been preceded by the regular summit meeting between the EU and the US where the Union, in line with established practice, was represented by the Presidency and the Commission. The Presidency reported that the meeting with President Bush took place in a very positive and friendly atmosphere and provided an ideal opportunity to reconfirm the essential values and shared objectives which are at the heart of the Europe's relations with the United States. As indicated in the European Council's conclusions, areas identified for further co-operation or joint foreign policy action include the Middle East, the Western Balkans and the Korean Peninsula.
There was agreement that climate change was the most urgent challenge to be faced. The differences between the EU and the US with regard to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change were acknowledged, as was the need for continuing dialogue on this most important area.
There was also agreement on the need for comprehensive action to combat AIDS and HIV and to facilitate the broadest possible provision of affordable drugs and on the need to launch a new inclusive round of global trade negotiations at the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation which is to take place in Qatar next November. The EU Foreign Ministers had an informal dinner with Secretary of State Colin Powell, which provided an opportunity to discuss areas of global concern, in particular the Western Balkans and the Middle East.
Following the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg earlier last week, I had a series of bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers of the candidate countries who were there for enlargement negotiations. The purpose of my meetings with the Foreign Ministers was to reassure the candidate countries that Ireland remained fully committed to the enlargement process. I pointed out that the referendum result should not be seen as a rejection by the Irish public of enlargement of the EU. I also told the Foreign Ministers that, despite our difficulties with the Nice treaty ratification process, Ireland would not be the cause of any delay in the negotiation and accession process. I conveyed a similar message to the ambassadors of these countries when I met them as a group in Dublin on 13 June. As the Taoiseach has already told the House, he also took the opportunity to reassure candidate prime ministers of Ireland's pro-enlargement policy in Gothenburg on Saturday, 16 June.
In relation to some issues which were raised in the debate with regard to the enlargement question, the member states are unanimous in their view that the ratification process must continue on the basis of the text as agreed at Nice and in accordance with the agreed timetable. They made it clear that there could be no question of any reopening of the text agreed at Nice. The Gothenburg European Council confirmed these conclusions while restating a willingness to do everything possible to help Ireland resolve the difficulties which have arisen. Mutual respect cuts both ways. Just as we rightly expect respect for the outcome of our referendum, we must also respect the unanimous view of the other 14 member states, fully supported by the applicant states. They are unwavering in their conviction that the Treaty of Nice is required for enlargement.
There has been an effort by some to use remarks by President Prodi to suggest that there is a contrary position in this regard. The unanimous and settled view of the member states is that enlargement can only proceed on the basis of the Treaty of Nice. There is no agreement – and no prospect of any agreement – to proceed on any other basis. That is the fact of the matter, and it will not be changed by reference to hypothetical, but entirely unreal, legal scenarios. I welcome the fact that President Prodi has indicated his concern at any construction placed on his remarks which would suggest otherwise. In his comments in Stockholm this morning, he has reiterated his view that the Treaty of Nice remains an imperative for enlargement. That is the factual position. He and the member states take this view because of the simple realisation that only by making the changes provided for in the treaty can an enlarged Union work in an acceptable manner.
It is surely obvious to all that an effectively functioning Union is not only in Europe's interests but is a vital national interest. That is why the Government is determined to ensure, through the forum on Europe, that we have the kind of full-scale debate on these issues which the situation demands.
I wish to refer briefly to some of Deputy Quinn's comments. I have already indicated on a number of occasions, even before the Treaty of Nice, that the Government is anxious to proceed with such a forum. The fact that the outcome of the referendum has been negative clearly indicates that the Treaty of Nice issues need to be addressed in that context. While I appreciate Deputy Quinn's sincerity in these matters, it does nobody any justice to get involved in labelling others. That is doing a great discredit to the complexity of this debate.
A grave disservice is also done to people's understanding of our role in Europe when it is suggested that we are moving from a begging bowl mentality to some other kind of mentality. No Irish Government has had a begging bowl mentality towards Europe. What was agreed in the Delors Plans 1 and 2 was precisely the economic realisation that, in a Single Market with its own centrifugal economic force, it was necessary for peripheral regions to be given the economic, social and cohesion funds which would allow them to compete in that Single Market. That was not a begging bowl mentality. It does little service to the argument for supporters of the EU – the vast majority of people in this House and in the country – to suggest that we have been engaged on the basis of a handout mentality. It has been a hands-on mentality. Successive Governments since 1973 have used those funds and have taken on board the multi-annual programming approach sought by the EU Commission and the other institutions which we have allowed to be part of our planning and decision making process, strategically, economically and socially. That is what has enabled Ireland to take up the benefits which we derive from membership of the European Union.
When we proceed to have the debate, I look forward to the substance and content of it bringing greater clarity to people's understanding of Ireland's present role in the EU, what the Treaty of Nice accession would mean if we agree to it and what the further post-Nice debate should be about. I put it to everybody in the House that we need to make sure that the substance and content of that debate will serve the purpose of public information. We must be conscious of the tone and tenor of what we have to say to others who may have a general overall agreeable view, but have a difference on detail. That should not dictate people's understanding of the issues as it has up to now.