I welcome the genesis of the idea of Europe Day in the Dáil. It gives an opportunity to all Members of the House to talk about these issues, as they directly affect everybody in this country.
I disagree with what Deputy Deasy had to say about Romania and Bulgaria. Only last week the Joint Committee on European Affairs met with the ambassador from Bulgaria. She was able to inform us that labour market movements within Bulgaria are completely different to the situation as described by Deputy Deasy. There is very little likelihood of any major rush from Bulgaria. They have had 5% to 6% growth on average over the last three or four years. There does not appear to be any likelihood, if immigration from the ten accession states has been moderate, measured and useful, that opening the borders to Bulgaria and Romania will be a regressive step. I take this opportunity to urge the Taoiseach and the Government to continue the open borders approach as regards EU member states. The debate has left those behind who have ideas about work permits for citizens of EU member states. It runs entirely against everything the European Union stands for, namely, free movement of workers, free establishment and all the basic principles we signed up to. We cannot begin to have an à la carte approach to the European Union because something does not suit us. I encourage the Government to continue its excellent work and leadership within the European Union. In the last couple of weeks another four countries have adopted the approach of allowing access to their labour markets for citizens from the ten new accession states. That situation will improve and continue until 2011 when all member states will allow access to their labour markets to citizens of the EU.
Having said that, it falls to me to introduce the report produced over the last five or six months by the Joint Committee on European Affairs. It has been a very interesting process. I have to acknowledge the work of Ms Katherine Meenan who put a vast amount of research into an area in which, as we discovered, there is a great lack of data and information that would allow us to make concrete visionary policies in the future. As Deputy Deasy said in his introduction, the debate emerges from great concern within this country as regards the challenge of so many people coming into Ireland in recent times and in the coming years. One startling fact we got from the head of FÁS is that there will be a requirement for 500,000 new workers over the next ten years if the economy continues to grow as at present. If we are to continue to absorb those workers the debate must move away from immigration towards integration. That is the real challenge of this report. It sets down a requirement that there should be a single Department with responsibility.
As matters stand a large number of Departments have responsibility for immigration affairs and integration. The Department of Health and Children, for example, has responsibility, as we heard recently, as regards vaccination of people from third countries. We know the Department of Social and Family Affairs deals with those who cannot find work. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government deals with housing aspects. The Department of Education and Science tries to integrate young children into schools. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform deals with racism issues as does the Garda National Immigration Bureau, while the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment deals with work permits. That is seven Departments, and our research clearly shows there has been no co-ordination of approach among them. We are calling on the Government to consider setting up a single Department with responsibility for these affairs. We do not intend that all the functions should come within this Department, but rather that it should supervise all the functions I have described.
The report lays stress on the issue of immigration. Significantly, it notes that if we do not create far-sighted policies, we are in danger of repeating the mistakes that have been made in many other countries. One of the report's key recommendations is its call for a White Paper on the issue of citizenship. We should even go further and talk about a White Paper on multiculturalism and how people should be absorbed into our country. I read that Canada adopted multiculturalism into its constitution in 1988, as an ideal to be nurtured in terms of how to deal with migrant workers. That was a very important step. Given Ireland's history, where we have come from and the manner in which we were treated as citizens in other countries, from a moral viewpoint we must go down that road.
I thank the other members of the committee for the great work they did and commend its Chairman, Deputy Deasy, for his idealism which brought the initiative forward in the first place. I recommend the report to the House.