I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
It is an honour for me to introduce this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the European Communities Act 1972 in order to give effect to the relevant provisions of the Lisbon treaty in the domestic law of the State, and to provide for related matters. The provisions necessary to enable the State to meet its obligations under the treaty must be enacted into domestic law before the treaty enters into force.
The people of Ireland voted by a majority of 67.1% to 32.9% on a turnout of 59% on 2 October to approve the proposal to amend the constitution in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009. That Bill has now been enacted, having been signed into law by the President on 15 October. On 8 October, this House approved the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon in accordance with the terms of Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution, and on 16 October the President signed the instrument of ratification. The ratification process will be complete when the instrument of ratification is deposited with the Italian Government, in accordance with Article 6 of the treaty, and the Government proposes to do so before the European Council which begins on 29 October.
At the European Council in December 2008, the Government committed itself to seeking ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon by the end of the term of the current European Commission. The Commission's mandate expires at the end of this month. The treaty will enter into force on the first day of the month, following which all member states will have lodged their instruments of ratification with the Italian Government. Twenty five of the 27 member states have already completed the ratification process. Two countries are outstanding, namely, Ireland and the Czech Republic. If all instruments are lodged by the end of this month, the treaty would enter into force on 1 November.
When the treaty comes into force, the legally binding guarantees secured by the Government in June on taxation, the protection of the right to life, the family, education and Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality will also enter into force. The legally binding guarantees are in the form of a decision of the Heads of State or Government of the 27 member states of the European Union, meeting within the European Council. This decision will have the status of an international agreement. The decision, the solemn declaration on workers' rights, social policy and other issues and the national declaration by Ireland on security policy have been annexed to the instrument of ratification which will be deposited with the Italian Government.
In addition, the legally binding decision will be registered with the United Nations when the treaty enters into force. The European Council also agreed in June that the decision, which deals with the legally binding guarantees on taxation, with the protection of the right to life, the family and education and with our traditional policy of military neutrality, will be annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as a protocol, at the time of the next accession treaty. Protocols form an integral part of the treaties and in legal terms, they have treaty status.
On Friday, 2 October, the Irish people issued an emphatic confirmation of Ireland's European vocation. A total of 1,214,268 citizens voted in favour of the Lisbon treaty. No other European treaty has ever received as many votes in favour in an Irish referendum. The referendum result has given new momentum to Ireland's economic recovery and it will infuse the Union with renewed confidence in our ability to continue delivering for our citizens. The people of Ireland made a democratic decision on the Lisbon treaty. After a hard-fought referendum campaign with real engagement on all sides, and in which its merits were thoroughly debated, they decided overwhelmingly to approve the treaty. The fact that such an emphatic "Yes" vote was delivered underlines the commitment of the people to the European Union and also the determination of the Government and the main Opposition parties to maintain Ireland's position as a positive and constructive member state at the heart of the Union.
The legally-binding guarantees secured by the Government in June that addressed the Irish people's concerns on taxation, ethical questions and our traditional policy of military neutrality, taken together with the new commitment on the Commissioner and the solemn declaration on workers' rights, were crucial to the outcome. The European Union delivered for Ireland in June and the people endorsed the new package. The Union works best when it listens to and accommodates the concerns of individual member states. I am grateful to our European colleagues for their positive and constructive response to the Irish people's concerns. The Government worked hard to explain the treaty and to demonstrate to voters that the concerns expressed last year were comprehensively addressed. However, I want to acknowledge that the referendum success was the result of a collective effort involving almost all members of this House, trade unions, employers, farming organisations and a wide cross section of civic society representing all generations. I want to put on record my appreciation for the tremendous work during the campaign by all concerned.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge here the work of the Sub-Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union. The work of the sub-committee and the sub-committee's recommendations were key elements in the strategy which brought us to the fortunate position we are in today. I believe that the Lisbon treaty will help bring clarity to the direction and workings of the Union and should also help address the democratic deficit many people have identified.
Before I turn to the Bill itself, it is worth recalling in brief the main provisions of the Lisbon treaty. The foundations of European Union stretch back to the European Coal and Steel Community, established almost 60 years ago. Ireland joined the process in 1973. The Union is made up of 27 member states and operates on the basis of an agreed set of rules, which are the EU treaties. These are the basic legal documents of the Union. Changes to these treaties have been agreed by the member states from time to time to update them to meet Europe's changing needs. The Lisbon treaty is the latest proposed update of the European Union's operating rules. It was signed by the Heads of State and Government of the European Union in December 2007.
The treaty sets out the nature of the European Union, its objectives and values. It states that the Union's aims are to promote peace and the well-being of its peoples. The treaty states that the Union can act only within the limits of the competences given to it by the member states. It proposes some changes to the operation of the Union's institutions. These include the European Parliament, the body directly elected by citizens that makes laws for the Union, the Council of Ministers, made up of the representatives of member state governments, and the European Commission, a body with one person from each member state, which proposes draft EU laws. The Lisbon treaty also gives formal institutional status to the European Council, which brings together the Heads of State and Government of the member states. The treaty also simplifies the Union's structures and operation, something that I will explain later.
The treaty proposes new competences for the Union in areas such as energy, tourism, sport and humanitarian assistance. The treaty also proposes to make the Charter of Fundamental Rights a part of EU law. The charter sets out the fundamental rights — including workers' rights — of European citizens. It will oblige the Union, when implementing its policies and activities, to take into account the promotion of a high level of employment and the guarantee of adequate social protection. It will give a new role to national Parliaments, including Oireachtas Éireann, in the European law-making process. The treaty will give more responsibility to the directly-elected European Parliament. It will streamline the voting system under which some future EU decisions will be taken and make EU decision-making easier in the fight against cross-border crime.
The treaty will make specific provision for the first time for EU action to combat climate change, which is one of today's major global challenges. It will give the Union a greater capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts in other parts of the world by providing for the appointment of a full-time president of the European Council and for a new high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, whose responsibility will be to give the Union a clearer voice in international affairs.
When the people voted at the beginning of the month, they affirmed Ireland's commitment to the European Union within which the member states of that Union work together to promote peace, shared values and the well-being of their peoples. The Lisbon treaty is the culmination of a process which began nearly ten years ago when the Heads of State and Government of the 27 member states declared that the Union needed to come closer to its citizens and become more responsive to their needs and expectations.
The European Union Bill 2009 will give effect to the relevant provisions of the treaty in Irish law and in so doing, will ensure that the Union can work with the member states to promote the well-being of the people and to respond to their needs and expectations. The Bill is necessary to amend the European Communities Act 1972 in order to give effect to the relevant provisions of the treaty in the domestic law of the State, and to provide for related matters. The content of the Bill is in line with earlier amendments of the European Communities Act 1972, through which provisions of previous EU treaties have been given domestic legal effect. The Bill also takes account of the fact that the treaty confers explicit legal personality on the European Union and makes certain institutional and terminological changes. The Bill provides for the conferral of the new powers on the Houses of the Oireachtas under the terms of the treaty which I mentioned earlier. In addition, the Bill provides for the continuation in domestic law of certain statutory instruments giving effect to EU directives, regulations or decisions.
The Bill is relatively short, containing only nine sections, most of them technical in nature. Section 1 provides that the "Act of 1972" means the European Communities Act 1972, that "European Union" and "treaties governing the European Union" have the same meaning as they have in the 1972 Act and that "Minister" means the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Section 2 then goes on to insert into section 1 of the 1972 Act definitions of "European Union" the "Lisbon treaty" and "treaties governing the European Union". These are the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Lisbon treaty and the treaties currently governing the European Communities, excluding provisions of the EU's common foreign and security policy, in respect of which the Court of Justice of the European Union will not have jurisdiction.
Section 3 amends section 2 of the Act of 1972, which sets out the EU legal instruments that are binding on the State and part of domestic law. It provides that once the Lisbon treaty enters into force the treaties governing the European Union, the acts of the institutions of the European Communities in force prior to the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, the acts of the institutions of the European Union and acts of bodies competent under the treaties shall be binding on the State and part of domestic law, with the exception of the non-justiciable acts adopted under the provisions relating to the EU's common foreign and security policy in respect of which the Court of Justice of the European Union will not have jurisdiction.
Under the existing treaties, there are three broad areas or "pillars" of EU activity. The first area broadly covers economic and social policy. The second area relates to the common foreign and security policy and the third covers justice and home affairs. The Lisbon treaty provides for a European Union with explicit legal personality that will replace the European Community established by the Treaty of Rome and the old Union established by the Treaty of Maastricht.
Since the Treaty of Maastricht, the situation in Ireland has been that only those elements that relate to the European Communities or were otherwise justiciable before the European Court of Justice should form part of the domestic law of the State. Therefore, the inter-governmental second and third pillars were excluded. The confusing distinctions between the European Community and the European Union are to be abolished by the Lisbon treaty. The three pillars will be merged, but special arrangements will continue to apply in the case of the common foreign and security policy. There will be limited involvement by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the ECJ in this area. In line with our existing practice, the provisions of the Lisbon treaty in this area are not being brought by the Bill into domestic law, except where the ECJ will have power with regard to persons, bodies or companies that are subject to EU sanctions — a welcome innovation introduced by the Lisbon treaty — or in respect of the boundary between the common foreign and security policy and other areas of Union competence. As the Lisbon treaty provides for a European Union with an explicit legal personality, which will replace the current European Community, section 3 provides that Acts of the current Communities will be carried over and remain valid in the new arrangements. The European Atomic Energy Community is legally distinct from the European Community and European Union, although they are served by common institutions. The treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, the EURATOM treaty, will survive the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty. It comes within the definition in section 3 of treaties which will be binding on the State and part of Irish law when the Lisbon treaty enters into force. Ireland, along with Germany, Austria, Hungary and Sweden, made a declaration annexed to the final Act of the 2007 Inter-Governmental Conference noting that the core provisions of the EURATOM treaty have not been substantially amended since its entry into force and need to be brought up to date. The Government continues to favour an extensive review of the EURATOM treaty, leading to a significant updating of its provisions.
Section 4 of the Bill amends section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 by updating the references to treaties and acts of the EU in respect of which it is permissible in implementing regulations to provide for indictable offences. There is no substantive change in this area.