On the minutes of the last meeting, did we get any update on the resolution on Article 2 of the Euromed trade agreement?
Business of Joint Committee.
The Joint Committee on European Affairs is dealing with it and is holding a meeting this week.
Both committees are concerned with the matter raised by Senator Daly. A number of us are very concerned at the lack of compliance with the human rights conditions of that agreement. It is a European issue of human rights.
The matter also concerns this committee because some others have given undertakings and we intend to implement them. There is a resolution passed by this committee that there be a report after a period and if there is non-compliance of the human rights obligations, it is the intention of some of us to propose the suspension of the agreement. That is our intention.
That is the way it will be. I appreciate Senator Daly's housekeeping on it. We need it back.
While we all are doing our best to be fair-minded, I am far from happy at this committee's progress in the past 12 months on this and the other matter upon which we also passed a resolution, namely, the call for an international investigation into the possibility of war crimes having been committed by either side in the recent events in Gaza. That, too, must be followed up by the committee. The committee's integrity is at stake. It is a matter that cannot be fobbed off.
I have a proposal to make on this. On the Order of Business in the Dáil recently, I raised with the Taoiseach the issue of getting time in the Dáil — I am sure the same is applicable in the Seanad — for statements on the situation in Israel and Palestine. If the committee agrees, we should write to the Government Chief Whip seeking such time in the Houses.
I have no difficulty with that, but I do not see it as a substitute for a motion. I guarantee that there will be a motion on both matters coming before the committee to enable the other committee to do its work and to enable information to be gathered that we have held back. I am giving the Chairman notice that he can expect a motion on both matters to appear before the committee within a given period of time. I welcomed the fact that we would have an opportunity for statements, in view of the deteriorating situation and there no longer being acceptance of a peace process or of two states.
Are members agreeable to requesting statements in the Dáil?
It is a separate issue.
I am aware of that.
I am not cutting across Deputy Higgins.
I want to clear that one up first. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I will seek such statements in the Seanad as well if it fits in with the golfing schedule.
On the principal matters here, the one on the Euromed agreement is extremely important and I am grateful to Senator Daly for raising it. Had those human rights protocols been even monitored and had Israel been threatened by them, that would have put a quick halt to its operation in Gaza.
The war crimes motion was proposed by me and Deputy Michael D. Higgins. The motion was tempered to make it very balanced, in fact more balanced than I would have been. I have no real problem with that. It was passed by the committee. It is right to say that statements are not a substitute for a motion on those two areas in which the committee has decided to take action, but they may well be a welcome supplement.
Following on from my colleagues, Senator Daly and Deputy Michael D. Higgins, and particularly from the latter's proposal on the suspension of the trade agreement, I believe we all would be of one mind in this regard. From previous experience, I am aware that committees have often called for suspensions, passed motions, written to ambassadors or whatever. Those calls often fall on deaf ears. I ask members to consider whether there are other actions we could take which might strike a chord in the right place or put a shiver up someone's spine, rather than it simply being a case of our passing the relevant motion. Could we be seen to be doing something different, which might engender a response from some quarters?
In the interests of moving on, I suggest that the reply to the Senator's point is simple. No one has suggested that the Euromed agreement be cancelled, just like that. The agreement contains a requirement for compliance in respect of human rights issues. There is also a suggested mechanism for the observation of that compliance. However, the latter is extremely vague. When the committee modulated the motion, different suggestions were made. Members felt it would be reasonable to establish a period in which close examination of such compliance would take place. It was decided that if it were discovered that the level of compliance was negative in nature, there would be a realisation that the agreement had been broken.
The context in which this took place was one where the Government had been asked to deepen the Euromed agreement relationship while human rights clauses were being breached. Many of us only have so much of our lives to waste on this matter. We are not interested in being shoved aside and the fact is that it will not go away. It would be difficult to avoid either side's representations on the matter. There is a continual stream of information from Ambassador Evrony, who communicates cordially with all of us — practically on a weekly basis and sometimes several times each week — and we are not without his opinion, which we do not really need. What we need is to be taken seriously in respect of a matter on which we must decide. If progress is not made by the end of the summer, we should put down a motion and see where people stand. We are just courteously saying that people can take the opportunity to examine the matter and ask anyone they like — from Pope Benedict to Ambassador Evrony — about it but that they can expect a motion along the lines I suggest after three months.
We may very well——
We have other important business with which we must deal. We cannot have a debate on the matter.
I attended the meetings of both committees at which the motion was passed. It was supposed to go before the Dáil and we endeavoured to discover where it went next. Who have we asked to indicate whether human rights have been violated? Who is responsible for acting as referee? Who is charged with deciding whether people's human rights were violated, whether during the attack in December or on a continuing basis? We do not know whose word we will accept. Will it be the UN, the EU or Amnesty International? If one of these organisations informed us that people's human rights have been violated, we would state that Article 2 must be invoked. We have not asked for a referee and there is a need for us to do so.
The motion went to the Whips. That is where it is if the Senator wishes to pursue it.
If it is to be taken, then it will be taken.
As Senator Daly stated, can we be seen to be serious and discover what we need——
We are serious but we cannot just leave it like that. It is not the case that we are not being serious.
I do not doubt that.
There are several bodies which are independent and which can monitor the situation. I am of the view that this motion will be pushed because every time we try to be fair and pare back a particular motion to achieve a balance that suits everyone, within a week we are accused of being pro-Hamas. This matter concerns human rights and the integrity of the Government with regard to whether it is serious when it signs agreements which contain human rights clauses. I approached my party's Whip in respect of this matter. The position is that if the Government Whip makes time available, the motion will be discussed in the Dáil.
One would want to be deaf, blind and dumb not to be aware that serious human rights violations had occurred. Nothing could be more obvious. I accept that we are not immensely powerful. Individually we may be a collection of drips but collectively we may make a splash. Let us be optimistic and do what little we can in respect of this matter.
It is time to move on.