At the last meeting it was discussed briefly that some members, including myself, desired to meet some of the Commission officials to discuss the proposed restriction in relation to investment in dairying under the farm modernisation scheme. Another member expressed a desire for a meeting to talk about the operation of the EMS. Apart altogether from that, it was suggested when this Committee was set up two years ago that there would be regular opportunities to discuss matters, such as these which affect our country, with the Commission and this is becoming part of our function.
Visit to Brussels.
These are good reasons why the Committee should consider seriously going to Brussels and meeting with members of the Commission. The last time we visited Brussels we got very useful information and a lot of co-operation from the staff in Brussels. I support the idea. Is September suitable for members generally? Do members feel that such visits should take place and, if so, how many should go?
Before the Committee decides who should go the members should avail themselves of every opportunity to see how their counterpart committees work. The Joint Committee should go to Copenhagen to meet the Danish Committee because they are in a peculiar stance in as much as a high proportion of the representatives would be looking very scathingly at the Community. The examination directives get in that Committee is possibly more thorough than in some other countries. It would be useful to have discussions with our counterparts in Copenhagen, if that is possible. On the question of visits to Brussels the Joint Committee should endeavour to make such visits while proposals are in draft form. It would be very useful from a national point of view because the politicians in Europe enjoy a much higher standing than back home and would have a certain amount of punch. They would be able to influence the decisions of the Commission in the preparations of the final drafts before they go to Council. The budget for the coming year should provide for delegations going whenever it is considered useful or appropriate.
That has been the feeling up to now. The visit to Brussels might not necessarily confine itself to the two items mentioned. If there are items or matters of more current interest on less developed points we could include them.
It would be very useful for a deputation from the Joint Committee to go to Brussels some time in late September and have a number of meetings with officials there. One item I would like to see added to those mentioned by Deputy Noonan is the question of the further enlargement of the Community. Members of the Joint Committee found when we started discussing the Greek terms that we were a bit late to have as much influence as we might have liked to have had. We began discussing that very shortly before the Treaty of Accession was signed and we had difficulty in getting as much information as we would have liked. It is now appropriate that we get very detailed information on any further enlargement to include Spain and Portugal at an early stage so that we can examine the position and make our report on the matter more authoritative and more worthwhile. That is another area I would like to see us examining and having some meetings with those involved in the negotiations.
If there is anything important in the interim between now and September we could raise it.
We should draw up a list of priorities before such a meeting. In the past we discovered that too little time was made available to discuss important problems that affect the Irish economy in general but particularly agriculture. If we draw up our list of priorities and if there is time available afterwards, other matters could be discussed. The dairying situation is very important to our economy as is the farm modernisation scheme and other problems associated with tariffs and quotas. We hear so much about beef mountains and butter mountains and of course, EEC levies, national levies and so on, that it is important to draw up our priorities and stipulate what we want to discuss.
We must know soon how many Members would be likely to go on such a trip. It was suggested the last time that we brought too many people.
The last visit was a familiarisation one and it was understandable that most Members would be anxious to go on it.
I suggest that we send smaller groups and more of them.
It appears that six of the Members here would be anxious to make that trip in late September.
On the last occasion of our visit the time was too short. We tried to compress too much into too little time. Those who went on the visit remarked on that. It was less effective.
Of course, we did not have to give ourselves a half-day to tour Brussels. That was done because it was a first trip but if we were confined to time we could use that half day to discuss whatever is left to be discussed. The trouble is that a lot of Members cannot afford to be away too long from their constituency.