Developments in the European Communities—Third Report and Fourth Report: Motion (Resumed).

Thursday, 13 March 1975

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 279 No. 4

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Dáil Éireann takes note of the reports: Developments in the European Communities—Third Report and Fourth Report.

Mr. E. Collins: Information on Edward Collins  Zoom on Edward Collins  The question of Euro-Arab dialogue is obviously an important matter to the European Economic Community. When I spoke previously I expressed satisfaction with the proposed establishment of the joint Euro-Arab Commission. Immense problems have arisen because of the action of the Arab states in drastically increasing the price of oil and it is very important from our point of view that the massive funds which will be transferred to the Arab states by European countries are properly recycled—in other words, that the funds just do not arrive in the Arab states and are buried away in their banks with dead interest. In fact, they should be recycled to the western European countries as much as possible. We are at a disadvantage in that this problem suddenly arose and there was no builtin method of dealing with it. The establishment of the commission is very important.

We can do a considerable amount of trade with the Arab countries. As a nation we have not taken enough action to represent ourselves to the Arabs in relation to trade. I know this cannot be done overnight and certainly there has been some activity in this area recently. However, we [623] should send a high-powered team to those nations because it is well known that they have shown an interest in this country and have bought a substantial amount of goods from us. We should make use of the lack of resources, other than oil, of these countries and I foresee a time when we could have a very prosperous exporting business of agricultural-based products. Quite apart from our membership of the EEC, as a nation we should take individual action in this area.

The east-west détente negotiations are of interest. Possibly this problem did not concern us so much when we were not in the EEC but now it is one of the many areas in which we must have a policy and let our voice be heard. One of the most interesting aspects is the position concerning refugees, those people who are living in the eastern bloc, and who wish to leave but are not allowed to do so. This is an important principle so far as we are concerned and we should do what we can to get the authorities in the eastern counties to accept the right of people to leave if they wish.

A free Press is totally absent in the eastern bloc and we should support any move towards liberalisation of opinion in those countries. They have their own quality of life and we can learn from them as they can learn from us. We should not attempt to dictate to them about the quality of life as we see it.

These two points are of vital importance to the people in the eastern countries. From the speeches I have heard in Europe it is obvious there is a desire within these countries to have a liberalisation of the movement of people and a greater freedom of the Press. We have not discussed these matters to any great extent; indeed we have very little information about them. However, we should try to ensure that what is accepted here as a basic human right and a civil liberty is granted to people in eastern European countries. We have an embassy in Moscow and there is a Russian embassy in Dublin. We should point out to their ambassador that these freedoms [624] exist in western European countries.

The question of NATO crops up in Ireland every few years. There are queries whether Ireland will become associated with the NATO forces, how this would affect our neutrality and how does Ireland stand in the event of aggression. The question of aggression from the east or from any other source does not arise in the foreseeable future. In the last few years there have been moves to ease tension between the major powers and to reduce the danger of aggression. Nevertheless, the question remains: where does Ireland stand with regard to NATO?

It is a question that arises more particularly with regard to the development of a common defence policy within the EEC and perhaps this is more real than the NATO issue. There is a tendency in Europe to be independent militarily and if a common defence policy emerges we will have to make up our minds where we stand. We remained neutral in the second world war but what we would do in the event of a future act of aggression is a different matter. If our national approach and philosophy is one of complete involvement with Europe and all its ideals, if we establish a common esprit de corps, it appears to me that if Europe develops a common defence policy in conscience we would be obliged to be part of that policy. It is a question that should be discussed in the House so that we would get the views of all Members and so that public opinion might be made known if that were necessary. If a common defence policy emerges within the EEC we should be part of it. Not to do so would be returning to a kind of isolation that would not be beneficial to us in the long term.

The question of a common energy policy, which is linked with the oil crisis, is an interesting one. I should like to congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce on sticking to his objective concerning the mining issues here. The previous Government reneged on their responsibilities by not examining the question fully. However, I think many people in this [625] House were educated in geography on a book by Eleanor Butler and one of the basic premises of that book was that we had no minerals of any value in Ireland. As we know, this is not true. We are lacking a proper mining exploitation authority which would be able to examine the potential mineral deposits and which would examine the question of offshore oil exploration and similar matters. Admittedly, these matters have come to notice only in the last few years but they are of vital interest. We should not play politics with them, we should not be content merely to say that the Minister for Industry and Commerce was right or wrong or that Fianna Fáil were right or wrong. It is a question of policy in regard to research facilities, personnel with expertise in the mining and exploration fields and so forth. We should ensure that Ireland does not miss out in this sphere.

The question of the fishing industry was raised by Deputy O'Connor among others. I think we should be a bit more dogged than we have been in this respect. I admire the attitude of the Icelandic Government in extending their limits to 50 miles and I can understand their anxiety to have that extended further to 200 miles.

Debate adjourned.

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