Wednesday, 24 April 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle I propose to make a statement on the meeting of the European Council which I attended, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in Brussels on 29/30 March, this being the first opportunity I have had since then to report to the House. In accordance with the established practice, I have already had the conclusions of the meeting laid before both Houses.
A broad range of items were down for discussion including Integrated Mediterranean Programmes, the economic and social situation in the Community, the development of new technologies, the final report of the Dooge Committee on Institutional Affairs, a further report from the Ad Hoc Committee on a People's Europe and the famine situation in Africa. Within the framework of political co-operation, we discussed East/West relations, the Middle East, Latin including Central America and South Africa.
The House will be aware that just before the meeting, the Foreign Affairs Council had, in the early hours of that day, reached agreement on the outstanding and substantive issues in the negotiations between the Community and Spain and Portugal which were primarily in the Fisheries, Agriculture and Social Affairs chapters. The key issue of concern to us, of course, was that of Fisheries. On this I am especially happy to recall that the agreement, reflecting the determined efforts of our three Ministers concerned, represents a very positive outcome in the protection and further development of our fishery interests in the years ahead.
One of the most important elements of the agreement is that Spanish and Portuguese  fishing vessels will be excluded for 10 years from the Irish 50-mile box around our coast. This was a central element in our negotiating strategy which we maintained and upon which we insisted throughout these most difficult and protracted negotiations. Our eventual success was all the more creditable when one recalls that Spain had continuously pressed for access to the Irish box with immediate effect from the date of its accession to the Community.
This fisheries section of the enlargement agreement also contains a number of other very positive features from an Irish viewpoint, such as a very strict limitation on the number of Spanish and Portuguese boats which will be allowed to fish in the waters of the present Community. A severe limitation will also apply on the maximum number of such boats when the Irish box is opened up in 1996. At most, the number involved would be 93 vessels of standard 700 h.p. size or the equivalent, but, in practice, these vessels, which will be allowed to fish Zones VB, VI and VII, will be fishing in a much larger sea area. All of this is after 1996. We have also secured a commitment from the Spanish authorities that there will be negotiations to secure an orderly and phased access by Spanish boats to the Irish box after that date.
These provisions will be reinforced by very tight controls, including quota limitations, as well as a strict monitoring system whereby Spanish vessels entering present Community waters will have to notify coastal member states on entry and exit and report their catches. This system will be subject not only to surveillance by other member states but also by Community inspectors who will now be enabled to inspect landings and records in Spain which, of course, is not possible at present.
The historic and decisive breakthrough by the Foreign Affairs Council meant that the only outstanding obstacle to enlargement which was left over for the European Council to decide on was that  of Integrated Mediterranean Programmes. In this context, the House will recall that at the previous meeting of the European Council here in Dublin in December last, Greece had placed a general reserve on the completion of the enlargement process until such time as a satisfactory position was taken by the Community on the scale of financial commitments to be given to the proposed IMPs. In effect this meant that while these negotiations could proceed, Greece would not agree to enlargement taking place until such time as the IMPs issue was satisfactorily resolved.
An additional complicating factor was a Greek reserve to the board agreement reached by the General Affairs Council on 21 March on a number of budgetary issues. These issues related to the financing of the shortfall in the 1985 Community budget, the increase in own resources and payment of this year's budgetary rebate to the UK. The reserve seemed to be designed to apply further pressure to secure Community agreement on the IMPs.
Because of its concentration on enlargement issues, the Foreign Affairs Council had undertaken little detailed examination in advance of the European Council of the Commission's revised proposals on IMPs which had been submitted on 21 February last. The Commission's original proposals on IMPs, for 6.6 billion ECUs, all of which would be additional Community expenditure in the Mediterranean regions of Greece, Italy and France, had been characterised by some members of the European Council at our Dublin meeting as excessive. In its revised proposals, the Commission proposed a financial envelope of seven billion ECUs broken down as between two billion ECUs in additional funding over and above what would be provided in any case under the Guidance Section of FEOGA and the Regional and Social Funds; 2.5 billion ECUs in “soft” loans — the real budget cost of this would be 0.5 billion ECUs; with a balance of 2.5 million ECUs coming from the existing structural funds.
As anticipated, the discussions on  IMPs reflected fundamental differences in approach and, as was the case here in December last, were again very difficult. In my initial contribution to the discussions, I repeated our support for the principle of the IMPs and the need for the Community to respond effectively to the problems which enlargement involves for the Mediterranean regions, more particularly for a relatively under-developed member state like Greece. But I recalled the Council's agreement, which as Minister for Foreign Affairs I had secured in July 1976, that on enlargement the financial resources of the Community would be increased sufficiently to ensure the continuation of the common projects and policies of the Community or those which it intended to pursue in the future.
The European Council's eventual agreement on IMPs, including the financial resources to be provided, their duration, and general principles which will apply in their operation, are set out in the conclusions and these will no doubt have been read at this stage by interested Deputies. I do not propose, therefore, to say anything further on this subject except to remind Deputies that our concerns were met and that, on my insistence, it was clearly set out in the conclusions that the part-financing of the IMPs from the structural funds will not adversely affect transfers from these funds — and here I quote —“to other less-prosperous and priority regions of the Community”. This covers our position. The cost to our Exchequer of contributing to the extra funding agreed for the IMPs will, we estimate, amount to an average of slightly more than £1 million a year on average over the agreed seven year duration of these programmes.
Our discussions of the economic and social situation were facilitated by the usual Commission communication. I strongly supported the Commission in emphasising the need for more employment-intensive growth but expressed concern at a number of notable omissions, and at the failure of the ECO/FIN Council to submit to us the report which we had requested from them at our last meeting. I accepted the broad thrust of  what had been said by colleagues in emphasising the need for structural changes, including that of reducing excessive bureaucratic controls and red tape as it affects small businesses, but I expressed our worries at the over-concentration on these more medium and long term issues at the expense of discussion on the Commission's call for immediate measures to boost growth and employment.
I drew attention to the Commission's comment that 0.5 per cent of the expected growth rate of 2.4 per cent this year is due to the high exchange rate of the US dollar and that this would disappear were the dollar to continue to fall as many commentators feel will happen. In any case, the 2.4 per cent growth rate is already disturbingly low and a drop to 2 per cent or even less would be totally unacceptable in terms of pushing unemployment in Europe even higher than is now foreseen. I referred to our having raised, during our recent EC Presidency, the need to be ready with compensatory measures in the event of a deterioration in the US economy and I pointed out that Europe is already being criticised by the US for not taking adequate action to promote growth in this part of the world. I argued that the improved budgetary and external payments situation in the EC countries as a whole, and the halving of European inflation within the last two years, provide conditions for stimulation of growth, as recommended by the Commission, and I urged that the Community should prepare itself for action in this area, particularly with the likelihood of adverse developments in the US economy.
Apart from a Presidency comment on the need to face this latter possibility, I regret having to say that I was alone in supporting this part of the Commission's proposals. Nevertheless, on my proposal, the conclusions of the European Council request the ECO/FIN Council to report at the next meeting of the Council in Milan on measures to be taken, both by member states and the Community, to combat unemployment through sustained  and more employment-intensive economic growth, although I have to say that I do not take much comfort from the inclusion of this request.
As I indicated in a speech in London on 22 March last, there appears to be a failure of imagination on the part of the Community's collective political leadership, a failure to grasp the use to which its economic space and weight can and should be put in the interests of tackling the economic problems besetting our peoples. For our part, the Government will not cease in our efforts to secure a change in this situation. One might now hope, in the light of the recently published estimates which strongly suggest that growth in the US may be faltering, that our efforts and those of the Commission may begin to obtain a better response.
The European Council emphasised the responsibility of all industrialised countries to achieve greater stability on exchange markets, including the strengthening of the international financial system, and stressed the importance it attaches to a new round of multilateral trade negotiations which it sees as representing an important contribution to the campaign against protectionism which is of vital importance to us. Deputies may have noted further developments in these areas in the period since the Brussels meeting.
As regards technology, the Commission, as requested at our last meeting, had submitted a document containing a wide-ranging set of objectives designed to strengthen the Community's technological base and the competitiveness of industry. Action in some of these areas is already in progress under the Community's Framework Programme for Research while detailed proposals in other areas are at present awaited from the Commission. The basic argument in the Commission's paper was that the poor economic performance of the Community relative to that of the US and Japan was due to the Community falling behind these two countries in most high-technology industries which, in turn, is due to  a relatively poor business environment discouraging to innovation and to a failure to exploit the Community dimension.
As regards environment issues, our discussions focussed on a short Commission paper containing three specific proposals, namely the treatment of environmental protection as an integral part of economic and social policies; the necessity for national actions to be part of an overall Community framework; and the designation of 1987 as European Environment Year. These received unanimous support. I was particularly pleased that the instructions from the Dublin European Council had been followed up and that Environment Ministers had, at their Council meeting on 20-21 March, reached agreement at last on a Community approach to the control of motor vehicle emissions while at the same time preserving the unity of the Common Market.
We also discussed the continuing tragedy of the famine crisis in Africa and noted that the commitments made at the Dublin European Council, on the proposal of the Irish Presidency, had been rapidly implemented. The latest indications from a Commission report showed that the target of 1.2 million tonnes of cereals to be provided by the Community and the member states will, in fact, be exceeded, as well as the target of 0.8 million tonnes which we had set as the target to be met by other donor countries. We agreed, however, that there is no room for complacency and undertook to keep the situation under close and continuing review, in consultation with other donors, as well as continuing the efforts underway to improve co-ordination, transport and distribution so that relief supplies reach all the victims in need. The Commission is to furnish a report on these and other aspects relating to the implementation of emergency aid, following a visit to Africa by Vice-President Natali with whom I had the opportunity to discuss this problem yesterday.
On the second day of the Council meeting we discussed the procedure to be adopted to prepare for the discussion at the Milan European Council of the final  report of the ad hoc Committee on Institutional Affairs. As in the case of the interim report, the final report reflects a broad consensus but also contains dissenting comments by two member states, a number of reservations and an expression of the section on Security and Chairman, Senator Dooge, on the inclusion of the Section on Security and Defence in the Committee's report. Senator Dooge also indicated that, while in agreement with the principle underlying the part of the text proposing extension of majority voting in the Council, he felt unable to support the actual text on this matter because, although not excluding the pleading in exceptional circumstances of a vital interest, it did not include an explicit reference to this point, although it may be the case that some of the members, and their Heads of Government, understand this to be implicit in the wording employed.
There was no substantive discussion on the Committee's report partly, at least, because of the limited time available in view of the extensive discussion of the IMPs. The Council confined itself to a discussion on procedures. It agreed that the Milan European Council on 28-29 June — which we had agreed in Dublin will be mainly devoted to a detailed discussion of the Committee's report— will be prepared over the coming months on the basis of bilateral contacts to be undertaken by Mr. Craxi in an effort to resolve the outstanding differences identified in the Committee's report and thus to enable us to arrive at clear conclusions at the June meeting. Consideration of the Committee's suggestion of holding an inter-governmental conference will be deferred until the Milan Council meeting.
The Council then turned its attention to discussing a further interim report which had been submitted by the ad hoc Committee on a People's Europe. This report contained a number of recommendations to ease rules and practices in ways which would visibly offer tangible benefits to Community citizens in their daily lives. The report dealt with freedom of movement for Community citizens;  freedom of movement of goods, including transport services; administrative formalities for border-area traffic; and wider opportunities for employment and residence.
Under the first topic, the Committee proposed a simplified system for the free movement of citizens travelling by vehicle across intra-Community borders. Such a system has been in existence on the Franco-German border since last July. Under this system, citizens, by showing on their vehicles a disc, declare that they are in conformity with police-custom rules, and pass across that frontier at a slow speed, subject only to spot checks. Under the second topic, the Committee proposed certain changes in the level of travellers' allowances, relating to goods purchased in a member state on which the Community traveller has already paid tax and which he or she wishes to take into another member state.
The European Council agreed to all the Committee's proposals and requested the Council, the Commission and the member states to implement as quickly as possible those decisions which are within their respective competences.
In the discussions, I supported, in the overall interests of advancing European Union, the objective set out in the report of easing frontier controls, while at the same time supporting the point which had been made by colleagues about the need to retain adequate frontier checks to deal with terrorism and drugs. I emphasised, however, our particular concerns arising from the differences in taxation levels between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, which are substantial in respect of a number of items and have led to such a diversion of trade as to force us to make major concessions in respect of some taxes, at considerable cost to our Exchequer.
However, as we did not want our particular problems to hold up desirable Community developments. I stated that we were lifting our reserve on this issue but on the understanding that our partners would recognise the special situation that exists on our land frontier and would  give favourable consideration to any requests from us for derogations in respect of travellers' allowance. This, I am happy to say, was accepted, and will be taken into account when the Council adopts the implementing decisions in this area. Under the new limits to apply, we will continue to maintain our derogation of £55 value for any single item.
As the House will be aware, the European Council did not adopt formal conclusions on political topics. This was because one or two of our partners felt that the European Council did not have enough time to consider these issues in detail. Instead, it was agreed that Mr. Craxi, as President of the European Council, would outline to the press the positions set out in the draft conclusions agreed at official level.
As regards East-West relations, the Ten noted recent positive developments. They welcomed the opening of the US-Soviet arms negotiations in Geneva and expressed the hope that the negotiations would make possible radical reductions in strategic and medium-range nuclear armaments and prevent a new arms race occurring in outer space.
As regards the Arab-Israeli conflict, Mr. Craxi outlined our welcome for the recent initiatives of King Hussein and Mr. Arafat on the one hand and President Mubarak of Egypt on the other. The Ten's concern at the continuing Iran-Iraq war and their desire for an end to that conflict were reaffirmed. In relation to Lebanon, Mr. Craxi reaffirmed the Ten's support for UNIFIL and declared that the Ten called on all parties to respect UNIFIL's role, to co-operate fully with the force, and to ensure the safety of its personnel.
As regards Latin America, Mr. Craxi contrasted the return to democracy in countries such as Uruguay and Brazil with the deterioration of the situation in Chile. He reaffirmed the Ten's support for a peaceful solution to the problems of Central America, and in particular the efforts of the Contadora Group to that end. As regards South Africa, the Ten recalled their appeal for the ending of the apartheid system and their statement on  25 March condemning the violent action of the South African police at Uitenhage.
As a brief meeting with the British Prime Minister in the margins of the Council, we reviewed progress on the dialogue agreed between us at our meeting in Chequers last year, which has been conducted since then at ministerial and official level. We agreed that there was real merit in continuing with the process although it was, however, not possible at this stage to predict the eventual outcome.
This Brussels meeting of the European Council was a very successful one, indeed a historic meeting. All the obstacles to enlargement were cleared out of the way. The European Council was able to call upon the Community bodies, together with the applicant countries, to complete the drafting of the Accession Treaty as soon as possible so that enlargement can take place on 1 January next. The Treaty, when completed and signed will, of course, come before the Dáil for ratification. Without wishing to pre-empt the debate on that occasion, I feel confident that all Deputies will share the satisfaction felt by the Government, and by me personally, that we will shortly welcome into the European Community the old historic nations of Spain and Portugal, with which Ireland has had so many links from the earliest times.
As a result of the Brussels meeting the way is also clear for the ratification by national Parliaments of the increase in the Community's Own Resources — a matter of major importance to Ireland as a country to which membership brings not alone crucial support for the prices of our farm products but also net financial benefits which, in relation to our national resources and our budget, are significantly greater than in the case of any other member state.
The Community is now in a position to chart the course of its further development towards a genuine European Union. A certain amount of momentum for new steps along this road has been generated. I believe that Ireland should be actively and constructively involved in this endeavour, putting forward our  views and ideas, while ensuring that designs for the future safeguard and promote the interests of our people. The bilateral contacts to take place between now and the end of June, pursuant to the Dooge Report, and the Milan meeting of the European Council now assume a vital importance. The Government will ensure full Irish participation in this process.
It appears possible, even likely, that we in Ireland, will very shortly be faced with decisions of major importance in regard to the revitalisation and further evolution of the European enterprise and our own part in, and contribution to, that development. It appears appropriate and timely to have a major national debate on these large questions, assessing the impact and significance of our membership of the Community; how our interests may be affected, and can best be advanced, in the context of the evolving Europe and world of the future; how we wish to see the European Community develop; and what distinctive role we can play. The Government accordingly propose to arrange for a discussion in this House between now and the Milan European Council on the report of the Dooge Committee, on European Union, and on European developments generally.
Mr. Haughey: The principal business of the last European Council on which the Taoiseach has just reported was the finalising of arrangements for enlargement of the Community by the entry of Spain and Portugal. Our welcome in principle for the enlargement of the Community to 12 to include Spain and Portugal from the beginning of 1986 must be tempered by very real fears about the effect on our economy of the actual terms of entry which have been negotiated.
Enlargement of the Community will help to consolidate democracy in southern Europe. We will have a significantly enlarged market for our industrial and agricultural products. A Community of 12 will contain a more balanced mix of nations at different stages of development. From that point of view it should  be easier in some instances for us to find natural allies in promoting and defending important national interests. In larger political and economic terms the accession of Spain and Portugal to the Community represents positive aspects and opportunities. Everyone in the House will share my hope that we forge very positive and beneficial links inside the Community with these two new members, both of whom have traditional ties of friendship with this country extending over many centuries.
There are dangers nevertheless of which we must be very much aware. The Taoiseach might have dealt more specifically with those dangers rather than giving a glib impression that everything is now satisfactory and that we should all be elated that enlargement is about to take place. Our feelings must necessarily be mixed. On the one hand, I am very glad that Spain and Portugal are now coming in to expand and strengthen the Community but, on the other hand, our position in the Community has not been adequately protected in the arrangements and we face very considerable difficulties in a number of areas.
Spain as a member of the Community with a large domestic market will, as I see it, be an attractive location for foreign investment and from the point of view of incentives and labour costs will be very much in direct competition with this country. The IDA will have to be very active and effective if we are to hold our own in securing a reasonable share of investment from outside the Community. There can be no doubt that Government policies in the last two and a half years have created the worst possible environment for attracting investment. There is also a very real danger that we will lose out in regard to future regional development programmes which will be concentrated on the Mediterranean areas as far as we can see. This has already happened to some extent. Greece managed to focus attention on its special problems which they linked to Spanish and Portuguese accession. They secured a special compensatory  package. We got an entry in the minutes.
It is unfortunate that Ireland has allowed herself to be divorced in the way she has from the other less developed regions in southern Europe and that our case has not been focused more often when their problems are being discussed. We are also on the periphery of the Community. We have many interests in common with the three new member states — I am including Greece in that — even though for the purposes of CAP we belong to the northern block of countries.
The fact is that of the Mediterranean package 2.5 billion ECUs will come from the existing structural funds. The Taoiseach glossed over that glibly in his report. All we succeeded in getting in this country was an entry in the minutes, a reference to other less prosperous and priority regions of the Community. The Taoiseach said: “This covers our position”. It does not cover our position. If 2.5 billion ECUs are taken out of the structural funds for the special Mediterranean package, no matter what entries there are in the minutes or communiques, that must inevitably affect our position.
I would have thought our efforts should have been directed at being included with the other less developed member states rather than, as apparently happened, taking part in the negotiations as a member of the more developed northern region and permitting this package to be brought forward and implemented for an area of the Community of which we are not members. The geographic and natural economic approach would have been for some kind of composite package to have been prepared which would have included us as well as Spain, Portugal and Greece in the new arrangements. We are members of the northern region of CAP but everyone knows that is becoming less and less attractive. There is a whole new era of limitations, restrictions and cutbacks being applied to the production of our major products. Therefore it was very optimistic, to say the least, on our part to have these arrangements made  seemingly on the basis that something had to be done for the less prosperous and less developed Mediterranean area while we, as a member of the northern European agricultural zone, were all right. In that regard we will face very real, serious difficulties immediately.
This Government and Taoiseach cannot expect to be held in affectionate memory by the Irish fishermen of the future. The ten year period will not be very long in passing. There is a great deal of self-delusion about this. The whole thrust of the Taoiseach's remarks was that there was nothing to worry about because we had put it all back for ten years. I find his statements in this report very naive. He said that the outcome represented a very positive outcome in the protection and further development of our fishery interest in the years ahead. It does not and he will not persuade anyone in the fishing industry that it does. I do not know what the situation will be like in the ten year period but if past experience is anything to go by we can expect a great deal of incursion into our waters, even in the ten year period immediately ahead. My main point is that those ten years will pass very quickly and then at least 93 large Spanish fishing vessels will be fishing in our waters. A fleet of 93 700-tonne fishing vessels is very considerable.
Therefore, we cannot look forward with any equanimity to any aspect of our fishing industry. We contribute a great deal to the Community waters. We provide the Community with a very large area of its fisheries, perhaps with the best fishing territory there is. Consequently, we should have been given very special consideration instead of the evil day being merely postponed. In the enlarged Community, one-third of the entire tonnage of the EC fishing fleet will be Spanish. It is not clear what controls if any will either be in force or enforceable after 1985. The Taoiseach says there will be controls and monitoring but we all know that that is very much a paper exercise. We should have held out for the permanent exclusion of the Irish box because of our special position in the Community but at the same time as any concessions to  Spain were being negotiated there should have been some major provision for the future of our fishing industry.
On a previous occasion when Deputy Lenihan as Minister was involved in negotiations, we succeeded in getting a contribution of £30 million from the Community. This contribution was to help us provide ourselves with a fisheries protection capacity. We are still reaping the benefit of that arrangement. This time, however, there is no contribution from the Community. Anybody who is concerned about the matter must visualise that within the ten year period a major effort should be made, with maximum Community assistance, to build up our fishing fleet so that we will be in a position to hold our own after the ten year period has expired. In addition, we should have some special arrangement to help us provide a capacity to protect our fisheries both during that ten year period and subsequently, but especially subsequently.
The Taoiseach says that the provisions will be reinforced by very tight controls including quota limitations and strict monitoring systems whereby Spanish vessels entering present Community waters will have to notify coastal member states on entry and exit and report their catches. He went on to say that the system would be subject not only to surveillance by other member states but also by Community inspectors. That is meaningless because with the resources at our disposal now, we could not even attempt to supervise, control and monitor the 50 mile box once Spanish vessels have access to that area.
We can discuss all these matters in detail when we are debating the legislation that will be necessary to give effect to the arrangements for enlargement but even at this point it is necessary to emphasise that in effect we have negotiated away our position. People may argue as to whether we could have negotiated more effectively, whether we could have negotiated both for protection and for a longer period but what is really detrimental in this situation is that all has been given on our part while there have been no counter measures. There has been no  balancing factor, nothing to compensate for this major give away of our fisheries protection. We must contrast that with what the Greeks have succeeded in doing. They have succeeded in negotiating a positive programme of monetary assistance for the whole Mediterranean area.
The economic and social situation in the Community is discussed routinely at Council meetings but with very little effect. They seem to amount to no more than an exchange of information as to what the various member state Governments are doing. I note from newspaper reports that at the meeting in question the British Prime Minister advocated her own policy for reducing inflation, controlling public expenditure and reducing State subsidies. The German representative has redefined convergence — a word that we always understood to mean a policy to close the gap between the richer and the poorer states of the Community — as a convergence of economic policies. At our relative stage of development that is meaningless. It is not of any significance to have a convergence of economic policies. The phrase may be all right on paper. It might satisfy some in the sense of it representing a kind of academic exercise but for us convergence means the implementation of positive policies by the Community so as to bring about a situation whereby the less prosperous and less developed regions would be brought up to exactly the same level as the more prosperous areas. We can only be depressed at the total lack of progress in pursuance of that basic principle of the Treaty. If convergence is meant to mean simply dovetailing economic policies on paper, I do not think we can expect any great progress from the Community in dealing with our economic and social problems.
The Community, the Commission and the huge bureaucracy which the Commission controls, which is probably the most impressive collection of civil servants, bureaucrats and experts in the world, are not committed to combatting the big central social evil of the Community today, namely, mass unemployment. Figures  published yesterday showed that unemployment would be even greater; I think the new figure is 13.3 million. The Community is standing back from that situation. Most individual countries are pursuing the same disastrous monetarist policies as we are pursuing but there is no commitment by the Community to having some sort of Community approach to this major central problem. That will be looked upon as one of the great historic failures of the Community. With all the resources at its command and with the unique apparatus of administration at its disposal, it does not mobilise itself as a community to tackle the problem of unemployment.
The Taoiseach said that he found himself alone in pressing for the right type of policies to be pursued by the Community and I accept that as I found myself in the same position at Council meeting after Council meeting, pressing for some sort of action to deal with the social and economic situation at Community level. However, I do not know if the Taoiseach who is pursuing very clear, specific monetarist policies at home is in a position to ask the Community to pursue a different type of policy. However, I give him credit for trying to persuade his colleagues in the Council to take a sensible, rational viewpoint of the Community as it is today and for endeavouring to tackle the major problem confronting it.
In the light of the economic reality and the clear unwillingness of the key member state in particular to do anything about that economic situation, much of the discussion about European union is irrelevant. It is simply not possible in this modern age to build a union of European states on the basis of mid-19th century economic policies unless there are regional and social policies of significance. How can you have a European union which is based on 1.6 per cent of that union? It is an absurdity and all this talk of European union is escapism. The political leaders of Europe, because they will not or cannot face up to the economic problems, are running off in this direction  of substituting a new aspiration of economic union when what Europe really wants is positive policies to tackle unemployment and the many social evils flowing from it.
We have always been interested in a genuine European enterprise but the key element in a European enterprise aimed at union must be solidarity between the stronger and the weaker countries. At present, we have a loose arrangement of sovereign States which are only cooperating for very limited purposes. Neither the Dooge nor the Spinelli proposals seek to alter that as far as economic and social policies are concerned. Our economy is in an unprecedented state of recession and we have the highest rate of unemployment in our history, notwithstanding our membership of the European Community. Nevertheless, at this precise moment, people are trying to tell us that unless we modify our position on neutrality and give up our independent international policy, the immense benefits we enjoy may be at risk and taken away from us. Commentators say that unless we are very good in regard to this new concept of European union and all that it entails in regard to defence, security and so on, the benefits of the Community will be taken from us. What benefits? Are our farmers, fishermen or industrial workers enjoying them?
Protocol 30 of the Accession Treaty dealing with the special problems of concern to Ireland states that the fundamental objective of the EC includes the steady improvement of the living standards and working conditions of the member states and the harmonious development of their economies by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less forward regions. That protocol was given to us when we entered the Community and that is what convergence means. We gave a great many things away in return for that protocol and I do not think anybody in this House or, indeed, in Europe could claim that that protocol has ever been properly honoured. I do not think that the people of this country are in any mood for an uncritical acceptance of European  projects and proposals merely because they are European. Any proposals on European union brought before this House will be looked at with a cold and sceptical eye on the basis of past experience and we intend to judge them strictly on their measurable benefits. If we cannot rely on the Community and that protocol to look after our interests, we must retain the power to pursue national policies to deal with our problems.
Weighted majority voting is weighted against Ireland and other small countries. The large countries have ten votes each and Ireland will have only three. While we accept that the veto should not be abused, as happens at present often when there is no vital national interest at stake, national Governments responsible to their own people must retain ultimate responsibility for their nations' wealth. How are we to discharge that responsibility in the last resort in the absence of a veto? That is a crucial question which must be faced. If, on the basis of our recent experience, it can happen that our vital national interests are not fully regarded, what will our position be if we do not have the protection of the veto? The European proposals in the Dooge report, even though Senator Dooge entered a reservation, hold a clear challenge to our neutrality and we must accept that. They contain proposals to make security and defence part of the competence of the union. If we are then members of such a union which has purpose and objectives regarding defence and security and which systematically discusses security and defence issues within political co-operation, a union that has a joint EC arms production programme, it will be very difficult for us to persuade anyone that we still have a credible policy of neutrality.
The suggestion that our neutrality is not an issue or a convenient one is simply flying in the face of the evidence. The EC as it stands is neither a suitable nor a legitimate forum for the co-ordination of defence and security problems and I believe a number of our partners in Europe would agree with that point of view. It is important at this stage that we  constantly make it clear that it is repugnant to an overwhelming majority of the Irish people to have our country become directly involved in military-related activities which will involve us in a further escalation of the arms race and clearly will constitute a direct breach of our neutrality. Those countries who want to participate in some sort of military alliance have plenty of means of doing so without involving the EC. We must make that clear again and again. They have plenty of other means at their disposal without cutting across all the basic principals enshrined in the Treaties. I urge the Minister to continue to make our position clear when, as he said, we might have to veto such a proposal.
It is difficult to see at present that there is sufficient substance to justify convening an inter-governmental conference following the European Council in Rome. The parameters of majority voting could be settled by the Council itself. The political will to create the economic basis of a European union is absent. European union is a form of escapism from the economic difficulties and the challenges facing the EC. The EC still has enormous scope and capacity for economic and social development, and surely we should concentrate our efforts on that. If the European union proposals are pushed too hard and insensitively they might succeed only in dividing Europe rather than uniting it, and that would be tragic at this stage after all the patient effort that has gone in to building up the 12 Communities we have today.
I commend the Council for its consideration of the position of the famine in Africa, and we all hope that the excellent lead that we took in that area will be continued. I do not think that any of our people would be satisfied that the EC with the enormous resources it commands is as yet doing enough to combat starvation and famine in Africa. I encourage the Government to take every possible step they can to push or drag the EC into increasingly greater efforts in that regard.
Mr. Haughey: —— exhaust emission and the amounts which people can take across the border. I would imagine that that sort of work should be dealt with by the Commission itself as an ongoing matter and that at best we should have one of the many Ministers of State in this Government attending to it on an ongoing basis. In a way it is indicative of the manner in which the EC is involved. The heads of Government solemnly assembled in the European Council spend their time talking about Europe, the peoples or whatever title they give it, and I think the Taoiseach will agree with me that we would prefer if they spent more of their time tackling the real economic and social problems of the EC and devising policies whereby the less developed regions could be brought up to the level of the more prosperous ones rather than spending their time deciding whether passengers should be entitled to take £55 or £100 worth of booze or whatever across international frontiers. That is only by way of passing comment but I think the Taoiseach will agree with me on that. We are all for more and more of this sort of activity making the EC more and more relevant to the people of Europe, and I hope I made it clear that the main thrust of my remarks today is that the EC is becoming irrelevant to the people of Europe in many fundamental ways. Particularly it is becoming irrelevant in regard to the problem of unemployment, but I think there are appropriate mechanisms for dealing with the matters that I have mentioned which seem to have taken up so much time at this Council.
The Taoiseach dismissed his meeting with the British Prime Minister in one paragraph, and I suppose that is as much as it merits. It would be very difficult to decide what exactly is happening in that  area. British sources are saying with increasing frequency that the secrecy surrounding Anglo-Irish relations at present is at the request of the Irish Government. Of course, we have the inspired leaks from time to time which give an impression that something monumental and far-reaching is under way. My view is that the secrecy is simply to conceal the fact that nothing is happening in that area, and the fact that the Taoiseach dismisses his meeting with the British Prime Minister in one simple paragraph would seem to indicate that that is the position. However, one of the important things that emerged from the Taoiseach's report is that we will have an opportunity in this House to debate many of these important issues. Many important issues are arising at present, developments which will have a very real impact on both our economy and our political status, and it is important that we have an opportunity of a full scale debate on the many matters that are now current in the EC so that we can at least express our views and have time to assess exactly what is in store for us arising out of these many different developments.
Proinsias De Rossa: Generally I welcome the agreement reached at the Summit which cleared the way for the accession of Spain and Portugal to the EC. In many respects perhaps we have far more in common with these two countries than with the more developed countries of the EC. We are nearer in terms of the level of development and the standard of living to Spain and Portugal than to most other EC countries. When these countries join we should aim at working more closely with them and Greece to ensure that the interests of the poorer and disadvantaged sectors of the Community are adequately protected.
The ten year breathing space which has been achieved for the fishing industry should be used by the Government to ensure that the strong Irish fishing industry is developed and not simply taken as putting the bad day off for ten years. Part of the deal for the accession of Spain and Portugal involved increased  spending and the Integrated Mediterranean Programme which will go to parts of Greece and parts of southern Italy and France. I have no objection to this arrangement and acknowledge the need for it but it must not be done at the expense of other equally disadvantaged parts of the Community, such as Ireland.
The communiqué issued at the Summit is rather vague on that point and the Government should be very vigilant to ensure that there is no question of transferring resources from one disadvantaged area of the Community to another. The communiqué following the Summit also acknowledged the high level of unemployment in the EC and stated that it was unacceptable. That must be the understatement of the century. Ireland has the highest rate of unemployment in the Community but there was very little in the way of concrete suggestions in the communiqué, in the report of the conclusions of the Summit or in the Taoiseach's speech today to indicate that the Community intend doing anything about it. It is disappointing that the Taoiseach had to report that he was almost alone in urging new approaches to improve the situation.
The Council also discussed the famine in certain African States but appear to have had little to suggest in the way of measures to deal with this appalling problem which is one of the world's greatest scandals. I doubt if anyone would disagree that it is a scandal that there is such hunger and suffering at a time when Europe is producing food and when we have huge food surpluses in store.
The Taoiseach also stated that there was an initial discussion of the Dooge Report, but there is no indication that he did anything to speak out in defence of Irish neutrality. There is little doubt that there are events in motion at this time which can and will seriously undermine Irish neutrality if allowed to continue. The Dooge Report is the latest in a series of reports and resolutions which appear to be aimed at aligning the EC fully with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Successive Irish Governments and Irish MEPs have to bear a great deal of the  responsibility for allowing a situation to develop in which other members of the EC obviously do not attach much significance to Irish neutrality.
In the past few years a number of resolutions were passed by the European Parliament which have seriously compromised our position. Irish MEPs failed to oppose many of these and in some cases actually voted for them. At the same time this Government have failed to clearly speak out against this drift in EC policy. It is not surprising that other EC countries do not take our neutrality very seriously when only two months ago a Minister in this Government, Deputy Cooney, Minister for Defence, made a speech dismissing our neutrality as simply a policy option, without even drawing a reprimand from the Government for having made that speech.
While I welcome the refusal of Senator Dooge to agree to those sections of his committee's report dealing with military and security matters, it is clear that a much firmer line must be adopted by this Government and our MEPs if irreparable damage is not to be done to our position of neutrality in the world. In this regard I welcome the Taoiseach's statement that he intends to have a debate on the Dooge Report and on the European Union in this House before June. Hopefully all sides of this House will be in a position to express, and will be given adequate time to express fully their views on the whole question of the development of the EC.
|Last Updated: 14/09/2010 05:58:06||Page of 41|