Wednesday, 20 March 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
1. Mr. Barry asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to a report which indicates that a majority of the people of Europe, including a majority of Irish people, favour a European Defence Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Taoiseach: I assume that the Deputy is referring to Eurobarometer  survey No. 34, for October 1990, carried out on behalf of the Commission of the European Communities. The survey refers to the response to a question about the possibility of the European Community, as a political union, being responsible for a common policy in matters of security and defence. The reported response indicated that a majority of the sample in Ireland replied “yes”.
However, it is to be noted, first, that the concepts of security and defence were grouped together in the question and that security was separated from foreign policy, about which there was a separate question; and, secondly, that in response to another question, 68 per cent of those questioned in Ireland indicated that they believed policy on security and defence should be decided by the national Government, as compared to 27 per cent who believed it should be decided jointly within the EC. These reported responses are contradictory.
The Intergovernmental Conference on Political Union is, pursuant to the remit set out in the Presidency conclusions of the meeting of the European Council in Rome on 14-15 December 1990, considering, inter alia, the question of a common foreign and security policy for such a union. Ireland is participating fully in the discussions in the conference. A wide variety of proposals in regard to aspects of a common foreign and security policy have been tabled and are being considered by the conference which is still at an early stage. In fact, it would be premature, at this stage, to speculate on the eventual outcome. The Government's objective is to ensure that Ireland will be able, as a full and active member of the Community, to participate in and contribute to the Community's foreign and security policy on a basis that respects our long-standing policy positions.
Mr. Barry: Can the Taoiseach say whether in the full discussion taking place at the Intergovernmental Conference on foreign policy and on security and  defence policy Ireland has made a contribution in a formal way by the submission of a paper?
Mr. Barry: Does the Taoiseach not consider it a dereliction of his duty — that is not too strong a term a use — that, when these very important issues about the future of Europe, of this country and our participation in this debate, are taking place, the majority of other countries have submitted formal proposals, comprising their viewpoints and we have not done so nor have we debated these issues in this House?
The Taoiseach: We have debated these issues in this House. The most important contribution on this whole issue was made by me at the Rome Summit when the remit for the guidelines for the Inter-governmental Conference on Political Union were being laid down, when I succeeded in having included in those guidelines the special regard for Ireland's position. I already explained that fully to the House when I reported on that European Council meeting in Rome of 14/15 December 1990. The conclusions there distinguished between security as a whole and defence matters. What I reported to the House on that occasion was that, with a view to the future, we say that the prospect of a role for the union in defence matters should be considered without prejudice to member states' existing obligations and without prejudice to the traditional positions of other member states. That most important statement made by the Community in regard to political union is included in the conclusions of the Rome Summit and was reported fully by me to this House.
Mr. Barry: Does not the Taoiseach accept that such a statement in the conclusions of a European Summit, however important, is no substitute for a paper submitted at a formal conference? Does he not agree that by not submitting such a paper outlining the views of the Government — which are known only to the Taoiseach; certainly I am not aware of what are their views — he is leaving the pitch open to other countries to get their views on the table, have their views debated formally while ours are merely taken into account in passing?
The Taoiseach: It is absolute nonsense. We participate fully in the debate on political union in all the Council meetings that are taking place. At that crucial Rome Summit — at which the guidelines were laid down for the Inter-governmental Conference on Political Union — I had that specific reference to our situation included. Nothing could be more important than that. It is up to the Government, in the course of negotiations, to decide — in accordance with the way the discussions go — whether and when we will produce any specific proposals to the Intergovernmental Conference on Political Union. I can tell the Deputy that anything specific emerging from that intergovernmental conference is a considerable distance away.
Proinsias De Rossa: My brief question relates to the fact that at some point, however far down the road, this country will face a referendum with regard to political union. Would the Taoiseach not consider it advisable now, in order to alert the public to the issues involved, that the Government should produce a position paper with regard to the implications of political union, monetary union and indeed those for the defence and security of this country? Would he agree that it is indeed now important that such public debate be under way based on the Government view of those implications?
Mr. M. Higgins: In view of the seminal principles the Taoiseach feels he had laid down at the Rome Summit, would he not agree that it would be appropriate that a White Paper be prepared now in response to a question which is indeed statistical, asking him to respond to the Eurobarometer survey No. 34? Would he agree that inevitably the public will have to have the principles of any such discussion laid before them and that the options should be set out by way of a Government White Paper? Has any work commenced on such a White Paper?
Mr. J. Bruton: Is it not the case that, in the absence of a positive Irish Government proposal in regard to European political union and security, and indeed in regard to economic and monetary union, there is a danger — both in respect of European defence and security and in regard to monetary policy — that the Intergovernmental Conference on Political Union will develop a model for a two-speed Europe with Ireland in the slow lane? Would the Taoiseach not further agree that the very tenor of the reservation of which he has made so much, which suggests that things can go ahead without prejudice to our position, suggests that he already accepts that we will be in the slow lane in a two-speed Europe?
The Taoiseach: Not surprisingly, the Deputy is the first person I ever heard talking about a slow lane in regard to political union. The position of this Government in both these IGCs is consistently put forward, debated and discussed, and our position is well known. As I have already said the affairs of the two IGCs are still very much at a preliminary stage.
Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach not agree that if you have a political union and you have one part of the political union that is not prepared to defend that union, that part is de facto in a slow lane so far as political union is concerned?
Mr. Dukes: Would the Taoiseach not consider, in the light of the fundamental changes that have taken place in eastern Europe and of everything that has flowed from that, in the light of the fact that the NATO organisation itself is looking for a new role, that the Western European Union is looking for a new role, perhaps seeking to be a bridge, and in the light of the fact that the Community must have a look at whatever its new relationship with the United States will be, that it is time we took a look at what the Taoiseach calls our long standing policy positions which have been, in all honesty and frankness, peripheral to all of these issues in the past——
The Taoiseach: I am fully aware of what is taking place in the discussions with regard to future defence in Europe, to the participation of the United States in that regard and to the whole situation concerning the CSCE. I am aware of all these matters.
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