Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: I attended the meeting of the European Council in Corfu on Friday and Saturday last, 24 and 25 June, accompanied by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, the Minister for Finance, Deputy B. Ahern, and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Deputy Kitt.
Prior to the commencement of the European Council, there were signing ceremonies in respect of the Treaty on Accession with Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway and the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with Russia. As indicated in the Presidency Conclusions, copies of which I have had laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas, the heads of state or of government of the accession countries participated in the work of the European Council. Describing this development as an important new landmark in the history of European integration, the European Council expressed the hope that the successful outcome in the referendum on accession in Austria would be reflected in the other three accession states. The agreement with Russia marks a further important step in bringing about closer ties between that country and the European Union, and was marked by the attendance of President Yeltsin.
The major items discussed at the European Council proper were the designation of a new President of the European Commission and the unemployment and employment situation in the Union. We also had discussions on matters in the fields of common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs, and on preparation for the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference.
As Deputies are aware, it was not possible to reach agreement on the designation  of the next President of the Commission. I regret this outcome. In my view, this internal dispute can only distract from what should be the key current objective of the Union, which is to improve the economic performance of the Union and create more jobs. There is a danger that the outcome will rekindle the perception of a divided Union, at a time when it seemed to have put behind it the difficulties associated with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. I am also conscious that referenda have yet to take place later this year in Finland, Norway and Sweden on their accession to the EU. Finally, the European Parliament has an important role to play in this process. The timetable for the designation of a President by the member states must take account of this.
The position that emerged in Corfu was that 11 countries, including Ireland, were agreeable to the designation of the Belgian Prime Minister Mr. Jean-Luc Dehaene, as the next President of the Commission. The British Government could not, however, accept this position and therefore the requirement of unanimity was not met. The upcoming German Presidency is now to have bilateral contacts with delegations to prepare the way for a decision on the designation of the future President of the Commission at a special European Council to be held in Brussels on 15 July next. Deputies may wish to note that the German Foreign Minister, Herr Kinkel, plans to visit Ireland and will have discussions with myself and the Tánaiste very soon, but we are already in contact with the German Foreign Ministry.
I am not prepared to speculate at this stage as to the likely outcome of the consultation process. Mr. Dehaene has indicated that he is still available. He had the effective support of 11 out of 12 countries at Corfu, a support which was reconfirmed in the Council Chamber after the use of the British veto. There has also been speculation as to other candidates, including possible Irish candidates, for the position.
There was no evidence whatever that any candidate that we could have promoted  up until now would have been able to command the necessary unanimous support. In relation to the appointment of a successor to President Jacques Delors, some people, including Opposition leaders, have the luxury of living in a world of pretence and presumption, but the Government must live and act in the world of reality. Some Opposition leaders are engaged in a deceitful and deliberate exercise in political hypocrisy in trying to portray to the Irish people that the Presidency of the European Union is available to Ireland, if only the Irish Government would put forward a particular person's name. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that every member state has a veto and it is futile to put forward any name, known to be unacceptable to other member states, if a replacement arises. We will not do it and the people asking us to do it know full well what the reality is and should be honest enough to say so.
All I will say at this juncture is that the Irish Government will play its full part in trying to resolve the current impasse. We will be prepared to put forward the name or names of suitable and acceptable candidates, if that opportunity arises and is likely to make a genuine contribution to resolving the problem. However, the fact is that no reference was made inside the Council Chamber to any possible Irish candidate, or to any other replacement candidate for that matter. The only people who mentioned any particular names to me were journalists in the environs of the meeting itself.
The Taoiseach: The leader of the main Opposition belongs to the network of Christian Democrat leaders, within which he has tried, without any visible success, to promote the name of a particular Irish  person. Therefore, he can be under no illusions as to the realities of the situation where the atmosphere at the moment is very sensitive and delicate.
We have been served very well by all our recent European Commissioners. All of them have made outstanding contributions to European development: Mr. Peter Sutherland in the area of competition policy and air transport liberalisation, Mr. Ray MacSharry in pushing through CAP reform, achieving a breakthrough on agricultural aspects of GATT and promoting policies for rural development, and our present Commissioner, Mr. Pádraig Flynn, who is in charge of implementing the White Paper on the central issue of employment and has been one of the great successes in the present Commission. I would not draw any invidious distinction between them or try to suggest that any of them has performed better than any other — either for Europe or for Ireland. We are proud of their efforts and ability to fill any role required of them. The present Government fully supported and worked assiduously for the candidature of Mr. Peter Sutherland for the prestigious post of Director-General of the GATT, which will become the World Trade Organisation next year, but he has decided to relinquish that post for personal reasons.
Turning now to the jobs issue, we had a wide-ranging debate at the European Council on implementation of the Commission White Paper and on the associated plan of action adopted at the December 1993 European Council in Brussels. We noted that the European economic situation was improving with the return of non-inflationary economic growth. Stressing the importance of a stable macro-economic climate for employment growth, we endorsed the economic policy guidelines submitted by the Finance Ministers Council. From an Irish viewpoint, these guidelines simply reflect what has been the cornerstone of Government economic policy since 1987.
On specific policies, we reviewed progress on the implementation of the national elements of the action plan  adopted in Brussels, and concluded that, while some progress had been made in the Union as a whole, much more needed to be done. Particular stress was laid on the need to further develop education and training programmes, reduce non-labour costs of employment, open up new areas of employment opportunities, tackle long term unemployment for both men and women, and target the employment needs of young people. The Council directed the relevant Ministerial Councils and the Commission to keep progress in these areas under constant review. This review will focus on the experience of successful policies in different member states and assess their appropriateness for application elsewhere. This ongoing review will be distilled into a report for the Essen Summit in December, which is expected to encompass appropriate policy recommendations.
I welcomed the opportunity to brief my European colleagues on the economic situation in Ireland, which will see economic and employment growth this year well in excess of the European average. I was able to inform the Council that we have put in place policies which are fully consistent with the prescriptions set out in the White Paper and Brussels action plan. I referred to measures to reduce the cost of employment through cuts in income tax, PRSI and levies, the expansion of places on training and employment schemes and our emphasis on the generation of employment through local development initiatives. Many complimentary remarks were made about Ireland's recent economic performance.
I was particularly pleased that the Presidency Conclusions explicitly acknowledged the initiatives taken by Ireland in the areas of social partnership and local development, and pointed in particular to the job creation potential of local development initiatives. I am arranging to have a paper prepared from Ireland for the Essen Council in December on the Irish experience, the lessons to be learned from it and the scope for further European-level action to complement national action.
 The Presidency Conclusions also stressed the key importance of the smooth operation of the Single Market for the competitiveness of the European economy. The potential of small and medium-sized enterprises to tap the benefits of the Single Market was also emphasised. The Council emphasised the need to eliminate unnecessary legal and administrative burdens on business — a feature of the report on small business which was recently produced in this country. The Council welcomed the intention of the Commission to establish a group of independent persons to help it in assessing the impact of Community and national legislation on employment and competitiveness.
The Council reviewed the interim report of the Christophersen Group on Trans-European Networks (TENs) for the transport and energy sectors and the report of the Bangemann group on the information society. We agreed the first priority list of 11 major transport projects in the Christophersen report. This list includes the Cork-Dublin-Belfast-Larne rail link. The Christophersen Group are to continue their work and prepare a final report for the Essen European Council in December. This work will include further consideration of the funding requirements of the TENs programme. From an Irish viewpoint the TENs programme is important, especially in the transport area, not only because of the projects which directly affect us but also because, as an exporting country, improvements in Europe's transport infrastructure can only be of benefit to us.
The Council noted the findings of the Bangemann group on the information society. The importance attached by the Council to this whole area was underlined by our decision to establish a permanent co-ordination instrument to ensure a consistent approach at both national and European Union levels to the challenges and requirements of the new information society. To ensure the implementation of this new co-ordinated approach, the Council also decided that each member state should appoint a person responsible for all aspects of the task at ministerial  level. The Government is anxious that Ireland should be to the fore in the information revolution, both because our position on the periphery of Europe demands it and because of the direct employment potential involved in it.
The overall conclusion of our discussions on employment issues can be summed up as one where progress was reported, but much more remains to be done, in particular to implement the White Paper for creating employment. Employment and unemployment will remain at the top of the Union's agenda, and the European Council will review the position at its meeting in Essen in December.
Looking forward to the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, the European Council established a Reflection Group to prepare for the conference. This group will not commence its work until June 1995, by which time reports on the functioning of the Maastricht Treaty by the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament will be available to provide an input into the work of the group. The Council agreed that two European Parliament representatives will participate in the work of the Reflection Group.
One of the key areas which this group will examine will be institutional questions for decision at the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference. These include weighting of votes, the threshold for qualified majority decisions, and the number of members of the Commission. I need hardly stress to Deputies the importance of these issues, especially for a small member state like Ireland. While the final decision on these matters will rest with the 1996 conference, the findings of the Reflection Group established at Corfu will undoubtedly provide a significant input.
On the Middle East, the Council warmly welcomed the Cairo Agreement between Israel and the PLO of 4 May last, and reiterated the Union's willingness to provide further assistance to move the peace process towards a successful conclusion. The Council praised the transition to democracy in South  Africa, and confirmed the intention to promote closer economic and trade links and political dialogue between that country and the European Union. The situation in Rwanda has particularly touched the hearts of the Irish people. The European Council expressed its horror at the genocide taking place there and asserted that those responsible should be brought to justice. We also welcomed the United Nation's authorisation of a temporary operation in Rwanda pending the arrival of a reinforced UN mission and we confirmed our willingness to increase the Union's level of humanitarian aid to the country.
We also discussed the situation in the Ukraine, with particular reference to the issue of nuclear safety. We agreed that as part of a comprehensive plan under the aegis of the G7, the Union should provide financial assistance to deal with the problem of nuclear safety in the Ukraine. My approach to the discussions under this heading took full account of Ireland's long-standing opposition to nuclear power in general, and of the need to ensure that any EU assistance being provided for the Ukraine in this area should be part of an overall strategy involving obligations as well as assistance. There is a recognised absolute need for action to prevent a possible catastrophe with Europe-wide implications, arising from the combined operation of unsafe nuclear installations in the Ukraine.
In its conclusions, the Council recommended that the Chernobyl nuclear plant should be closed definitively and as early as possible. The adoption of a strategy by the Ukraine, which is a condition for EU assistance, requires structural reform of the energy sector in the Ukraine, and the development of sources of energy which are alternatives to nuclear power. A further key requirement is that construction and operating standards in the nuclear sector should be upgraded to European Union standards, and that this should be monitored by independent inspectors. This latter element is particularly welcome from an Irish viewpoint,  given our long-standing advocacy of an independent inspectorate to monitor the operation of the nuclear industry within the European Union.
On a related issue, the Council reaffirmed the full commitment of the Union to the objective of nuclear non-proliferation which is in line with Government policy in this area and agreed to adopt a joint action of preparation for the Fourth Conference in 1995 of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Turning briefly to the justice and home affairs area, the Council welcomed the joint Franco-German initiative on racism and xenophobia and agreed on a work plan and timetable for its implementation. The Council underlined the importance of joint action against organised crimes and drugs and also asked the Justice and Home Affairs Council to reach agreement on tackling the criminal aspects of fraud and to report back on this topic to its meeting at Essen in December.
Finally in the margins of the European Council I held an hour-long meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, the third such meeting so far this year, outside of the regular twice yearly bilateral Summits. We reviewed political developments in the North and the state of discussions on the framework document. We made further progress at the meeting and put arrangements in hand to help us complete the work in a number of complex areas. The two Governments have shared objectives and a common understanding of the goal we are trying to achieve. What we are talking about is putting forward an outline for a peace settlement as a framework for negotiations between the two Governments and the Northern parties.
In view of some thoroughly misleading press reports last week, I must emphasise we are not contemplating imposing a settlement without the involvement of the Northern communities, any more than we are contemplating an abandonment of our responsibilities to them. Each community, each tradition and each Government will have to make a genuine  and sustained effort to find a balanced accommodation that takes account of the legitimate interests and ideals of the other, so that mutual consent is won. The next few weeks will continue to test who wants peace and who is afraid of it.
The European Council will reconvene in a little over two weeks' time to choose a new President of the EU Commission. What is important is that the person chosen, regardless of nationality or political background, should have the dynamic and visionary leadership qualities that characterised the Presidency of Jacques Delors, from which Ireland and Europe have benefited so much over the past ten years.
Mr. J. Bruton: I am disappointed that the Taoiseach did not direct his attention to the issue on the minds of so many people: will the Government support Peter Sutherland if it is clear that he could become the President of the European Commission?
Mr. J. Bruton: ——and the Government is losing a valuable opportunity to pursue this. I advise the Government to say publicly and unambiguously that it will enthusiastically endorse the candidacy of Peter Sutherland for President of the Commission.
Mr. J. Bruton: I emphasise the word “enthusiastically”. After all the undermining of Peter Sutherland by the Government over recent weeks anything less than an enthusiastic endorsement of his candidacy for the presidency at this stage will be interpreted as s cynical ploy designed to put forward his name publicly while continuing to work behind the scenes to undermine it and to ensure that it never becomes a reality. For the Government to say now, which it has not even done, that it would respond if someone else proposed Peter Sutherland would be such a cynical ploy. Peter Sutherland will get support from others only if the Government first says it will support him. Nor is it any addition for the Government to give support to Peter  Sutherland at a late stage when events have reached the point at which his candidacy has already been fatally undermined by the Government's previous foot dragging and background briefing.
Mr. J. Bruton: The one issue they had to decide among themselves, the appointment of an EU Commission President, was botched because of a combination of jealously and lack of preparation — I emphasise jealousy in the case of members of the Government — of both parties, particularly those who share the profession of the would-be candidate.
Mr. J. Bruton: I support the potential candidacy of Peter Sutherland but I regard the pre-summit character assassination of the Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, by the yellow press in Britain as a demonstration that that country  is rapidly becoming the most narrowly nationalistic of European countries.
The successful German torpedoing of the candidacy of the Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers, was equally narrow-minded. Chancellor Kohl is one of the greatest statesmen of this century but I do not believe that a record “of never having disagreed with Helmut” is a prerequisite to the CV of any potential EU Commission President. That seems to be the only reason that disqualified Ruud Lubbers.
Into this atmosphere of nationalism and prejudice walked the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds. His perspective was even narrower. In trying, with the enthusiastic aid of the Tánaiste, to undermine the potential compromise candidacy of Peter Sutherland he was not even pursuing a purely national agenda.
Mr. J. Bruton: He was pursuing an agenda within his own party. He felt he would not be able to cope with the tensions within Fianna Fáil that would arise from the possible return of Pádraig Flynn to the national scene.
Mr. J. Bruton: As a result the Government did all it possibly could in private contacts to discourage support for Peter Sutherland and did so long enough to give any other potential candidates a head start.
Mr. J. Bruton: ——who has now become a more enthusiastic defender of Fianna Fáil Party interests than even the longest standing cumann member. This is surprising when one bears in mind that Peter Sutherland sat around the same Cabinet table as Deputy Spring for three years. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste worked actively to diminish the potential of Peter Sutherland as a compromise candidate for President of the Commission——
Mr. J. Bruton: ——even though they knew all along that they would be perfectly free to renominate Pádraig Flynn for the Commission job if Peter Sutherland's candidacy for the Presidency was unsuccessful. It is in the interests of Ireland and Europe that Peter Sutherland should become Commission President in spite of Fianna Fáil and Labour as he can bridge the ever widening gap between Britain and the rest of the European Union. The wider that gulf becomes the more uncomfortable will be Ireland's position.
Mr. J. Bruton: By an accident of history and geography Ireland has a vital national interest on either side of any gulf that divides Britain from Europe. Britain is now diverging from the rest of Europe on the Social Charter, the single currency, the structure of a democratic constitution for Europe and the question of whether Europe should have an Atlantic or European-based security policy. British  public opinion still sees Europe as foreign. It tends to regard people speaking on British television with a foreign accent as suspect, no matter what they are saying. Unlike its predecessors the British political leadership is unable or unwilling to overcome these innate prejudices.
Mr. J. Bruton: This has dire consequences for Ireland because Ireland's economy will be the biggest loser from a British decision to stay out of the Social Charter or the single currency. We are caught in the middle whether we like it or not. Of all the potential candidates, as president of the European Commission Peter Sutherland alone has, in this television age, the ability to speak directly to the British people about Europe, over the heads of its national politicians, if necessary. As one trained in a legal system similar to that of Britain he is uniquely qualified to overcome the legal and administrative misunderstandings that frequently compound and exaggerate political differences which inevitably occur from time to time between Britain and Europe. No Continental European can do this job for Ireland, Europe and the wider world as well as can Peter Sutherland.
From Ireland's point of view, his availability for the Presidency of the European Commission is unique. If we do not get the Presidency of the Commission this time, an Irish candidate will not even be considered for at least ten years because, five years from now, it will be the turn of a large member state. Ten years from now the European Union will consist of about 21 members, its centre of gravity will have moved east and Ireland's chances, even if we have a candidate  as suitable as Peter Sutherland, will be greatly reduced because of the increased number of countries contesting the post.
In any event, ten years from now the rules for selecting the President will have changed. The low poll in the recent European elections shows that European citizens will vote only if their votes give them a direct voice on really important decisions. European citizens will not be fobbed off by being offered a vote for a parliament that does not select the Government of Europe. Voters are used to voting at home for parliaments that select Governments and it will not be long before they become impatient with voting for parliaments in Europe that do not have a say in the selection of the European government. Ten years from now, therefore, the Commission President will be selected by the European Parliament, or by direct election by the people of Europe, on the American model. The Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, is probably the last Taoiseach who will have an opportunity in a small group to influence the possibility of another Irishman becoming President of the European Commission. He should be judged on the way he exercises his responsibility in that respect in the next two weeks.
Mr. J. Bruton: If the Taoiseach truly believed in the wider view of what Europe — and Ireland within Europe — could achieve for the past three weeks he would have enthusiastically supported the candidacy of Peter Sutherland. Let nobody tell me that would have damaged  the Fianna Fáil party because it would not.
Mr. J. Bruton: ——because both parties would have been seen to have acted in the spirit of their founders which was to put the national interests first. Unfortunately, both parties are now led by leaders who put party interests before national ones and, indeed, put personal interests before party.
Mr. J. Bruton: In both cases we see examples of leaders who have made deals with one another which secure for both a position on the Government benches which, perhaps, other members in their parties would like to challenge, but are denied an opportunity of doing so long as they occupy the Government benches. Neither party is willing to rock the boat to consider the wider national interest because they want to preserve the personal monopoly which they enjoy. Because they spend most of their time in the company of sycophants, people paid to tell them what they want to hear, they exist in some sort of bubble on which criticism may not impinge——
Mr. J. Bruton: ——they believe that no matter what they do they will get away with it. Ultimately, they believe it will be all right on the night and that when it comes to the next general election everybody will have forgotten the fact that they unnecessarily torpedoed the possibility of an Irish person leading Europe.
Mr. J. Bruton: There will be major changes in Europe's constitutional set-up in the remaining years of this century. Surely it is in our interest to have a distinguished  Irish lawyer, a former Attorney-General, leading the drafting of the new Constitution for Europe.
Increasingly it will be the European Parliament who will decide how much we get. Already agricultural spending is breaching the limits set in 1988. Surely an Irish Commission President, who already has an outstanding record of dealing effectively with the European Parliament, is the best possible person to protect the moneys we receive from Europe.
Mr. J. Bruton: I was aware of the understandable, if not particularly justifiable reaction, of any Government to suggestions made by the Opposition during an election. I raised the issue at the Christian Democrats summit in Brussels which took place after the elections because it was essential to do so at that stage. The meeting reached no conclusion about any candidate.
Mr. J. Bruton: What I seek is a victory for Ireland, for Europe and, above all, one for common sense. I do not believe there is any common sense in the attitude the Taoiseach is adopting on this issue. It does not make any sense even in the most narrow political context to pursue the line he is pursung at present.
Mr. J. Bruton: In column 59 of the Official Report of 27 April 1994 the Taoiseach said that he had a recent meeting with Mr. Sutherland and that he is not, and has no interest in seeking the post of presidency of the European Commission to which the Deputy refers. In that statement the Taoiseach attempted to convey a sense of a meeting he had with Peter Sutherland. I say to the Taoiseach that that was a misrepresentation.
Miss Harney: When the Taoiseach began his contribution he said he assumed we would all be happy and we are happy that the Irish team played so well. We are all particularly happy that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were not picking the players or the team would not have made it to America.
Miss Harney: Our players all wore the Irish jersey proudly, unlike the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in Corfu last week. Their performance at the Summit in Corfu was a shameful high point in their ongoing shoddy handling of the impending vacancy for the presidency of the Commission. This is a sad saga of politicians who cannot rise above mere internal Fianna Fáil-Labour considerations to see the great opportunity that beckons for this country in securing the most powerful post in the European Union. Over the past few months when the name of Peter Sutherland, the GATT Director-General, was raised the Taoiseach indulged in bluff, bluster and putdown in the Dáil. In response to questions on 27 April, he claimed Mr. Sutherland was not interested in the post and that excuse was also invoked by the Tánaiste. When this led to Mr. Sutherland publicly expressing interest in the post, the response of both the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach was to leave him swinging in the breeze. Clearly their hope, amplified by the behaviour of both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in Corfu, was that this embarrassing chalice would be removed from them by other Governments at the Summit unanimously supporting a different nominee for the  Delors vacancy. As far as the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were concerned, any nominee would do so long as it was not the only Irish person who was seriously at the races.
Miss Harney: I wonder why Deputies on the Government benches do not want to listen. The British veto put paid to their shoddy scheming, and the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were obliged to return with their tails between their legs and with the unwanted name of Sutherland still billowing around them. It is totally misleading and disingenuous for the Taoiseach to continue claiming there was no support for Mr. Sutherland's candidature at the EU Summit table.
Miss Harney: How could there be support when his Government publicly repudiated him? How could there be support when his Government did not propose him as a candidate? Is the Taoiseach seriously suggesting that another country would forego the opportunity of appointing  a Commissioner in order to put the Sutherland name on the table at Corfu?
Miss Harney: Nonetheless, it is clear from media reports and well-placed Commission sources that the GATT Director-General and former Competition Commissioner is being seriously considered by various European Governments and he remains a serious possibility if his country were to lift its veto on him.
I want to ask the Taoiseach some plain questions. He said today he would not respond because he would anticipate our questions and deal with them in advance, but he has not done that. I ask the Taoiseach if the Spanish and the Italians have informed his Government that they would consider supporting Mr. Sutherland in the event of a stalemate in Corfu.
Miss Harney: Did the Foreign Minister of any member state indicate to the Tánaiste that they would be prepared to back the Director-General of GATT? It is truly extraordinary that we find other European Union countries expressing various levels of support for an Irish nominee and the response of our Government is to downplay and bad mouth that candidacy. I heard Deputy Broughan say he was not a socialist.
Miss Harney: Overnight there were further indications of the Government's refusal to put the national interest ahead of its petty partnership considerations. It is now trying to pretend that the matter is exclusively for the incoming German Presidency and that it has no possible role in the affair. When an Irish Press journalist asked a Government spokesman what the Taoiseach would do if the incoming German Presidency asked if Ireland was prepared to nominate Peter Sutherland his extraordinary comment was: “That is purely hypothetical, but the Government will continue to do what is in the best interest of the country”.
Miss Harney: The sheer audacity of such a comment is breathtaking. I presume the Minister for Finance will respond to the debate. He is a reasonable person and I would like him to state what the attitude of the Government will be if the German Foreign Minister asks the Government to nominate Peter Sutherland for Presidency of the Commission. The national interest is the last thing influencing the behaviour of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in this saga. They have not acted in the national interest. They are guilty of petty, vindictive and unpatriotic behaviour. The only reason they are blocking Mr. Sutherland is that his background is not Fianna Fáil or Labour. They are hell-bent on wilfully throwing away Ireland's opportunity of securing the most powerful post in the European Union. What they are doing amounts to begrudgery of the highest order. Whatever the Taoiseach may say about Deputy Bruton's party and the fact that Mr. Sutherland is a former member of it, he is not a member, nor is he associated with my party. However, I still think that if he became President of the Commission he has the capacity to do an outstanding job for this country and the European Union at a very difficult time.
I want to know from the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste how they will respond and if they will remove their effective veto  over Mr. Sutherland's possible appointment. Perhaps the Minister for Finance will respond, but I would like the Taoiseach to take the opportunity to respond also. The national interest allows only one answer and the people are entitled to a clear indication of what response the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste will make on this central question. Such a departure would, however, pose difficulties for the Taoiseach in accommodating Commissioner Flynn, and such an outturn would also be tough on our sitting Commissioner. What, however, are the difficulties for the Tánaiste, the man with the self-styled mandate to put trust back into politics, who promised openness and transparency in Government and proclaimed at the launch of the Ethics in Public Office Bill, that “the public have a right to know”? They have a right to know what the Tánaiste has been up to. However, the Tánaiste in particular has decided to remove himself from the debate. When he did comment, he tried to flush out Mr. Sutherland by putting it up to him in the hope that he would not respond, but what was the eventual response from the Tánaiste? Is the Government prepared to avail of the current stalemate in the European Union on choosing a successor to Jacques Delors and seize the opportunity it presents for securing the most prestigious and powerful post in the European Union for an Irish nominee, an opportunity that will not again come our way for some considerable time?
To turn to the other issues raised at the Corfu Summit, the Presidency Conclusions rightly highlighted the historic importance of the signing there of the Treaty of Accession for the four new EFTA members — Sweden, Finland, Norway and Austria — which are due to join next January, and the signing of a partnership and co-operation agreement with Russia.
It is increasingly obvious that the planned Intergovernmental Conference scheduled for 1996 to review the Treaties of the European Union will be a momentous departure in the history of Europe. Its central challenge will be how the  European Union can institutionally respond to the challenge of new membership from the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe which are queuing up to join or, at least, have association agreements with the European Union. Cyprus, Malta, Hungary, Poland and Turkey are among the countries that have sought to join the European Union, and there are ongoing talks with other Central European countries and the Baltic States.
It is obvious that the potential enlargement could not be accommodated within the existing creaking institutional framework of the Union. The 1996 Intergovernmental Conference faces a momentous task in rising to the challenge of the realignment of the post-Cold War European Continent. The scale of the challenge is awesome. One is constantly struck by the sheer gulf that exists between these extraordinary developments and the perceptions of the average citizen of the European Union which was amply demonstrated in the recent European elections and markedly in Ireland. That election campaign brought home to us the lack of awareness and understanding surrounding European events. Not only were the public unaware and largely uninterested, it was plain that the media had no appetite for forcing European issues on their daily agenda.
The central challenge is not only the potential enlargement of the Community but the fact that even as a 12-state entity the European Union is perceived as irrelevant and remote by the average citizen. How much greater will that problem become next January when it becomes a 16-State Union with the imminent prospect of becoming a 20 or 24-State Union?
Devising an effective common foreign security policy will be another major task for the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, while the continuing crisis in the former Yugoslavia is a vivid daily reminder of the extent of the challenges and the potential price of failure. Often Europe seems powerless to stand up to aggression within its own continent or make its voice heard effectively.
The Corfu Summit conclusions also  highlight the Commission's White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. However, the conclusions are largely aspirational, non-contentious and hardly inspire confidence for dealing with the unemployment challenge facing the Union and, not least, our own country. The Community has an unemployment problem almost equivalent to the populations of three member states.
On giving fuller effect to the Single Market the Summit's approval for 11 major transport projects as part of the development of comprehensive trans-European networks, including the Cork-Dublin-Belfast-Larne rail link, is welcome and further evidence of the capacity of the Single Market to break down borders and barriers between the Union members states. Europe is drifting in the face of rising unemployment and the reemergence of nationalism. It is time the European Community had strong and decisive leadership by someone committed to the Union and all that goes with it.
In regard to what the Taoiseach calls his meetings on the margins with the British Prime Minister, I intend to deal more fully with Northern Ireland in the Adjournment Debate later this week. However, the Government, and the Taoiseach in particular, spent far too much time trying to bring the extremes on board. I do not say that lightly. Unless the Government expedites the production of the framework document, gets the moderates in the North on board and sets up a power sharing executive within Northern Ireland where constitutional politicians of different persuasions can share power with each other, unless we have strong North-South links and show that politics works, the vacuum will be filled by violence from one side or the other.
The Chair ruled out a question I asked the Taoiseach about his comments in Boston on the grounds that he answered it on 8 March. I do not know how the Taoiseach could have referred on 8 March to comments he did not make until 8 June. I have been generally supportive  of the Government's approach, in so far as one can be, to the problems in Northern Ireland, like all the Opposition parties. However, when the Taoiseach goes abroad he sometimes makes comments that are not consistent with what he says in this House. The Taoiseach is reported to have said in Boston that he was prepared to trade a change in Articles 2 and 3 for an executive role in the North and for institutional links within Northern Ireland between North and South. Those comments caused much disquiet, particularly among the Unionist community in the North. The Taoiseach has distanced himself somewhat from those comments but he has not explained what he meant.
Miss Harney: If part 5 of the Downing Street Declaration means anything and if the commitment made by the Government reflects its attitude to Northern Ireland, for the first time Fianna Fáil has committed itself to changing Articles 2 and 3, to making progress based only on consent and to unity through no other means. When the Taoiseach talks about the North he seems to distance himself from the very fine commitments made in the Downing Street Declaration.
Miss Harney: I know my time is  exhausted and I will deal more extensively with Northern Ireland on Thursday during the Adjournment Debate. It is important in advance of the marching season that we do not allow another long vacuum to be filled by the actions of the men of violence on both sides. Time has run out and we must no longer wait for those who seem to be incapable of making up their minds on the Downing Street Declaration. They must not continue to have a veto in terms of progress on Northern Ireland.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy made an allegation against the Chair in respect of the ruling out of one of her questions. I shall have the veracity of that allegation investigated. I do not accept it.
The selection of a nominee for the Presidency of the European Union Commission was billed as the centrepiece of last weekend's Euro-drama which turned out to be something of a damp squib. Faced with a choice of three conservative candidates, the assembled leaders divided along expected lines: the Franco-German entry, Jean-Luc Dehaene, received the support of eight member states, including Ireland, while three backed Mr. Lubbers, whose neo-liberal credentials are impeccable. John Major donned the ill-fitting mantle of Eurorebel and fought a lonely rearguard action on behalf of his party colleague, Leon Brittan, before supporting Mr. Lubbers' candidacy and stoically vetoing M. Dehaene with one eye firmly fixed on the Euro-sceptics back home. Mr. Major's position at least has the virtue of consistency and transparency.
The Taoiseach, who generally assumes the role of Puck on the European stage, is said to have informed the assembled media that he is playing his cards close to his chest. This comes as no surprise to those who recall his singularly inept  handling of such Euro-sagas as the GATT and the Structural Funds. On both occasions the Taoiseach mistook serious negotiations for a game of stud poker and on both occasions Ireland lost.
The Taoiseach should now inform the House whom he intends to back for the Commission Presidency, given the new cast of characters likely to be presented at the extraordinary summit. He should also inform us of the political basis for his decision. In his statement tonight he said that “the person chosen, regardless of nationality or political background, should have the dynamic and visionary leadership qualities that characterised the Presidency of Jacques Delors, from which Ireland and Europe have benefited so much over the past ten years”. Surely the Taoiseach realises that it was precisely because of Jacques Delors' capacities and political background that Ireland benefited so much from his Presidency.
If the only criterion is visionary leadership qualities and dynamism, as stated by the Taoiseach, it is difficult to see why he is standing so firmly against Peter Sutherland. Whoever is chosen to succeed Jacques Delors will have a major role in deciding the direction of Europe at a critical point in its development. The new President of the Commission will preside over the preparations for the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference and Maastricht revision and he — so far there are no female candidates — will be responsible for the implementation of what remains of Jacques Delors' White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment.
Mr. Delors has had a distinguished tenure as Commission President: his commitment to the ideal of a social Europe has been matched only by the zeal with which certain member states have attempted to thwart that objective. It is regrettable that Mr. Delors is likely to reject the Greek request that he stay on another year.
The weekend deadlock has been met with a measure of glee in certain quarters. Those who view European issues through  the lens of parochial politics argue that now is the time to put forward our own candidate, someone who, or so the subtext goes, will fight Ireland's corner in Europe. I am all for fighting Ireland's corner. Indeed, I wish the Government was rather more adept in that regard and had a more comprehensive view of those interests. However, I do not believe that Ireland's, or Europe's, interests would be served by appointing a conservative Commission President who will place the demands of the market above the rights and needs of citizens.
Two names have so far emerged from the Irish hat. Peter Sutherland's undeclared candidacy has been running for over a year, while Ray MacSharry made a fleeting appearance in the headlines over the weekend. Bearing in mind the far-reaching implications for Europe's future — at the risk of being labelled “unpatriotic” by certain Members of this House — I cannot share the general enthusiasm for Peter Sutherland's candidacy. While Mr. Sutherland's intellect and ability are undoubted, so is his enthusiasm for deregulation and unrestrained markets. Those in this House who support Mr. Sutherland's candidacy should explain their stance to the Aer Lingus workers who are bearing the brunt of the decisions taken by Mr. Sutherland while Competition Commissioner, and to Telecom workers who may well reap the harvest of the deregulation seeds sown by Mr. Sutherland in the 1980s.
Mr. Sutherland's missionary zeal on behalf of the unrestrained market, carried out with the blunt instruments of deregulation and privatisation, would pose a grave threat to the European Union. It would lengthen Europe's growing dole queues still further and would adversely affect those 52 million Europeans already living below the poverty line. Ray MacSharry's shadow-candidacy represents the triumph of optimism over realism among Fianna Fáil stalwarts who would dearly love to see a green jersey at the Commission table but who baulk at the thought of being outflanked by Fine Gael.
 Unless common sense prevails — it rarely does when politicians look to their electoral fortunes back home — the forthcoming extraordinary summit to be called by Chancellor Kohl may well end in disarray yet again. If that is the case, it could provoke an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Indeed, the President of the European Parliament, Dr. Egon Klepsch, has warned that any delay could prevent the new Commission from taking up its duties in 1995 as envisaged. Dr. Klepsch also reminded leaders that the Parliament expects the Presidential nominee to appear before the Parliament's July session, and to arrange for the new nominee Commissioners to appear before the appropriate parliamentary committees. I am delighted the Parliament is flexing its newly acquired Maastricht muscles. I hope its efforts will not be thwarted by Council bungling of the kind displayed over the weekend.
I find it unacceptable that the Commission Presidency should be decided by the heads of government meeting in secret conclave until white smoke emerges and a successor to Mr. Delors is appointed. Once again, Europe's citizens are being asked to stand aside as transparency and accountability are sacrificed to national posturing. This matter may not be very interesting but the Taoiseach should at least have the courtesy to pretend he is listening.
The Presidency of the European Commission should not be determined solely by national preoccupations, but primarily by the issues facing Europe as a whole. I believe that trust in Europe's institutions and procedures could be restored by allowing the European Parliament to decide on Mr. Delors' successor when it reconvenes in July, and in this regard I welcome the suggestion made yesterday by Commissioner Van der Broek. I would urge the Taoiseach also to take this approach.
The weekend's events have spawned a diplomatic flurry of activity, which will see German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, making a whistle-stop tour of European capitals while member states  form ad-hoc coalitions. In particular, there is now the potential for the four Cohesion countries — Ireland, Spain, Greece and Portugal — to come together on the basis of shared social concerns. Democratic Left has long argued that Ireland's best interests would be served by forming closer ties with these countries, countries which share not only funding priorities but which also have common social and infrastructural problems. Unfortunately, this Government's institutionalised myopia is likely to prevent Ireland seizing the diplomatic initiative in this regard. Each summit has to have a storyline, whether real or imagined. Ostensibly the Corfu storyline was the appointment of a new Commission President.
The President of the Commission, we were told in editorials preceding the summit, has awesome powers. However, as shown by the fate of the truncated White Paper on Competitiveness, Growth and Employment, the role of the Commission President is being increasingly reduced to that of a cipher, while the real decisions — such as they are — are made by the Council. Whoever emerges from the extraordinary Summit — or, more desirably, from the European Parliament — will have to safeguard the powers of the Commission against an increasingly voracious Council.
Let us not forget that it is the Council which ensured that progressive Directives put forward by the Commission — the parental leave Directive, the Directive on worker consultation, and so on — remain unenacted or half-enacted, awaiting further surgery. Is this the measure of an all-powerful Commission?
The Corfu Summit marked the end of a distinctly lacklustre Presidency. It sealed the EU's new status as an ad hoc coalition of increasingly disparate states gathered together under the umbrella of free trade. Within a few years the Union may have over double today's number of members — around 25 — and will include countries with vastly differing economic, political and social objectives. Four of those countries — Austria, Finland,  Sweden and Norway — were present at the weekend.
Yet, while the summit addressed some of the practicalities of enlargement, it failed utterly to address the wider-ranging effects of enlargement. In particular, it failed to address some of the wider implications of the EU's drive to the east, and what this will mean not merely for the Union, but for the stability of the region as a whole.
I have previously expressed to this House my concern that hasty enlargement will transform the Union into one of “haves” and “have-nots” to the detriment of the latter. In addition, I am concerned at the potential security consequences of enlargement. It is disturbing that the EU-Russia pack, signed in Corfu, was concluded in tandem with Moscow's Partnership for Peace ageeement with NATO, signed two days earlier. The European Union is increasingly operating in conjunction with the North Atlantic Alliance and its “European pillar”, the Western European Union. This double act poses an especial danger to regional security in central and eastern Europe and can be counterbalanced only by a strengthening of the CSCE as a regional security organisation in the context of the UN Charter. Hopefully, these issues will be addressed at the 1996 Inter-governmental Conference — yet I fear that the preparations for that conference will, in the words of Egon Klepsch, take place in a politically sterile room behind closed doors.
The EU's expansion to include countries at different stages of social, political and economic development will pose a serious challenge to the current member states as well as to the Union's standing institutions. The inevitable result — and one for which the signals were set last weekend — will be a rolling back of the Union's social dimension.
That social dimension found its main expression in outgoing President Jacques Delors' White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. This document, which started life as an ambitious social and economic programme  which would equip member states to deal with the rising tide of unemployment, has been watered down by successive Council meetings and Summits to the point at which it is now no more than a “pick'n'mix” series of loosely linked aspirations from which member states can choose. Nevertheless, I welcome the Summit's conclusion that the trans-European networks — part of the White Paper — should go ahead, and in particular the upgrading of the Larne-Belfast-Dublin-Cork railway, following the recommendations of the Christopherson group. It is unacceptable that Britain and Germany were not prepared to give a commitment that resources for these networks would be made available from the EU's budget.
Britain's reluctance can be attributed to the Euro-scepticism which is increasingly gaining sway. Germany's reluctance is far more disturbing, in that it is a further sign of the donor fatigue which led to a blocking of the poverty programme and which is increasing as Germany looks to its old sphere of influence in central and eastern Europe.
I welcome the enhanced commitment to education and training and I look forward in this regard to the report of the Social Affairs Council. However, I regret that the demand in the original draft of the White Paper for eco taxes — put on hold at the recent ECOFIN meeting — appears now to have been indefinitely shelved. My party has long argued that a fundamental re-balancing of the burden of taxation from labour to scarce energy and natural resources is crucial to a policy of sustainable development and to tackling Europe's unemployment crisis.
While leaders went through the motions of discussing macro-economic guidelines, it is increasingly apparent that the European Monetary Union — and its twin, the European Political Union — have receded into the middle distance.
As European governments drift ever further rightwards, Democratic Left has argued that more powers should be given both to the European Commission and the European Parliament in order to ensure that the will of the people, rather  than that of powerful financial interests, prevails. While the Maastricht Treaty contained a welcome increase in the powers of the European Parliament, it is apparent that the Commission is still regarded by governments of member states with some suspicion: the Mé Féin school of thought has become entrenched in far too many European capitals — indeed, it was this attitude on the part of his backbenchers which guided Mr. Major's actions over the weekend.
This phenomenon was especially evident in Ireland during the recent Structural Funds saga — a saga punctuated by insults hurled in the direction of Brussels as it became increasingly apparent that the funds had shrunk and that no amount of public debate was going to restore them to their Edinburgh glory. The European Union has been touted as a force for political stability and democratic reinforcement and, indeed, my party believes that these aims should be at the top of the EU's agenda.
At a time of relative internal political homogeneity it was easy for the European Union to play this role, but times have changed. Instability, intolerance and totalitarianism continue to mark central and eastern Europe — with the difference that many of these countries are aspirant members of the EU while Hungary and Poland were endorsed in Corfu as applicants. Within the Union, fascists are in the political driving seat in at least one member state for the first time in over 50 years — yet Mr. Berlusconi was accorded an honoured place at the conference table.
While lip service was paid to the Franco-German proposal to combat racism and xenophobia, member states throughout the Union are adopting anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner legislation with no more than a whimper of protest from the EU and its institutions. The Franco-German proposal carefully stopped short of any initiatives which give foreigners inalienable rights in the EU: the prospect of voting rights for non-EU citizens seems as far away as ever, as does the prospect of a Commissioner with responsibility for minorities.
 I welcome the Summit's proposal on a Mediterranean Conference. There is an obvious case to be made for increased trade and development links with the Mediterranean countries and this would provide also a welcome counterbalance to the current drive to the east. However, I caution against any arrangements which leave certain disadvantaged states out in the cold, both economically and politically. In particular, I am concerned that European Union assistance to underdeveloped countries — as in the case of Algeria which was discussed at the Council — is inextricably linked to stringent IMF criteria, criteria which are rapidly pauperising the developing world.
By the same token, I would have welcomed a more comprehensive statement from the Council regarding the mid-term view of Lomé IV and the definition of the next financial Protocol. While leaders haggle on the basis of real or imagined national interest, they forget that all our interests are bound up with the North-South divide. That divide will be bridged only by the kind of integrated development aid which has been so conspicuously lacking in the EU's policies, despite the imperatives of Maastricht. In this regard I would welcome a statement from the Government that it will use its influence to ensure a phased elimination of beef export subsidies to Sub-Saharan Africa — subsidies which are stripping an estimated four million people of their livelihoods.
Just as the North-South divide affects us all so, too, does the issue of nuclear safety. In this regard I welcome the Council's stated preoccupation with the threat to global safety from the Ukraine nuclear plants, in particular, their recommendation that the Chernobyl nuclear plant be closed down. This recommendation is especially telling in the light of the current visit to Ireland by young victims of the Chernobyl disaster — children who have been condemned to a lingering death by the greed and foolishness of man.
I would have welcomed a similar commitment on the part of EU leaders to the closure of Sellafield and THORP. This  nuclear folly, a mere 70 miles from this House, threatens us all. Nuclear fall-out knows no borders: THORP is a European issue, and I would welcome a commitment from this Government that it will be placed on the European agenda.
By the end of the decade the squabble over the Commission Presidency will have been long forgotten, smoothed over by diplomatic niceties. The other issues — poverty inside and outside the EU, regional security, nuclear safety and environmental degradation — will have become even more pressing. The Corfu Summit provided plenty of drama, but few indications that Europe's leaders are any closer to tackling the real issues.
I wish to refer to Northern Ireland. It was not just in regard to the failure to agree a new President for the Commission that the Corfu Summit was a great disappointment. The meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister appears to have been equally unfruitful. Given the shocking level of continuing violence, the apparent inertia of the two Governments is hard to comprehend and it is a great disappointment that the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister did not use the opportunity presented by their meeting to relaunch the search for a political solution to the problems of Northern Ireland based on the principles of the Downing Street Joint Declaration.
I do not have the time to go into any further detail on this issue but I believe the failure of the two Governments to follow up on the unique momentum for political progress created by the Downing Street Joint Declaration has brought further uncertainty and instability to Northern Ireland. The sectarian murder gangs have been only too willing to exploit this atmosphere as we saw in the past two weeks on the Shankill Road and in Loughinisland. I hope the error which the Taoiseach made in New York in referring to what is essentially a pursuit of joint authority will be overcome and that he and the Tánaiste will urgently come to a conclusion on the framework document which they promised us  because people in Northern Ireland can wait no longer while Sinn Féin and the Loyalists decide whether they will give us peace. We have to take peace, it will not be achieved otherwise.
Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern): In the brief time available to me I first want to congratulate Deputy De Rossa for at least talking about what happened at the Summit which I was honoured to attend. I wish to refer to some of the points made by the Deputy. I was asked three questions by the other two spokespersons but I wish to say to Deputy John Bruton that as far as the meetings of the Finance Ministers are concerned, which were held last Thursday night, all day Friday and into Friday night, the conclusions were not written before we arrived in Corfu. They never are written beforehand when we participate in such meetings. Perhaps some of the drafts come from Council meetings but to say that the entire exercise is a waste of time is unfair.
Mr. B. Ahern: ——but it is not like that. Deputy De Rossa made two points on economic policies. The reason for the presence of the Finance Ministers of the European Council was the agenda item concerning the broad guidelines. Drawing up these guidelines is part of the increased co-ordination of member states' economies provided for in the Treaty on European Union as part of the process of movement towards economic and monetary union. The first guidelines were adopted in December last and outline  the medium term strategy to bring the European Union back to stronger, durable and more employment creating growth. The new guidelines discussed last weekend in Corfu confirm the strategy. They reaffirm the goal of substantially increasing employment over the coming years and reducing the high levels of unemployment. The fact that those guidelines were on the agenda in Corfu and on the agendas of future summits will help to focus on unemployment, which was not the case in the past.
The draft guidelines before the Council last week dealt with the need for price and exchange rate stability, to which Deputy Bruton referred, sound public finances and a more dynamic Community economy in addition to structural measures to deal with creating more employment. We have been favourably mentioned in those conclusions because of our performance and I believe it is our duty to continue to remain within those guidelines.
Other areas on which the guidelines lay stress is the need for member states to intensify their efforts to improve the function or economies along the lines of the Commission's White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Work. In reply to Deputy De Rossa, much of the Commission's work will be completed and the work started by President Delors in this area will proceed. The structures he put in place in preparation for the future will not change and I cannot see any Commissioners or leaders of Governments moving from that.
On the structural measures for creating more employment, the recommendation is that member states' structural policy shall be directed towards ensuring that growth delivers more jobs. The recommendations include reducing the costs of labour vis-à-vis capital, reducing nonwage costs, particularly in respect of the low paid, consistent with the objective of budgetary consolidation, and for stronger investment and increased employment. I agreed with the emphasis on policies aimed at bringing the Community's economy along a stronger, durable and more employment creating  path. The issues regarding competitiveness, of course, are equally supported by us.
Mr. B. Ahern: ——has been to change the European agenda and the White Paper on Unemployment will remain to the forefront. Second, the White Paper has placed a stronger emphasis on options which perhaps have not received sufficient attention at European level, that is, restructuring the tax system to reduce the burden on the lower paid and to promote more investment in education and training. Deputies will be aware of how much emphasis is put on education and training in the national plan and future summits will continue to follow those policies which are in line with our budgetary policies.
Work is continuing at European level on the many areas covered by the White Paper, including information technology, trans-European networks and exploiting the potential for small and medium sized enterprises. Deputy De Rossa referred at length to the trans-European networks and the 11 projects scheduled to go ahead.
An area likely to be of particular interest is that the Commission intends to draw up a detailed inventory of the various actions at Community level to foster local development and employment initiatives, particularly those concerning micro enterprises and handcraft industries. The inventory will be accompanied by the proposals deemed necessary to enhance the consistency and effectiveness of these actions. The White Paper has changed the European landscape in regard to unemployment and given it the necessary drive to take effective action. Last weekend, the European Council worked to intensify this process. I recall Social Affairs Council meetings  where it was impossible to get the item on the agenda at one stage. This was the longest session in the summit and was the main debating item but the media pick up on other items, which is the usual story.
I wish to reply to some of the questions put by Deputies. At the outset of the debate, the Taoiseach stated there was no evidence that any candidate we could have promoted until now would have commanded the necessary unanimous support. Everybody has the use of the veto and in any sounding process one does not have to be an expert to see that. It is a pointless exercise for people here to try to portray the Presidency of the European Union as being available to this country if only the Irish Government would put forward a certain name. Nothing could be further from the truth. In any of the meetings held last week, nobody in formal session made any point remotely near that——
Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach referred tonight to all our commisisoners, Commissioner MacSharry, Commissioner Flynn and Commissioner Sutherland, and it is not that long ago that the Government worked hard to secure the position of Director General of GATT for Mr. Sutherland, in which he proudly represents this country.
Mr. B. Ahern: Foreign Ministers have been meeting twice a month over the past number of months, sometimes for several days. It is hardly surprising that the matter of the Presidency and possible candidates would arise in casual conversation. The reality is that there had never been any formal approach or request concerning Mr. Sutherland's candidacy at any meeting of the Foreign Ministers. That is the position.
Mr. B. Ahern: Deputy De Rossa asked me about the European Parliament. It does not ratify casual decisions, only what is formally on the table. A person's name cannot be picked out in a corridor, bar, room or if it was mentioned at an airport——
Mr. B. Ahern: In addition the President and other nominees for appointment to the Commission are subject, as a body, to a vote by the European Parliament. It has a major say. The Government will play its full part in trying to resolve the current impasse. That is its duty. It is prepared to put forward the name of suitable and acceptable candidates if the opportunity arises and if it is likely to contribute towards a genuine resolution of the problem. No reference was made inside the Council meeting to any Irish candidate. Those are the facts.
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