Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
This motion is of an entirely procedural nature and it arises pursuant to Standing Orders. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade indicated clearly in his opening statement on Second Stage of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2012 on 6 June that it was the Government’s intention to move amendments on Committee Stage to add the Treaty of Accession of Croatia and the protocol on the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon to the measures to be included by the Bill in the domestic law of the State. Standing Orders require the House to give the necessary instruction before the Select Committee on European Union Affairs is able to consider these amendments. That is the purpose of the motion.
In amending the European Communities Act of 1972, the European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2012 provides a means of incorporating a number of developments at European Union level into the domestic law of the State. The first element is a protocol amending the protocol on transitional provisions annexed to the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community. The purpose of this protocol is to raise on a temporary basis the number of Members of the European Parliament during the current Parliament’s term of 2009-14. This reflects the increased number of MEPs to which 12 member states are entitled under the Treaty of Lisbon in a Parliament elected before that treaty entered into force.
The second element is the European Council decision amending article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union with regard to a stability mechanism for member states whose currency is the euro. This will provide a legal underpinning to the European Stability Mechanism, which is to enter into force next month. It is for that reason that the European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2012 was published on 8 May in tandem with the European Stability Mechanism Bill 2012. The Government wanted to ensure that the people had the full picture available to them, including this Bill, when they came to vote in the referendum on the stability treaty on 31 May. At the time of publication of the Bill on 8 May, the protocol on the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon had not yet been signed. This was done in Brussels on 16 May. When EU leaders agreed the terms of the protocol at the European Council meeting of 18 and 19 June 2009 they also agreed that at the time of the conclusion of the next accession treaty the provisions of the decision on the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon would be set out in a protocol to be attached to the EU treaties. The protocol is thus linked in time to the Croatian accession treaty.
The Government proposes to bring forward amendments to include the Irish legal guarantees protocol and the Croatian accession treaty in the current Bill so as to include both in the definition of the treaties governing the EU as set out in the European Communities Act. The effect of the proposed amendments will be to provide in the domestic law of the State for the accession of Croatia as the 28th member of the European Union, which the Government warmly welcomes, and for the protocol on the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon. The latter is also warmly welcomed as a clear reflection of the EU delivering on its promise to the Irish people. I commend the motion to the House.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: The timing of this legislation is cruel in some respects given that it deals with Croatia after our loss to them on Sunday. Notwithstanding that, it is positive that the process has reached its final stages and we are now in a position to welcome Croatia into the family of European states. Perhaps we can look to Spain to bail us out on the football field before the end of the week.
The forthcoming accession of Croatia, which is scheduled for 1 July 2013, is the culmination of a long process of European integration for that country but it also marks a seminal moment for the long embattled Balkans. Looking at the volatility in the region and the current problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the EU must play a positive part in that area. The EU should act as a role model and, ultimately, a goal for these countries. A cursory glance at history shows the importance of the region globally. The shots in Sarajevo sparked the start of the First World War and reshaped the whole world. The scars of the civil wars of the 1990s that accompanied the collapse of Yugoslavia carry a strong moral imperative to show leadership in the area and avoid the horrifying violence of Srebrenica that, 50 years after the Second World War, shows the great threat of violence has not left the Continent. The EU has a moral, political and strategic onus to take up the burden of leadership in the region. I hope the current travails of the Union do not distract from that work or discourage the countries that aspire to the values of the Union and are working towards EU membership. Croatia should act as an incentive to, and a flagship of, EU membership in the region.
In these difficult days for the EU, when the thread of solidarity for the Union wears thin for many member states, it is reinvigorating to be reminded of what sustains the Union. The reasons Croatia underwent the arduous task of adhering to the ever more complex acquis of the EU were manifold. It allows Croatia to access the open markets of the world’s largest economic area of over 500 million people and it enables the free movement of capital across the Continent. It allows her people to travel unhindered across 27 other member states, to open up EU universities to Croat students, and to affirm the democratic principles and respect for human rights and dignity that underpins the philosophy of the Union.
In going through the economic crisis that has bedevilled the Union and, more particularly, the euro area over the past three years, much has been lost of the vision of the founding fathers of the European project. It has become a narrow focus on economics, fiscal difficulties and banking issues, but we should not lose sight of the fact that the euro project was carved from a desire to see peace across the Continent and how we could develop and build on it. We should not be blinded by the crisis, which will be a small footnote in the history of Europe.
In moments of doubt about the future of the Union it is worth reminding ourselves of the progress the Union has spurred on, facilitated and encouraged across the Continent, in Ireland and now hopefully in Croatia. Croatia emphatically voted in favour of accession to the EU in January, a sign of enthusiasm for the EU that should stir us on towards tackling the problems of the Union. A country that first emerged as a war-torn land riven by sectarian violence has moved on from its bloody past to embrace a brighter future founded on the pan-European values of democracy, competition and the rule of law. This should serve to remind us all of the potential of the EU and serve as a beacon of hope for the region. Issues about accession remain, namely, whether Croatian nationals should have immediate access to our labour markets. Outstanding issues in Croatia remain to be resolved. However, those important issues aside, we can welcome Croatia into the fold of the EU as an equal partner in the future of Europe.
I understand the second amendment to the Bill, which the Government will move on Committee Stage, will provide for the protocol on the concerns of the Irish people on the Lisbon treaty, which was signed in Brussels on 16 May to form part of the domestic law of the State. The signing of the protocol addresses the concerns of the Irish people on the Lisbon treaty with regard to the right to life, family and education, taxation, and security and defence. The European Council stated the sole purpose of the protocol is to give full treaty status to the clarifications set out in the decision.
I understand the protocol will clarify but not change the content or the application of the Lisbon treaty. This a welcome measure to finalise the Lisbon treaty and copperfasten the assurances the Government received on areas of particular sensitivity to the Irish people. I welcome the amendments to the Bill as progressive steps for Ireland and the Union.
Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Sinn Féin is not happy that four diverse issues have been lumped together in this Bill. However, we agree with each of the proposals and will accept them. It is ironic they have been lumped together, even though it was not planned like this. One proposal is to provide for a permanent emergency funding mechanism and reflects the failure of European monetary union, the failure of solidarity, the failure of the structure to deal with the crisis, the failure of those in the banking sector to take responsibility for the crisis they created and the failure to restructure the banking and financial sector. As we speak, the Spanish Government and the Spanish people will be given money to bail out their banks without any rigorous stress testing of the banking sector. The same mistakes have been repeated and they do not meet their responsibilities. It is ironic that we have that provision in the amendment as well as the accession of Croatia.
Good luck to Croatia, which is very welcome. It has been a long journey for its people to get to this point. What kind of European Union is Croatia entering and what kind of solidarity can it expect when a potential crisis emerges? The Irish people were saddled with banking debt that will have an impact on generations, with no answer to our difficulties. If that experience is anything to go by, this is a difficult time for Croatia to enter the Union.
On a hopeful note, we need to go back to basics. The European Union project has many positive elements, such as the binding together of peoples who were in an awful conflict. Croatia is part of the Balkans and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo gave birth to the dreadful First World War and, because lessons were not learned from mistakes, the devastation of the dreadful Second World War followed. The hopeful project of the European Union followed and included social Europe, women’s rights, environmental legislation, equality and human rights. All of these have been achieved and there has been solidarity at times. The project has potential to be a great, hopeful project but this is not a good time for it. With the exception of Croatia, it might remind us to go back to what the project was supposed to be about. With that positive development next year, it might focus our minds on what we need to do in Europe and what solidarity means. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak and we will support the four items in the Bill.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: This is a shoddy attempt to muddy the waters on the European stability mechanism. It is part of a systematic campaign by this Government to prevent serious discussion on the European Stability Mechanism, its contents and its far-reaching consequences for the citizens of this country in terms of further austerity when we enter a second so-called bailout programme. Given the austerity provisions we will be required to commit to if we enter the European Stability Mechanism, it should more accurately be described as a burial programme for the Irish economy and society.
No one has any objection to the accession of Croatia to the European Union. We welcome it. Similarly, inserting some protocol into the Lisbon treaty, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty on European Union noting the concerns raised by the public about the Lisbon treaty are welcome provisions. However, I note that the concerns the Government chose to identify as what the public was concerned about in respect of the Lisbon treaty are not exhaustive or reflective of the actual concerns raised by those of us who opposed it on the first and second occasions. This protocol identifies issues to do with the right to life, with taxation — the Government is primarily concerned with the issue of corporate tax — with the important issue of Ireland’s involvement in the common foreign and security policy of the European Union and in particular, Ireland being slowly dragged into a European army and a European military apparatus, the militarisation of Europe and the connection to the NATO military alliance. However, this protocol merely notes our concern in this regard and it does nothing to prevent us being slowly dragged into that NATO military alliance, as, of course, is testified to by the fact that Irish soldiers are present in the NATO operation in Afghanistan.
Of course, other concerns were raised by the public at the time, one of which is particularly worthy of mention, given the current financial crisis in Europe. The first people to raise the narrow mandate of the European Central Bank being copper-fastened — only concerning itself with inflation and not concerning itself with issues to do with employment and macro-economic stability — were those of us from the left who opposed the Lisbon treaty, who said this was a recipe for disaster, that the mandate of the ECB was too narrow. Since then, other people are jumping up and down saying they want the mandate of the ECB to be broadened but, of course, at the time, when we raised the issue of the narrow mandate of the ECB, we were dismissed, ignored and vilified as being scar-mongers. Of course, we have been proven to be right. At the time of the Lisbon treaty, we also raised issues to do with the commitment of European treaties — strengthened in the Lisbon treaty — to foster and promote the privatisation of public services, to effectively make illegal the provision of State aid for public enterprises, all of which are extremely damaging provisions which undermine the ability of this State and other European states to protect themselves against the consequences of economic crisis and they undermine us in our efforts to find a way out of that economic crisis. None of those expressed concerns is acknowledged in this protocol. Most of all, I object very strongly to the mixing up of these issues of the accession of Croatia and the concerns of the Irish public over the Lisbon treaty with the European Stability Mechanism. It is part of an attempt to cover up what is involved in the European Stability Mechanism. This should be dealt with separately and there should be proper debate. A guillotine should not have been imposed.
It is disgraceful that the media have refused to engage in any serious way in a discussion of the contents of the European Stability Mechanism, which may cost this State up €11 billion or more to help recapitalise and bail out European banks or even more than €11 billion, as is becoming apparent with the growing crisis in Spain and in Italy. The ESM staff and governors and its assets and property will not be subject to any legal scrutiny or any political or public oversight. It is outrageous. The ESM will be based on strict conditionality, that is, austerity being imposed on the Irish people for the privilege of bailing out European banks. I strongly oppose these amendments being included in a Bill that is essentially about facilitating the European Stability Mechanism which is nothing more than another vehicle to deliver poisonous austerity onto the heads of the Irish people and other European citizens.
An Ceann Comhairle: As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 70 the names of the Deputies dissenting, who claimed a division, will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
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