European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1993: Second and Subsequent Stages.

Tuesday, 13 July 1993

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 137 No. 8

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Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1993, which is before the Seanad provides for certain amendments to the EC Treaty concerning the Statute of the European Investment Bank; for the incorporation into domestic law of the European Economic Area Agreement; for the transfer of the statutory functions of the former Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and for the retrospective confirmation of ministerial regulations previously made under the European Communities Act, 1972.

There is a growing awareness in the Community that action must be taken to stimulate growth and promote employment. This awareness is not limited to the Community. The Tokyo Summit of the most economically powerful countries last week accepted that economic recovery had to be a top priority.

In addition, and this has a bearing on other aspects of this Bill, the Community has established close co-operation with the EFTA countries within a wider European approach on economic recovery.

The European Council at Edinburgh [1039] in December 1992 launched a “growth initiative”. Among the elements included in this initiative is the setting up of a European Investment Fund. The European Investment Bank will be a major shareholder as well as the Community itself and other major financial institutions.

This Fund will provide financial guarantees for borrowings and so facilitate private financing of infrastructural projects. The Fund will have an endowment of 2 billion ECUs, about 40 per cent of which comes from the EIB and 30 per cent from the Commission on behalf of the Community, the remainder being contributed by major financial institutions.

As a result of the prudential ratios, the 2 billion ECUs are expected to cover approximately 5 to 10 billion ECUs in guarantees. This impetus to infrastructural investment in the Community will help stimulate economic activity and jobs.

Infrastructural works in Ireland are eligible for grant funding under the Cohesion Fund and the Regional Funds. The European Investment Fund, which is a loan or guarantee instrument rather than a grant instrument, will be available to Ireland, It will also apply in areas of the Community where the Structural and Cohesion Funds are not available for such works.

To enable the European Investment Bank to be a shareholder of the Fund, it is necessary to amend the Protocol on the Statute of the European Investment Bank, which is part of the EEC Treaty.

The agreement between the member states making the necessary amendment was signed by the member states, including Ireland, on 25 March, subject to ratification. With a view to ratifying this amendment to the EEC Treaty, it is proposed to add this instrument to the list of Treaties constituting the European Communities in section 1 of the European Communities Act, 1972.

Early ratification by Ireland of the necessary change to the Statute of the European Investment Bank will be an [1040] indication of the urgency with which this country views the need for European and world action to stimulate the international economy and employment.

It is also proposed to add to the list a purely technical Treaty signed in 1975. It was not considered necessary to add this to the list at the time. However, in the interests of clarity and completeness, we considered that we should now add it, along with the 1993 amendment.

The Bill now before the House will also enable Ireland to ratify the EEA Agreement which was signed by the EC and EFTA states in Oporto in May 1992.

This agreement, which was approved by the Dáil last October, was due to come into effect on the 1 January this year. However, following its rejection by the Swiss people in a referendum last December, an adjusting Protocol was negotiated to take account of Swiss non-participation. It is hoped that the agreement and adjusting Protocol will come into effect in the near future following ratification by all the parties.

The EEA Agreement will establish a significantly closer and more structured relationship between the EC and the EFTA countries. Its objective is continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations in conditions of equal competition and based on the same rules. At its heart is the achievement of the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. The agreement sets out the competition rules that will apply and provides for strengthened co-operation in areas such as the environment, research and development.

The EEA is an important element in the new European architecture emerging following the dramatic geopolitical changes in Europe since 1989. It is intended to give fresh impetus to the special relationship which links the European Community and the EFTA states which is based on their proximity, the importance of their economic relations, their common values of democracy and a market economy and their European identity.

The EEA Agreement is not directly concerned with the question of EC [1041] enlargement and is not neceessarily a prelude to membership for the EFTA states.

In a separate development however, a number of these states have applied for membership and negotiations are currently taking place with a view to early accession by Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The accession negotiations for these countries are undoubtedly facilitated through the work already done in the EEA on much basic Community legislation.

I attach considerable importance to the early entry into force of this agreement. This is because of the significance to our relations with the EFTA states and because the agreement itself is advantageous from an Irish point of view.

The agreement establishes closer and more intensive relations between the EC and the EFTA countries with which Ireland has always enjoyed excellent relations and which share a similarity of outlook with us on a range of international issues. It represents a market opening by both sides and Ireland's already strong export performance towards EFTA can be improved with the further removal of barriers.

The special fund to be established under the Agreement to help reduce economic and social disparities in the EEA will also be of benefit to Ireland. It will involve for Ireland the provision of 50 million ECUs in grants and 150 million ECUs in soft loans over five years.

I turn to the issue of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and the proposals in this Bill to transfer the statutory functions of the former Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities to the new committee.

The work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs since its recent inception is most impressive. As I have already made clear, I warmly welcome the establishment of this committee. It provides an opportunity for regular and reflective discussions across the entire range of foreign policy issues.

I attended the Dáil Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, along with the Minister [1042] of State, Deputy Kitt, on 18 June for the examination of the Foreign Affairs Estimate. I found the open debate that took place on foreign policy issues by members of the committee — many of whom have considerable expertise in this area — has been a positive contribution to the quality of our political culture.

I also attended the joint committee on 29 June to discuss Irish participation in the UN operation in Somalia and to hear the views of the members prior to the debate on the motion to dispatch the Irish contingent to Somalia. Officials of my Department have appeared before the joint committee and briefed it on a wide range of issues including Bosnia, East Timor, the reform of the United Nations and enlargement of the Community.

The new committees are, in terms of Irish Parliamentary tradition, an important innovation on which we should build and the current Bill transfers the legislative scrutiny functions of the old joint committee to the new Foreign Affairs Committee.

The new committee will be able to monitor fully all aspects of Irish foreign policy of which EC affairs are such an essential component. With the powers transferred to it under this legislation the committee will be able to revive and continue the vital task of monitoring secondary legislation as its predecessor was empowered to do under section 1 (1) (b) of the European Communities (Amendment) Act, 1973.

It is important to reflect on the powers being given to the committee in this area. The powers now transferred will enable the committee to recommend to Houses of the Oireachtas the annulment of any ministerial orders made under the European Communities Acts subject to a resolution in both Houses to that effect. This power ranges over the entire spectrum of ministerial orders made under the Acts.

The old joint committee was diligent in the use of these powers and reported regularly to both Houses on regulations made by ministerial order. The most recent committee, which sat between 1989 and 1992, made 14 reports to the Dáil and Seanad. The main failure in the [1043] existing system was the fact that the Dáil and Seanad did not debate or discuss these reports.

I hope that they will respond more readily to reports from the new committee. I would urge them to ensure that this is the case at the very least when the Dáil and Seanad come to debate the annual report of the committee as provided for under section 13 of its terms of reference.

Apart from its power to examine and recommend the annulment of ministerial orders, the Foreign Affairs Committee has extensive powers to examine proposals made by the EC Commission which form the basis for implementing national legislation after they have been passed by the Council of Ministers.

Paragraph 10, sub-paragraph 1, of the terms of reference of the committee permits it to consider:

such programmes and guidelines prepared by the Commission of the European Communities as a basis for possible legislative action and such drafts of regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions of the Council of Ministers proposed by the Commission.

My Department sends copies of all Commission proposals to the committee and to Dáil Library.

My officials and officials of other Departments are available to assist the committee in implementing this part of its mandate and in advising the committee in regard to the subject matter and implications of the issues under examination. I am prepared to look sympathetically at any proposals the committee may wish to make arising out of its experience of this task for additional help in examining measures. Other interest groups, such as the social partners, also have an interest in advising the committee in their specific fields of competence and I would welcome their participation in the task of ensuring that the committee has the fullest range of expertise possible at its disposal in its work.

If Commission proposals are considered [1044] in good time then the committee will have an opportunity, after consulting the various interests, to put on record its views on these proposals for the information of the Minister concerned, before they come to the Council.

If this is not enough, I am prepared, as I have said, to look again at the arrangements for the scrutiny of EC legislation in the light of the committee's experience to ensure that the most comprehensive arrangements possible are in place to facilitate it in its on-going work, not only after the legislation has been adopted by the instances of the Community, but also in the formative process.

In the meantime the State must continue the process of implementing European Community legislation. The present Bill is intended to do so in respect of the three elements it contains, as well as to ensure, in advance of the Supreme Court decision in the Meagher case, that existing ministerial regulations under section 3 of the European Communities Act, 1972 will in so far as necessary be validated retrospectively as from the time when they took effect. The effect of the High Court judgment in this case was to declare part of the regulation-making powers in section 3 (2) of this Act to be unconstitutional.

Subject to the outcome of the State's appeal to the Supreme Court this judgment creates a serious defect with implications not only for the present and the future, but also for the past in the State's implementation of its obligations under the EC Treaties. I am advised that such implementation depends to a considerable extent on regulations made under the 1972 Act as from the time when we joined the Communities. Furthermore, I am advised that as the State is about to accede to the EEA Agreement the implementation of our obligations under that Agreement would also depend to a considerable extent on regulations made under the 1972 Act as adapted pursuant to section 4 of the Bill.

The three measures contained in this Bill represent a number of important aspects of our Community membership.

First, the Bill will enable the European [1045] Investment Bank to enhance its capacity to provide finance for development. While the European Investment Fund may be a relatively minor aspect as far as the Community's development effort in Ireland is concerned, it is nevertheless an important indication of what the Community can contribute to our development. The current negotiations on the Structural Funds and the Government's clear determination to maximise the allocation of these funds to Ireland underlines the importance of the Community in our strategy to tackle unemployment and stimulate economic recovery and growth.

Second, in an increasingly interdependent Europe the advent of the European Economic Area is an aspect of Community policy that will impact favourably on our relations with other European EFTA countries with whom we already have important economic and political links. We look forward when the current negotiations are complete to welcoming four of these countries, Austria, Sweden, Finland and Norway, as members of the Community and of the European Union. The Irish economy can only benefit from these developments.

Third, the transfer of the legislative scrutiny functions from the old Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation to the new Foreign Affairs Committee will facilitate the scrutiny of EC legislation which will henceforth be consolidated in the new committee, which with these transferred powers will be able to continue the essential task of monitoring the secondary legislation of the Community.

I commend this Bill to the Seanad.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. It is important that we address the reason this Bill is before the House. As the Minister said, it results from the Meagher case which was taken to the High Court and subsequently to the Supreme Court. We need to be far more vigilant in future in relation to how we transpose EC legislation into domestic legislation and how [1046] we implement specific EC regulations. Undoubtedly there are hundreds of regulations and directives going through Europe and it is difficult for all Departments to monitor these but we should now have learned a lesson and have recognised that in the future we need to be more vigilant in relation to how we address Community legislation. It is adequate to deal with the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, which are the basic foundations of our European legislation, but beyond all these are the directives and regulations which must be transposed into legislation here as soon as possible.

I read a report recently in which Ireland featured quite well. It was fifth in the league of European member states in transferring directives into legislation and as the Minister was speaking it crossed my mind that perhaps he might in his diplomatic way be able to use that particular rating within Europe to greater advantage in his negotiations in Europe. In particular I refer to the debacle during the Taoiseach's visit to Edinburgh last December and the subsequent promises that emanated from there in relation to the Structural Funds. I hope the Minister will not continue to be a party to the current behaviour in relation to——

Acting Chairman (Mr. Farrell): Information on Willie Farrell  Zoom on Willie Farrell  Stay on the Bill, Senator.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  What I am saying is relevant, it has to do with funding, the Investment Bank and all the details relating specifically to this Bill. It is fundamental to the issues being discussed here this evening.

I hope the Minister will not be party to current events in relation to the Structural Funds. It appears the Government are attempting to convey the impression that the commitment the Taoiseach supposedly got in December in Edinburgh will stand up and that we will get over £8 billion in Structural Funds. It is not fair to mislead the people, to attempt to transfer £1 billion from the 1989-1993 tranche of funds to the 1993-1997 tranche [1047] and say that we have received the £8 billion. That behaviour is not acceptable and if this line is proceeded with it will be highlighted for the fiasco it is. It is important that the Minister would not involve himself in this type of carry on.

I welcome the establishment of the fund and the fact that the European Investment Bank will be a shareholder. It is important that it will provide guarantees for borrowings, particularly to the private sector, in relation to infrastructural projects. I hope the Government will be vigilant in ensuring that Ireland uses these funds to the maximum capacity in areas of potential growth, particularly in industry and tourism where there is an opportunity for growth if these funds are used prudently. The economic area agreement is welcome as is the inclusion of four states applying for EC membership; Norway, Sweden, Austria and Finland.

It is important that they are included and that we work closer with them in future. It is easy to say we welcome those four countries because they are economically affluent and would be an asset to the European Community. I notice that the Minister did not address the more serious element of EC enlargement through the addition of states that would be far less viable economically. It is important that this matter is addressed by the Government as well as the implications of enlargement for Ireland from the point of view of affluent states as well as disadvantaged states which could prove to be a financial and economic drain on the EC. We must recognise that we have a moral obligation to address that issue and not ignore the possible fallout.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has been working effectively since its establishment, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Ministers of State have addressed us on at least two occasions. That is a breakthrough. I welcome section 6 in this Bill which provides that the former Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities is to be included as part of [1048] the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. The establishment of a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is prudent and will lead to more effective monitoring of European affairs. I hope that the assurances we have received from the Minister regarding the availability of his officials can be fulfilled. I hope that when these sub-committees are established the officials will be able to cope with demands from a variety of areas. There has been such an extension of committees and sub-committees that there is a drain on staff. We have good staff but their current workload is beyond what is humanly possible; it is unfair of us to make those sort of demands. If the committee system is to be effective the Minister should address that matter.

The power of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to examine and recommend the annulment of ministerial orders is a major breakthrough and gives real teeth to the committee. I hope that Members will act on an ad hoc basis on the committee rather than in accordance with the Whips.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  That could be dangerous stuff now.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Well, is the Senator's party supposed to be the party of the——

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Do not save the Whip.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  ——new face of change, the new dimension, so——

Acting Chairman:  No interruptions, please.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  We hope that there will be open Government within the committee system. The Minister has been one of the most frequent visitors to this House since I came here and I would like to thank him for being so attentive to the Upper Chamber.

[1049]Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  He must have ambitions.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Not in that direction.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  He will get here sometime.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  We have had frank and open discussions both here and in the joint committee and I hope that the Minister will attend frequently in future. I hope he will not continue to be part of the Structural Funds fiasco currently being manoeuvred by the Government.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  I am not too sure who Senator Taylor-Quinn was having a go at there but she was quite pleasant in her attacks anyway, and I suppose since Clare were beaten by Tipperary last week we will give her a week or two to settle down.

I welcome the Bill. It is a technical Bill and the changes would in other days have passed through both Houses without anyone paying attention to them. However, at present where there is an unemployment crisis of ferocious magnitude in the EC, whatever can be done to attempt to alliviate it is welcome. I was sorry to hear the Minister say that there is a “growing awareness” in the Community that action must be taken to stimulate growth and promote employment. Anybody who has lived in the real world for the past number of years must have been aware of the magnitude of the problem of lack of economic growth within the Community as well as the growth of unemployment. I am sorry that certain countries within the EC are only now taking cognisance of that fact. The lack of employment was hidden by the fact that certain major countries had strong economies in which the unemployment content was low. Over the past couple of years we have seen the reunification of Germany which has created problems there. It has shown the Germans that there is a problem within Europe, because until reunification they did not [1050] accept there was a problem or that they should pay any attention to it.

If it is used properly, the European Investment Fund can stimulate growth but there is no point in suggesting that such growth in employment can be stimulated if we use the moneys generated in this area totally for infrastructural development within the Community. Infrastructural development is necessary to stimulate growth to a degree but it does not provide long-term jobs. It can only be a method of providing jobs if industries can be provided which are associated with the growth or development of infrastructure. Spending money on infrastructure without creating jobs is the greatest waste of time, money and energy that could be devised because you get rid of the money and end up with the most magnificent system of roads and telecommunications. These are things that people appear to want but there is only a shell behind them. It is like going to a Hollywood studio and seeing all the beautiful facades on which money has been spent but behind them there is nothing.

The Minister mentioned the recent G7 meeting in Tokyo and the fact that last week's summit of the most economically powerful countries accepted that economic growth must be a top priority. I understand that the G7 group said that countries must cut down on social spending, suggesting that too much money is spent on support for the unemployed and socially deprived. The group has not come up with one specific idea which will lead to the creation of one extra job in this or any other country. If those countries cannot produce a single job in this country how can they, as the most important and the richest countries in the world, suggest that they are serious about the alleviation of the problems of lack of growth and increasing unemployment in Europe?

In Ireland we have attempted to be superior by suggesting that our education system produces people who are so well educated that they will change the economy of this country. Unfortunately, [1051] they may change economies but they will not change this country's economy. People who are at present leaving college with a master's degree cannot even get interviews for jobs so they must go abroad. How will they stimulate our economy? We are spending money on the provision of educational facilities and we are exporting our educated young people to support economies which will not put the same amount of money into their educational system.

Senator Taylor-Quinn tried to make political capital on the divergence of opinion about the EC summit in Edinburgh and the amount of money this country will receive as a result. It is irrelevant whether we will receive £8 billion, £8.5 billion or £7.9 billion. What is relevant in the long term is how the money will be used. I have no doubt that we will receive about £8 billion. We could pour money into an enterprise but if it is not productive the money is useless. That is why I am worried about the areas in which money from the Structural Funds is spent and where money from the new European investment fund will be invested.

The fund will provide financial guarantees for borrowings and thus facilitate private financing of infrastructural projects. However, infrastructural projects, like Governments, cannot provide a job. A Government has never provided a job not paid for by a taxpayer and no infrastructural unit can help society unless it provides a service that is of benefit to the community. There is no point in building a road in the middle of a bog unless, at the end of that road, there is an industry which needs to transport something out again.

The fund will have an endowment of two billion ECUs. I am not sure exactly how much an ECU is worth at present——

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  It is worth 80 pence.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  A sum of two billion ECUs is about——

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  That is £1.6 billion.

[1052]Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  We are talking about £1.6 billion.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  When it suits to use the higher figures, the Senator uses them.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  If £1.6 billion is divided among all the countries in Europe it is hard to see how it will be of tremendous value. It is of some value but not much.

The Bill provides for the incorporation in domestic law of the EEC-EFTA Agreement on a European Economic Area and it is necessary legislation. However, it will not make a great difference to this country. The transfer of the statutory functions of the Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is of importance because the Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the EC was an extremely busy committee. I was a member of that committee when the President was its chairman. The quantity of retrospective material that came before the committee was enormous. One thing was certain: the printers in Europe had a ball sending material throughout the EC. It was of little value, however, because the material was retrospective and, by the time the committee met to discuss regulations, derogations and other matters, their reports were six months late. The Minister said the reports were not addressed in both Houses of the Oireachtas. They were discussed in this House on numerous occasions but often up to 18 months after publication. We have discussed statutory reports from the EC — although I do not think we have yet reached those of 1990 — in this House but they have never been discussed in the other House.

I agree with Senator Taylor Quinn that if the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is to function properly it must have the resources to do so. I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs for their diligence since that committee was established. Personnel from the Department of Foreign Affairs were never before obliged to [1053] appear before a Dáil or Seanad committee and now they must atttend every week. They have had to incorporate a large amount of extra work into their daily routine and the material they have produced for the committee has been of extraordinary value. Even ad hoc questions are answered immediately or an answer is supplied shortly afterwards.

Some people say that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs cannot take on board the work of the Oireachtas Joint Committe on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. I disagree because the work can be delegated to sub-committees of the committee. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has worked very well in its first month and I hope that will continue. The establishment of the committee was long overdue and the Minister for Foreign Affairs need not have any worries about appearing before the committee, submitting papers to the committee or allowing officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs to appear before the committee to answer questions or in an advisory capacity. In the past this Bill would have gone through the Seanad and the Dáil without discussion. In view of our continuing and increasing involvement in Europe it is essential that it be given a proper reading. The Bill is of relevance and will be very useful in the future.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I welcome the part of the Bill which discusses the European Investment Fund. I understand Senator Lanigan's concern that few jobs are provided by infrastructure projects and I wish to link that with the debate we had earlier today on the Opsahl report. The economy and society recommendations of the Opsahl Commission stressed economic co-operation with the Republic. I hope that perhaps some of these funds for infrastructural projects could be used towards, for example, the road to the North, the railway, electricity and gas links and other such matters. The Minister in his speech mentioned the dramatic geopolitical changes since 1989 and a few dramatic geopolitical changes around [1054] here might not be any harm. These could be improved by funds from the European Investment Fund and I hope that this will happen. It could give great impetus towards better cross-Border co-operation. I am sure the Minister is in a position to discuss with ministers in the North and Sir Patrick Mayhew reciprocal arrangements with regard to the funds they may get towards cross-Border projects. I certainly share the Minister's view that it is extremely good to see the early accession of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. We have ancient ties with two of them and I am sure we can develop ties very rapidly with the others. They are two financially sound countries which is always useful. I hope that this work within the EEA goes forward very rapidly and that there will be early entry of these countries.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss this important legislation which unfortunately has received scant attention from both the media and political representatives in recent times. In ways this is understandable. Issues such as Aer Lingus have dominated the headlines but I believe that this reflects a broader lack of debate on the issue of Europe and more importantly Ireland's role in a rapidly changing Europe. This lack of real debate permeates our political and media structure and has often led to issues of profound importance being debated at the level of caricature.

Nowhere was the lack of depth of debate more evident than in last year's referendum on the Maastricht Treaty. As I was vice-chairman of the Irish Council of the European Movement at the time I had a particular interest in, and a close involvement with, the debate on the Treaty. It was all the more depressing, therefore, to observe the low quality of debate and the level of scaremongering that took place. The outrageous scare regarding conscription was the most blatant example of serious debate reduced to the level of crackpot slogans. Europe is of vital importance to this country and serious and provocative [1055] debate must be at the very heart of the Irish political process.

What also became clear as a result of the Maastricht campaign, not just in Ireland but also in Denmark and France, was the lack of public awareness of the European Community — of its purpose and workings and especially of its future. Interestingly there was no shortage of actual information on Europe during the referendum campaign; in fact there may have been a glut of such information. What was missing, however, was actual comprehension of the debate. In this sense the Maastricht debate in Ireland was characterised by a comprehension deficit. This has not disappeared; it is on-going and colours our debate on Europe. As long as this comprehension deficit persists the level of our debate on Europe will remain impoverished.

I am relieved to note that there are signs that this situation is improving. The new Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs will allow for a new forum in which to discuss these important issues, under the able stewardship of Deputy Brian Lenihan. This is but one step forward. There is much more that needs to be done if we are to tackle the comprehension deficit. Radical measures are needed if we are to create the informed atmosphere in which the important process of debate can take place.

We must begin with our education system. I find it both disturbing and regrettable that our young people are passing through our education system without an adequate knowledge of the Europe of which they are now part. They are left unaware not only of the basic workings of the European Community but also of the broader issues that confront the Europe of which they will be citizens.

Learning is about preparation for life and we are doing our young people a tremendous disservice by not providing a fullblooded European studies curriculum as part of their formal education. As such they are deprived not only of practical knowledge, but they are also desensitised to the potential of Europe. For them [1056] Europe remains an abstract, not a reality and this in turn perpetuates the comprehension deficit. We must break this vicious circle of ignorance. I call on the Minister to give serious consideration to asking the Minister for Education to introduce a European studies curriculum at second level, as a full examination subject, as part of the overall process of educational reform. To ignore this issue would represent a grievous oversight. I urge the Minister to give this matter the most serious attention.

I wish to take the opportunity to thank two organisations which in their own ways are working to tackle the comprehension deficit, the Irish Council of the European Movement and the Institute for European Affairs which is the brainchild of Professor Brendan Halligan. The IEA, of which I am a member of both the executive and council, has been producing excellent research material on European issues and Ireland's role in Europe for some time now. This material is characterised by rigorous analysis and clear thinking. I urge my fellow Senators who are interested in EC issues, as they all should be, to find the time to read these documents. They are an invaluable source of analysis on Ireland's role in Europe and will provide the basis for many useful debates in the new committee.

Structural Funds dominate the debate on Europe in this country and that is understandable. This funding is of vital importance to Ireland and securing the maximum funds is an important national objective, but there is considerably more to the European Community than Structural Funds.

There are other broader issues which will have a huge bearing on Europe and Ireland's place in Europe. At present these issues are receiving scant attention in both the political and media arenas. This lack of forward thinking is indeed lamentable. Are we doomed to react only to important developments when they are about to cave in upon us or can we respond to our duties as parliamentarians [1057] and initiate and develop broader public debate and awareness of these issues? I believe we can.

One such issue, perhaps the most important, facing the Community is that of enlargement. It has huge implications for the Community and for Ireland's role in an expanded Community. To begin with there are grave resource implications. In an expanded Europe encompassing the poorer countries of eastern Europe there would obviously be less funding available to Ireland. Enlargement also has huge implications for the decision-making process of the Community. In a much expanded Community this process would have to change if it were not to become cumbersome and unwieldy. Would Ireland maintain its voice in such a Community or would it have a much diminished role and be overwhelmed by other interest blocs in the Community?

I have two or three times in this Chamber called for a debate on enlargement because we should be thinking through its implications in the public and political arena now and not leave this important issue solely for deliberation by the Civil Service. Enlargement poses a range of challenges for Ireland and the Community as a whole. I have already referred to the issue of institutional arrangements and voting rights. It is not enough simply to add pieces to existing structures. Instead, the issue of representation at Commission and parliamentary level must be addressed.

This debate should be tackled in conjunction with the debate on subsidiarity and in the spirit of greater involvement of national parliaments in the whole process of European Union. The notion of subsidiarity, enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty, is one that merits serious debate. There are those who would argue that one cannot have subsidarity at European level when it does not exist in a meaningful way at national level.

To my mind the European Community can only develop and enlarge with the solid support of its peoples. This in turn demands more openness, democracy and improved two-way communication [1058] between citizens and their leaders. If anything, the Maastricht process illustrated that the leaders of Europe had lost touch somewhat with their electorates. The Treaty engendered much debate and confusion. The European Community has been described as a “Europe of the elites” and that is no longer sufficient. We must set about creating a Europe of the electorates where there is real participation by the peoples of the member states. This is a prerequisite to enlargement.

We must be clear as to the objectives and responsibilities of the expanded European Community. One of the fundamental problems of the Maastricht Treaty was that it was utterly impenetrable to the layman. The Community must be absolutely clear about its aims and then back them up with the necessary human and financial resources. Vision in itself is not enough, it must be backed up by practical measures.

Enlargement poses serious implications for Irish foreign policy. I believe that we have yet to address these implications in a serious manner. However, we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand for much longer — we must formulate our own responses to the fast changing political and security situation in Europe. We cannot afford to ignore what is happening.

I have focused on enlargement in this contribution but there is a whole range of other issues. What of Ireland's neutrality in such a time of change? Does it evolve with changing circumstances or should it be removed?

How can the principle of cohesion be most effectively realised? This means more than simply Structural Funds. It means a consistent set of cohesion policies Community wide.

What of the new policy competences to be introduced by the Maastricht Treaty? How should they be developed? What direction should they take? What should Ireland propose in this regard?

What is the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and what are the implications for Irish agriculture? How can Ireland best adapt and prosper?

[1059] Bearing in mind the recent currency crisis, what is the future of European Monetary Union? How can Ireland best participate in this process? What are the implications of the two-tier Europe?

These and other issues to be addressed are legion. However, at present we are acting as if these issues are peripheral, as if they exist merely in the abstract. These issues are anything but abstract, they will shape this country in the decades ahead. As parliamentarians and as a country we must face up to these challenges and be prepared to play our part in a vigorous and forward-looking manner. If we do otherwise we are relegating ourselves to a role on the sidelines of European history.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I also welcome the Bill. The Minister began his speech by saying there is a growing awareness in the Community that action must be taken to stimulate growth and to promote employment. Over the last number of weeks there has been a major reduction in interest rates on house mortgages but there has been no decrease in commercial interest rates. I ask the Minister to use his good offices to try to reduce commercial interest rates because it would be one way of stimulating growth within our economy and providing jobs. On previous occasions in this House I asked the Minister for Finance to see what he could do to reduce commercial interest rates. Such reductions are the basis of any economic revival in this country.

The Minister also stated that the European Council at Edinburgh in December 1992 launched a growth initiative. Among the elements included in this initiative is the setting up of a European Investment Fund. The European Investment Bank will be the major shareholder as well as the Community itself and other major financial institutions. This fund will provide financial guarantees for borrowings and facilitate private financing of infrastructural projects. Does this mean that from now on local authorities will be in a position to apply directly to the fund for borrowings to carry out their work [1060] and thus alleviate the pressure on our own economy?

I welcome the Structural Funds, I hope that the uses to which they are put will provide the basis for leading this country into the next century. The Taoiseach was quoted in the media last week as saying he would negotiate on the £8 billion and was willing to accept less. I was amazed to hear Senator Taylor-Quinn stating that the 1989-93 Structural Funds were now being used to prop up the present fund so that it would be seen that we are getting £8 billion now. I do not think this would be very acceptable to the public and I hope the Minister will ensure that we will get £8 billion in addition to the funds we were promised for the 1989-93 period. On national radio last week the EC Commissioner, Mr. Flynn, stated we were entitled to £8 billion and that we would have no problem in obtaining it. I hope we will get £8 billion in addition to what we were promised for the period 1989-93.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  The fact that the Minister came back to the House a second time in the same day underlines the importance and urgency of the Bill.

I wish to dwell on three points. First, as clearly acknowledged in the background to this legislation, the recent record of the European Community in terms of the impact of economic policies has been a failure. Not before time the EC has reacted to the need to demonstrate to its citizens that it is relevant, has a concern and a programme for what for them is the only priority, security and employment in their own place. All the statements, and sometimes platitudes, which emerge from meetings of European institutions at Commission, Council and Parliament levels are sometimes very remote from the reality of life from the Cap Suniom at the end of the southern tip of Greece to Northern Ireland or the very tip of John O' Groats. For that reason it is welcome to find at the highest level of Government a focus on what is relevant, real and crucially important, namely, employment.

This is not before time, even the latest [1061] annual report from the Commission acknowledges that the present situation in the jobs market is very grave indeed. I do not think I can recall a report from the Commission being so honest and blunt in recognising reality. It underpins the urgency by pointing out some startling statistics relating to 1992. The 1993 statistics may show that conditions have deteriorated since 1992. Only 60 per cent of the EC's population of working age were in employment in that period, a frightening disclosure.

We have all been sadly aware of unemployment in our own country, we do not need to dwell on the reasons and structural causes behind it and the programmes of Government to try to alleviate it. When we find that throughout the EC generally only 60 per cent of the population of working age is in employment, which is way below that of the United States and Japan who are normally seen as the EC's competitor regions, obviously urgent remedial and positive development action is required.

It is now belately recognised that, for one reason or another, in the development of policy in the EC each member state pursued its own education policy independently. Accordingly, there was no co-ordinated education policy. Only relatively recently have the member states become aware of the fact that without education in its proper and effective function there will be no success in tackling what has almost become the endemic unemployment problem. To illustrate that, over the years here the Social Fund, which is a major element in the EC Structural Funds, was applied almost exclusively through training agencies under the Department of Labour. I do not want to denigrate the role of the training agencies but our capacity to draw down maximum funds was not matched by our capacity to put them to the most effective use for permanent employment, which would be achieved particularly through education.

Education for permanent employment is considerably more effective than training for short-time employment. It is considerably more effective than the plethora of administrative schemes which [1062] we have seen develop and expand in the last number of years through some of the agencies under the Department of Labour. We developed such a reputation for this that the newer member states of the European Community, notably Portugal and Greece, came to Ireland to consult us.

Education policy is now being presented as a priority in Europe and at home right through third level. I hope we will have institutions which are geared not just to the current reality but to the future potential in every aspect, such as linguistic ability in business and familiarisation with the cultural attitudes of other countries. We have much to do to be effective in that area.

I want to turn to something which I find rather startling. In the course of recent research I discovered that the position of the European Community and its record of achievement in relation to women's issues is not what it should be, considering the priority which it says it attaches to these issues. On going through the list of the staff of the Commission recently I was appalled to find that, probably uniquely among the administrations of Europe at national or any other level, the role and place of women is scarcely recognised. I am conscious of this because during my short period as Commissioner I made what was seen as a major breakthrough in appointing the first lady director general to the commission services, Renée van Hoff, who is director general of the interpreting and conference centre. I should now refer to her as Renée van Hoff-Haferkamp because since then she has married my good friend and former colleague in the Commission, Willie Haferkamp.

I am not aware of any major development since then in what is now being properly called “equality proofing” by the Commission for the Status of Women. If the European Commission, which is charged among other things with the social action programme, with equity in all of these areas and the dynamic which can be implemented through recognising the role of women in society at every level, will not give due recognition [1063] to this in their own organisation, how can we expect those to whom they preach in the private sector to give this recognition?

I wish to illustrate my case by referring to the fact that there are 41 heads of service in the Commission service. Most of those heads of service operate at the level of director general, some at the level of director. Two of the 41 positions are filled by women. The other woman in addition to Renée van Hoff is Colette Flesch in DG X which deals with media, information communications and culture. I do not wish to denigrate the significance and role either of the joint interpreting and conference programme or the media, information, communications and culture section. However, it is fair to say that neither of them would be regarded as the economic and social powerhouse of European policy. To the extent that they are not, it is time to expand the purely administrative role which has been allocated to these two efficient and highly qualified ladies — they would not be where they are unless they were even more efficient and qualified than their male counterparts.

There are, as far as I know, 20 Community offices in the member states such as the information office in Molesworth Street in Dublin. One of the 20 offices is headed by a woman. It is reasonable to ask if it is possible that there might be some reasonably qualified ladies to take on that responsibility within the European Community. The European Community and the Commission in particular is nothing if not consistent in this because if we look at their external offices we find a consistent pattern. Of the 90 external offices of the European Community three are headed by women.

With regard to those who would lead us into the next generation of enlightment and suggest programmes to us for equality in all these forms could we just ask “Who is guarding the guardians —quis custodiet ipson custodes”? The evidence does not suggest that they are supervising their own records too closely. I thought it would be appropriate to mention [1064] that at this point because if we are speaking of enlargement of the Community we should also think about enlarging our attitude and recognising that the dynamic which is necessary in Europe, where we have seen so much introspection over the last number of years, cannot be released fully unless and until we channel all the energies which are there. I do not think that can be achieved on the basis of what might be called a unisex approach within the Commission service as well.

I should say in passing that there was one lady who dominated Europe for some time. I attended many European Councils with her and I hope there will be not too many like her among the ranks of those I hope will emerge from the Commission.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I did not think the Senator was old enough to dine with Queen Elizabeth I.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  I was not thinking of Queen Elizabeth I, but that would have been a very pleasant experience.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator O'Kennedy, without interruption.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  I am sure Margaret would be very pleased to know she was thought of in the same context as Queen Elizabeth I. Through the force of her personality — and not because of a great European vision, which I found singularly lacking—she managed to have the EC contemplate its navel for ten years on one question: how much Britain had put in and how much it was getting back. In passing, may I say I believe it is one of the great tragedies——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I ask the Senator to get back to the Bill.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  One of the great tragedies of the EC is that Britain might have taken a much more vigorous, positive and confident approach — for its own good as well as that of the EC — but was prevented from doing so by a very [1065] negative image constantly conveyed by that good lady whose name I do not want to repeat.

I want to make a point in relation to enlargement and the establishment of the European fund under the European Investment Bank. There has clearly been a rebalancing in the Community with the most recent enlargement in the south of Europe. We do not want the status of being the only worse off area. However, there is pressure on EC funding to maintain the cohesion and conversion policies to ensure that the peripheral regions will always have a balance against those at the centre of the market. We need a further rebalancing from those countries who have the resources and capacity to bring this new dynamic to the Community.

Those at the centre of the market will always do well from the EC. The shop in the main street will always do better than the one at the edge of the town. There is no apology to be made to Holland, Germany, France or Belgium — and certainly not to Luxembourg which has done very well from the EC — because those of us on the northern and southern periphery simply want to balance the advantage held by those at the centre of the market against the disadvantages we experience at the periphery. We want to balance those disadvantages with the convergence and support funds which are now part of this renegotiation under the Structural Funds. It is difficult to do that while the demands on the Structural Funds are as onerous as they are now, with the southern countries making a reasonable and necessary claim for their entitlement.

That is why I welcome the application of Norway, Sweden, Austria and Finland. It is important for the economic balance of the EC, but it is also important for the cultural balance of the Community. Incidentally — to distort a well known statement — just as we cannot set a limit to the march of a nation, we cannot set a limit to the development of the EC. In time, and not before long, other countries to the east, the previously totalitarian states of eastern Europe, will [1066] also join the Community. They will not have the same resources as Norway, Sweden, Austria and Finland and therefore it would be best to establish cohesion with those countries before further enlargement takes place. Let us not forget Turkey has been knocking on the door for the past 20 years and for the most part the EC does want to know about Turkey. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I had to convey a subtle message to the Turks that the door was not about to swing open to them.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  Perhaps, their new Prime Minister will open it.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Perhaps. If we are to have enlargement, even just to include the four countries we have discussed, we should also remember that the institutional framework of the EC is already grossly overburdened. There must be a library of reports on institutional reform, for example, the Three Wise Men or Les Trois Sages, which will be of great interest to research students in future years, studying how reports were accepted by the Council and then consistently ignored for years. At least 12 years ago a report suggested that there should be just one commissioner from each member state, so that the central executive could function reasonably efficiently. It was apparent even then that the Commission was distorted in favour of the major powers and that this distortion was not in the interest of the development of the EC.

The executive is already grossly overburdened; for each commissioner there is a huge administrative back-up. I was amazed to find out that the number of personnel in the Commission has grown by around 50 per cent since I was responsible for administration and personnel — and not all of that is necessary for helping the people of the EC. It is important to remember that as the Community expands it should also become more efficient. The mushroom growth of the Commission must stop.

Our record on implementing European legislation is not what we would [1067] expect it to be given our wish to proclaim, and our interest in proclaiming, ourselves as committed and effective Europeans who do not simply react to Europe but who take a lead role. These regulations are the consequence of what we ourselves at the Council level decide on, unless we do not know, and we should, what is happening at the Council. I wish the Tánaiste and the Foreign Affairs Committee, which has taken over the role of the secondary affairs committee, every success in overseeing this programme.

The latest figures released by the European Commission on progress at national level in implementing the Single Market legislation show that Denmark is the best performer, with 94.7 per cent implementation. The poor Danes are very conscientous; they argue longer at Council meetings about the effect these regulations will have, because they are serious about putting them into effect. Some of the other member states do not even bother to raise questions and bother less about implementing regulations. The UK is also inclined to be conscientous because they, too, argue and question, and they have an implementation rate of 90 per cent. Even Italy has an implementation rate of 90.5 per cent. Ireland, I regret to say comes third last with a rate of 80 per cent and that is not something of which we can be proud. To be consistent on all fronts, I believe we should look closely at what has prevented us from implementing legislation we have been involved in passing. Otherwise, we are carrying on with the notion that someone out there is making decisions for us without our knowing about them.

What has been agreed at Edinburgh should be implemented as agreed. The European Community should not set the precedent that an agreed share of Structural Funds be subject to further negotiation. That would be a major departure from the procedures I encountered either as a commissioner or as a member of the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  We are in the twilight of this session of the Seanad. I welcome [1068] the Minister to the House and I apologise for detaining him for half an hour because we did not keep to the order we had established this afternoon. It did not reflect well on the way we conduct our business.

This is important legislation and I disagree with those who suggested it is a response to the Meagher judgment or a technical matter. It is far more significant than that. There is nothing seriously defective in it and its passage through the House should be effected. The time given to this legislation is in marked contrast to that given to Aer Lingus. That is not to say one is more important than the other but there are lessons to be learnt from this.

Senator Lanigan showed a cavalier indifference to billions of pounds when he stated he regarded the way the money was spent as rather more important than the £8 billion we hope to receive in Structural Funds. Both are extremely important. We have not always used the money to best effect in the past and we must use it well in future.

If we secure £7.9 or £8 billion that should not be represented as having secured what we thought we had achieved in Edinburgh. It does not take into account the devaluation of the currency. We can argue whether £700 or £800 million should accrue to us but we should concentrate on the percentage to be given rather then the sum of money. We must maximise what we receive from the Community and use it to good effect. It is not relevant whether the year for which the figure applied has passed but it is important we secure the sum represented as a victory at the Edinburgh summit.

My first query about the Bill concerns the European investment fund and the relationship the European Investment Bank would have with the system of central banks and the European central bank proposed at Maastricht. When we establish these structures under that treaty what part will the EIB play? Will it remain outside the ambit of the European central bank or the central banks [1069] system as an entity unto itself? That is not clear.

I accept the Minister's point that it is a matter of guarantees rather than grants. In the absence of continuing Structural Funds, will Ireland look to the EIB to fund the infrastructural investment required to make the country cohesive with other European countries? In that event what types of projects will be allowable? I understand the moneys from the EIB are for large national projects and are not used for the smaller projects aided during the Structural Funds period. When we come to seek money from the EIB it can only be used for large civil engineering works.

I agreed with the tone of Senator Lydon's contribution this afternoon. He mentioned the scaremongering on defence, European union and neutrality during the Maastricht debate. There was also much confusion about the perceived imposition of a European code of morals on the Irish people. It was never and would never be the intention of the European Community to impose such a code upon us.

The Senator also mentioned the “compression deficit”. I think I can claim to be the author of that phrase. To go down in history for that reason is to have greatness thrust upon one. There was concern about an information deficit. There is no such thing because, as Senator O'Kennedy has said, reams of literature and volumes of materials come from Brussels. The problem is getting people to understand what comes from the EC. We have spawned an élite who like the jargon of “pillars” and “institutional frameworks”. These nice cosy phrases can be discussed at conferences without references to the fact that most people do not understand them.

We have to make the Community relevant to its citizens and to do so the Commission and those responsible for disseminating information must make it accessible to people. They have failed badly in that respect. Senator Lydon is a member of the Irish Council of the European Movement which made strenuous efforts in the Maastricht [1070] debate to produce accessible literature and assist the system. As he said, Members of this House should become involved in the Institute of European Affairs. That body does not seek to direct the way we address Community issues but it seeks to inform in a non-directional way. It would be of value to Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas to be involved in the institute because it would improve their knowledge of how the European system works. The Minister is due to attend a function at the institute later this week and I know he supports that organisation.

The Minister said the European Economic Area Agreement was not directly concerned with EC enlargement and was not a prelude to membership of the Community by the EFTA states. I accept that, but I think the two are related. Entry of EFTA states to the agreement has facilitated progress towards membership of the Community and towards enlargement. I welcome enlargement and the impending accession of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. I would also welcome the accession of Hungary and the other newly democratic countries. However, I would have reservations about the accession of Turkey.

Nonetheless enlargement will cause even more difficulties for the so called “institutional framework”. Will the institutions of the Community be flexible enough to be relevant to EC citizens when the Community has been greatly enlarged? It will also cause problems when we enact the Maastricht Treaty provisions, especially those for economic and monetary union.

The reunification of Germany caused difficulties and the economic and currency problems we experienced were a direct consequence of that reunification. We will now bring in other countries with different economic growth rates, different levels of unemployment and different national debts. It seems to me that it will be difficult to achieve the criteria under the Maastricht Treaty which are required for us to advance to monetary and economic union. I would [1071] like to see economic and monetary union becoming a reality because I subscribe to the “F” word, federalism. However, I believe it will be difficult to achieve. I cannot understand how enlargement will be consistent with achieving what has been laid down for us in the Maastricht Treaty.

I have some reservations with regard to the provisions of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1993, which relate to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I hope that matters of secondary legislation will not become submerged in the burden of work which the committee must do. I fear this area will be sidelined, but I hope it will not happen. I also fear the area of secondary legislation and our relationship with the EC on a legal and regulation directive basis will submerged because the committee must discuss, as it should, important matters. This matter is not as attractive as some of the other matters discussed by the committee. Will the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs be obliged to deal with matters of secondary legislation or will they deal with them at their discretion? I am not clear about that. I have already referred to the Structural Funds and I hope they will be used prudently and well.

This is not only technical legislation, it is good and important legislation and we should facilitate its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is unique legislation in one respect, I cannot find “in relation to” in the Bill. The parliamentary draftsman of this legislation must be congratulated. The “in relation to” disease has been halted at one stroke by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We mentioned in previous debates the extent to which “in relation to” has crept into the language, even when it was unnecessary.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I thank the Senators for their contributions. As I said at the outset, although this is a technical Bill to some extent, it is important in the context of our relationship with the European Community. I say to Senator Dardis that I [1072] understand how democracy can occasionally keep Ministers waiting. I have no problem with that because issues need to be dealt with and we must show flexibility in these situations. I am glad of any opportunity to address matters in the Seanad as this is an important House.

The Bill addresses a number of issues arising from EC membership. It also addresses the complex question of retrospective confirmation of ministerial regulations, previously made under the European Communities Act, 1972. I compliment Senators on their contributions to the complex issues. I agree with remarks about the complexity of Europe and European legislation.

It is extremely important that we make every effort to focus as far as possible, in layman's language, on what is happening at EC level and on remarks made about the Irish Counciil of the European Movement and the Institute of European Affairs. These are improtant institutions and in recent years they have tried to explain and provide facilities for debate on these complex issues. It is important to work with them and provide a focus of the the debate. There are times when the amount of technicalities involved in explaining te European institutions would bewilder the most technical of people.

One of the main issues arising from the debate this evening was unemployment and growth. People seem surprised at the language used in terms of the growing awareness of this issue. I must restate that unemployment was not on the European agenda until recently, although people may find that difficult to believe. Our European colleagues did not pay the same attention to this issue. Perhaps the reason was that, until recently, they did not have the same pressing unemployment problems we have in Ireland. It is only in the last 12 months that we have succeeded in putting this issue at the top of the agenda.

Arising from the conclusions of the Edinburgh Summit and the Maastricht Treaty, one is aware of the problem of economic recovery and the serious unemployment which have befallen the Community. [1073] The Maastricht Treaty aspires to the promotion of a high level of employment. Economic growth alone may not be sufficient to solve unemployment, but it has an essential contribution to make in that battle.

Ireland attaches considerable importance to the European “growth initiative” launched at the European Council at Edinburgh last December and enforced at the Copenhagen Summit. The “growth initiative”, of which the European Investment Fund is but a part, has been pursued by the Community since the Edinburgh Summit. It was given a further impetus at the Copenhagen Summit. In addition to growth, the European Commission is specifically studying the question of employment and how it can be promoted. Ireland attaches the highest priority to this area of the Community's work. Everything which can stimulate and revitalise the economy in Europe must be welcomed.

The European Investment Fund is part of that “growth initiative”. Section 2 of the Bill opens the way for Ireland to ratify the necessary change to the statute of the European Investment Bank. Senator Dardis asked how this fund interrelates with the European central banks. The EIB stays outside the ambit of the system of central banks. It is a development bank. We do not rely too heavily on it for funds because of our access to Structural Funds. It lends mainly to telecommunications and energy projects, although there is an effort underway at present to make loans available to small and medium sized industries. We have an interest in this.

Transposition of Community legislation was mentioned by a number of Senators. The transposition of Community secondary legislation into Irish law has given rise to extensive discussion. This is correct because it is extremely important. It is often said that our rate of transposition is poor and that we compare badly with other member states. The process is complex and extends to the area of responsibility for a number of Ministers. The situation is changing and some measures are transposed. New [1074] measures become due for transposition and other measures are superseded by newer ones. That is almost verging on a European language, if I may say so myself. In this fluid situation Ireland's position in the league table of transposition is by no means lagging behind.

We only need to turn to the tenth annual report of the Commission on the state of transposition of EC law to appreciate how advanced this country is in its implementation arrangements. The most recent report from the Commission records the position of each member state at the end of 1992. Ireland shows a satisfactory rate of 91.1 per cent. It is in fifth place after Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In some sectors, for example in customs union, direct taxation, recognition of diplomas and rights of establishment and competition policy, the rate is 100 per cent. The rate in other sectors may not be as high. A recent analysis shows that there are only 23 cases where the Commission is in correspondence with the Irish authorities about the alleged delays in the transposition of EC legislation into Irish law.

When the laws are passed in Europe, it is important, as has been said in the contributions here this evening, to take steps to ensure that transposition takes place. Otherwise, we are likely to play games and we are fooling ourselves to some extent because ultimately, it only causes problems. There is room for improvement and we will always strive to improve our performance in this regard. I can assure the House that every effort will continue to be made with a view to ensuring that EC legislation is transposed into Irish law as expeditiously and as carefully as possible because it is important to get it right.

The question of Structural Funds has arisen and, apart from Senator Taylor-Quinn's comments which were slightly provocative, the approach has been quite healthy. In the context of the present debate it is important not to lose sight of the fundamental benefits Ireland has received and is getting from these funds.

The Edinburgh Council in December [1075] 1992 provided for significant increases in the funding. It provided in explicit terms for a concentration on the four least prosperous member states. It set aside an amount of 85 billion ECU which is about £68 billion pounds for the Cohesion Fund and for Objective One regions for the period 1993 to 1999. This makes it possible for commitments to the four to double between 1992 and 1999. We are negotiating with the European Community to obtain a share which the Government considers justified under the terms of the Edinburgh agreement.

The concentration on the least prosperous member states should mean that Ireland would get an increase at least in line with the average for the Objective One regions outside the four least prosperous countries. There would be little point in going into detailed figures until the amounts have been fully agreed. We are in a negotiating position and what is important is that a clear message goes to Brussels that we are going to maintain that negotiating position until we get the share we feel we deserve.

Senator Henry suggested that there is scope for greater cross-Border co-operation with regard to the funds. I agree with that and I am sure the Senator is aware of my statements in that regard. I can inform the House that there will be a considerable cross-Border content in the forthcoming national plan. Joint projects will be submitted to Brussels for funding and this is important in terms of the social and economic areas where I would like to think we can make progress without upsetting anybody.

With regard to the funding in 1993, the Members will be aware that the Taoiseach in his report to the Dáil on the Edinburgh Council in December 1992 referred to a seven year period and that is recorded clearly in the Edinburgh Conclusions. This referred to 1993 to 1999.

Senator Lydon and others spoke about explaining the EC and its work to its citizens. In the past we have all been somewhat slack in relation to bringing the people with us and keeping them involved in what is happening at EC [1076] level. In the Dáil recently I dealt with a question about a third level institution to look at European issues or the Department of Education trying to introduce European studies at second level. It is important in the context of our involvement with Europe that at a young age our citizens would become familiar with the European Community and its aims and objectives to which we are all firmly committed.

Senator O'Kennedy pointed out that the EC will be judged by its deeds and this involves dealing with the unemployment crisis. Education which he referred to in some detail and co-operation in that area is an important means of improving employment prospects. He also mentioned the role of women in the European Commission. I am sure the Commission will take careful note of the arguments put forward on this issue. The role of women is extremely important in all of our institutions. They are under-represented and the Government is insisting and ensuring that there is a gender quota applying to all State boards and with regard to all appointments made by the Government. It is important to ensure that there is a proper role for women in all institutions, both national and European, and I will do anything possible in that regard.

I thank the Senators for their contributions. This is an important debate in relation to three aspects of the Bill before the House and I trust it will pass with their co-operation.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill put through committee, reported without amendment and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Wright: Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  I thank the Minister for his forebearance today on the various issues raised and for all his contributions and his support for the Seanad.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I join with the Leader in [1077] thanking the Minister for his attendance. I have already apologised to him for our not having ordered ourselves well; that detained him. I hope this Bill will achieve its objectives and I am sure it will. Before we conclude, may I thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, and the staff of the House both in the office and the ushers for their attention and help during the past session. We hope you have a good holiday.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I wish to thank the Minister for the time he has given to this House since I have been a Member. He has been here on a regular basis and I thank him for the attention he has given to the Seanad. I would also like to thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, and the staff of the House for their co-operation and their help, particularly in this first session for us less experienced Senators, and for your forebearance on all occasions.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I also thank the Minister and I am particularly happy with his closing remarks about co-operation with the North regarding Structural Funds. As a new Senator, and on behalf of the other Independent Senators, I also thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, and the staff of the House for the great courtesy shown to us. I wish everyone a happy holiday.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I thank the Members for their kind remarks. As I said at the outset, I am glad to attend the Seanad as often as I can, although I would not like to give the impression that I want to sit on the benches. I shall do my best to avoid that.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  We would exchange with the Minister anytime.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I wish to avoid that for the time being. I thank the Members for their courtesy and you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, and the staff for the assistance I get when I have come to the Seanad. As I said already with regard to Senator Dardis's remarks about some delays and hitches on the Order of Business today, I am a great believer in democracy with flexibility so I take no offence.

Question put and agreed to.


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