Dáil Éireann - Volume 469 - 09 October, 1996

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - European Council Meeting: Supplementary Questions.

Supplementary Questions to the Taoiseach in respect of Questions Nos. 2 to 7, inclusive, on the Order Paper of Tuesday, 8 October 1996 in accordance with the Order of Dáil Éireann of that day.

2. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen on 3 September 1996. [16340/96]

3. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach if he will summarise the principal points in his address to the European Parliament. [16545/96]

[1757] 4. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the outcome of his meetings in Japan. [17659/96]

5. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with Chancellor Kohl. [17660/96]

6. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the informal European Council meeting held in Dublin Castle on Saturday, 6 October 1996. [17768/96]

7. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with German Chancellor, Dr. Helmut Kohl, in Dublin on Wednesday, 2 October 1996. [17772/96]

The Taoiseach, on Tuesday, 8 October 1996, read the following reply:

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 to 7, inclusive, together.

The Special Meeting of the European Council in Dublin on 5 October last was a success. In relation to the Intergovernmental Conference the Special Council reaffirmed the time-table set by the Florence European Council thereby confirming that the conference should be completed by the middle of next year. The special council also confirmed the need to maintain the level of ambition of the conference so as to ensure that its outcome is adequate to equip and strengthen the Union to meet the internal and external challenges facing it.

The Irish Presidency will now proceed to discharge the mandate given to it at the Florence European Council and submit a revised draft Treaty to the Dublin European Council. It is our objective that this draft will meet the required level of ambition and will provide a basis whereby the conference can be successfully concluded in mid 1997.

I also briefed the special council on the progress on Ireland's other key Presidency priorities in the areas of economic and monetary union, drugs [1758] and crime and employment. I indicated that the Presidency was on course to submit substantive conclusions to the December European Council under these headings. The special council saw a particularly strong consensus on the need for the Union to tackle the issues of crime and drug trafficking not just through Treaty changes at the Intergovernmental Conference but also on an ongoing basis. There was acknowledgement of the progress already made on this matter during the Irish Presidency notably at the recent informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers and a determination to see further progress recorded at the December European Council.

In the areas of external relations the Special Council discussed the EU's relations with the US, Russia, Japan and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. We also discussed the Middle East Peace Process and agreed that the Tánaiste should visit the Middle East to meet with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to convey the strongly held view of the European Union of the need to accelerate the Middle East peace process.

As the House is aware the Tánaiste has already carried out his mission during which he met the Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu, President Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and President Mubarak of Egypt. The Tánaiste also had discussions during his visit with the US Secretary of State Mr. Warren Christopher. The prompt action of the European Union signifies that the EU will do all in its power to promote a rapid conclusion to the peace negotiations in the Middle East and that we will co-operate with both the Israelis and the Palestinians in a constructive way.

The Special Meeting of the European Council also agreed in principle to the appointment of a special EU envoy to work on an ongoing basis [1759] with all of the parties in the peace process in the Middle East. The Special Council instructed the General Affairs Council to consider a mandate for such an envoy at its next meeting at the end of October.

Chancellor Kohl paid an official visit to Ireland on 2-3 October last. I had discussions with the Chancellor on 2 October which covered European and international issues. The Chancellor indicated full agreement with Ireland's Presidency priorities especially in regard to the Intergovernmental Conference and the fight against drug trafficking and international crime. We also reaffirmed our commitment to economic and monetary union in accordance with the provisions set out in the Maastricht Treaty. I also briefed the Chancellor on the situation in Northern Ireland and expressed my appreciation for his support for the Northern Ireland peace process.

I had a meeting with Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark on 3 September last. We had a discussion on a broad range of European issues with particular emphasis on the Intergovernmental Conference. We also discussed EU-US relations and the situation in former Yugoslavia.

On 18 September as President in Office of the European Council I made a State of the Union Address to the European Parliament. I have arranged for copies of my address and my comments in reply to the debate to be placed in the Oireachtas Library.

In the address I identified the five main tasks facing the European Union. These are: to make the Union more relevant to its citizens, to successfully conclude the Intergovernmental Conference, to make the single currency a reality, to complete the next round of enlargement to the East and South and to secure Europe's place in the world.

[1760] Finally, I visited Japan for an EU-Japan Summit on 30 September. The joint statement issued at the conclusion of the summit, copies of which I have had placed in the Oireachtas Library, detail the shared commitment of both parties to key international and economic objectives, notably the promotion of human rights and democracy, the fight against international crime and the strengthening of the open multilateral trading system.

While in Japan I had the honour of an audience with Emperor Akihito and I also had a bilateral meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto. At the latter meeting I indicated my strong wish for an intensification of trade between Ireland and Japan. I stressed in particular that Ireland was an ideal entry point to the European Union's market for Japanese investors. I delivered the same message at a meeting I had with key Japanese businessmen.

Mr. B. Ahern: I appreciate the arrangements that were made to take these questions today.

Did the Taoiseach discuss with the Danish Prime Minister the sensitivities of their sovereignty and the possibility of the Danes opting out of Maastricht II because of proposals relating to sovereignty and other financial issues? They already have opt out clauses, but I understand from articles in international magazines that the Danes are concerned about these issues. What view did the Danish Prime Minister express in this regard?

The Taoiseach: That matter was discussed in a general way. As the House is aware, Denmark has opt out clauses in regard to economic and monetary union, defence, citizenship and third pillar issues. A court case has been initiated on ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. The Prime Minister gave me a general indication of his view on the matter, but obviously it is a matter for the Danish courts.

[1761] Mr. B. Ahern: How serious are the Danes about opting out of Maastrict II. Is it relevant to what Chancellor Kohl said last week about Maastricht III?

The Taoiseach: I do not believe there is a problem in this regard. The Danes are not going to rely on this matter when making a decision about a new treaty. They got opt out clauses at Maastricht, but it has not been suggested that they would seek other opt outs. Those opt out clauses also allow them to opt in.

There is not any difficulty of a general kind in regard to Danish participation in European work. There are however, some specific constitutional precedents and political practices in Denmark — of which Members who have served on the Council of Ministers will be aware — in terms of parliamentary scrutiny of day-to-day policy making by Ministers in Denmark which does not apply in other EU countries. The Union has accepted this for some time. Apart from that, I am not aware of any great difficulty in this regard. The Danes are positive contributors to the work of the European Union.

Miss Harney: The Taoiseach referred yesterday to his aim during the Presidency to achieve safer streets and to deal with the issue of crime and drug trafficking. Given that an Irish citizen has been charged in the United Kingdom, is the Taoiseach satisfied that there are appropriate extradition laws on drug trafficking between member states?

The Taoiseach: I would generally require notice of a question regarding the specifics of extradition legislation. Extradition works well within the European Union. We have narrowed the area in which political motivation can be used as a means of avoiding extradition. As far as non-political offences are concerned, I am not aware of any problem in regard to extradition. The Deputy did not give me notice of her question, but [1762] if she has a particular case in mind I will be glad to examine it.

There is a need for more Union legislation on a number of issues, but this will be bedevilled somewhat by the fact that most of this work is done in the third pillar where there has to be consensus. It is the member states, not the Commission, that make the proposals and that is a slow process in terms of decision making. Notwithstanding those difficulties, we are taking action during the Presidency to protect the European Union's external borders from importation of illegal drugs, crime, money laundering and precursors — chemicals used in the manufacture of drugs. We will also introduce measures to promote a reduction in the demand for drugs, extend the role of Europol, which was brought into operation during the Italian Presidency, to include offences concerning children and we will provide for greater harmonisation of our legislation. Further work is envisaged on those issues during our Presidency.

Miss Harney: I acknowledge that I did not give notice of this question. While I accept there are workable extradition arrangements between Ireland and other member states in relation to terrorist or political offences, I have been advised that similar arrangements do not exist for drug trafficking and the general category of white collar crime. That is why Irish citizens and others travel to places in the EU where they can avoid being extradited to stand trial. Will the Taoiseach ensure that workable extradition laws exist in the EU to deal with drug trafficking, organised crime, money laundering and so on?

The Taoiseach: There is a provision in certain countries under which one cannot be extradited from one country to another for an offence that is not an offence in the original country. That applies generally in regard to all extradition legislation. It is known as the speciality rule, although I am not sure of the detail. It is possible that where there are differences in legislation [1763] between different countries that rule may have a complicating factor in regard to extradition. That is one of the reasons we are looking for harmonisation of penalties and laws within the EU in regard to these matters.

It is difficult because in the third pillar — justice and home affairs — unanimity is required and the Commission does not have the lead role, as it has in the first pillar. We would like to see the Commission having the lead role. That is one of the Treaty changes we would like to see. We would also like to see specific Treaty provision in regard to drug abuse as a competence for the EU.

In regard to the Deputy's specific point on difficulties with extradition, it is a matter I will investigate and I suggest she tables a question on that topic. It will probably be answered by the Minister for Justice. It is worth investigating.

Mr. B. Ahern: With regard to Question No. 2, in view of the similarities between Ireland and Denmark and the extensive coastlines of our countries, did the Taoiseach raise the issue of our vulnerability to drugs and, if so, what proposals, if any, are being followed in the Presidency on this issue? I remind the Taoiseach that some years ago the Finance Ministers were working on this issue and there were proposals at the Essen Summit, in which the Danish and the Belgians were actively involved, to assist the funding of the security of vulnerable coastlines, particularly our own. Did the Taoiseach raise the issue and have there been any developments? Is it still the intention of other European countries to assist in the funding?

The Taoiseach: One of the points I made at the European Summit was that not enough money is being spent on the problem of drug abuse in the EU. About 0.1 per cent of the total EU budget is spent on this problem. I concede that is not enough. The Danish Prime Minister indicated to me that he strongly supported the Irish Presidency's programme in regard to drugs [1764] and crime. He told me that the Danish Government would do everything it could to support us in having decisions taken. It subsequently did so at the Justice and Home Affairs informal meeting, at which the Minister for Justice was successful in getting agreement on a number of measures.

The Danish Prime Minister also adverted to the problem Deputy Bertie Ahern mentioned of our long coastlines. The problem is not the same for the two countries. Denmark is on the Baltic Sea and a number of the Baltic countries are not EU members. The Prime Minister indicated that there was a successful meeting recently at Visby of all the Baltic states, EU members and others, at which they considered what they could do together to deal with drug trafficking in the Baltic.

We need to deal with the interdiction of drug smuggling on our Atlantic shore. This requires action with regard to Latin America which may include agreements on alternative crops and action in the Caribbean in particular, which is an entrepôt area for drugs. It also requires action with regard to North Africa. I have discussed these matters with the US President, particularly with regard to Latin America. He has expressed an interest in having an EU agreement with the US on action that can be taken to deal with drugs emanating from the Caribbean area.

Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach mentioned the European Parliament, Europol and the level of funding. He indicated that he believed Europol should assume functions in relation to the problem of child trafficking. Whatever the merits of that idea, the budget is inadequate even for Europol's present role. It is a new and unproven agency. The child abduction and paedophile networks are very sophisticated as has become evident during the summer. How could Europol deal with such a complex matter?

I accept it is a priority of the Irish Presidency but I am intrigued that the Taoiseach links it to Europol. Would it [1765] not be better to use and to expand the existing networks to counter child abduction rather than include it in the remit of an already underfunded organisation?

The Taoiseach: All the existing mechanisms are being used as fully as possible to deal with the abduction of children. Europol involves new powers being given to a European-wide service. There is not a budgetary problem with Europol because, although the Europol convention has been approved by the EU it has not been ratified by the individual member states. It does not come into effect until it has been ratified and there is no money to be spent until then. It will be ratified as quickly as possible and, as a result of the efforts of the Irish Presidency, it will be ratified with specific powers in regard to child abduction added to those previously considered. Existing measures are being used as fully as possible and will continue to be used. Europol will give an added strength to the work.

Mr. D. Ahern: In his address to the European Parliament did the Taoiseach refer to the peace and reconciliation funds and compliment our European partners for the way in which the fund has been put together? Will the Taoiseach comment on today's vote at the budget committee of the European Parliament where the socialist group successfully passed a motion slashing the fund from £125 million to £47 million for this year. This will mean a dramatic reduction in the money available to the six southern Border counties. This was apparently done on the basis that the uptake of this fund was slow.

I will quote what the president of the budget committee said at today's meeting.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is introducing new matters and is tending to make a speech.

Mr. D. Ahern: He said that the Irish [1766] Presidency of the EU did not fight hardest on this issue. If the Taoiseach raised the issue of the peace and reconciliation fund, was he aware that the European colleagues of his Government partners sponsored a proposal to reduce the money for peace and reconciliation? The budget is being slashed at a time when it is most needed given the peace process is so fragile.

The Taoiseach: There is not an immediate problem arising from this matter. I am not in possession of a detailed report of the proceedings of the committee and I cannot say which Irish members were or were not present. It is not really appropriate for members of the European Parliament to attempt to refer to the responsibility of another organ of the EU, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, as being responsible for decisions taken in the European Parliament. It jealously garners to itself the power of making these decisions. If it makes decisions of this kind one must assume it does so on its own authority and on its own account.

The appropriate course of action may be to investigate why this decision was taken by the committee from the members of the committee who took the decision or the members who were not present and whose presence might have led to a different decision. It is not feasible for me to be accountable for individual decisions of committees of the European Parliament during Question Time. I made a general address to the Parliament on the Presidency priorities, but unfortunately that does not allow me to direct what individual committees will do. If the Deputy has any problems he wishes to pursue with the members of that committee, he should pursue it with them.

Mr. D. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach accept that if the decision was made on the basis that there was a slow take up of the money it is a criticism of the system set up in regard to the peace and reconciliation funding of which our Government was a party in regard to [1767] the setting up of ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency? On this side of the House, we have said time and again during Taoiseach's Question Time that the way the money was disbursed did not give the maximum benefit to people in Border areas. We asked the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, on more than one occasion if moneys from the peace and reconciliation fund could be allocated to infrastructural development along the Border. I put it to the Taoiseach that there is criticism of the manner in which the money has been handled and the fact that the budget committee of the European Parliament has withdrawn a sizeable amount of it is an indication that someone on this side of Europe has not been doing his or her job in this respect.

The Taoiseach: Not necessarily. The truth of the matter is that there is a serious budgetary constraint in the European Union at present. There have been increased demands for BSE compensation under the Common Agricultural Policy vote, problems in finding money for trans-European networks and there are tight budgetary constraints. Those who have to make these difficult decisions about allocating money will seek to find some explanation external to themselves. They will not say it was their decision because they had to make a decision. They will say that somebody else did not do something they might have done that would have made it different, even though it might not have made it different. That is a natural human tendency in these situations.

I was not at the meeting and I have not had the opportunity to discuss its outcome with any of those who were at it. I have not got the details of it and it is difficult to speculate about its content.

Dr. McDaid: I accept the Taoiseach was unaware of the proposal by the European Union's budgetary committee. Will the Taoiseach ask the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, to intercede with his socialist colleagues and seek to convince [1768] them of the implications of this? As the Labour MEP spoke in favour of the amendment, I ask the Taoiseach to raise the matter with the Tánaiste to see what he can do regarding the funding at this time.

The Taoiseach: There is one Labour Party MEP in the European Parliament from this jurisdiction and there are many more MEPs from the Deputy's party.

Mr. D. Ahern: They voted against it.

Dr. McDaid: She is also vicepresident.

Mr. Howlin: A distinguished vicepresident.

The Taoiseach: There are three MEPs in Northern Ireland, one of whom is a member of the socialist group also. It would probably be best if all questions of this nature were addressed to Members of the European Parliament because no more than any other Taoiseach, I am not answerable for their actions. If the Deputy wants to say something to them about that, he should do so.

Mr. R. Burke: I do not blame the Taoiseach for disowning the Labour Party in the way that he has done indirectly——

Mr. Howlin: Such tired old waffle.

Mr. R. Burke: ——by washing his hands and saying that he is not responsible for their actions in the European Parliament.

Mr. Howlin: The Deputy's leader loved us in September, disliked us in October and might love us again.

Mr. R. Burke: The Taoiseach is responsible for fighting on behalf of the Irish people to ensure that we get the maximum aid for the peace and reconciliation fund.

[1769] The main feature of the Presidency is its involvement in the important technical drafting work of the new Treaty on which Mr. Dorr is doing an excellent job. Despite the views expressed by senior members from some of the larger states in Europe and having regard to the drafting world in which the Taoiseach will be involved until the end of December, will he ensure that the right of small nations to appoint a commissioner to the European Commission will be maintained?

The Taoiseach: Yes.

Mr. R. Burke: As a technical draftsman, I am sure the Taoiseach will do the best he can and I am grateful to him for that.

The Taoiseach: I am strengthened by the confidence the Deputy has in me.

Mr. R. Burke: Regarding the conference of the representatives of the governments of the member states, convergence on the inclusion of the Petersberg tasks in the Treaty is being considered. As the Taoiseach is no doubt aware, the principal questions relate to the definition of the tasks, their location, the decision making and other rights held by partners who are not a full member of the Western European Union. This is very important to this State in regard to the question of neutrality. Our people's deep feeling about neutrality was reflected in a recent opinion poll. On this side of the House we have made it clear that we see a defence and police role for our forces in supporting the EU Foreign Affairs Council in a manner similar to the UN Security Council on Petersberg-type tasks such as providing relief and humanitarian aid. Will the Taoiseach ensure that in the technical drafting work that is taking place our position on neutrality will be defended at all times?

The Taoiseach: The approach of the Government has been one of seeking to [1770] contribute on a case by case basis to operations of this kind and we will continue to do that. We will do everything necessary to reserve our ability to make individual decisions in regard to matters of this nature. We will not be bound by any situation where there is automaticity involved. We are also taking the necessary care in the definition of the tasks to ensure that they are appropriate, but we will reserve our position in regard to participation. However, it is important that we should be willing to participate. It was clear from recent opinion polls that people here see a need to participate in defending our common achievement in the European Union and they seem to see that as not being inconsistent with neutrality. There is a very interesting definition of the question in terms of public opinion.

Mr. R. Burke: Fianna Fáil led the debate on this matter with the publication of its document last November in advance of the Government's paper on this issue of participation. It is important that the tradition of service abroad should continue. It has developed here since the early 1960s with our work on behalf of the UN Security Council and on behalf of the EU. We should engage in the Petersberg tasks in the provision of humanitarian aid and disaster relief, but it is important that in doing so the important line between commitment to the EU and being involved in NATO or the Western European Union is not crossed. Will the Taoiseach ensure that that line will not be crossed in the technical work that is being done?

The Taoiseach: As the Deputy is aware, we are an observer at the Western European Union. That decision was taken when the Deputy's party had responsibility in Government and it was the right decision. We are involved in the Western European Union and attend every meeting of it in that capacity. We will work in a constructive way to develop our commitment here. Obviously the Irish public expect us to [1771] show commitment to the defence of the values which bind the EU together. Equally, they have concerns about matters over which they have no control or do not want to be involved with. The Government will respect that concern in its approach to the Intergovernmental Conference.

Mr. R. Burke: In his discussions and statement, the Taoiseach mentioned the important question of Third World aid. He will be aware of the budgetary cuts implemented in relation to sub-Saharan Africa and the targeting of EU Third World aid to what would seem to be areas and zones of economic interest to the Union, rather than to those that require an injection of EU aid. Will the Taoiseach assure the House he will reconsider this matter? I do not expect him to give a detailed answer now. Will he use his role as President of the EU to ensure that this serious redirection of funds is stopped and that the areas in greatest need, in sub-Saharan Africa or elsewhere, will be considered for aid?

The Taoiseach: This is a matter I specifically addressed in my State of the Union address to the European Parliament. I said that the world's population is six billion, about two billion more than when the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1958. There will be an extra billion and a half in the world 30 years from now. Each one of those people will have to be fed and clothed.

I made the point that whereas there are 2,800 square metres of arable land in the world producing food for every person today, by the year 2025 there will be only 1,700 square metres of arable land available because of increased population and claiming of food producing land. Grain yields are not increasing fast enough at the moment to keep pace with population. Europe is consuming a disproportionate amount of the world's energy. We are consuming 18 per cent of the world's energy even though we have only 7 per cent of the world's population. On the [1772] other hand we are producing far more CO² per head than many other countries in the Union or in the world, which is damaging the atmosphere.

It is important we are aware of the global challenge which faces us. One of the reasons I am a strong believer in the European Union is that I believe individual nation states are too small to cope with these global challenges. This includes the biggest nation state in the European Union.

An Ceann Comhairle: Before I call Deputy Tom Kitt and Deputy Séamas Brennan, may I say that the House must deal with Priority Questions not later than 3.30 p.m? I further remind the House that we are still dealing with a number of questions which appeared on yesterday's Order Paper. We have not yet come to Questions to the Taoiseach on today's Order Paper. The House may utilise its time as it thinks fit. Forgive me if I mention these matters.

Mr. T. Kitt: In relation to the Petersberg tasks and the parties for peace, I agree with the Taoiseach on the question of involving ourselves in peacekeeping and humanitarian roles along the lines of the UN — roles in which both our Army and Garda are already involved.

It is not impossible for the Taoiseach to reconcile the differences between the three parties in Government on this issue. I am quoting from what the Taoiseach, Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell, and the Tánaiste said on the issue. It is not in line with the Democratic Left party's position as expressed by some of its backbenchers in particular. How is that circle squared? Will the Taoiseach do nothing about this because of that reality?

Mr. R. Burke: They are called State cars. That is how that circle is squared.

The Taoiseach: Each of the parties in Government has different views about a range of matters. The essence of political life is working together to find a [1773] compromise where positions differ. There is nothing wrong in the three parties in Government having different views. That is one of the strengths of the Government——

Mr. D. Ahern: The Taoiseach has to make a decision sometime.

The Taoiseach: ——and one of the reasons this Government is a representative one——

Ms McManus: Listen and learn.

The Taoiseach: ——which represents a broad range of the people and is therefore able——

Mr. S. Brennan: A Government that makes no decisions.

The Taoiseach: ——in the compromises it reaches, whether on this issue or on any other——

Mr. D. Ahern: Is that why he appointed Deputy Pat Rabbitte?

The Taoiseach: ——to reflect, reasonably, the views of the people as a whole.

Mr. R. Burke: It is ring-a-ring-a-rosy politics.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach without interruption. I take it he has concluded.

Mr. Lawlor: He has concluded. Short and irrelevant.

Mr. S. Brennan: There is a question tabled about the Council meeting last Saturday. Can the Taoiseach confirm that the question of the Single Currency was not on the agenda on Saturday and was not discussed by the Prime Ministers? Given the turmoil in the UK on the question of a Single Currency, was it a mistake not to discuss it on Saturday at the senior level of Prime Minister? [1774] There is a need to make some arrangements with the UK in the event of it staying out of the currency and us going into it. Is this a sign that Ireland does not intend to take a part in shaping this currency and in making some special arrangements for the UK and Northern Ireland? Is it a fait accompli which is not to be discussed any more in case we embarrass Mr. Major?

The Taoiseach: The Deputy does not seem to be keeping up to date. These issues were all disposed of at the Finance Ministers' meeting which was also held in Dublin. All those issues, including the question of the ins, the outs and the pre-ins, were dealt with and disposed of effectively and, therefore, it was not necessary for them to be discussed at heads of Government level.

Mr. S. Brennan: I do not think that is correct. It was not entirely disposed of. A European Single Currency is not disposed of at a meeting of Ministers of Finance. If the Taoiseach thinks that he is greatly mistaken. The Prime Ministers of the EU should discuss this project. What arrangements are being made, given that the UK will probably stay out? What arrangements are being made to ensure there is no competitive devaluation with the UK? Has the Taoiseach sought any assurances from John Major that the sterling currency will not be used to affect Irish exports, or is it not important enough for him to discuss?

The Taoiseach: The question of the currency arrangements has been, and is being dealt with successfully by ECOFIN. A report is being prepared by ECOFIN, in accordance with the long agreed programme for the second Dublin summit, where it will be dealt with and disposed of. I expect the main lines of the decision to be taken at our second summit in Dublin will already be agreed and laid out by the Ministers for Finance on the basis of work they have done. That work deals with all the issues to which the Deputy referred. I do not [1775] think it is a good idea to discuss the currency every time we have a meeting of Prime Ministers. We have seen examples in the past where that sort of summit hearing in regard to currency matters is far from helpful. I think the politicisation of these sorts of decisions only creates doubt where it does not and need not exist.

Mr. S. Brennan: It is a highly political issue.

The Taoiseach: As far as Britain is concerned, it is a member of the European Monetary Union and bound by the disciplines of European Monetary Union.

Mr. S. Brennan: It is not agreed.

The Taoiseach: It has an option as to whether it enters stage three. Even if it does not, it is bound by the other rules laid down in regard to the conduct of monetary and fiscal policy in the Treaty.

Mr. S. Brennan: Not on devaluation.

The Taoiseach: The issue of a relationship between its currency, if it is out, and the currency of the Union, the Euro, is one that is the subject of decisions currently being prepared for the second Dublin summit, in accordance with the pre-agreed programme which was set at the Florence and Madrid Summits. There was no need, therefore, for any discussion on this matter at Dublin I and, indeed, for any such discussion to have taken place would have not have been in the national or European interest.

Mr. S. Brennan: Deputy Jim Mitchell called for a referendum on this matter in a speech last Saturday. Will the Taoiseach consider a debate in this House on the issue? There are many serious views to be expressed on it. We should have a say and not delegate it to some sub-committee of Council of Finance Ministers. This House has to have some say in this historic decision.

[1776] The Taoiseach: We did have a debate on this matter and, in fact, we had a referendum on it. The debate took place after the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, agreed the Maastricht Treaty which contained all these arrangements which included the Single Currency with the British opt-out and the Irish people agreed to it in the referendum.

Mr. D. Ahern: Did they know the implications?

Mr. S. Brennan: The Taoiseach has got to push Mr. Major.

The Taoiseach: If they did not know the implications, then there has to be a heavy responsibility on the Government of the day of which the Deputy's party was a member. If they did not explain the implications of the Maastricht Treaty to the people, if there was no explanation, then it was the fault of Deputy Ahern's party. The fact of the matter was that there was a very full debate on it and, furthermore, it is clearly indicated to be the case in recent opinion polls that the Irish people support the concept of a Single Currency.

Mr. S. Brennan: And so do we.

The Taoiseach: They want it to go ahead. There is no need for this doubt spreading in which Deputy Brennan is engaged.

Mr. S. Brennan: There is a need to pin down the British. The Taoiseach should pin down Mr. Major on the subject.

Mr. D. Ahern: There is a need to know the implications also.

The Taoiseach: The time to do that was at Maastricht.

Mr. S. Brennan: Do it now. The Taoiseach has got the reins.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy's friend was Taoiseach at that time.

[1777] Mr. D. Ahern: The Taoiseach is afraid to discommode him——

Mr. B. Ahern: In reply to Question No. 7 regarding the Taoiseach's meeting with Chancellor Kohl, did he raise the matter of the Single Currency? Following what Deputy Brennan stated, the Bundesbank, Chancellor Kohl and, particularly, Dr. Hans Tietmeyer have made strong statements in the last week about whether the opt-outs will be allowed in respect of the Euro currency targets systems in the future. The Heads of State made it clear, at least according to the international press, that the “outs” will not have access to the target system. In his discussions with Chancellor Kohl, did the Taoiseach agree with that? Chancellor Kohl made the suggestion here and at subsequent meetings in Germany over the weekend that a Maastricht III may be necessary to achieve true reform of the decision making procedures of the EU? What is the Taoiseach's view on that?

The Taoiseach: I did not discuss the issue of the Single Currency with the Chancellor. That is settled as far as the treaty is concerned and there was no need to discuss it.

Mr. S. Brennan: No, it is not.

The Taoiseach: The criteria are set and will be met. I have confidence in that matter. I have confidence as far as this Government and this country is concerned and I also have confidence in regard to the project generally, that it will occur on time. There was no need to discuss it. We discussed other matters. It is not a matter that I believe should be reopened and it will not be reopened.

Mr. S. Brennan: We export to the UK.

The Taoiseach: It is important to make the point that the concept was agreed by the people in the Maastricht [1778] referendum and the Maastricht Treaty was agreed by a previous Government.

Mr. S. Brennan: The concept is great.

The Taoiseach: I supported it and I recollect, in fact, having to suggest to the then Government that there should be a joint all party approach on the matter. There was subsequently a joint all party press conference on the matter so that there would be public understanding of the issue. The records will show that I took the initiative in that matter when I was in Opposition. The other matters are better dealt with by the Minister for Finance.

Mr. B. Ahern: I do not know what the Taoiseach is talking about. There was no target system, there was no EMI. None of the issues referred to by Deputy Brennan and myself was current at the time of the Maastricht referendum. The issue is this——

The Taoiseach: I must correct the Deputy.

Mr. B. Ahern: The target system has only been brought up in the last few months to deal with opt-outs. It is a system that was structured by the EMI only in this calendar year. Do not try to give the interpretation to the House that this was all agreed months and years ago. With regard to the UK and the making of its decision to be involved in the Euro, what plans, arrangements and discussions are ongoing within the Irish Government to deal with that matter? May I please have an answer?

Mr. S. Brennan: That is a fair question.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy is misinformed in stating that the EMI was not envisaged at Maastricht; it was.

Mr. B. Ahern: It came out of it.

The Taoiseach: In fact, the provision of an EMI was one of the specific things [1779] that was agreed by one of my predecessors, Mr. Haughey, at Maastricht and I am surprised that Deputy Ahern did not seem to be aware of that. He said that the EMI was not proposed at the time; it was.

Mr. B. Ahern: On a point of order, we negotiated the Maastricht Treaty and the Taoiseach should not try to tell us what is in it. The target system only came up this year and the fact is that the Taoiseach does not understand what it is about.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Ahern asked questions and he should listen to the replies.

Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The Taoiseach: The establishment of the EMI was decided at Maastricht and Deputy Ahern should know that. It would be better if the Deputy addressed a question to the Minister for Finance about the target system. I am not involved with the detailed decision making——

Mr. D. Ahern: The Taoiseach should be. It has huge implications for this country.

The Taoiseach: ——in regard to the operation of the target system but when there are proposals finalised on that matter, they will be coming before the European Council in Dublin for agreement and a decision will be taken on the matter at that stage.

Mr. S. Brennan: The Prime Minister should be there.

The Taoiseach: I have complete confidence in the way in which this matter is currently being handled. I believe it is very important that Britain makes a decision in its own interest in this matter. It would be in Britain's best interest if it joined the currency union on day one and did not avail of the opt-out it [1780] negotiated at Maastricht because I believe there will be adverse consequences for Britain if it does not do so, but that is a matter for it.

Mrs. O'Rourke: In the Taoiseach's conversation and meeting with Chancellor Kohl, which seems to be scant on information, did they discuss the parent company of Semperit here which proposes to lay off 600 workers?

The Taoiseach: No, I did not because I do not believe the Chancellor would involve himself in the individual decisions of individual companies and I believe that raising that matter would not be appropriate and would not benefit anybody. However, I am aware that the trade union was involved with my office in regard to the matter and I arranged for their views to be conveyed via the German Ambassador to the Chancellor.

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Taoiseach would not dirty his hands doing it.

Mr. D. Ahern: Unlike his predecessor.