Dáil Éireann - Volume 554 - 05 September, 2002
An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2002: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Second Stage (Resumed).
Atairgeadh an cheist: “Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois.”
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. Boyle Mr. Boyle
Mr. Boyle: Before we proceed with business can I request that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges meet at the earliest possible opportunity?
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a point of order. We are moving on now to the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Second Stage (Resumed).
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, will the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Hanafin, inform the House of the time she has made available for Independent Deputies to speak on this Bill?
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: That does not arise at this stage Deputy. We will now move on.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin) Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin)
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin): Government time for Government business and Opposition time for Opposition business.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: Will the Minister of State answer the question?
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Healy, you spoke in the debate last night. We are now moving on. I call on Deputy Peter Kelly.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: Go raibh maith agat.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: We are asking for time to be made available.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy Healy, but you made your Second Stage contribution last night.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: Ireland has benefited enormously from EU membership.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
Mr. Sargent: On a point of order—
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Peter Kelly. I am not taking a point of order, Deputy Sargent.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: In 1973 when Ireland joined the EEC our GDP—
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Healy is still on his feet.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: Maybe the Minister of State would like to answer the question.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: We have already debated that issue for an hour this morning. The Deputy should allow Deputy Kelly to make his contribution. He is a new Deputy and deserves the courtesy of being heard.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: —was 58.8% of the average of our Community partners. In 2001 our GDP equalled 111.7% of the EU average.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: We only have 30 minutes speaking time out of 12 hours.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: EU enlargement is predicted to increase the pool of investment for all European countries, including Ireland.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Healy, resume your seat please. Deputy Kelly, please wait a moment. Deputy Healy, when the Chair is on his feet you must resume your seat. All Deputies should afford the courtesy of silence, particularly to new Deputies, when they are making a contribution. Deputy Kelly to continue.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: We have no problem with that.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, resume your seat if you do not wish to leave the House. You have already made a contribution on this Bill.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
 Mr. Healy: If this state of affairs continues then there will be constant disruption of the business of this House.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Healy, I have already pointed out that you have made your contribution to this debate.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: There are other Independent Deputies who wish to speak, such as Deputy Higgins of the Socialist Party.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. This is my first time to speak and I am glad to have this opportunity.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: I hope the Deputy is delighted to be allowed to speak.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: I am delighted to get this opportunity, which is my first time in three or four weeks.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: If Deputy Healy does not cease interrupting I will have to ask him to leave the House. There is a long-standing tradition here that when Members make their maiden speech they are afforded the courtesy of doing so without interruption.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: In a democracy one should be allowed to speak.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: Ireland has benefited enormously from EU membership. In 1973, when Ireland joined the EEC, our GDP at current market prices per head of population equalled 58.8% of the average of our Community partners. In 2001, our GDP equalled 111.7% of the EU average. EU enlargement is predicted to increase the pool of investment for all European countries, including Ireland. Based on the experience of previous phases of European integration and four rounds of enlargement, it is likely that the entry of the candidate countries to the EU will be accompanied by substantial net increases in both internal and inward flows of foreign direct investment. Enlargement of the EU will increase the pool of investment available to all EU countries. Ireland has the potential to become a gateway to an even bigger EU market for overseas investors provided it retains and enhances its competitiveness. More investment benefits Ireland and Irish jobs.
In 1973 Ireland joined the original six countries of the EEC. Did we stop to think why they let us in? One of the reasons was that by investing in our country, to improve our standard of living, the six countries would be able to sell us more goods and services. In the same way, if we vote “Yes” to the Nice treaty and allow access to the eastern European countries we can improve their standard of living and then sell them more banking services, software and other goods generating Irish jobs and Irish tax revenues. Many Irish companies have already invested in eastern Europe in order to access new markets, expand sales, access skilled workers and in some cases, markets further east. With accession under the Nice treaty, direct investments by Irish companies in the candidate countries are likely to accelerate further as barriers to overseas investment fall. As outlined in a recent Forfás statement on outward direct investment, this process will be beneficial for the Irish economy, boosting domestic exports, employment and wages and catalysing a restructuring of the domestic economy into higher value-added activities. Better trade relations benefit Irish jobs and tax revenues. Ireland is a small country with a very open economy. We import and, particularly, export a considerable amount of goods and services. If we cannot export these goods and services our economy will be fundamentally damaged. Imagine our attitude to a particular country today, if it had voted against us joining the EEC in 1973? We would probably still be sore with them. Therefore, to maintain good relations with our eastern European neighbours we should vote “Yes” to the referendum on the Treaty of Nice.
In relation to trade, the successive expansions of the European Single Market have brought new opportunities to our companies. Our exports to the EU accounted for over 60% of our total exports last year, reaching over €51.2 billion. The benefits to Ireland of gaining full and free access to these new markets will be very significant. Our exports to the ten central and eastern European applicant states have risen enormously since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Between 1994 and 2000, these exports climbed from only €169.77 million to €1,187.2 million.
A “Yes” vote to the Nice treaty will maintain our good relations with the EU, which can help raise EU funding for specific Irish projects. Some commentators are saying that since Ireland is now a wealthy country we will no longer get EU funding. However, that is not the case. Ireland is not a wealthy country, it is one that has had a high income for the past three or four years, but has yet to build up wealth. If one compares our public transport facilities to those of the applicant countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary or Poland, one will find that they are much wealthier than us in that context. There is an argument for further investment by the EU to bring our public transport system and other aspects of our infrastructure up to an average EU level. Examples of such top-ups would include the recent €82 million paid by the EU to fund Dublin's Luas. We can make this argument and we will be listened to if we have the goodwill of our fellow Europeans from a “Yes” vote to the Nice treaty.
The European Union is at work in all regions on a daily basis through structural support aid, support for vocational training and other measures to combat unemployment, support for rural activities, research funding, youth exchange programmes and laying down plans for the transport links of the future. These are just some of the many areas in which the European Union operates at regional level, working as closely as possible with and for ordinary people. The midlands region, consisting of Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath, received €1,850 per capita from the Structural Funds during the programme from 1994 to 1999.
The Border, midland and western region consists of the following counties: Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath. The role of the BMW assembly is to manage the BMW regional operational programme under the national development plan, monitor the impact of the EU programme under the national development plan and promote the co-ordination of public services within the region.
Structural Funds consist of the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, and the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance. They are distributed to tie lesser developed regions within Europe. Objective One status is designated by the EU to regions that are lagging behind economically and have a GDP per capita of less than 75% of the EU average. The total funding which is available is £3,226 million, which is made up of EU Structural Funds, national Exchequer funding, local authority and private matching funding.
The national development plan was published in November 1999. It was the basis for the Community Support Framework, the agreement reached between the Irish Government and the EU for the use of EU Structural Funds for the period 2000-06. The NDP provides the overall framework for a range of funding. Some of this involves new schemes, while a range of existing schemes are also under the general framework. Approximately one tenth of the funding is coming from the EU Structural Funds. The rest is Irish Government funding and some private sector funding.
CLÁR, the programme for revitalising rural areas, was launched in October 2001. It involves specific targeting of funds from the national development plan. A total of 16 areas have been chosen, 15 of which are the areas that have suffered the greatest population decline since 1926. On average, their populations have declined by 50% in that period. The other area is the Cooley peninsula, which was chosen because of the effects of the food and mouth disease outbreak in 2001. Each area has a minimum population of 4,000 people and a maximum population of less than 30,000 people. A total of 284,000 people live in the 16 areas.
CLÁR will fast-track NDP spending in the selected regions. An extra, dedicated budget of €12.7 million per annum has been allocated for the years 2002 and 2003. Priority investments, as identified by the communities which will be eligible for funding, will cover infrastructure, social and community services. They will include non-national roads, local roads, small public water schemes, group water schemes, village enhancement schemes, bilingual signs, sports grants, capital health projects and island infrastructure. The sort of community projects which are likely to be funded include child care, care of older people and other social services for vulnerable groups.
The areas where the CLÁR programme operates are as follows: north Roscommon and southwest Longford, and north Longford. Nobody will benefit from a “No” vote.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I am glad of the opportunity to participate in this debate. My huge concern is that we might feel entitled to take Europe and our enormously beneficial membership of the Union for granted. We should not. If Ireland fails to endorse the Nice treaty, we will stand in real danger of being in a minority of one in Europe. We will be the only country blocking the enlargement of the EU. In such circumstances, Ireland will stare into the abyss of European isolation and will bear sole responsibility for impeding and delaying the accession of new member states to the Union. If that occurs we will face the most fundamental crisis in international relations since we completed our own accession negotiations 30 years ago.
There will be a huge crisis in Europe if the treaty is rejected, but perhaps we should first look at the consequences of a rejection at home. First time round, in June 2001, the reaction amongst our friends in Europe was one of surprise, bemusement and bewilderment. Our friends among the member states and particularly among the applicant states could not understand how a country which had completed accession negotiations and had done so well in Europe could slam the door on other applicant countries. That is how they saw it.
At this stage, as far as our friends in Europe are concerned, we are in the last chance saloon. If the Nice treaty is rejected again, we will not have any friends in Europe. We will end up ploughing a lonely furrow in lonely isolation in Europe, without friends, power or influence of any kind.
What is the treaty? Effectively, it provides the institutional arrangements to enable enlargement to proceed – no more or no less. It is not a perfect treaty and I am critical of parts of it. I had the presumption to believe that if I and my colleagues in Fine Gael had been negotiating it at the time, there are certain aspects of it that we would have improved, but at this stage the treaty exists. It has been agreed by the governments of the 15 member states and the 12 applicant countries. The egg has been scrambled and, sure as God, it will not be unscrambled.
We must accept that if we wanted concessions at this stage, every other member state and every other applicant country would want them too. Therefore, we are left with the treaty as it is, in which case we must examine the consequences of our actions and be responsible for them. Those consequences will be extremely serious if the treaty is rejected. It will cost us a lot.
 I mentioned that we will have no friends, influence or alliances in Europe. At this stage we seem to be solely responsible – all the other member states have ratified the treaty. Apart from the loss in political influence, there will be a big cost to the economy. In recent years we have been fortunate. Around one third of mobile investment coming into Europe has stopped here. How much of that will stop here if we reject the treaty and are seen to be a peripheral member of the EU? It will be gone, and we must think of the cost in terms of jobs.
It is very easy for people to say we will lose some investment to the lower cost countries of the applicant states. We will not get any of that investment. We are out of that league as far as industry is concerned and the low-cost jobs are not for us any longer. However, we are interested in the well paid, high-tech, pharmaceutical and other jobs that have been flooding into the country for the past ten years. If we reject the treaty they will go and we have to accept that the economic cost for us would be absolutely enormous.
Rejection would also result in a crisis in Europe: there is no plan B. It would not be wise for Europe to have a plan B. It is for us, however, to consider what is our plan B. We have to consider and have a full appreciation of the consequences of rejecting the treaty and effectively rejecting enlargement. It is inconceivable that less than 1% of the population of the Union would be able to stop the march of history.
I have no doubt that after some delay a creative solution would be found to provide a legal mechanism to go ahead. In that case, Ireland would be faced with some unenviable choices, the most extreme of which would be a complete withdrawal from the Union. There is no provision in the treaties for such an eventuality, although it would be possible. The precedent for a province or territory administered by a member state to withdraw is provided by Greenland. It is not in our interest to follow that precedent under any circumstances. If we ensure the Treaty of Nice is dead, a more likely possibility is the creation of a new legal structure to accommodate the other 14 member states that support enlargement and the applicant countries. The end result would leave us on the outer margins of a shadow or shell European Union and without power or influence of any kind on further developments. We should not underestimate the legal ingenuity of the Union in coming up with creative ideas to resolve obstacles in the path of political imperatives. We should have no doubt that enlargement is a political imperative.
We have to go back to first principles. In addressing the issues in the referendum we should speak to the moderates on the middle ground. The appeal must be to forget the weasel words and the minor or bureaucratic aspects that cause us some grief from time to time. We must look at the broader picture and put the national interest before any other consideration. Any of the remarks I make in this House or outside it are not addressed to the extremes of the right or left – it is a waste of time talking to them. They will not be addressed to anti-Europeans, those who are against the Union and have been since the beginning. No matter what issue comes before us regarding Europe, they are against it.
The enlargement of the European Union to admit the dozen or so countries cruelly quarantined from their western neighbours for decades by the Soviets will proceed with or without Ireland. The Nice treaty is the only vehicle for enlargement. This treaty does not represent or import anything other than a vehicle for enlargement and to make the club work effectively with 27 or so members. When I listen to those on the extremes talk of militarisation, loss of sovereignty, abortion or anything else, I think of it as either half-baked or downright mischievous.
I address my remarks to the middle ground – the people who will genuinely stand back, take a balanced view in the interests of the country and not be motivated by ideology or otherwise. My first appeal is that they come out and vote. It is a question of looking at the background of a Europe that was riven for centuries by conflict. As a result of the European project born out of the ashes of the devastated post-war landscape, the prospect of war in western Europe is unthinkable, but that did not happen by chance. As a result of the Treaty of Rome, which developed ultimately into the European Union, the demons of the past have been banished, no shots have been fired in anger across internal boundaries and there is no possibility of it. Peace has been followed by prosperity. The Union is completing its final steps towards enlargement and that involves incorporating the previously excluded former communist states of central and eastern Europe.
Do we really want to block, impede or delay enlargement? That is the most immediate question to be addressed. That is effectively what will happen if this treaty is rejected. I believe most Irish people accept that every democratic European state has the right and entitlement to join the European Union. As far as we are concerned the enlargement of the Union is nothing less than an historical, economic, social, consumer, environmental and, above all, moral imperative. Under no circumstances should we block enlargement.
Do we not accept the enormous benefits we have enjoyed as a result of our membership of the European Union? Do we want to stay at the heart of that Union? Do we want to have an influence in the decisions that will enable us to continue to benefit – although perhaps not to the same extent as in the past – as much as possible as full members of the European Union? In his maiden speech Deputy Kelly quoted some statistics. He was right that the standard of living and GDP per capita has increased since we joined the Union. We have benefited enormously; the facts are there. However, we have not only benefited in economic terms. There has been a social and consumer revolution as a result of our membership of the Union. Do we forget things like equal pay, the treatment of women, the standards of safety and health in the workplace, increased rights for workers, access to education such as Erasmus and other programmes and consumer legislation? Regarding environmental legislation, I cannot understand how the Green Party can oppose Europe and the Treaty of Nice.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
Mr. Sargent: If we were allowed speak we could tell the Deputy.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I believe one must be answerable for the consequences of one's actions. In environmental terms the progress made in this country, as a result of Union membership, has been enormous. The rules concerning the quality of water and air, noise pollution, conservation and protection of natural habitats are European. Where would we be on our own?
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
Mr. Sargent: We would not be any worse.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I saw the Taoiseach display his brass neck in Johannesburg. Apart from encouraging people to increase overseas aid, having cut nearly €40 million from our budget, he also spoke of supporting the environment. We are in the same position regarding the environment as we are regarding overseas aid. Last year the increase of carbon emissions in the European Union was, on average, 0.75%. We recorded an increase of almost 6%. That is what we do when we are left on our own. I support many things the Green Party supports, but how does it believe there is anything to be gained by isolating ourselves from Europe? We will be much better with regard to environmental issues if we are at the heart of Europe. We will do much better with regard to renewable energy, an area where we have been an absolute disgrace. For example, last year Germany created 2,000 MW of energy from wind power while we created only 6 MW. We have installed no new windmills this year. The environmental benefits are one of the biggest reasons for being at the heart of the European project. The benefits of membership are enormous on all fronts.
I want to deliver some messages to the parties that support the Treaty of Nice. Fianna Fáil's efforts during the last referendum on the treaty were, at the very least, negligent and incompetent but, above all, arrogant. The attitude of the last Government towards Europe could be characterised only by those three epithets. There was no Minister of State with responsibility for Europe, no proper debate at the European affairs committee and no proper resources for the committee. The referendum was rushed through. Effectively, the last Fianna Fáil-PD Government took the people for granted. That was utterly the wrong approach and one of the main reasons it got the answer it did.
 This time there can be no arrogant assumption that the people will automatically respond positively to the wishes of those who want a “Yes” vote. It is up to them to go out and campaign for a “Yes” vote and to explain why they want it. Above all, there can be no room for the self-indulgent conduct of Ministers which characterised the last campaign. Musings about Boston and Berlin are best consigned to the dustbin. Members of the Government must accept the consequences of their actions, or lack of them, and they must realise that if there is no clear, undivided and coherent approach the consequence may again be rejection. The campaign must be actively led by the Government. The last time it was largely left to groups such as Fine Gael and, to be fair, the Labour Party. As I was then director of elections for Fine Gael, I can say that we had posters in every constituency urging a “Yes” vote and that in many rural constituencies they were the only posters of that type. I am not saying that is a big deal, but everybody committed to this project will have to put his or her back into it.
I have a message for those who rightly feel frustrated and fed up with this hopeless and incompetent Government which, it can be fairly said, was elected by deceit. I ask those people not to cut off their noses to spite their faces. I met farmers yesterday who are rightly concerned about the manner in which they are being treated by the Government and my answer to them was exactly that. How much worse off will farmers, and everybody else, be if we do not continue to have an influential voice in Europe? I ask anybody who feels frustrated with the Government, particularly if he or she is a Fine Gael voter, to resist the temptation to vote “No” and reserve his or her fire for a more appropriate time and target, one that will hurt. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are not the target now. Endorsement of the Treaty of Nice is not a Fianna Fáil project but an Irish one. I ask those people to hammer Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in the local and European elections and sweep them out of office at the next general election, but they should not allow their frustrations to damage themselves or the national interest by voting against the Treaty of Nice.
The central issue to which we must return is that this treaty has been approved by the Governments of the 15 member states of the EU after full consultation with and support from the Governments of the 12 applicant countries. They all considered it a prerequisite to the enlargement process. Most of these countries considered it largely of a technical nature and in some it has resulted in no more than casual debate. Yet we have the power to torpedo what has been accepted by and on behalf of 400 million people in the rest of Europe. This is something we should not, and I hope we will not, do.
There are many other things I would like to say about Europe but I will leave it at that, except to make a serious appeal from the Opposition benches for support for the Treaty of Nice. In some ways, I have to grit my teeth at having to do this because we should not be in this situation. If the Fianna Fáil-PD Government had done its job properly the last time, the treaty would have been accepted. The Government assumed it would pass and its members did not bother to do what they should have done. Many indulged themselves by speaking against the treaty, or murmuring against it, or raising issues which caused people to believe it should not be passed. However, the fact remains that we are facing the most serious issue that has confronted us for a long time. We must deal with the consequences of a rejection of the treaty or we and future generations will suffer for many years as a result.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell) Michael McDowell
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I propose to share my time with Deputy O'Malley.
My purpose in contributing to this debate is to address the concerns of those in our democracy who either voted “No” on the last occasion or who decided not to vote. There is, and always has been, a core of opponents of the European project for whom nothing that I can say will have any effect. I will return to them later. There is also, however, clear evidence that the great majority of those who did not support the Nice treaty on the last occasion were not ideologically or politically hostile to the European Union or to enlargement. They simply were not convinced by the arguments in favour of the treaty or were left confused about it and decided in consequence to abstain or to vote against it. Their doubts and their decision to abstain or vote against the treaty were genuine and demand our attention and our respect.
When the treaty was last considered by the Irish people I was Attorney General. Partly because I was mindful of these doubts among a large section of the people, I chose to make them the subject matter of personal observations in the annual Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh lecture to the UCD Law Society in early 2001. In the course of that address I expressed personal strong support for what the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, had achieved for Ireland at Nice – a considerable achievement, especially when viewed in the context of what the outcome might otherwise have been. I also spoke then of the overwhelming need for Ireland, as a member state of the EU, to develop the self-confidence to articulate its own view of the future of the EU. A good deal of what was then palpable scepticism and later crystallised in the form of high abstention and a high “No” vote had to do with a growing feeling among some people that the European project was being pursued in an aggressive spirit which ignored or overrode the interests, concerns and ambitions of many Irish people.
After the referendum was lost I revisited those issues in a speech to the Institute of European Affairs. My purpose was once again to warn those who, like me, strongly support the European Union and the Nice treaty that the message sent by the high abstention and high “No” vote needed to be listened to, understood and acted upon. Again in that address, I explained the need for Ireland to create and articulate a vision for the future of Europe with which we were comfortable and in which we believed and the absolute necessity to bring that message to the centre of the debate on the future of the EU with a sense of confidence and a determination to bring other member states with us. I warmly welcomed the establishment of the National Forum on Europe as part of the process of developing Ireland's vision of Europe. I now wish to commend the work of that forum to date and, in particular, the great contribution which Senator Maurice Hayes has made and continues to make, not merely to the national understanding of the central issues but also to the articulation of an Irish vision of the future of the European Union. It is important to understand that the work of the forum will continue into the future. It is no mere stage prop in the Nice treaty process. The most important work of that forum in relation to the future of Europe is arguably yet to come.
I also called, on the occasion of my speech to the Institute of European Affairs, for a radically different response from the organs of Government and the Legislature to the ongoing development of the EU, and for real and substantial change to address the democratic deficit in Ireland in relation to the development of policy and law at Union level. So I am very glad the new Government has embraced the need to address these two areas of fundamental importance – the future of the EU and Ireland's democratic deficit – in the programme for Government.
This Government has spelt out the principles upon which we engage in Europe. They are clearly set out in the programme for Government as the cornerstone of our dealings with Europe and the development of the European Union. These principles chart a clear course for Ireland. We embrace the European Union wholeheartedly and stay at its centre. We commit ourselves to its development. We set our faces collectively against semi-detached status on the one hand and against an overly ambitious, federalist or superstate project on the other.
Minister Cowen speaks for the Government and for the great majority of Irish people in the words he uses in public which express cogently, robustly and succinctly the policy of this Government on the future of Europe. As a member of Government, I know just how tempting it can be to conduct our European business behind closed doors and far from the critical gaze and comment of third parties. Increased Oireachtas scrutiny of EU policy and legislation will undoubtedly complicate the day-to-day life of the Executive, but that is no justification for our continuing democratic deficit. On the contrary, the apparent cost in terms of time and resources is not really a cost at all in democratic terms. Ireland, in my view, would pay a far higher price in the long-term if we failed to address and overcome the absence of overt domestic democratic scrutiny of our European agenda.
The challenge of the democratic deficit is not only one for the Executive: the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Members of these Houses must rise to the challenge as well. If proposals for EU policy and law are to receive timely and effective scrutiny, Deputies and Senators will have to put in long hours of work in Committee. Members' time and resources will have to be directed to EU matter from other matters which receive our attention currently. Some of that work will undoubtedly go unrecognised. Most of it will not be front page news. New methods of prioritising scrutiny arrangements on EU matters will be needed. New expertise and new openness to external advice and assistance will also be required in both Houses. In short, remedying the democratic deficit which exists will require large change and commitment from every side in this House and in Seanad Éireann.
I am more than willing to embrace that change positively and enthusiastically. I hope every Member in this House will remember that remedying the democratic deficit will fall in part personally on his or her shoulders. I hope the media realise that they too have a vital role in bringing that process of scrutiny home to the individual citizen. If the media properly call for accountability, and if the Legislature delivers, the media have some duty to support – in terms of coverage – the political process which results.
I have spoken about the outcome of the last referendum. I would point out that both parties in this Government sought a mandate to put the matter to the people once again for their decision. Like other constitutional issues, the people remain sovereign. Nobody and no prior decision prevents them from reconsidering any matter. It would be undemocratic not to hold a second referendum because the majority of the Members of this House were elected on a clear mandate to do just that. Only a small minority of voters voted for parties which sought a mandate not to revisit the issue. When I spoke to the Institute of European Affairs in the wake of the last referendum, I warned about the arrogance of some who discount all opposition to their own vision of Europe. There is a possible danger in dwelling on the adverse consequences of a “No” vote to the exclusion of advancing a positive argument for Nice.
Nice is the negotiated plan for enlargement. It is the only plan for enlargement. Enlargement has enormous advantages for Ireland. We will be part of a Community of prosperity and peace with much greater economic strength. Enlargement will make Europe a Community with many more smaller member states with interests similar to our own. Our vision of Europe – which is not a super state – will be strengthened immeasurably by the accession to membership of many states with our scale and outlook. Enlargement, of course, makes the Union more complex, but that suits a country like Ireland which is strongly attached to diversity and subsidiarity.
Enlargement, of course, means competition as well, but the last five years have shown us that competition at home and abroad is a climate in which we thrive. The Nice treaty gives Ireland the opportunity to succeed into the future, to grow economically, to grow culturally, to grow in influence and to consolidate and build on our recent achievements. Nice is the means whereby the nations of Europe can share the vision and reality of a Europe at peace with itself, capable of delivering prosperity to its citizens.
Nice does not involve a military pact for Ireland. The proposed change to the Constitution in this Bill will hand to the Irish people the lock and key on such issues. Those who were concerned by such matters in the past have the assurance that they and they alone control the capacity of the Irish State and my future Irish Government to enter into any EU defence commitments.
I want to comment briefly on the so-called “floodgates” argument about internal EU migration. I propose in the coming weeks to set out at greater length than time permits today a comprehensive response to the points raised by those who wish to exploit that understandable anxiety. I am satisfied that the argument is groundless, and I respectfully point out that it has been conjured up in its present form mainly by persons who have, at every hands turn, deployed any argument that came to hand, good or bad, to bolster what has been for a quarter of a century a deep-seated ideological and political antipathy to every aspect of the European project and to every referendum proposal on Europe put before the Irish people.
It is an irony that those who wrongly predicted that the EEC and later the EU would lead to mass poverty in Ireland and mass migration of Irish people to the centre of Europe are, 30 years later, driven to relying on the exact opposite argument – that mass migration of central Europeans will occur in a way that threatens Ireland's prosperity. Both arguments were and are farfetched and wrong.
A retired civil servant once wryly characterised Ireland's EU policy to me as typically going through three phases on any particular matter: the phase during which it would be “premature” to do anything, the next phase during which it would be “too sensitive” to do anything and the third phase during which it was “too late” to do anything. Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone.
The Irish Government now knows that we cannot be passive bystanders in the development of the EU. Still less can we pose as indiscriminate supporters of the policies of others. We have to be seen to engage wholeheartedly in the European project if we are to serve and safeguard our own interests and if we are to serve and secure our vision of what Europe should become. To reject Nice is to imply that there is some better treaty needed for enlargement. However, no-one in this House or outside has ever hinted at any alternative treaty that has a hope obtaining consensus status. The Government has responded to the outcome of the last referendum. We have not ignored it or dismissed it as some would claim. We have set in train a process of debate and explanation which all of us advocating a “Yes” vote failed to do adequately on the last occasion. We have put in place the Seville Declarations to counter the claimed threat to Irish neutrality, which we failed to do adequately on the last occasion. We have set about the process of addressing our domestic democratic deficit on EU matters which we failed to do adequately on the last occasion. We have set out a clear policy approach to the future of Europe which we failed to do adequately on the last occasion.
The international economic climate has changed in a way that should remind us all that the Celtic tiger in not an invincible or invulnerable “given”. Our prosperity depends on our wholehearted participation in Europe. Europe's security and prosperity will be immeasurably strengthened by enlargement. Now is the time for Ireland to show courage and self-confidence, not to turn in on itself nor to turn our back on the ideas and hopes of an entire continent. That is why I reiterate my support for the treaty and for the amendment.
Ms F. O'Malley Ms F. O'Malley
Ms F. O'Malley: Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Aire as ucht a chuid ama a roinnt liom.
The security and prosperity of millions of Europeans are in our hands. These are the people who have most recently suffered the ravages of war and the tyranny of dictatorships. In October we will have the opportunity to guarantee the economic security of these determined peoples. Indeed, our economic security will be confirmed by placing ourselves squarely at the heart of Europe. We alone among our fellow European nations have the democratic privilege of voting directly on the Treaty of Nice. The circumstances of other nations' constitutions which do not require their parliaments to consult the people on this issue should not be mustered by those hostile to the enlargement process to extinguish the rights of those people of eastern and central Europe for inclusion in – in the words of John Hume – the world's most successful peace process.
The Government is correct to put a matter of such importance before the people a second time. It is not the first time the people have been asked to consider a subject for a second time but never before has the sovereign decision of the people held such a direct consequence on the fate of citizens of as many as 12 independent and separate nations. This time we can only hope that the misinformation and dissembling which characterised the previous campaign will not be resorted to again. Let us have an honest campaign. Let us debate the Nice treaty and not re-run the general election. The treaty is complex enough without seeking to confuse the matter by dragging into it that which is not there.
All political leaders on the “Yes” campaign shared in the deserved criticism for a lacklustre campaign last year, and they have accepted this. Failure on the part of all political parties to really explain the treaty and its importance for Ireland and Europe resulted in a poor turnout. The electorate demonstrated that it would not be taken for granted. Now we have another opportunity to explain and discuss the treaty and we must seize it and engage the public in a vigorous but, far more importantly, in an honest debate.
It must be stated clearly that the Treaty of Nice does not threaten Ireland's position in international world affairs. Changes to this position are the sole preserve of the sovereign people of Ireland.
The benefits to Ireland since joining the EEC in 1973 are self-evident and have been referred to in this House on many occasions during the debate. There is not a village or crossroads in the country which has not experienced the benefits of Europe. Our people's equality and human rights have been safeguarded, upheld and delivered because of Europe. Europe has been good for Ireland and now let us show that Ireland can be good for Europe.
Extending the European borders from Galway Bay to the Black and Baltic Seas offers a challenging new marketplace for the Irish. A larger market means more jobs for everyone. People who have visited the applicant countries bring back the same clear message. Ireland is their model, their inspiration and their aspiration yet we are the sole obstacle to their progress. Let us demonstrate that Ireland wants to be the inspiration and not the obstacle.
I urge this House to offer leadership to the people to allow others the freedoms and privileges which we have used to liberate ourselves from an isolationist position on the periphery of Europe to a confident, prosperous country exalted among the nations of the world. Let us allow others to join in the progressive democracy that is Europe. I urge the people to vote “Yes” for peace, prosperity and democracy.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: I wish to share my time with Deputy Joe Higgins.
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: Deputy Costello is a decent man.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: Deputy Higgins will probably not express the same views as I will. It is only fair that all sides of the House get an opportunity to present a full picture of their views on this matter because it will go to a constitutional referendum. We would not have to share time if the Government had been fair and generous in the first instance.
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: It is Opposition time.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
 Mr. Costello: Everybody in this House subscribes to the European project and the principles on which it was based – peace and prosperity for all countries in western Europe, initially through the European Coal and Steel Community which was expanded into broader principles in terms of economic, social and human rights benefits and peace which had not been the hallmark of Europe in the preceding hundreds of years. There is no doubt that it has brought benefits to all the member states and that Europe was at peace for the second half of the 20th century.
It is disappointing that we have to put the treaty to the people a second time within 18 months. I understand the views of people that it is insulting to ask them within a short space of time to make a decision on what is essentially the same treaty. I was extremely disappointed with the attitude taken by the Taoiseach and the Government towards the negotiations. It was very slipshod and ham-fisted. The Taoiseach came roaring back from Europe in December of last year after three or four days of barnstorming saying he had got a good deal for Ireland when, in fact, a lot of loose ends had not been tied up. As a result, people were not satisfied that the treaty, as presented, was a creditable object for them to vote on.
This is a good project but the process of negotiation was bad. There was no debate domestically, no consultation with the people or discussions in the House or abroad prior to the negotiations. There was no explanation of the intricacies of the treaty and no commitment on the part of the Government. Eventually, when it was put to the people, there was no campaign. The Taoiseach, with whom I share a constituency, is to the fore when it comes to elections but he was found wanting across the board in trying to get this constitutional referendum passed. One of the reasons it was defeated was that the Government did not put its heart into it. It must have thought the referendum would simply be a rubber-stamp and that it would be passed very easily.
It was my view and that of my party that we should not put the same question to the people within such a short space of time. We said we would not support another referendum unless certain serious conditions were dealt with adequately. We put forward three major areas and were the only party to raise issues in the House and bring forward legislation to address some of the major concerns of the people. The first area was consultation and that a consultative forum would be available to the people in which to hear their views and enable them to present them. That was established under the chairmanship of Senator Maurice Hayes and there has been a lot of consultation on a local and national basis.
The second area was neutrality. The Taoiseach went to Seville and got a declaration which is not worth the paper on which it is written. There was a deliberate attempt by the Government not to seriously face up to this question and it was only when we brought forward a constitutional amendment in legislative form that it finally saw the light and decided to accept that militarisation, the issue which caused a lot of concern to many people, would be dealt with and that there would be constitutional protection for our neutrality. That is a substantial step forward. Neutrality was a major issue which caused people concern in the past, but now it will be protected constitutionally, which is extremely important.
The third area is the question of transparency and the democratic deficit. The Labour Party brought forward the European Union Bill, 2001, which has been accepted by the Government, to address matters which are dealt with in Europe. The Bill will mean that Ministers who go abroad with civil servants will not make decisions on the hoof without reference to the Oireachtas. New measures will have to receive the imprimatur of the Oireachtas, which has recently been bypassed without consultation on legislation. My party insisted on these three major conditions and the Government has acceded to them. We have changed our mind and we are supporting the new proposals for a referendum on the Nice treaty.
The leader of my party, Deputy Quinn, said yesterday that he considers the ratification of the Nice treaty as a “moral imperative”, and I agree with him. The principles underlying the European project are so important that it would be a tragedy if momentum was lost. It would be wrong if Ireland, which has benefited disproportionately from EU membership in comparison to all member states other than Portugal and Greece, were to draw a line and say that we are not in favour of the accession of other countries. The Nice treaty is about enlargement in so far as it makes provision for extra structures to facilitate new member states and we should not say that we do not want the enlargement process to continue. While we should debate the extent to which the new structures are satisfactory, we should not oppose the principle of enlargement. As public representatives, we should clearly state that we welcome new countries into the wonderful project that is the EU. The vision that originally underpinned the European project was based around peace, prosperity and an end to war. It involved an attempt to benefit all the countries involved and I would like to see as many member countries as possible. Such a message should be sent out by the Government.
Ireland should be the great champion of European enlargement as it has greatly benefited from it in the past 30 years. Tens of billions of pounds were spent on improving the Irish agriculture industry. The severing of certain economic links with the United Kingdom, which was pursuing a cheap food policy, meant that our exports could be more widely distributed, which in turn led to greater economic independence, buoyancy and strength. We have advanced in the areas of enterprise and employment – for example, many CE schemes were established during the 1970s and 1980s, a time of great unemployment when many young people emigrated. Every area of education, the area for which I have responsibility within my party, other than mainstream primary and secondary education, continues to be funded by the EU. Post-leaving certificate courses, which were a great innovation on the part of vocational education committees, were funded by the European Union, as were institutes of technology and universities throughout the country. Adult and community education continues to be funded by European money. Transnational agencies such as Léargas have been established and similar mutual co-operation projects help people throughout Europe, including the Border region of this island. A great deal of funding was provided to help build the peace process in the North and enhance the well-being of citizens in all parts of the island. It is impossible to mention every financial benefit we have received.
We should not forget the progress in human rights which has resulted from our membership of the European Union. Ireland took a torture case against the United Kingdom in the European Court of Human Rights. Senator Norris took a gay rights case against the State to Strasbourg. In many ways, Ireland was brought out of the dark ages as a result of the European forum which could be used to bring about beneficial changes in social legislation. Enormous financial, educational, social and human rights benefits have arisen from the European project.
My greatest concern is that the Government, particularly the Taoiseach who resembles the emperor with no clothes, lacks credibility on this issue as it did not fight the campaign before last year's vote. There is a real danger that recent cutbacks will mean that people will use the Nice treaty referendum as a way of inflicting short-term punishment on the Government. I hope that does not happen and that people vote “Yes” for the benefit of Ireland and the countries that have applied for membership.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: I thank Deputy Costello for sharing the time he was allocated for this debate. I wish to register my protest, however, about the wholly unsatisfactory arrangements made by the Government for those of us who are opposed to the Nice treaty. We should have Dáil speaking time as of right, rather than having to waste time by running around to helpful Deputies in an attempt to cobble together a few minutes to put forward our reasoned arguments. This problem has to be sorted out before the House returns on 9 October and I appeal to you, a Cheann Comhairle, to ensure that is done.
The information guide distributed by the Government to households in advance of the forthcoming referendum on the Nice treaty is deliberately minimalist. It is confined to a dry repetition of formulas from the treaty and fails to outline the serious implications of ratification. The impressively produced booklet will be delivered to every home in the State and will act as a powerful advocate for the “Yes” side of the debate. Democracy demands that the Government should provide a similar facility for arguments against the Nice treaty. A booklet outlining the reasons for voting “No”, as enunciated by certain Deputies, should be circulated and made available to the people.
The role of elected representatives of ordinary working people in the debate on the Treaty of Nice is to strip away the language of the bureaucrat and the politician, which obfuscates and covers up the truth. Our task is to lay bare the heart of the Nice treaty, which is an attempt to advance a regime that is already well established. The treaty pushes forward an agenda which suits, above all, powerful economic interests and the military interests of the armaments industry within the EU. The agenda includes wholesale privatisation of public services in deference to multinational corporations. The treaty capitulates to the pressure of powerful EU member states that feel they should be allowed to proceed with their own projects, while casting aside those who might disagree. It establishes a permanent political and military bureaucracy within the EU, based in Brussels.
The strategy at the core of the Nice treaty is an attempt to create a powerful capitalist, economic bloc within which major multinational corporations will be able to operate freely in pursuit of the maximisation of profits. Article 133 of the treaty has not been the subject of much discussion, it is not mentioned in the Government's information booklet. It is central to the economic strategy being advanced in the treaty, however, as it lays down the principle which every state will be obliged to implement to create the conditions within which the major transnational corporations will be able to operate to their benefit.
Article 133 states:
The common commercial policy shall be based on uniform principles, particularly in regard to . . . the achievement of uniformity in measures of liberalisation, export policy and measures to protect trade such as those to be taken in the event of dumping or subsidies . . . The Commission shall submit proposals to the Council for implementing the common commercial policy.
On the face of it the language might not seem to amount to much. However, we must decode it to see what it really means. The term “measures of liberalisation” – effectively, stripping away subsidies – carries huge import. Liberalisation is the code word for wholesale privatisation of public sector enterprises and services. The leading EU-based multinational corporations are driving this policy. They dictate to the European Commission and national governments the policies they wish to have implemented. They have more than any other single force shaped the nature of the treaties that heretofore have been put at the fundamentals of the European Union. They are very highly organised, the single most powerful lobby group within the European Union. The European round table, for example, is the most influential lobby group in this regard, particularly as far as the European Commission and national governments are concerned. The European round table organises in one group over 40 of the largest multinational corporations such as ICI, Shell, Unilever, Nestlé, Carlsberg and Siemens, all massively powerful economic entities.
The European round table has a combined turnover of approximately €1,350 billion per year and employs more than 4 million people. The Republic of Ireland has a population of 3.8 million and a GDP of just over €80 billion. This is not just another lobby group. As Corporate Watch points out, the European round table works in symbiosis with the bureaucracy in Brussels, with ready access to the Commission and national governments. It wants enlargement on its terms in order that it has free access to ever bigger markets. It wants to dictate to national states how those markets should operate to suit itself. Article 133 incorporates this demand with virtually no reflection whatsoever by the Government. There is immense hypocrisy about the Nice treaty on the part of the Government which states it will assist the people of eastern Europe. In fact, its provisions are to hand the people of eastern Europe to the tender mercies of the multinational corporations and to see the privatisation of their services such as water and electricity and the smashing of any subsidies to indigenous industries which might be in public ownership or might be very necessary for sectors of the population in eastern European countries.
Supporters of the Nice treaty deny there is any intention to create an EU army and militarise the European Union. However, all the evidence contradicts this. There is no question that the intention of the major states is to create a military wing to operate in Europe and at substantial distances outside the European Union. That is the meaning of the Rapid Reaction Force. The declarations of the French Presidency make it very clear that there is to be an operational military capacity for crisis management, further code words for the policies of the European Union, when it suits, to be effected outside its borders. It is the strategy that sometimes they will work in compatibility with NATO and the United States and sometimes will rival it.
The alternative is not to withdraw to the mid-Atlantic mists, but to create a Europe of workers rather than a bosses' Europe, a democratic socialist Europe where the resources are democratically owned and controlled, where the armaments industry and the obscene wastage that involves is put into useful production for people. That is the Europe of the future, not the Europe envisaged in the Nice treaty.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin) Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin)
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin): I wish to share my time with Deputy Devins for his maiden speech.
When Ireland goes to the polls again on the Nice treaty, we will decide whether to choose the path towards isolationism and uncertainty or that which keeps us at the heart of Europe where we have an influence to shape our Union, a Union which gives us influence over areas over which we have no control as one state acting alone in an increasingly interdependent world, a Union which combines active promotion of competition, consumer rights and free trade with passionate advocacy of equality of workers' rights, a Union which addresses not just the hopes and aspirations of the Irish people, but also their genuine concerns and anxieties, a Union which is living proof that it is possible to have both economic efficiency and social solidarity.
This referendum will be a poll not just on our experience of the European Union to date, but also on our intended role in the future. The magnitude of the choices before us cannot be overstated when the implications for our economy, society and role in the world are so great. Not only will we decide our own destiny, we will also adjudicate on the hopes and dreams of others. We will decide whether enlargement can proceed on schedule, thereby deciding whether the people of central and eastern Europe will enjoy the opportunities that have empowered our workers, students, women and every member of Irish society.
The people will be aided in their decision by a robust and committed “Yes” campaign, which will have as its primary objective eliminating the confusion and misinformation which regrettably characterised the last referendum. We will ensure the people understand the opportunities posed by the Nice treaty and can distinguish the reality of the treaty from the myths proclaimed by the long-term opponents of the Union who are lining up to campaign against the referendum. The Government knows that a “No” vote would damage investor confidence in Ireland and ultimately lead to job losses. Given the important decisions on the CAP and Structural Funds looming, there could not be a worse time to dilute Ireland's negotiating power. The best way to safeguard our interests is to remain a respected and engaged player on the European stage. We have nothing to fear but much to gain from enlargement of the Union. We will carry this message across the length and breadth of the country with all the conviction we displayed when we brought Ireland into the European Union in 1973. We will put it to the euro sceptics that a “No” vote is not a vote for reform. It is merely a vote for uncertainty and the indefinite delay of enlargement, a delay which will not just dash the hopes of 130 million fellow Europeans, but which will also be detrimental to the fundamental, social and economic interests of the Irish people.
Thirty years of EU membership have been overwhelmingly positive for Ireland, our society, economy and confidence as a nation. Economic growth, low unemployment and the end of forced emigration characterised the confident outward-looking Ireland of 2002, progress that would be unthinkable outside the framework of the European Union. European funding for our institutes of technology has helped to open up access to third level education in 13 regional locations. When we joined the EEC, there were 29,600 people attending third level education in Ireland. By 2000 that figure had risen to 161,000. As a public representative, I am very conscious of the difference EU funding has made to many of my constituents in supporting the access and training initiatives of the Dún Laoghaire Institute for Art, Design and Technology, the VEC and the FÁS Centre in Loughlinstown.
European investment will continue to be a major source of finance for key projects such as the national development plan. Ireland has been allocated €4.2 billion in Structural and Cohesion Funds for the period 2000-06. This funding is guaranteed and will be used to finance infrastructural improvements, rural development, community programmes, child care, school completion and third level access initiatives to name but a few.
The Union has enlarged twice since we joined. At each juncture there have been prophecies of mass immigration and economic decline but European leaders have refused to set artificial boundaries to European unity which would deny its opportunities to those outside the existing members. On each occasion enlargement has not only improved the lot of the new members, it has enriched the community as a whole on many social, economic and cultural levels. The fifth enlargement of the Union, which is facilitated by the framework agreed at Nice, offers many benefits for Ireland.
We stand to gain enormously from the opportunities of an enlarged common market. As a country which exports 90% of its goods, we need to be in a position to penetrate new markets to maintain the ability to expand. With enlargement, companies in all accession states will be bound by common regulations, ensuring that they can no longer use lower safety standards or poorer workers' rights to secure an unfair competitive advantage. Enlargement offers crucial opportunities to improve Europe's environment. Already the EU is spending a huge amount of money assisting in anti-pollution measures in central and eastern Europe where it has brought about the closure of several nuclear power stations.
Enlargement is good for the applicants and good for us. The Nice treaty is the only mechanism that we have for ensuring a speedy and efficient enlargement. The “No” campaign has told us that Nice is a threat to Ireland's interests, that it is a poor deal for the applicants, that it is unnecessary for enlargement, and that it will lead to no less than a flood of immigration into Ireland.
Enlargement of the Union, as facilitated by Nice, poses no threat to Ireland's interests. Our interests were safeguarded at Nice by the success of the Government's efforts to maintain unanimity in taxation issues. The most patronising argument being put forward by the “No” side is that the treaty represented a poor deal for the applicants: precisely the people who complain about others making decisions for us, claim the right to decide what is or is not in the interests of the applicant states. All of the Governments of the applicant states are advocating membership of the Union on the terms agreed at Nice. None of them are interested in negotiating another framework. All have been working hard to adopt the Union's legislation to be ready for membership by 2004 and their people will decide whether they will join. It will not be for Sinn Féin, the Green Party, the No to Nice campaign or the National Platform to decide for them.
Opponents of the treaty argue that it is not necessary for enlargement, as five of the 12 applicants can join under the provisions of the Amsterdam treaty. The logical extension of that line of argument is that they must state which five. Which countries' workers, students and parents will be allowed the opportunities that have transformed the lives of their Irish counterparts and which shall not? What of the values of internationalism and solidarity? Is the ideology of “ourselves alone” the only guiding principle in their attitude towards the citizens of central and eastern Europe?
It seems that the “No” side is intent on putting the very values of internationalism and multiculturalism on trial in the referendum campaign, with the No to Nice group promising that if fears of mass immigration are not to the fore in peoples' minds now, they will be by the end of the campaign. This line of argument has been exposed for what it is, irrational and dangerous, by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions among others. Not only is there no objective proof that enlargement will lead to the flood of eastern workers that some have predicted, it is a short-sighted and racist argument. Membership of the European Union will allow the workers of eastern Europe the opportunity to develop their own economies and build brighter futures at home. If anything is testament to the desires of people to grasp opportunities to build a better life at home it is the return to our shores of tens of thousands of Irish people in recent years, brought about by our own economic transformation. Furthermore, the more integrated eastern Europe becomes, the more likely it is to assist in the suppression of illegal immigration.
The Government believes wholeheartedly in the principle of the free movement of workers in the Union. In less economically successful times, our own people have benefited enormously from the ability to make a living elsewhere in the EU, where they have made a great contribution. It would be selfish, short-sighted and wrong for us not to extend the same principle to the citizens of the applicant states. All of those campaigning for a “No” vote should examine their consciences and ask what it would achieve. It would shatter the hopes of 130 million eastern Europeans by ensuring that the enlargement process would be wrought with uncertainty and delay. It would damage Ireland's interests in advance of crucial negotiations. It would ensure that, rather than focusing on positive reform, as is surely in all our interests, the Union would be bogged down with trying to establish another framework for enlargement.
Concentrating on positive and quantifiable reform is a more rewarding policy than the negative isolationist approach advocated by others. By securing Ireland's role at the heart of an enlarged European Union we secure our influence, which we can use to shape a better, more transparent and more effective Union. Over the past year the Government has acted decisively to address the genuine concerns expressed by people in the last campaign. The National Forum on Europe has helped create debate, the Seville Declarations have put paid to the idea that Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality is in any way threatened by our membership of the EU and the new guidelines for Oireachtas scrutiny of EU business will ensure that our Parliament is central to the debate on EU legislation.
It now falls to the people to decide on the path we will take in Europe and I hope they will stand with us in embracing enlargement as an engaged and constructive member of the Union so that we can retain the influence to shape our Union together. The Nice treaty protects our vital social and economic interests and a “Yes” vote will protect investment and jobs and allow us to continue to use our role in Europe to the benefit of all Irish citizens.
Sin iad na fáthanna go mbeidh mise i measc mhuintir Fhianna Fáil ag dul amach go láidir agus ag vótáil “Tá”.
Dr. Devins Dr. Devins
Dr. Devins: I thank the Minister of State for sharing her time with me. As this is my first speech I should like to thank the people of Sligo-Leitrim for giving me the honour of representing them in Dáil Éireann. I am conscious of the responsibilities that accompany that honour and I assure them I will do everything possible to ensure their voices are heard in this House.
It is particularly appropriate that my first speech should be on this Bill regarding the forthcoming referendum on the Treaty of Nice, which goes to the heart of the European Union. The 1992 Treaty of the European Union states: “Any European State may apply to become a member of the Union.” Currently 12 states are undergoing this process and it is important in the forthcoming referendum that the issues concerning the Treaty of Nice are put before the people clearly and unambiguously. The treaty deals simply with the mechanics of how the European Union, which currently has 15 members, will continue to function effectively with the increased number of members.
All three main European institutions will be affected by the treaty. Regarding the European Commission, Ireland has the right to nominate one commissioner at present and this will continue under the Treaty of Nice. The five larger states currently have the right to nominate two commissioners but in future will only be able to nominate one commissioner. Every member state will have the right to nominate a commissioner until there are 27 members. It is then proposed that the size of the Commission not exceed 27, as it is felt that a number exceeding 27 would be unworkable. Should there be more than 27 member states each country will have the right to nominate a commissioner in fair and equal rotation.
Regarding the Council of Ministers, Ireland currently has three votes out of 87, which represents 3.4% of the total voting strength. After the accession of the present 12 applicants we will have seven votes out of an enlarged voting strength of 347, which is roughly 2%. That 2% is a greater percentage than Ireland's share of the total population of the enlarged Union, which is approximately 0.75%.
We elect 15 MEPs to the current European Parliament and after enlargement we will elect 12. That represents 1.6% of the total number of MEPs, which is again a higher percentage of the total number of MEPs than our population represents within the Union as a whole.
There has been a huge increase in the workload of the European Court of Justice recently and to make it more workable and accessible to the public, increased powers will be given to the Court of First Instance. It is also proposed to set up judicial panels which will deal with the preliminary preparation of cases. I welcome these proposals as they will help streamline the workings of this important court. The European Court of Justice has handed down some landmark decisions in recent years, particularly in relation to matters of equality and the rights of citizens.
Chapter 9 of the treaty makes some necessary changes to other European institutions such as the Court of Auditors, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee. All these changes will occur without any change in the degree of representation this country enjoys, so our voice will continue to be heard as at present.
Chapter 13 of the treaty deals with an issue which is a growing problem within the European Union, namely, the sense that European affairs are becoming more removed from everyday citizens. The treaty proposes that a European convention will address this problem. This convention has already started its work as it must report by the middle of next year. Ireland's representatives on the convention are Ray McSharry, former European Commissioner, who was nominated by the Government, Deputy John Bruton, former Taoiseach, and Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, both of whom are nominees of the Dáil. Their report is eagerly awaited as this deficit in communication must be addressed.
 The European Union has been good for Ireland as we have benefited from the transfer of moneys to this country via the various funds. The stark fact is that, in 1973, our GDP was 58% of the European average whereas today it is 116% of that average.
Enlargement will be mutually beneficial to Ireland and the candidate countries. It will give the applicant countries the opportunity to develop their economies just as this country has done. Ireland has one of the most open economies in the world so trade is vital. We export nearly 90% of our goods and services so, to continue to develop, we need to be able to penetrate new markets just as we have done since joining the EU in 1973.
In 1991 our exports to the 12 applicant countries were worth €160 million, but by 2000 they were worth €1,187 million which represents a seven-fold increase. Our main trading partners among the applicant countries are Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic and we now have over 400 indigenous companies working in these markets. Their economies will grow dramatically as soon as they become members of the European Union and it is vital for this country that we benefit from that growth.
It has been suggested by some commentators that Ireland has something to fear because many of the applicant countries are heavily dependent on agriculture. I suggest the reverse is the real situation and that these new member states will be useful friends of this country in defending the interests of agriculture within the European Union. It would be ironic if Ireland, by rejecting the Treaty of Nice, was to keep out of the Union those members states which would be our allies in defending the CAP.
I congratulate the Government and, in particular, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the work they have done in ensuring this country remains at the forefront of the European Union. We have nothing to fear by voting “Yes” in the forthcoming referendum, rather the future prosperity of Ireland is intimately bound up with the adoption of this amendment to our Constitution.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
Mr. R. Bruton: I congratulate Deputy Devins on his maiden speech. As he said, it is appropriate that a maiden speech would be on a subject of importance such as the Treaty of Nice.
To understand how important the treaty is to the applicant countries, we should reflect on what membership of the EU has done for Ireland. The Minister for Finance commented on some of these benefits and I will reiterate those and offer some other examples of how well we have done and why these issues are so important to the applicant countries.
Politically and economically, membership of the European project took us out of the shadow of Britain which had blighted our development. As a child, I remember when cattle were transported on-the-hoof, almost universally, to Britain. There was no processing industry, no opportunity for jobs off the land, over 80% of our business was with and dependent on the UK – we were under the thumb of the UK economically and politically and it stunted our growth. In the 30 years since we joined the EU, we have created 800,000 extra jobs off the land, doubling the figure in that period of time. This has allowed us create work at home for people who otherwise had to emigrate. In the decades up to our joining the EU, one in eight of our workforce emigrated. Almost 150,000 people left in just one decade and that was the pattern for many years before.
The EU has also brought modern social rights to workers and women, respect for our environment which was not present before and real financial transfers. I took the trouble to take out the figures to work out how much we got over the years. At current values, it translates to €50,300 million. To put it in perspective, if we did not have that money to support our economic development, instead of enjoying a debt ratio – which we boast about – of 30% of GDP, we would have one of 140% and would be among the basket cases of Europe. Europe has also given us monetary stability and low interest rates in recent times. These are tangible benefits and we should not turn our backs on the benefits we have enjoyed or deny them to the countries that are now applying.
It galls me to see the cynical way “No” campaigners are seeking to whip up panic that 75 million people might come to our shores and become a burden on our taxpayers. The people peddling this idea must have smugly sleepwalked through the long history of Irish marginalisation from economic opportunity that condemned so many of our people to leave their homes, families and communities – in some cases forever – to find work abroad. The opportunities offered by EU membership allowed us to stop the haemorrhage that took our brightest and best to foreign shores.
A “No” vote, far from protecting the rest of Europe from an influx of migrants, would make migration all the more likely as these countries sink in their struggle to get economic development under way without the benefit of access to good markets. There will be temporary movements – people will come from eastern Europe in search of opportunities after the possibility of free migration is opened up but, just like Irish emigrants in the last 30 or 40 years, they will come to make a contribution to their host countries. They will be young and dynamic people, creating a future for themselves and only too eager for the opportunity to return home to help with their own countries' development. That is the dynamic of emigration that we have seen and it will be the same for eastern Europe. Those who seek to create a panic among people about hordes of people leaving these central and eastern European countries – some of the most prominent and civilised societies over the last 100 years, stalled only by lack of access to markets – are missing the point. We should hand these countries the same opportunity we enjoyed to develop Ireland into what it is today.
We are not just being altruistic by reaching out the hand of partnership to central and eastern European countries which were formerly under communist rule. It is in our national interest that these countries continue on the democratic path and that we put an end to the threats to security that were so evident during the Cold War: the threats of genocide, the barbed wire and the high walls that were the heritage of these countries for many bitter years. All of us in Europe, including Ireland, will benefit from the peace dividend involved in the re-integration of Europe.
Similarly, in terms of economic development, the most basic lesson anyone studying economics learns is that free trade opens up the opportunity for mutual gains. By entering into new partnerships and trading arrangements with the countries of central and eastern Europe, the Irish people become richer not poorer. These countries have educated workforces and will constitute competitors, but it is through competition that we built up our strength. Anyone who thinks that we can protect uncompetitive businesses in Ireland by keeping the countries of eastern Europe out is sorely deluded. Ireland's economic success has been built on a commitment to open access to markets without artificial obstacles. These countries want to follow the same route.
It did not surprise me to hear Deputy Joe Higgins outline his vision of Europe. His view is that the countries of central and eastern Europe should turn their backs on a Europe of open markets where commerce can be conducted freely across all states. He seeks to tell those countries what is good for them. His arrogance and his failure to understand from whence Irish economic success has come are equally alarming. The policy of transparency and non-interference, of allowing companies to take full advantage of business opportunities, has brought thousands of investors to our shores. More than half of the people working in industry in Ireland work in foreign owned companies that depend crucially on European access. Ireland would be the first to suffer if barriers were put in the way of access to the larger European market and the many opportunities it presents for business.
It is significant that the chief executive of IDA Ireland issued a blunt warning about the consequences of a second “No” vote. It will put a serious question mark over Ireland's commitment to open European markets. Competitor countries seeking to attract investors will have no compunction about playing up the significance of such a rejection of the opportunity for further market integration. The United Kingdom, which is often a competitor for investment, has without question endorsed Nice, despite the tradition of euroscepticism in its Parliament.
A second “No” vote would do more than stall enlargement, it would isolate Ireland. It would represent a withdrawal by Ireland from the consensus that seeks to build bridges with the countries of central and eastern Europe. It would be foolish to think that we could defy our partners and not suffer adverse consequences. Ireland's success in negotiating decisions that have advanced our interests has not depended on its voting strength in the European corridors of power but on the goodwill we have carefully built up with our partners. We run the risk of squandering that goodwill with a second “No” vote.
Making room is not a zero sum game as many of those on the “No” side have sought to portray it. Much has been made by “No” campaigners of the new weighting system for the votes of Ministers of different countries. Enlargement makes Ireland's influence smaller in a purely mathematical sense because we are making room for new member states. No club that gets bigger can guarantee that original members will always have the same rights. That is the nature of growth and development. What is really happening is that the Irish people are pooling their strength with other countries to be able to achieve together what we could not achieve alone. We will be influencing a stronger and more united Europe built on the principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. That is the crucial interest at stake for Ireland.
Like all treaties Nice is a political compromise. We have guarantees that we will have the same nomination rights to the Commission as the large countries and they have given up a Commissioner in that process. In return we have given those larger countries a slightly greater weighting in the vote at the Council of Ministers. This is a quid pro quo, the sort of deal we see in industrial relations every day. It can be criticised but those who suggest that by obstructing the other 14 member states that have already ratified this agreement we can secure better arrangements are sadly deluding themselves. On the contrary, by voting “Yes” we can hope to reverse the idea of rotating Commissioners when the Commission reaches a membership of 27. That is still a live issue before the convention in Europe and there is a good case for reconsidering the idea of rotating commissionerships. We can make that case on the basis of a partnership approach, not one of obstruction.
A larger Europe must not become a more bureaucratic Europe. Some of the provisions in Nice to improve responsiveness have been criticised wrongly by the “No” campaign. The key changes are the move to more qualified majority voting on decisions and new flexibility arrangements that allow groups of countries to act together within the treaties without initially involving all member states. Scaremongers have suggested that this will somehow undermine fundamental Irish interests. Nothing is further from the truth. On Tuesday I read that “No” campaigners were suggesting that under this arrangement Ireland's ability to set its own taxes could end. That is totally false. It is true that eight or ten other countries could decide to align their corporate tax rate to one level but they could not force us to adopt their policies. We have adopted a policy of low corporate tax because it has been in our economic interest to attract foreign investment. In no way can the provisions of increased flexibility change that fact. We have a veto on tax and it will remain as far as Nice is concerned.
The process of more flexibility and qualified majority voting are changes that will begin the process of opening up decision making and making it more responsive to emerging need. Europe has been criticised in the past for being too bureaucratic and too slow to move. No organisation can progress if every decision requires unanimity. Such procedures confine an organisation to moving at the pace of the slowest member. That is not the way to build the dynamic Europe from which Ireland can benefit. Instances where such rules may force Ireland to make compromises can be conceived but that is the nature of any organisation in which there is a pooling of sovereignty. That is the essence of the European way, that is what has made it the force it is. We pool our sovereignty, we have a say in issues the outcome of which will affect us, but to say that everything must be decided by veto will obstruct the development from which we have benefited.
A more responsive and dynamic Europe is in all our interests. These new procedures have carefully built in checks and balances. Guarantees are written in that ensure the interests of smaller countries cannot be trampled over. Countries that do not wish to participate in new joint initiatives will have the opportunity to have their concerns assessed before any decision is made and will always have the opportunity to participate at a later date. This is not a recipe for a two track Europe. Rather it gives the opportunity for European countries to explore new pathways for co-operation and mutual benefit.
There is much more to do to make Europe more democratic. That is why the European Convention, where Deputy John Bruton represents Fine Gael, is so important. It will examine the concerns of both the “Yes” and “No” sides for the future. It will look at the proper limits of EU power to ensure we know when issues should be dealt with on the basis of subsidiarity devolved to nation states and when it would be appropriate to deal with them at European level. It will examine the status of the fundamental rights which are currently only a political declaration. We will look to the Council of Europe, not the European courts, to assert rights. It will look at the simplification of treaties, the role of national Parliaments and making Europe more democratic. Nice has heralded the changes that will make Europe more open and responsive to its citizens. We must all commend the change that is being brought about by Nice.
This is a time for Irish people to be confident in themselves. Europe has served us well. Rather than seeing shadows and shibboleths in every clause of this treaty, we should treat it in the way we have treated those that have preceded it. This is an opportunity to build a dynamic European Union for the benefit of Irish people and the wider European family. This is not the time to lose heart in the capacity of our small country to shape a better future for Europe. It is not the time to obstruct a truly historic opportunity to put the tragedies of 20th century Europe behind us.
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey) Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey)
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): With the agreement of the House I will share time with Deputies Fleming and S. Power.
Over the course of the last week children returned to school throughout the country. Their parents will have been pondering what the future holds for them and what opportunities will be available to them when they emerge from our education system as young adults. Young people themselves have been making important choices about college and careers. They will want to participate more fully in a society that is open and equal and which provides opportunity for all. Underpinning that opportunity is Ireland's membership of the European Union.
The future of our young people will be heavily influenced by Ireland's success within Europe and Europe's success as a strong player in the world economy. Membership of the European Union is fundamental to our prosperity and economic success, and will continue to be so. Enlargement of the EU will result in a significantly expanded Single Market of some 500 million people and will create much greater opportunities for trade, investment, education and careers. The Nice treaty provides the framework essential to facilitating enlargement and is vital to ensuring economic sustainability, growth and opportunity for the next generation.
The impact of the EU is not just economic. The EU has been, and will continue to be, an engine for social change. Membership has helped to broaden our horizons and modernise our society. It has helped to make our identity and our culture more self-confident and outward looking, while retaining what is essential and unique. The treaty articles regarding education and training do not seek to impose community-wide structures on individual member states. Rather, they provide a framework for close co-operation which increases our knowledge base and provides an impetus for innovation within the context of an education system unique to Ireland's needs.
The change and adaptation which have taken place in Ireland since we joined the EEC in 1973, and in particular our successful management of that change and adaptation, have resulted in Ireland enjoying a level of development and prosperity today unknown to previous generations. That would certainly not have been anticipated by even the most ardent supporters of EEC membership in 1973. The transformation of our economy owes a great deal to the opportunities provided by the Single Market and, notably, to our prudent and intelligent use of European Union funding, particularly in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure and education and training.
It is not often realised how much the European Union, through its Structural Funds, has contributed to the development of education in Ireland and in so doing, to our current economic success. European Union funding has contributed enormously to the transformation of our third level campuses. The development of our technological sector has been significantly assisted by investment from the European Regional Fund and, more particularly, from the European Social Fund. Our technology institutes have, it is widely acknowledged, been at the forefront of the success of transforming Ireland into a high-skill, knowledge-based economy. Without investment, there is no doubt that our current unprecedented levels of economic growth would not have been achieved.
The objective of EU aid in the education sector has been to maximise the potential of Ireland's most significant resource, its people. European Social Funds have been targeted at areas extending from the prevention of early school leaving to advanced training for graduates targeted on the needs of the economy.
Between 1994 and 2006 there will have been an investment of €1.65 billion of EU Structural Funds in our education system. Its importance is further highlighted by the fact that, for example, in 1999 alone, in excess of 200,000 students and trainees participated in ESF-aided programmes. It also contributed significantly to initiating one of the other success stories of our education system, the post leaving certificate vocational preparation and training courses, which now have 26,500 participants. This success can best be measured by recognition of the fact that the first vocational preparation and training courses were funded by the EU in the mid-1980s. The restructuring of our senior cycle through the leaving certificate applied and the leaving certificate vocational programmes would not have happened as rapidly without the support of European Social Funds. Both of these programmes offer a wider range of options for young people who wish to stay on at school and for whom existing academic programmes were not suitable.
The process of change and adaptation in the education sector was also facilitated by the contribution of the European Social Fund to the very large-scale expansion of the in-career development of our teachers. Without this investment, and the co-operation of our teachers, it would not have been possible to achieve the level of change which has been brought about in our schools, particularly at second level.
The European Social Fund has also aided the development of second chance opportunities for early school leavers and for people with literacy and numeracy difficulties. The vocational training opportunities scheme and the back to education initiative, both vital components of adult and second chance education policy, were supported from the European Social Fund.
The third level access fund promotes participation at third level education by students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, by mature students and by students with disabilities. The allocation of ESF aid for this fund for the period 2000-06 is over €62 million. These are just some examples of the major contribution which European Union funds have made to the development of education in Ireland. They also reflect the wise and prudent use to which we have put these funds.
The treaty articles regarding education and training do not impose community-wide structures. Rather, they provide instead a framework for close co-operation between the member states. In this regard, the European Union has made a major contribution to the development of innovative approaches in education through programmes such as Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci, which have been hugely successful in Ireland. Under these programmes, since 1995 more than 3,000 Irish people have travelled abroad to take part in vocational training initiatives. Over 8,000 Irish students have studied in institutions in other countries and Irish schools have been involved in more than 800 European projects. This mobility has been good for Irish people.
There are also less tangible but nonetheless real benefits. Ireland is currently taking a lead role in an energetic debate on the future of education across Europe. Our membership puts us in a position to compare and contrast approaches in different countries and to readily identify best practice. This process can only be enhanced by the expansion of the Union to include all applicant states.
Education and the debate on education and training at European level have become increasingly important. The Lisbon Summit of Heads of State and Government set out a strategy aimed at making Europe the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. The Heads of State and Government recognised that education is central to this aim. Targets were set towards the achievement of this goal ranging from increased investment to establishing a new European framework for defining basic skills through lifelong learning, information technology, foreign languages, entrepreneurship and social skills. The summit also acknowledged that education and training are key elements of any employment strategy and Ministers for Education are now central to the development of the employment guidelines set down annually at EU level.
Education is, however, about much more than employment. The EU White Paper on youth, for example, is a policy statement which underlines the commitment to making Europe a more welcoming environment for young people. That White Paper resulted from a broad consultation exercise involving young people from all backgrounds, youth organisations, the scientific community and policy makers within the EU. The White Paper encourages participation at all levels of society, promotes lifelong learning and social integration and seeks to combat racism and xenophobia. The paper represents an exciting development for young people in Europe, suggesting a new framework for co-operation on youth policy.
It is clear that the EU has been instrumental in supporting and facilitating major economic, social and educational change. In those circumstances, it is clear that Ireland's full participation in the EU has provided the framework on which our prosperity has been built. As a small country, it is in our interest to continue to play an influential role at the heart of Europe. The Nice treaty paves the way for the accession of new countries. It reforms the EU's institutional structures to make it possible to have an effective Union. From an Irish point of view, the treaty represents a good balance between the changes necessary for enlargement and protection of our essential interests as a smaller member state.
Mr. Fleming Mr. Fleming
Mr. Fleming: I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly on the debate on the Treaty of Nice. The basic question asked by everybody is what is it all about. Having gone through the last referendum campaign, I know the public have many ideas about what is in the treaty, with few of them based on the facts. The Nice treaty concerns making changes to the European institutions to enable them to work effectively after enlargement takes place. That is it in one simple sentence. This will involve changing voting systems at the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament. Some people may be opposed to that but I have no problem with it. People may say we may have fewer representatives at the European Parliament or we will have three times our voting strength under the qualified voting system compared to four times our strength based on our population entitlement in the past, and I have no problem in accepting that. European discussions are about the quality of our representation, not the quantity. Quantity and simply having a majority will not win the day, it will be the quality of the debate, and I have confidence in the people who represent Ireland there.
More to the point, what is it all about? It is about sharing with other countries. Many years ago, we were given the chance to join the EEC as it was then and we have prospered and improved. We are now being asked to give other people the chance and I support that act of generosity. It is as simple as that. There is no extra money in it. There is no carrot dangling in front of us saying it will be worth a certain amount per person if we agree. It is like being in a family – there is a bit of give and take and we have to work at it. It is like getting married – people who are single can do what they like, but when married, they must work in partnership. Some people would prefer an isolationist, individualist approach. Perhaps the Celtic tiger has made people too greedy and they do not want to share with anybody ever again. If that were the view of the majority of Irish people, I would resent that. I hope the spirit of generosity will carry through when we come to vote.
Mr. S. Power Mr. S. Power
Mr. S. Power: It is more “mé féin” than “sinn féin”.
Mr. Fleming Mr. Fleming
Mr. Fleming: Although some people are genuinely opposed to the concept of the European Union, the majority are not, and I hope that view will prevail when we vote. People have rightly been concerned about military neutrality. If we vote “Yes”, the Irish people will put a written commitment into the Constitution that we will not become involved in any European Union common defence without a further referendum to be decided by the people. If on referendum day people vote on the basis of the Nice treaty, it should pass. The majority of people on the “No” side are not against the Nice treaty, they are on the “No” side for a variety of other reasons. They know that if the debate and the vote were strictly on what is in the Nice treaty it will pass. That is why, between now and voting day, people on the “No” side will campaign on anything but Nice. I am very happy to support all the aspects and details of the Nice treaty. There is nothing in it which the Irish people should fear. Over the coming weeks, I ask the people to separate the Nice treaty, on which they are being asked to vote, from anything else that will be thrown up against them to confuse the issue.
I support the Nice treaty and I hope the Irish people will do so when given the opportunity next month.
Mr. S. Power Mr. S. Power
Mr. S. Power: As I have little time at my disposal, I will use that time to deal with enlargement, in particular the application of Cyprus. I had the honour of visiting northern Cyprus during the summer with two of my colleagues from the House. To my surprise the ambassador chose to object in the strongest manner on my return. It was not my first visit and it was obvious to me that on the island there exists two democracies and two sovereign states representing their distinct peoples.
Turkey has never expressed a wish to make Cyprus a Turkish island or an annex to Turkey, which is only 40 miles away, but the Greeks have continued to press for enosis to make Cyprus part of Greece even though Greece is 500 miles away. The history and settlement of the island would weigh heavily towards a Turkish claim as soldiers from the Ottoman Empire captured Cyprus in 1571. They were there until the British arrived in 1878. We do not have time to go into the full history of the island. In 1924, the Treaty of Lausanne was accepted by Turkey and Greece, and Britain was then the sovereign ruler of Cyprus. There has been much change since. Gradually the Greek Cypriots made demands for enosis and Britain, playing politics, offered the island to Greece in return for them taking up arms against Bulgaria. Naturally, the Turkish Cypriots opposed enosis.
In 1950 the demand for enosis exploded under Archbishop Makarios. Britain took strong action against the militants and Makarios was exiled to the Seychelles. Turkey took a keen interest and was obviously anxious to protect the Turkish Cypriots, but the partition of the island was suggested and had some appeal in Ankara. However, Mr. Lennox-Boyd declared in the House of Commons in 1956: “Any exercise of self-determination should be effected in such a manner that the Turkish community should be given freedom to decide for themselves their future status.” This was reaffirmed in 1958 by Harold Macmillan. At this stage, with a declining empire, Britain realised it did not want Cyprus as a military base but wanted bases in Cyprus. Gradually talks between Greece, Turkey and Britain, with the UN a very interested onlooker, led to a treaty of alliance and a treaty of guarantee being accepted in Zurich. Enosis and partition were banned and the two countries were to work out a system of government among themselves with Britain, Greece and Turkey. These three states were to guarantee the general state of affairs proposed under the treaty. Unfortunately, both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots were suspicious of each other and the details of the shared government were complex and proved very difficult to operate. Harmony and success very much depended on consensus, respect for each side and security for the minority.
From 1964 to 1967 there were many attacks on the Turkish Cypriots and in an effort to counteract the difficulty there the United Nations sent a peacekeeping force to the island, including an Irish battalion consisting of many soldiers from the Curragh. The Cypriot ambassador wonders why a Kildare person should show such an interest in Cyprus. In 1967, Turkey and Greece were on the brink of war and the Greeks wanted enosis and Turkey favoured a federation of Cyprus. In July 1974, Archbishop Makarios was overthrown and was flown out of Cyprus. The Turkish premier flew to Britain to ask Mr. Callaghan to intervene, but no action from any of the guarantee countries was taken. Countries that had pledged support to make Cyprus work were found wanting when a crisis arose.
With genuine interest and goodwill by the EU, some help can be given to find a lasting peace on the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is an applicant for admission to the EU. This should not be just for part of the island. This would only perpetuate problems as Greece is a member and Turkey is unlikely to be accepted as a member in the next draft for enlargement. We continue to drive wedges between the two parts of the island. There are no direct flights to northern Cyprus. There are grants galore for the Greek side for the restoration of ancient sites, among other things, yet we continue to deny northern Cyprus a market for its produce and access to it by tourists.
Since Cyprus applied to become a member of the European Union all negotiations have been carried out by the Greek Cypriot Government, which does not and cannot represent the people of the entire island. The European Union has never sought a resolution of the problem as a condition of Cyprus becoming a full member and as a result, the talks between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash are unlikely to prove fruitful. There is no incentive for Greek Cypriots to find a solution.
If a divided Cyprus is allowed to become a member of the European Union, serious problems will arise. The south is recognised by all states except Turkey as the Republic of Cyprus while the north is recognised only by Turkey, whose forces there for the defence of northern Cyprus may be accused of occupying the territory of an EU member state. This scenario is very likely despite the fact that Turkey has a customs union with the European Union and also been accepted as a candidate for future membership. It is time we asserted our independence in order to do what we think is right and just, rather than go along with what our wealthier neighbours advise.
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
Mr. Gilmore: I wish to share my time with Deputy Eamon Ryan.
I voted “Yes” at the last referendum. I intend to do so again and will urge my constituents to do likewise, explaining to them, to the best of my ability, my reasons for doing so.
The text of the Nice treaty has not been changed since the last referendum, but the question being put to the people has. On the last occasion the question centred on the ratification of the Nice treaty while on the next occasion the people will also be asked if they are agreeable to change the Constitution to include the provision sought by the Labour Party that there will be no Irish participation in a military alliance or defence commitment arising from our membership of the European Union without that question being put to the people. This gives for the first time a constitutional underpinning to Irish neutrality, to which I subscribe and which I wish to see defended. I will be asking constituents to vote “Yes” to that proposition as well as to ratify the Nice treaty which allows for the enlargement of the European Union. When those opposed to the treaty ask people to vote “No,” they will be asking them to reject not only the ratification of the treaty, but also to vote “No” to the inclusion in our Constitution of what amounts to a guarantee of our neutrality. I am surprised, by some in particular, that their hostility to the European project is so great they are prepared to ask people to reject the inclusion of that constitutional guarantee.
As a socialist, I believe the people of the applicant countries should have the same opportunity as the people of Ireland to develop their economies and that the European Union should be enlarged to include them. The changes being made by the Nice treaty are necessary to accommodate enlargement and, whatever may be argued, at the very least the prospect of enlarging the European Union will be delayed if it is not ratified. We need an enlarged and effective Union to assert the rights of the people of Europe over the power of capital. In today's globalised economic environment it is no longer possible for individual nation states, even large ones, to curb, control and regulate big multinational companies. That can only be done effectively when countries come together in regional political institutions, such as the European Union, and pool their sovereignty to assert those rights. We had a recent example of this when an international television company sought to buy up the rights to televise live our home international football games and we had, as a people, to have recourse to EU laws in order to defend the right to see those games live to air. Therefore, I challenge the idea that it is somehow radical or left wing to oppose the Nice treaty. I also challenge the idea that because one is anti the Government and some of the things it has done, it should follow that one should also oppose the treaty.
There are many reasons to be opposed to the Government such as the cuts we have seen since the general election in overseas development aid, the health service, housing and public services. The lies the public were told by the Government about the state of our finances and about what would be possible after the election have understandably engendered an anger with the Government which I share, but people who are angry with Fianna Fáil should take that anger out on Fianna Fáil at the next electoral opportunity. It is not fair to take that anger out on the people who live in the applicant countries and destroy and set back their aspirations for economic development because of a domestic political row.
I understand the Sinn Féin position and its opposition to the treaty and the EU project. It is a nationalist party and I am not surprised that, as is the case with nationalist parties generally in the Union, it should be opposed to these things. I do not agree, of course, because as history has taught us, political allegiance constructed solely around national identity leads to conflict and grief whether in Yugoslavia or here. However, I cannot understand the position of the Green Party. I consider myself a political soul mate of the green movement, from which I have learned and, as the record of the House will show, with which I have identified on green issues of the environment and peace. I have never been able to fathom the anti-Europeanism manifested in and expressed very often by the Green Party. It is out of line with the views of the green movement throughout Europe and not supported by many of those who vote for the party. In our experience of the European Union it is difficult to think of a single instance where our regulations and social and environmental legislation were ahead of European legislation and in many cases our legislation in these areas had to be dragged into line with what applied in Europe, when the Government was reluctant to go along with it.
I look forward to hearing why the Green Party, in particular, appears to be so hostile to a treaty which it knows very well is designed to facilitate nothing more than enlargement. I am particularly interested in hearing the rationale for it now that this referendum provides a constitutional underpinning of Irish neutrality.
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
Mr. Eamon Ryan: I thank Deputy Gilmore for giving me some of his time. I hope I can in some way answer the questions he raised in his speech. As a new Deputy I am particularly pleased to speak on this referendum. I am proud that referenda are a cornerstone of our democracy which allow us to vote on the future development of Europe through voting on the treaties. This process affords me the opportunity to indicate what type of Europe I want and what my views are regarding the treaties.
Voting in referenda is a personal and sometimes a contentious matter. In my experience as a councillor I have sometimes been called to vote in a roll call vote where one has to stand up and be counted in saying “Yes” or “No”. Sometimes one has to vote where there is no set party line and it can be a scary experience when one has to give one's opinion. My brief experience in the Dáil leads me to think it is a lot less daunting here because we all walk up the stairs together and turn one way or the other. It is easier to vote with the flock than to stand up and say one is voting one way or the other. A referendum provides one of the few occasions on which we stand up as citizens and say that we agree or disagree with something. I would prefer a move towards a more complex voting system with a preferendum-style voting arrangement, but that is not possible at present.
Such is the personal nature of the voting system, it is always difficult to talk to people about how they voted. After the last referendum on the Nice treaty, I was surprised by how many friends and acquaintances were happy to say that they had voted “No”. In my experience they were not people who were anti-European. As Deputy Gilmore said, there are people who are eurosceptic and who are concerned by a loss of sovereignty in any form. I do not share that view, nor did most of the people I know who voted “No”. We did so for other reasons than a loss of sovereignty.
One of the main concerns in our party – and it is a genuine concern – is the perception, indeed, we would say the reality, that Europe is moving away from being just an economic and social union towards being a military union. Our party holds a strong core view that this is not the direction in which we should be going. We should be moving towards using the structures of the United Nations, rather than the European Union, for the resolution of international conflicts. That is one of the main problems we have with the Nice treaty and it is a view shared by the people. Whatever about the origins of our neutrality, it has developed into a stance to which people of my generation have a strong affinity in military and other affairs. The work our Army has carried out wearing blue helmets in the Lebanon, Congo, Cyprus and elsewhere is a source of great pride in this country, and rightly so, because it is the best form of international peacekeeping, completely removed from the vested interest which NATO or the EU will always have.
It is also a cornerstone of my party's identity that we do not approve of the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. In the move towards an integration of European military affairs we are moving into a connection with armies that are armed with nuclear weapons. I am sorry if other parties on the left find that difficult, but we have to hold to our core principles and we do not believe the threat of the use of nuclear weapons to be right. That is a cornerstone of some of our objections. We wish the Government to commit the Army only to UN-established missions and not UN-mandated missions.
From the time of the Gulf War ten years ago we have increasingly seen that a UN-mandated mission is under the control of the members of the Security Council, particularly the US Government, and that it is not always a fair and full decision of the entire UN Security Council. The UN-established missions in which we have taken part tended to be far more neutral in a global sense and, therefore, deserving of our support.
Voting is a personal issue and one that all citizens have to take seriously. There is a major concern with regard to the economic policy and development of the EU on the issue of globalisation which was raised by Deputy Gilmore. I fully agree with him that there are significant environmental and social benefits that have come to this country via the European Union and I very much welcome them. I would be the first to run to the European Commission for the use of those environmental benefits although it is not a perfect institution. We have choices in terms of what way it progresses. In the past the EU has encouraged over-fishing, not just in our waters, but in west Africa and throughout the world. The EU can be as rapacious as any other large power bloc.
The same is true with regard to our insistence on certain farm subsidies or trade arrangements which have made it incredibly difficult for the developing world to achieve fair status in a global trading system. In new industrial areas such as biotechnology, the European Union is just as aggressive in protecting its industrial interests as America or any of the other power blocs. The same is the case with the armaments industry which is hugely important within the EU. The European Union has seen fit to set aside moral or other considerations in the promotion of those types of industries and the Green Party has a difficulty with that stance.
 Article 133 of the Treaty of Nice, which is at the core of the globalisation issue and what way it goes, is not raised very much. I ask Deputy Gilmore to state if he believes that the EU has taken the correct stance on every occasion in its dealings with the WTO. We have a terrible fear that, like the North American and other large industrial partners, it has been encouraging support for the large industrial interests against the proper interests of countries around the world. One of the real shifts in power under the Nice treaty is contained in Article 133 which gives to the European Commission, rather than the member states, competence regarding the negotiation of services and intellectual property. Deputy Gilmore may say that we have to club together as individual states are helpless in the international arena to stop the consequences of the power of transnational corporations. The problem is that we are clubbing together to support large European industrial bases, rather than doing the right thing.
There is a serious threat to the welfare state and to many of the things sought by those on the left as a result of the negotiations the EU is carrying out in the WTO. Under the Nice treaty these negotiations will be carried out by the Commission and not by the member states. The Commission will report to a select committee before the Council. The issue will not be debated in public or be subjected to analysis by the member countries or this House. In Genoa and Seville we are arguing against what is happening in the WTO. Deputy Gilmore should surely realise that the European Union is not above reproach on this subject, but that it is as much to blame for what happened under the WTO as America or the other large blocs.
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
Mr. Gilmore: That is not an argument for keeping the applicant countries out.
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
Mr. Eamon Ryan: I fully agree. However, this treaty is not just about the applicant countries, but a number of different issues. I would hate to see even one of those applicant countries refused entry. I very much welcome the enlargement of the Union in that regard.
I listened to our Commissioner, David Byrne, talking a number of months ago on the radio about the changes that occurred in the Union. One thing he said stood out for me. He made a strong claim that the Commission is a political institution and that he holds a political position. He is not a politician as he has not been elected. There is an undoubted concern throughout the Union about a lack of political accountability within the structures. That is the third big issue with which we feel there is a problem. I am totally pro-EU. I want to see it going in a certain direction, but the Nice treaty is not that direction. I have a choice. Do I just accept it as a fait accompli or do I use my vote to say that I would prefer the Union to develop in a slightly different direction? That is a valid position to take.
 It is clear that before the first referendum had one said there was a lack of democratic accountability, the proponents of the referendum would have said that the very fact that one can vote shows that it is democratically accountable and that if there was a “No” vote, things would change. However, we have seen that the one great democratic check of voting on the treaty – other countries do not have this option – has not actually come into effect. We have to vote again on the exact same issue. I am certain that if Germany or France had a referendum and it had not been carried, the treaty would have changed. There is a genuine concern with regard to this treaty that there is a movement towards a centralisation of power in Europe, which is not good for the EU itself. It is on that basis, as an Irish and European citizen, that I have to decide how to vote.
I strongly object to Deputy John Bruton's speech yesterday. It motivated me to speak today. I was very surprised by the evident anger and hatred in the voice of a former Taoiseach and such an eminent politician. He made the accusation that advocates of a “No” vote had no sincerity in their position and were merely taking up positions for political, short-term gain. I hope we are genuinely concerned about the move towards the militarisation of the EU. We are concerned about the effects of globalisation and neo-liberal economics being imposed on the world by institutions like the EU and about the lack of democracy. I will leave it to the individuals of the State to decide how they vote. I hope we have a debate which will allow both arguments to be heard in a good and fair manner.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Gallagher) Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Gallagher)
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Gallagher): I wish to share my time with Deputy Carey.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Gallagher Mr. Gallagher
Mr. Gallagher: Beidh a lán aird dírithe ar mhuintir na hÉireann le linn reifrinn Nice. Is ábhar fíor thábhachtach é, ní hamháin le haghaidh todhchaí eacnamaíochta na tíre seo, ach le haghaidh forbairt bhunúsach an Aontais Eorpaigh. Is é atá i gconradh Nice ná ár dteach féin a chur in eagair chun ullmhú dos na baillstáit nua atá réidh le teacht isteach. Tá na hathruithe riachtanach chun go mbeidh an t-Aontas in ann a chuid oibre a dhéanamh go héifeachtach agus go structúrtha agus go mbeidh na hinstidiúid, mar Chomhairle na n-Airí, an Phairlimint agus an Coimisiún in ann feidhmiú mar is ceart. Bhí na córais atá ann faoi láthair cumtha le haghaidh an sean-EEC le sé bhallstát. Muna n-athraitear iad, beidh sé an-deacair aon ní a shocrú nuair atá sé bhallstát is fiche ann.
In football parlance, we must know the rules of the game before we take to the pitch. The enlargement of the EU cannot succeed unless much needed reform takes place within the decision making processes of the EU institutions. If reform does not take place, a process of legislative logjam in Europe will ensue. This is a technical issue. However, Ireland's relationship within the EU is not a technical one. Ireland's home, geographically, economically and politically, lies within the EU. Ever since the 1950s, we have opened up the workings of our national economy and the European Union marketplace has been the home for many of our goods and services. Our experience of the Union has been a healthy one.
When we first joined the EEC in 1973, the standard of living in Ireland was only 60% of the European average. Recent figures suggest that we now exceed the average standard of living in Europe. No one can deny that the €45 billion in transfers from the EU into our country has played an important role in helping to build up all aspects of our economy.
Irish economic policy has been hugely successful in providing virtually full employment and ending involuntary emigration. It would be contrary to the whole thrust of this policy if we were to draw back now from full engagement within an expanding European marketplace. We have taken full advantage of the internal market where there is free movement of goods, services and people. We also benefit fully from participation within the euro zone, which has eliminated transaction costs for Irish exports into 11 different countries in Europe. The result of this is that there is no more currency speculation.
With the euro, the cost of trade and investment across borders has been reduced due to the absence of exchange rate risk. Firms and consumers can now assess more easily the price differential for goods and services between states and exert pressure to keep it low.
Ireland has benefited from low interest rates since the start of monetary union. Key interest rates are lower than those in Denmark, Sweden and the UK – the three EU member states which are currently outside monetary union. In 1973 Ireland had a total trade deficit of €340 million. In 2001 our trade surplus was in sharp contrast with that – we had a surplus of €35.3 billion. In 1973, our total trade in goods and services was €1.7 billion, which represented 81% of our GDP. This increased to €98 billion in 2001, representing 176% of our GDP.
We should not disguise for one moment that the Single Market has been central to our ability to attract foreign direct investment into our country. In 1998, US-owned multinational corporations accounted for €32 billion of our industrial exports, which accounts for 70% of the overall total in Ireland.
European companies based in Ireland employ more than 34,000 workers and contribute €4.7 billion in total Irish exports. We secured investment in our country, irrespective of whether the European Union had nine or 15 member states. In a community of over 20 states, we can continue to secure a greater proportion of investment into our country. American companies like to locate in Ireland because they view us as the gateway to the European Union marketplace. They believe that we have effectively utilised the benefits that the internal market and the single European currency regime can offer and that we will continue to do so. They are attracted by our highly skilled English-speaking workforce. These are competitive advantages that we will continue to exercise over the new member states, whose economies are significantly less developed than Ireland's. The removal of trade barriers in the Irish market and the consequential increased trading activity have brought about more competition, bringing consumers lower costs and increasing choice.
The Nice treaty is intended to provide the legal framework to prepare for the enlargement of the EU, which is of unprecedented importance. Irish people can see that inviting the applicant countries to join us in the EU is about righting a past wrong, the artificial division of Europe, which has lasted for too long, since the Second World War. The referendum presents an opportunity to confirm this positive attitude among Irish people.
Many candidate countries look to Ireland as a role model in Europe, particularly for the way in which membership of the EU has transformed our economy. Many of their leaders point out that the choice to be made by the Irish people will have consequences in their countries. Negotiations with these countries are about to finish within the next few months. They need to know where they stand and the Nice treaty is an essential part of the picture for them.
The addition of a large number of smaller member states can only be to our advantage. These countries have a deep interest in agricultural issues and this will certainly strengthen our hand when future negotiations take place. It is important to remember that these candidate countries represent a significant market in which we are currently under-achieving.
Membership of the EU and the enlargement thereof, which has occurred since 1973, have been good for Ireland's trade and economy generally. However, the EU has also been a very positive supporter of the enormous political changes that are taking place in Ireland. The EU has supported the peace process in every possible way. The EU is a very serious financial contributor to a wide range of cross-Border programmes, including INTERREG, which was established as a result of the peace process, and the European Peace and Reconciliation Fund programme. It is also the largest contributor to the International Fund for Ireland.
The most recent European Peace and Reconciliation Fund programme runs between 2000 and 2005. The Union has made a contribution of €106 million for projects under the fund in the Border county region. This will be matched by a 25% Government allocation bringing the total figure to €141 million for projects under this important initiative, which also finances infrastructural projects, but equally supports measures which promote co-operation between the peoples of Northern Ireland and the Border counties.
The European Union has made a major contribution towards promoting environmental protection in Ireland, both through standard setting and the provision of financial support. The rural environmental protection scheme is jointly funded by the European Union and the Exchequer. Almost €3 billion is provided for it under the national development plan. Similarly €203 million has been provided as investment aid in farm waste management. Ireland has received over €15.5 billion in Structural and Cohesion Funds since we joined the European Union. We are all aware of the important role that these moneys have played in helping to build a modern infrastructure in this country. They have played a central role in helping this country to become more competitive. It amazes me that some of the most ardent critics of the Nice treaty – I refer to a number of the small parties in this House, particularly the Green Party – invoke European environmental directives and regulations at every opportunity to support their policy stance on different local issues in Ireland, yet they still oppose the treaty, claiming they do not want supranational laws and so-called “diktats from Brussels”.
The Union, acting cohesively on behalf of 15 countries, provides important leadership on global environmental issues, as was clearly evidenced recently in Johannesburg. The Nice treaty is fair and balanced and protects the interests of the smaller member states. For example, in the context of the reform of the European Commission, the five larger member states are losing one of their Commissioners. This means that every member state has the right to appoint one member to the European Commission. Even when the European Union grows in size beyond 27 members, representation on the European Commission will be based on a strict system of equal rotation between smaller and larger member states. What this means is that Ireland has exactly the same representative rights on the European Commission as Germany and the other larger member states. It is clear, therefore, that the interests of the smaller member states have been fully protected in the context of the reform of the EU institutions.
The Nice treaty has nothing to do with taxation matters which remain the sole preserve of individual member states. The treaty has nothing to do with forming a European army. After the Seville Summit of EU leaders, it is now clear that the two declarations signed by EU leaders and the Government respectively demonstrate the respect for Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. There is the triple lock that has been signed up to by the Government which I firmly believe will give the necessary assurances to the public who were demanding clarity on this specific issue.
My message is simple. We have always prided ourselves on being good Europeans, supporting the European Union which has been very good for us. It has increased our trade potential. It has been a major factor in modernising our industrial base and instrumental in our country's success in attracting foreign direct investment. While we have done well as a result of our membership of the Union, the marine industry has paid too great a price. It is timely to refer to this matter now. The Nice treaty, coupled with the review of the Common Fisheries Policy, presents an opportunity for the Commission to ensure Ireland will receive a fair an equitable share of European resources, largely coming from the most prolific fishing grounds off our west coast.
More exports for Irish goods and services means more jobs being created at home. The Nice treaty is a good deal for Ireland and the existing member states of the European Union, which sent out a very clear message two years ago when it recognised the necessity to regionalise this country when Objective One status was established. That in itself has given the opportunity to regions, such as I represent, to ensure they get a fair and equitable share of funds and build the infrastructure which is necessary to attract industry and create more jobs.
Mr. Carey Mr. Carey
Mr. Carey: In the time remaining I hope to address some of the implications of a possible “No” vote in the forthcoming referendum. The next referendum on the Nice treaty is not just about enlargement, it is also about Ireland. We are at a crossroads. We are deciding what future we will have in Europe. The Nice treaty is necessary for enlargement. A second “No” vote would leave a fundamental dimension of the enlargement process in limbo. It would impede the accession of states with which we have had much in common and which view us as a model of how a small state should operate within the Union. There is a strong national consensus in favour of enlargement. It would be seen as inconsistent and illogical to support the end but prevent the means. The ratification of the Nice treaty is the means by which the European Union and applicant countries envisage enlargement proceeding. To claim to support enlargement while opposing the treaty would be contradictory.
The outcome to the first referendum has fundamentally changed the perception of Ireland by other member states and the applicant countries. They are mystified as to how a country, that still consistently displays the most positive views on the European Union on Eurobarometer polls, could vote “No” to this treaty. How could Ireland have been the only country in the Union to reject a reform that many thought did not go far enough? Others were mystified that a member state which had gained so much from European integration should seek to disrupt further progress to the aim of a fuller and deeper Union and enlargement. Ireland has received the highest per capita transfers from the European Union in the past 25 years. We have clearly benefited from our membership of the Union.
Our participation in the Single Market and economic and monetary union has been particularly decisive. In the decade since the completion of the Single Market the total numbers in employment here have risen by about 750,000 persons. Many of the 140,000 directly employed by overseas investors and the tens of thousands indirectly employed are among the beneficiaries of the Single Market. Without EMU our interest rates would not be at such historic low levels and our indigenous companies would not be operating without any exchange risk in a hugely important and competitive market. The status quo could not remain after a second “No” vote. A second rejection would make Ireland's position in the European Union uncertain and very different from what prevails today. It would inevitably affect our standing in daily negotiations of considerable importance. The positive effects of the European Union for the economies of member states can be endangered by the Union losing its momentum, as I am certain it would. As a contributory factor to that loss of momentum, we could be seen as entirely self-indulgent and selfish. Ireland would be considerably less attractive as a location for inward investment.
A small country like Ireland has, through its committed membership and structures of the Union, achieved a level of influence over the policies and decisions that affect us which would otherwise be impossible. We have a considerable capacity to shape the system to our advantage and work to improve any defects. The choice is between the illusion of autonomy and the reality of influence. In an interdependent world we either fully participate in the European Union or stand on the sidelines and allow the course of history to develop without influencing it.
The EU enlargement project is, obviously, the greatest challenge facing the Union today. Ireland can gain from enlargement. A large Union opens markets which, in turn, creates opportunities for Irish exporters. Irish companies have already been investing in candidate countries. Significantly more than €1 billion has been invested by Irish companies in Poland alone. Access to the EU Single Market and EU support for economic convergence is expected to enable the new member states to mirror our success over the course of the past three decades. This expansion of the Single Market will also have the potential to boost demand for sophisticated goods, such as those increasingly being produced in Ireland, in the new member states. It is in Ireland's interest to play its part in the enlargement of the European Union. As Commissioner David Byrne said when he addressed the Seanad: “The opportunity must now be seized to put our stamp on the future direction of the European Union.” Ireland has much to contribute to the success of enlargement having particular regard to its own successful economic integration into the European Union. Ireland has successfully demonstrated how small countries can be part of large unions and have a positive influence in international affairs. Ireland can be a role model for the new candidate countries. It can show that change can be embraced, adjustments made and opportunity grasped in a range of economic and social areas.
Deputy Eamon Ryan raised some issues which have nothing to do with the Nice treaty. We all know that the European Commission has recently published its review and proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, but this has no connection whatsoever with the Nice treaty. However, it would be only reasonable to assume that in the event of another “No” vote in Ireland the influence and negotiating strength of the Minister for Agriculture and Food within the Council of Ministers would be seriously compromised. Neither is the Common Fisheries Policy related to the Nice treaty in any way, but in the event of a “No” vote we can again expect the Irish Minister's negotiating position to be compromised. Under the Treaty of Amsterdam, which came into force in 1999, EU involvement in health care provision is expressly precluded. There is nothing whatsoever in the Treaty of Nice which would change this. While the European Union has certain powers in the area of health and safety at work and matters such as food safety, health awareness and environmental impact on health, it has no remit to legislate in the area of health care, which includes abortion. This issue has been raised by some on the “No” side, although I am not suggesting that Deputy Ryan has been involved.
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
Mr. Eamon Ryan: I believe I have the right to respond briefly.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If Deputy Carey agrees. Does he wish to take the question?
Mr. Carey Mr. Carey
Mr. Carey: All right.
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
Mr. Eamon Ryan: I raised the issues of agriculture and fisheries in response to Deputy Gilmore's point about globalisation, a core issue for our party. The European Union, rather than providing a solution to the problem, has been a cause of many problems, particularly in the areas of agricultural subsidies and fishing. That was the reason I raised that point. Also with regard to globalisation, Deputy Carey was right – I did not have time to make my point clearly enough. Health and education were the sectors excluded, along with culture, from the provisions of qualified majority voting within the free trade negotiations with the WTO. The WTO GATT agreement, however, has 140 sectors of different services. Two or three are excluded, but there is still an extensive range of services on a global scale. We now have a fast-track negotiating position, if we pass the treaty, within the European Union. What we oppose is the direction of globalisation under the WTO.
Mr. Carey Mr. Carey
 Mr. Carey: This country, which exports 80% to 90% of what it produces, can have a huge influence in an expanded Europe if we agree to the enlargement of the European Union. There is potential for increased markets—
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
Mr. Eamon Ryan: We have to think on a north-south basis as well as on an east-west basis.
Mr. Carey Mr. Carey
Mr. Carey: I did not interrupt the Deputy when he was speaking.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot speak again. He is totally out of order. I ask Deputy Carey to finish his statement.
Mr. Carey Mr. Carey
Mr. Carey: In conclusion, in the interests of Ireland and the larger Union, a peaceful Europe and a peaceful world, Ireland should vote “No” and it would be regrettable—
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
Mr. Eamon Ryan: The real Fianna Fáil position is revealed.
Mr. Carey Mr. Carey
Mr. Carey: I am sorry. Ireland should vote “Yes.” It would be regrettable if it voted “No.”
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: I welcome the opportunity of speaking in this debate. The Nice debate comes down to one question: what sort of Europe do we want in the future? By voting “Yes” we are making it possible for the European Union to grow and expand, ensuring access to vast new markets for our goods and services. We are helping to ensure the historic divisions of Europe created by the Second World War and the Cold War are ended. We are supporting the people of the new democracies of central and eastern Europe emerging from decades of totalitarian rule. We are becoming part of a Europe that is better equipped to fight organised crime and the trafficking of people and drugs and a cleaner Europe because all member states will have to comply with EU environmental laws and standards. We are becoming part of a Europe whose institutions operate on a more efficient basis. This process clearly represents a great chance for Europe, which has never had such an opportunity in its history.
The treaty agreed by the EU governments at Nice aims to put in place a process through which a number of other countries can join and thus increase the size of the Union. A practical consequence of this is that we must change the way the European Parliament, the European Commission and Council of Ministers, with the European Court of Justice, operate in order that the institutions remain democratic without being unwieldy. While the treaty itself is not perfect by any means, by clearing the way for enlargement it provides Ireland and other member states with access to expanded markets, ensuring our economy can continue to grow alongside that of the European Union. The Nice treaty does not create a European superstate or a European army. It makes strides towards ensuring the peace and security of all its citizens.
Here we have had a tendency to view the advantage of EU membership solely in terms of the net transfer of funds. Although we are likely to become net financial contributors to the European Union after 2006, this does not mean that the advantages of membership are at an end. The dynamic benefits will continue to be of vital importance, as will the funds flowing from the European Union to many of the disadvantaged parts of our country. The Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, highlighted this point in relation to Objective One status for the BMW region to which numerous Governments have denied funds over a number of years and for which, through direction from the European Union, we now have a ringfenced budget.
In the last century 60 million people lost their lives in European wars, yet we are now enjoying the longest period in recorded history free of war between the western European nations. As the Union has deepened it has developed institutions and practices that secure individual liberties and fair business practices. EU enlargement is first and foremost about securing democracy in central Europe. Unless we offer the prospect of increasing prosperity within the European Union to the people of applicant countries we run the risk of serious instability on the eastern borders of the European Union. This may appear remote to us, but the distance from Dublin to Warsaw is about that from New York to Miami. Ireland now has a unique opportunity of securing peace in our time, in order that future generations will only ever fear a cold war and the threat of war in continental Europe through their history books.
To put it simply, the Nice treaty will complete the reunification of a free and democratic prosperous Europe by peaceful means. The exaggerations about military matters are cynical attempts to confuse and frighten voters. The treaty provides for little more than a continuation of the peacekeeping activities of the Rapid Reaction Force, limited to UN-sanctioned activities in which Ireland has been involved with such distinction for decades. Ireland's involvement is voluntary and the force is designed to reinforce continental stability rather than project power. We have had misleading statements in the media about sons being brought home in body bags. I can guarantee that unless we address the issue of emerging democracies in central and eastern Europe this situation will arise. Instability will develop if we vote “No.”
The treaty amends Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union by removing the provisions defining the relations between the Union and the Western European Union, something which has been called for for years by those campaigning for a “No” vote. Article 25 outlines the role of the political security committee. One of its main functions is to preserve peace and strengthen international security. Importantly, the European Union actually bankrolls the Middle East peace process. Many members of the public are unaware of this although they may have taken a strong interest in it. However, the politics of the peace process are dictated by the USA, which sets policy for purely domestic political reasons, and we in the EU who are actually bank-rolling the process have little or no say because we do not have a co-ordinated approach to address the problem in the Middle East.
Since Ireland joined the EU, our farmers have received direct payments of approximately €29 billion, and this continues, with annual payments of approximately €1.27 billion through livestock premia, the REP scheme, the early retirement scheme and programmes such as Leader. These must continue. Fears that these supports will be diluted by enlargement are a genuine concern of many within the farming community, but the farming organisations have identified the next round of the WTO talks as having a longer-term impact on the future of farming than the extension of the EU eastwards.
Through Nice we will have more small farmers and therefore a bigger influence at EU and WTO level. It also ensures that the products these new countries produce must be to the same standards currently required in Ireland. This will come at a cost to their farmers both in financial terms and in terms of productivity, which will help to even the playing field. It will also dramatically increase the potential market for our produce. There will be an extra 200 million people to feed in the expanded EU.
The main reason farmers will vote “No” is the large volume of bureaucracy involved in the Department of Agriculture and Food. Officials and Ministers clearly lay the blame at EU level. With new developments in relation to agriculture, the blame is persistently and consistently laid at the door of Brussels. If we take, for example, the issue of sheep tagging, which is controversial at present, under the system of individual sheep tagging, traceability is breaking down at farm level, mart level and factory level. When animals lose their tags, it breaks down. When an animal is sold in a mart with two tags and the second tag has to be removed, it breaks down. In meat factories, wrong tag numbers are consistently allocated to carcases, a matter highlighted recently by a number of farmers.
What we have, basically, is a flock identification system, but with the bureaucracy entailed by an individual tag system. If we compare that to the other EU countries where the exact same directives and regulations apply, a far simpler mechanism has been introduced. The Minister for Agriculture and Food says his hands are tied, that it is all coming from Brussels, but that is not the case. The Minister has misled farmers. When farmers try to campaign to change the system, the Department responds by threatening to withdraw their premiums. It seems that officials within the Department are determined to get all 38,000 sheep farmers in this country to vote against the Nice treaty. There must be several members of the anti-Nice campaign working inside the Department of Agriculture and Food, and unfortunately they are succeeding. Farmers will come out in force to vote against the Nice treaty on the basis that they are dealing with a regime and a Department that just will not listen, that is in denial and that is threatening them.
The level of penalties applying to premiums and the way the Department actually interprets regulations coming from Europe cause serious problems. The interpretation of those regulations differs in every EU member state. Again, it is the farmers of this country who lose out and again the Department of Agriculture and Food will put the blame on Brussels when the problem lies with the way it handles the scheme. To add insult to injury, there was a suggestion recently that the Department will name and shame farmers who receive penalties. The way to name and shame anyone considered to have committed fraud in relation to the Department of Agriculture and Food is, as with any other matter, through the courts system, not by leaking a few names here and there. That system should not be tolerated.
Farmers are frustrated because the system of penalties we have in this country does not differentiate between a farmer who makes an unintentional error and someone who genuinely intends to commit fraud. The Minister is trying to lump everyone together with his new name and shame policy. The Minister decided to go to Brussels to have this system changed, but what he returned with was an even more bureaucratic system with even more severe penalties.
The way to resolve this is through the computerised monitoring and movement system, CMMS, which ensures that a farmer receives an application in January of each year, that all his stock, area aids and so on are on the one form and that he checks the form to ensure it is correct, signs off on it and returns it to the Department. The payments are then automatically made. This would replace the system of inspections and would allay the fear farmers have of making an unintentional error and losing out on their premia. The vast majority of income on family farms in Ireland is based on those premia. The CMMS is a simple system that could be put in pace if the political commitment was there in the Department of Agriculture and Food. It would eliminate 90% of the bureaucracy involved in agriculture today. It comes down to the lack of political commitment and the fact that the farming community is ignored by the Minister.
The problem is the interpretation of EU regulations, not the regulations themselves. We have the same difficulty in relation to the nitrates directive in the Department of the Environment and Local Government. It is not the directive itself that is at fault but the way it is rolled out on the ground by the Department. Another example of this is the habitats directive, which has caused huge problems throughout the country, including in relation to the bogs in my constituency and in the west. Again, the blame is being put on the EU rather than on the interpretation that is being taken by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Minister sitting across from me is, I am sure, an expert on this having worked in that Department prior to the election. He will know of the lack of flexibility in dealing with farmers and their families in relation to those regulations. We have similar directives throughout Europe, but the interpretation taken in this country has consistently been the most bureaucratic and the most archaic possible.
One of the major issues in relation to, and benefits of, the Nice treaty is that of trade and the economy. EU membership has been good for Ireland. It has made a huge contribution to the creation of our current economic success. Through funding for new infrastructure and agriculture and providing access to new markets, our position within the EU has been pivotal in our economic transformation. Let us not forget that we would have absolutely no infrastructure were it not for the EU. We would not have had our national development plans and we would not have had the structure in the most recent national development plan.
When we entered a larger market in 1973, we lagged far behind the rest of Europe, with a GDP of 60% of the European average. Our GDP now exceeds the European average. We made this transformation as we moved from selling our goods primarily within these islands to selling them across an increasingly accessible European market. Deputy Gay Mitchell, in his contribution yesterday, highlighted that from the foundation of the State in 1922 up to 1972, our economic policy was dictated by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have only enjoyed true sovereignty since we joined the European Union. It gives us the capacity to sell right across Europe and across the globe.
The issue is whether we want to increase the size of this market from 375 million people to 550 million. This is a huge market for Irish firms. Access to these markets under the Nice treaty could boost trade by up to 30%, according to IBEC. An enlarged EU will be even more attractive to multinationals. Ireland has already had a head start in attracting these firms. Some would argue that lower-cost economies in eastern Europe will attract much of this investment and that Ireland will lose out. This will probably result from globalisation anyway and is likely to happen with or without the approval of the Nice treaty. Enlargement will make Ireland a more attractive location for further inward investment from the United States and other non-EU countries. The inflow of foreign direct investment into this country, mostly from the US, has been essential to our outstanding economic performance. These companies invest here because we are part of a large single European market.
Foreign direct investment in this country has created 138,000 jobs. There are 1,237 such companies in this country and they pay corporation tax to the value of €1.9 billion. However, in the current economic climate, they will be reviewing their overseas operations and many of these companies will watch very closely the decision which will be made by this country on the Nice treaty. If we fail to pass Nice, the future for many young families and many people employed by multinationals which have invested here will be in serious doubt because they will reassess their commitment to Ireland and where they will develop new projects in the future.
The working conditions of workers in this State, particularly women and part-time workers, have improved enormously because of policy initiatives and directives at EU level. Europe has given us equal pay and reductions in working time. As regards improved rights for part-time and temporary workers, an issue in which I was involved in the last Dáil, again it was the EU which forced the hand of this Government to ensure those rights were copperfastened in legislation. The previous Government spent two and a half years dragging its heels on that issue until it was forced by the European Union to implement it.
By clearing the way to majority voting, the Nice treaty will enable a greater balance to be struck between free markets and globalisation and the rights of workers, pensioners and consumers. The potential benefits of the Nice treaty and subsequent enlargement for workers in applicant countries are well illustrated and supported by trade unions in these countries.
I turn to the issue of immigration which has sadly become part of this debate. Many of us have seen the headlines that Ireland will be swamped by 75 million eastern Europeans. I am sure the people making this claim are the same people who will condemn this Government's decision to reduce foreign aid by €42 million. Those in receipt of such aid, as well as those in eastern European countries, do not want charity; they want to be able to develop their own economies, create jobs and develop trade. This is one of the key issues highlighted at the intergovernmental conference in Johannesburg this week. Ireland has much in common with these candidate states in terms of history and politics and has much to gain from a larger Europe in which these people and countries are fairly accommodated. A “Yes” vote will mean less immigration as was highlighted when Spain, Portugal and Greece acceded to the European Union. At the time the sceptics claimed the country would be swamped by southern Europeans but that did not happen.
The “No” campaigners are correct; Nice is about a two-tier Europe, but the ratification of this treaty will not bring about a two-tier Europe. What we have now is a two-tier structure between east and west, between rich and poor. A vote for this treaty is a vote to shift from helping people in eastern Europe through aid to helping them through trade. A “No” vote will ensure a two-tier Europe and future immigration to Ireland.
On democracy, one of the issues which has consistently been raised is the loss of a Commission seat. It is important to point out that what will happen should we lose a seat after the European Union expands to 27 member states is that we will lose a seat every 130 years. The proposals in the treaty for change to the Commission would not come into effect until the 27th member has joined when a 26 member Commission would be filled on a rotating basis every five years and 26 by five is 130. Again, the mechanism for that has to be agreed between the member states prior to any decision being taken on that issue.
I ask the people not to vote “No” because this Government told numerous untruths prior to the general election. They should hold their fire and wait until the local and European Parliament elections when they will have the opportunity to pass judgment on this Government. We must put our personal and the national interest first and make a decision purely on the treaty and not vote “No” for the wrong reason. It is far better to preserve the opportunity to influence issues from within the EU mainstream by voting for, admittedly, an imperfect Treaty of Nice than risk isolation and marginalisation should Ireland reject it.
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan) Mary Coughlan
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): I wish to share my time with Deputy Curran.
We of this time, if we have the will and the active enthusiasm, have the opportunity to inspire and move our generation in like manner. We can do so by keeping this thought of a noble future for our country constantly before our minds, ever seeking in action to bring that future into being, and ever remembering that it is our nation as a whole that future must apply.
These words were uttered before the birth of the European Union as we know it today but their import should be applied to today's debate on the future of our nation and the future place of our nation in Europe. When Eamon de Valera spoke these words on St. Patrick's Day in 1943, he evoked a passion to preserve all that was best about Ireland.
Today, politicians enunciating a strong “Yes” vote for the Nice treaty want to fire the passions of our people with enthusiasm for the European project and to copperfasten the economic and social benefits which have been brought to our country as partners in the European Union. We want to evoke passions for enlargement of the Union and the opportunities it presents in opening new markets, new businesses and to grasp at the chance to further widen our social and cultural horizons.
When the former leader of our party spoke the words I quoted above, Ireland was a different place, a different country to the modern, open and cosmopolitan country in which we now live. The past was a different place, a place unrecognisable.
There are few who are not aware of how membership of the European Union has impacted on every member of society, either through the billions in grant-aid and subsidies paid over decades to improve our infrastructure, to fund training of our people or to support agriculture. In other areas membership of the European Union has impacted on our lives. Gender equality and equality of opportunity entered our Statute Book. As regards consumer protection and a host of other areas, the European experience has embedded itself in our public policy.
Before we joined the EU we were a different country – a country whose great asset, our people, was exported. Ireland has had a tradition of emigration from the Famine times to the hard economic times of the early days of our State and again in the late 1980s, but it is our membership and maturing position in the European Union which has offered us opportunities for further education and training, for further improved infrastructure, which has attracted foreign investment, and membership of a Common Market of almost 400 million people, which has opened new shop fronts for our goods and services. If we were to hold a membership card as citizens of the European Union, our experience as a still relatively young member would insist that it be engraved with opportunity on one side and security on the other.
Immigration and emigration were two issues I discussed with the European Commissioner for Social Affairs when we met in Dublin last week. I address those issues now because the “No” campaign has tried to fan fears of a flood of immigrants swamping our shores, our labour markets and our social welfare system. This is desperate scare-mongering which has no basis in fact and plays to fears founded in ignorance. There is simply no evidence that a flood of migrants will come to Ireland. Past experience of the accession of new members states to the EU has shown that these fears were totally unfounded.
For example, in the case of the accession of Greece in 1981, transitional arrangements were put in place, and again for Spain and Portugal in 1986. Despite this, fears of a major migration wave proved to be without foundation and there has been very little change in the migration patterns from these countries.
A number of studies have been carried out regarding this issue. These have stressed that wage differentials are not the only factor influencing people's decision to migrate, but that there are a number of other factors contributing to that decision such a proximity, tradition and networks and language barriers.
The prospect of joining the world's largest economic bloc with all the benefits as promised may also have an important influence on the likelihood of people leaving their homes to transverse Europe in the hope of establishing a new life. On the basis of the collective knowledge now available, potential migrants from candidate countries are less likely to want to migrate to Ireland and more likely to migrate to neighbouring countries where there is an established network of their own migrants. Studies also suggest that the majority of people who have indicated an interest in emigrating want to leave on a temporary basis only and intend to move simply for the purposes of earning money and gaining experience before moving home.
Some in the “No” campaign argue that ease of access to Irish social welfare benefits is such that many may be attracted here. Under EU regulations, however, a person must take up employment here before becoming covered by social insurance. A person must be resident in Ireland to qualify for means-tested social assistance here. EU nationals must be treated equally to Irish nationals for social security purposes. Conditions that restrict entitlement have to apply to Irish nationals. Given that over 30% of Irish-born people live abroad, a high proportion of workers and their families coming to this country are returning Irish emigrants. We do not intend to impede their return, or the entry of other EU nationals, with conditions designed to restrict such entry. We do not consider that enlargement will make such restrictions necessary.
There is little evidence to suggest that people from central and eastern Europe without a realistic prospect of a job will travel across Europe to benefit from the Irish social welfare system. All evidence suggests that if such people wish to move, it will be to a country such as Germany, Austria or Switzerland which is nearer their homes and with which they have language and cultural affinities. The fear of a major influx immediately after enlargement led authorities in such countries to sign an agreement on the phasing in of freedom of movement. Ireland did not avail of such transitional arrangements as it was not considered that they would be required.
Historically, Ireland has had more experience of emigration than most countries. The last period of high emigration from Ireland was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when we experienced high levels of unemployment. The recent report of the task force on emigration showed that over 60% of emigration during this time was to the United Kingdom and that less than 5%, on average, was to other EU countries, even though social protection in most of these countries was superior, overall, to that in the United Kingdom. This comprehensively illustrates that the vast majority of those who emigrate move to nearby countries with which they are familiar. The citizens of central and eastern European countries have no tradition of emigration to Ireland, a country on the western periphery of Europe, and a large influx from such countries is, therefore, not a realistic prospect.
The ongoing need to attract workers with certain skills is of real concern to Ireland. We hope freedom of movement from the outset will enable us to meet our labour market needs. The European Commission has shown a determination to ensure the rights of migrant workers are afforded the best possible protection. It has consistently sought to advance and defend the protection afforded to those who migrate by effective enforcement of the regulations and regularly bringing forward new proposals to strengthen and improve these rights. Ireland has constantly supported the Commission on these matters, as over 30% of Irish-born people live outside the State, a proportion which is almost the highest in the European Union. The growing Irish economy needs to attract workers from abroad, especially those with certain skills. The protection afforded to such workers under EU law, not least in relation to social security, means it is much easier to attract the workers we need than might otherwise be the case. It is hoped workers with certain skills will come to Ireland to meet our labour market needs, but we will have to compete with other countries to attract them. Others whose skills are not in demand here will simply seek work elsewhere in the enlarged European Union.
The European Union has ensured a decent quality of life for our citizens, which is among the Union's primary objectives. In the aftermath of two world wars which raged across the continent, the European project has given us unparalleled peace and prosperity. In the period since we joined the European Union we have achieved an unprecedented improvement in our economic well-being and quality of life. The changes required for enlargement, as set out in the treaty, will not undermine Ireland's interest in the European Union. Voters of a previous generation saw the potential of the then European Economic Community and their belief has been rewarded with today's vibrant and confident society. A new generation, which has never experienced the deprivation of much younger countries, has the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to aspiring states. I appeal to voters to grasp the hand of friendship and enjoy the cultural, social and economic opportunities that will be presented to our relatively fledgling State by an enlarged European Union of 500 million people. A “Yes” vote in the referendum later this year will be good for Ireland, Europe and our mutual future.
Mr. Curran Mr. Curran
Mr. Curran: I welcome the opportunity to debate the Nice treaty this afternoon. I listened to Marian Finucane on the radio as I made my way to the House this morning. As she spoke to some former hurling stars, she played some clips from famous matches and there was a tremendous sense of occasion. This was heightened for me by the sense of occasion I felt as I prepared to contribute to this debate. As I listened, I recalled a discussion between my mother and father at the kitchen table 30 years ago about whether Ireland should join the then EEC. I remember how they expressed grave concern about what entry would mean. There was speculation that prices would go up or that people would come into the country. The debate we face today is exactly the same. We are at a crossroads.
A decision to ratify the Nice treaty will mean a major leap forward, as we are not talking about a small number of applicant countries. Hundreds of millions of people will become citizens of the European Union if their countries are allowed to accede. I wonder what my father would say if he was to revisit the issues of 30 years ago, when the Irish people made the brave and historic decision to join the EEC. As we debate the Nice treaty today, we control the destiny of millions of Europeans in a dozen accession countries. Membership of the European Union has transformed what was a small island nation. It has given us real independence. Our currency is no longer linked to sterling and we do not rely on the United Kingdom for three quarters of our exports. Our economy has changed beyond recognition.
During this Second Stage debate I have heard some speakers quote figures to argue that the EU experience has brought many benefits for Ireland. I planned to refer to similar statistics, but then I decided to look at the argument from a practical point of view, that of my constituents who will be voting in the upcoming referendum. They have experienced many changes in the last 30 years and in the course of my contribution I wish to look at some aspects of these changes. The fact that we are now in a position to offer employment in Ireland to the citizens of the State has been one of the most important benefits of EU membership.
I grew up in Clondalkin in west Dublin where I attended primary school in the 1960s and secondary school in the 1970s. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s I went to UCD. I have lived most of my life in the Clondalkin area and continue to live there today. I am, therefore, in a position to examine how 30 years of EU membership have changed the lives of those in the area. Clondalkin was a small village during my childhood, but so-called “working-class areas” developed there as it grew during the 1970s. The phrase “working-class area” is a misnomer, however, as there were few jobs and, therefore, few workers. Clondalkin was an employment blackspot during that time, blighted by high levels of unemployment. It was common during this age for many to be forced to emigrate, a fate suffered by my uncles, granduncles and many schoolfriends.
The last time I was in this House was for the debate on the report into the affairs of Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited. A friend of mine who had been at school with me was at home at that time to help his mother move house. After school, he did a course in computing but then emigrated to Canada as there were no suitable jobs in Ireland. He spent six years in Toronto before we saw him again, as it took him a long time to get sorted and be in a position to visit Ireland. He got married and is now quite successful in Canada. He continues to return to Ireland from time to time. He asked me during his most recent visit when the Dáil would resume, and I told him that we were to sit for two weeks in September to discuss the Treaty of Nice. When he inquired about the treaty, I explained it as best I could. He said he felt Ireland had changed beyond recognition in a small period of time. He is the eldest of a family of four. He could not get suitable employment when he finished his course in the 1980s. The youngest person in his family is a 28 or 29 year old lady. She did exactly the same course as he did and found very successful employment in Ireland. When he was leaving he said, “Make sure the experience I have had is gained by choice, not by necessity.” By that he meant that if he had the choice he would not have left this country. He envies his sister, which I can understand and sympathise with.
Today in my constituency of Dublin Mid-West there are two world class business campuses. People may ask what are they or why are they there? Fianna Fáil members will know the Citywest area well because we held our Árd Fheis there. Citywest is an e-commerce and IT technology centre which has been established over the past few years. Two miles away a biotechnology campus is being established. It is not just by chance these areas have been chosen. We must look at what has brought this type of business into the locality. Prior to this happening, the industrial base in Clondalkin was one industry, a paper mill, which was all that sustained the greater area. It had such an impact that when there was a strike the local presentation convent opened a soup kitchen. When eventually the paper mill closed as a result of changes in technology and approximately 700 jobs were lost, the people in Clondalkin were totally devastated because they did not think there was a way forward. However, the way forward came because we were an active EU member and we got foreign investment. The result of this is that we now have Citywest and Grange Castle. Grange Castle will be a world class biotechnology centre. The first company will open some time next year resulting in 1,300 new jobs.
As I said, these companies did not come here by chance, they came because the right conditions existed. We have a well educated workforce, suitable and well serviced sites, capital grants, a favourable tax regime and, in particular, access to European markets. Acceptance of the Nice treaty and the resultant enlargement of the EU will mean a larger European market and it will further strengthen Ireland as a location for investment by many multinationals, particularly US multinationals. I do not want to see the day come again when the people of my area, their families and friends, as well as my family and friends, face the unemployment of the 1970s and 1980s.
We should look at some of the investment Ireland has gained as a result of EU membership. We make up 1% of the EU economy, yet Ireland attracted 2.5% of all foreign direct investment in the EU in 2000 and 3.2% in 1999. The most significant of this component was American foreign direct investment which amounted to over $7 billion in 2000. In absolute terms, the only EU countries that received more American investment than Ireland were the UK and the Netherlands. However, in per capita terms, Ireland received the highest level of American foreign direct investment in the EU, at almost $2,000 per head, over three times the amount received by the Netherlands which received the second highest. There are more than 300 American companies established and providing valuable employment here. I am convinced that by passing the Nice treaty and enlarging the market within the EU this number of companies will expand.
I want to mention briefly the issue of neutrality. Having canvassed in a general election I believe there was a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation. As in the case of all changes, there will be a section of the community who will say “No”. In this country that is right, respected and facilitated. In regard to the Nice treaty this “No” vote was frequently presented in the form of considerable misunderstanding and, in some cases, blatant misinformation. At the European Council meeting in Seville in June, the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, clearly won the support of his European colleagues in ensuring the most blatant misinformation promoted by the “No” campaigners at the last referendum was clarified. I am referring to the declaration agreed by the Council that Ireland will not adopt any decision taken by the European Council to move to a common defence arrangement or ratify any future treaty which would involve a departure from our traditional policy of military neutrality unless it has first been approved by the Irish people in a referendum. The Taoiseach's success in having the European Council adopt this declaration finally puts an end to the myth that the Nice treaty undermines our valued tradition of neutrality.
Many of the applicant countries look at Ireland and the EU as a huge success story, particularly in the last decade. This is correct. I spent this summer's holidays in Ireland and as I travelled to Galway the evidence was to be seen all around. There were signs for road developments which were co-funded by the EU. I brought the children swimming at Leisureland, Galway, and there was a plaque outside the door indicating that it was funded by the EU. Everywhere we go we can see how Europe has played a part. The applicant countries look enviously at what we have achieved in a relatively short time. When talking about the European Union people frequently talk about the red tape associated with it. However, these are challenges we face and they are no reason not to continue with enlargement.
Surely as a nation we must afford the applicant countries the opportunity to join the EU and experience the same radical changes and growth we as a nation have come through. Europe's future, economically, politically and socially, lies in enlargement. Enlargement presents new challenges for us all. However, enlargement also provides opportunities. I want Ireland to play an active and pivotal role in shaping Europe's future and I, too, will play an active role in canvassing for a “Yes” vote in the Nice treaty.
Mr. Connaughton Mr. Connaughton
Mr. Connaughton: I wish to share my time with Deputy Crawford.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Connaughton Mr. Connaughton
Mr. Connaughton: There is likely to be no more serious or important debate in this House this year. The Nice treaty referendum will invoke even more controversy than it did last year because of a totally different and unattached matter, that is, the sleight of hand used by the Government to get themselves elected last May and the consequent misery visited on the Irish people, particularly in the poorer sections of the community. However, I will come back to that at a later stage. I want to see the Nice treaty passed. I can readily appreciate the fears and anxieties of many ordinary people with enlargement of the European Union and other related matters. However, staying outside the original club would prove disastrous for Ireland.
The European Union is far from perfect but given its relatively short history, its success in human rights, equality for women, the avoidance of war within its territory and the raising of living standards to a greater or lesser degree in each country is testimony to the dynamics of the EU and how it works. Moreover, we in Ireland were scourged for generations by our inability to break from the dependence on the British market. It is no coincidence that real growth in the economy and confidence in our ability to progress coincided with our entry into the EC in the 1971-73 period. That leap was far more significant and courageous than the current enlargement proposals. The current size of the European Union, the total population of the applicant countries and the track record of our involvement as full members of the European Union should give us the confidence to play in the premier league all the time. By any standards and compared to any other country in the democratic world or outside, we did well since 1973.
There are a few overriding questions Irish people, particularly those with young families, should ask themselves before voting on this treaty. The questions are as follows. What are the best options for the future of their children from an employment point of view? What is the best option for people to borrow money at a lower rate of interest on a consistent basis and what is the best option available to people to have a job close to where they wish to live and still have the benefits of a modern society on their doorstep? Even by bringing this decision down to an individualistic and materialistic win or lose situation for each individual, the answer must be to vote “Yes”. We have always been able to play ringmaster in the EU irrespective of the number of countries involved at a given time. If we were able to do this efficiently in the company of 15 countries, what psychological barrier would prevent us from doing so with 27 countries?
This country was always held in high regard by outside investors, particularly from the United States, who saw us as a progressive nation with well-trained young people willing to take on new technologies. Given the ringmaster attitude we developed in Europe, foreign investors saw ours as a nation of influence far beyond its size and were only too delighted to invest here. There will always be problems with the ebb and flow of such capital, but we have a better chance of attracting such investment by being full members of a fully-fledged European Union, working in concert with big and small nations in Europe.
I would prefer if the EU had dealt with some issues differently. I would much prefer each country to have its own commissioner. Many people, myself included, cannot see any difference between a Commission of 27 commissioners and the rotating concept, which is difficult to get across to people. That is a flaw in the system but is something that can be worked on.
The EU and national governments have not tried to connect with ordinary people across Europe on many issues on which the EU rules. A greater effort must be made to get people interested in the laws and institutions of the EU. We have been crippled here with what I call eurospeak – that obnoxious misuse of the English language which means citizens cannot possibly be expected to have the slightest knowledge of EU laws. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that in national surveys carried out in every country, including Ireland, our national institutions and Parliament are regarded as millions of miles away from our own people. Even at local level people say they might as well be in London for all the good their county council does for them. There is obviously a huge problem with representation.
It is significant that some prominent “No” campaigners held similar positions in 1973. I canvassed then as a Macra na Feirme delegate and I remember Mr. Anthony Coughlan campaigning against Ireland's entry into the EEC. He was against all the intervening treaties as far as I am aware and now he is against the Nice treaty. However, this time he and many like him are not against applicant states gaining admission, which appears to be an admission that it is all right for those countries to get in but somehow we were wrong to do so. I find that hard to understand.
Serious statements have been made in some quarters about Ireland being overrun by immigrants and asylum seekers from the new applicant countries once freedom of access becomes a reality. As other speakers have said, this did not happen before and it will not happen this time either for several reasons. For one thing, any country that ever joined the EU prospered by joining; that is why they joined. Who are likely to get first bite at that prosperity? Their own nationals, who will stay in the country. I cannot see, given the problems of distance, language and culture, why there would be a great exodus of people to Ireland in particular, given that we are on the periphery of Europe.
There is also the issue of defending our family – the EU. I appreciate the gut reaction to the so-called loss of our military neutrality. The undertaking won by the Government in Seville will come down to a question of whether or not we want this ourselves. There will be ample opportunity given to the Irish people, Government and Parliament to decide this issue. It will only happen if we want it to and I am fully satisfied on this issue.
The fact that we have to have a referendum is good for the future of Europe. I take issue with many of the so-called intellectual countries, which decided to deal with this through the parliamentary process. That ghost is coming back to haunt them now because if we cannot explain to the people why their best interests are served by passing the referendum, then it deserves to lose. If we cannot bring the people of Europe with us on this issue then we will have huge problems in the future.
As the years go by the questions of sovereignty, how we govern ourselves and the way we do business keep changing for obvious reasons. In 1972, when the “No” campaigners were in full flight, we were told that a small country like Ireland would be swamped in the then EEC. Night after night, at all the meetings we chaired and organised, those campaigners said our language and culture would be suppressed; at one stage on a famous occasion in Galway they went so far as to say that the influence of the GAA would be taken over by international soccer. I do not have to say what happened on that score.
This is about what we want for ourselves as a country. We have shown great ability to fight above our weight when shoulder to shoulder with our EU counterparts and that is true of all our Governments. We have always been seen as a nation to take our place in Europe with great pride and as being able to do things other countries were unable to do. There are a thousand more things I could say on this subject.
It should not get out that we have an inferiority complex about this, which seems to be the case with many of the “No” campaigners. Many of those campaigners are genuine about their beliefs but we will be making a horrendous mistake if this referendum does not pass. I call particularly on people who did not vote last time but who would have voted “Yes” to do so this time. I appeal to them directly today – if they believe it is important for them and for their families to vote they should do so. This is their opportunity.
Mr. Crawford Mr. Crawford
Mr. Crawford: I jotted down some names while the Minister for Social and Family Affairs mentioned what Eamon de Valera said when Taoiseach in the 1940s. My predecessor many years ago in Monaghan, the late James Dillon, was one of the first Members to bring forward the idea of Europe. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have a proud record of backing the European Union, despite all the difficulties others may mention. Liam Cosgrave, when Taoiseach, was the first Irish President of the EU and as Deputy Connaughton said, whatever background intervening Taoisigh have come from, they have all done a proud job when President of the European Union. We have established ourselves as a country through those Presidencies in a way we never did before. Ours is a nation we can all be proud of, whether we vote “Yes” or “No”. Garret Fitzgerald, Alan Dukes, John Bruton, Michael Noonan and now Enda Kenny have used every occasion to state clearly the Fine Gael position on Europe.
Europe has achieved freedom from war and the stability from that is vital. The greatest international success story of the last century is the European Union and how it has managed its affairs. I was fortunate, when I was involved in a farming organisation, to have been a member of the EU committee on beef and veal for seven years and I had the honour of chairing it for five years. I witnessed the British, German and French, who fought two world wars, sitting down and using their position to make sure that economic, social and other issues rather than war brought Europe forward.
Ireland has witnessed tremendous support from the EU particularly as far as the peace process is concerned. As soon as the Good Friday Agreement was announced, politicians at European level put the peace and reconciliation fund in place, which has been used with great success in the Border area. At first it was used for various inquiries but, through the British-Irish Parliamentary Body and the sub-committee of which I was a member, we got the EU to agree to changes that allowed for bricks and mortar. In Monaghan alone, the Knockatallon Centre, the Cahans Centre, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre and several others bear witness to how that fund has been used to bring communities together and make sure there is a lasting benefit from the peace initiative.
The International Fund for Ireland, which was set up after the Anglo-Irish Agreement, with which Dr. Garret FitzGerald was so involved, is also funded by the EU. The Border region has also benefited a great deal from another cross-Border fund, INTERREG. Lack of development in the Border region is the fault of this House rather than the EU because we did not provide the matching funds which were promised and must be delivered at some stage.
Education, the environment, health and agriculture have benefited from the EU but one area that is often overlooked and which has brought benefit to many people is the EU banking arrangements and the single currency. I am old enough to remember interest rates as high as 23% and commonly at 17% or 18%. We can now plan, through the EU, for relatively low and stable interest rates. This is of major benefit to business and families who are so affected by the cost of their mortgages and other goods and services.
There are now European Union structures in place to deal with crime and drugs. Drugs and alcohol are possibly our two greatest problems as far as young people are concerned. When Deputy John Bruton was Taoiseach, he made drugs a new European issue and made efforts to ensure that member states came together on it. This week, a huge benefit to our island home was illustrated when a massive amount of drugs was found through the co-operation of police forces in Ireland, the UK and a number of continental countries. Some people will be angry to lose the benefits of the profits that might have come from that haul. As a result of the EU structures, young lives may have been saved and damage to them prevented.
Our late pub opening hours are sometimes blamed on EU harmonisation but I was one of the few people in this House who spoke against the increased opening hours. I did not think it was a good move although I did not vote against it because it was a waste of time given that all the parties were in agreement due to the pressure exerted by the licensed vintners. We all know now that it was a backward move. However, we should blame ourselves and not the EU for introducing a law to try to encourage greater tourism and for other reasons although tourists do not care about opening hours.
A problem I envisage in getting the electorate to support the referendum, which I will be working towards, is the impact of the cutbacks that have been made since the election. People are in bad humour. We can ignore this but it is the reality. I was looking for subvention on behalf of a family for an elderly family member and I was told they were eligible for the benefit, but they would have to join the queue because there was no money left. That is a cutback as far as that family is concerned.
The red tape in the agricultural sector needs to be changed, but, again, this should not all be blamed on the EU. I saw a similar situation in the south of England. I see that the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, is smiling because he is glad I did not elaborate any further.
Mr. Roche Mr. Roche
Mr. Roche: I might have been agreeing with the Deputy.
Mr. Crawford Mr. Crawford
Mr. Crawford: There are six weeks for the Government to get it right. The problems in the health and agriculture sectors need to be addressed and if action is not taken to improve the situation, however hard we work for a “Yes” vote, the referendum could and may be lost. The Government should not ignore that possibility.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: It is a great privilege to make my maiden speech in the House and I thank the people of Dún Laoghaire. I wish to share my time with Deputy Nolan.
 The EU was the single most radical concept of the 20th century, much like the French Revolution in the 18th century and the nation state in the 19th century. In the 1950s, it was a radicalisation of the middle ground in European politics. It put consensus on a revolutionary footing and the business before the House this week and next is a fairly minor institutional change to that greater project. Many arguments against that minor institutional change have been advanced and I propose to address some of them today. Many of the points I wish to make have already been made and I do not want to repeat them. Many speakers have spoken about neutrality which means different things to different people. I have heard Deputies from the Green Party make a distinction between neutrality and non-alignment.
Neutrality in its purest form is the absence of a policy. It is a view that no matter how great the threat or heinous the regime may be, no step will be taken to prevent or avoid it by alliance or otherwise. Ireland's history is one of non-alignment. During the Second World War, we were more closely associated with the allied powers than the axis despite the declaration of neutrality we had at that time. The common foreign and security policy as enshrined in the Maastricht treaty, the Amsterdam treaty and now the Treaty of Nice serves as an adequate vehicle for positive non-alignment. It will allow Ireland to react to humanitarian crises and involve itself in crisis management under the Petersberg Tasks. The Seville declaration makes it clear that participation in such tasks is dependent on the authorisation of the United Nations Security Council, the agreement of the Government and the endorsement of Dáil Éireann.
Some of the “No to Nice” arguments are reckless and, in some cases, disingenuous. Yesterday a Green Party Deputy said peace making, as outlined in the Petersberg tasks, is a euphemism for war. That indicates a depth of cynicism and a degree of suspicion that would make no argument compelling enough to convince them that the Nice treaty does not pose a threat to Ireland's best interests. The treaty does not emerge from some star chamber – it is the net result of tortuous negotiations over the ten years since the end of the Cold War. The Copenhagen criteria were set down and negotiations began with individual countries on a bilateral basis and ultimately institutional changes were proposed within the Union. Those changes are before the House today. It is a small aspect of a major development within the European Union. Deputy Gay Mitchell described the treaty as innocuous and I agree with him. I took a copy on holiday with me and scoured it for the insidious and nefarious articles that threaten Irish sovereignty and which will catapult us into a world war. There is nothing in the treaty to support such a view.
The “No to Nice” campaign has brought together some bizarre coalitions. I looked at the website of the British Conservative Party which opposes the treaty with its colleagues in Sinn Féin. That either proves that the European Union has a gift for bringing people together or that opposition for its own sake is always exposed.
I have been appointed to the Joint Committee on European Affairs which will scrutinise EU legislation. It is hoped the work of the committee will assure people that the European Union is accountable. The Convention on Europe is looking at the future of the European Union and the National Forum on Europe has held public meetings throughout the State. This is the only member state of the European Union that will vote on this matter and under the terms of the treaty we will have three times as many votes on the Council of Ministers than we are entitled to on the basis of our population, yet the naysayers declare there is a lack of democracy. There has never been a more comprehensive and democratic analysis of legislation in the history of the State.
I have heard that Mr. Dorgan of the IDA should not be allowed to comment on the Nice treaty because he is a member of a semi-State body, that Commissioner Byrne should be muzzled because he is unelected and that President McAleese has no right to say anything because of constitutional constraints. Democracy is the right of everyone to be heard. If the arguments against the treaty are so compelling, then they should be addressed on their merits instead of trying to silence people.
The real democratic crisis is the low turnout in every referendum on the European Union. We can all work ourselves up into a lather of self-righteousness in this House, but it would be an indictment of all politicians if the turnout continues to slide into the low 30s.
Other speakers have spoken about the advances that have taken place as a result of our membership of the European Union. We attracted a huge amount in Structural and Cohesion Funds in the 1990s and have €4 billion guaranteed in the next four years. There is no doubt that the European Union was a force for good in bringing Ireland and Britain together and agreeing the future of Northern Ireland. Members of Sinn Féin have argued that Turkey should not be allowed into negotiations because of its dispute with Cyprus, another applicant country. This misses the point of the European Union. When Ireland and Britain made their second applications for membership in the 1970s, Sinn Féin would have opposed accession. We were then in the teeth of the worst of the Troubles. Membership of the European Union helped legislators from both islands to come together, as it had with the French and the Germans. The European Union will provide the stage for the historic resolution of the long standing disputes between the Turkish and Cypriot parties.
The Government did not do enough at the last referendum. Each politician on the “Yes” side must prove his or her commitment by taking the argument to the doorsteps. It is not enough to win the argument in this House or fill the airwaves with press statements. I will bring the argument directly to the voters to prove my commitment on the issue. If people must go to their local national school for the second time in 18 months, it is not the greatest of inconveniences to take the matter seriously and argue it on its merits.
I admire the Green Party for distancing itself from the immigration scare. Anthony Coughlan predicts an exodus of biblical proportions from eastern Europe. Only a tiny number will wish to migrate – probably not enough. It was recently pointed out in The Economist that Europe faces a demographic time bomb in comparison with the United States, which has a healthy demographic outlook. We are an ageing population with a dangerously low ratio of workers to dependants. We need workers to come to this country and become taxpayers to support the ageing population. The conclusion of The Economist was that enlargement was one of the few lights at the end of the tunnel when looking at this problem.
The European Union stands at a crossroads. It has come a long way since the Treaty of Rome in 1956 and now is not the time to hesitate. I urge the House to support this Bill.
Mr. Nolan Mr. Nolan
Mr. Nolan: The referendum on the Nice treaty will be the most closely watched contest in which the Irish people have ever participated. It is in the interests of Ireland, the European Union and the 12 candidate countries anxiously awaiting Ireland's decision to give a resounding “Yes” to European expansion.
The terms of this treaty represent a fair and reasonable balance for all parties. Everyone in Ireland has been affected by membership of the European Union, be they employer or employee, farmer or worker, parent or child. There is no corner of the State that has been untouched during the 30 years of our membership. The chambers of commerce, trade unions and farming organisations have seen the urgent need to involve themselves in this campaign. If everyone plays his or her part, after a balanced and fair debate, a positive outcome can be achieved. The apathy which took over the last referendum campaign cannot happen again. There is an onus on all responsible political parties to be actively involved in this campaign. The social partners must strive to ensure every voter is given as much information as possible in relation to this debate.
Membership of the European Union has been a vital factor in the outstanding economic, financial and social success of this State. From a position where average per capita income was 60% of the European average, per capita income now stands at 125%. That is no mean achievement. We have expanded trade, attracted high levels of foreign direct investment, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, almost doubling the number working in the State from 1 million in 1972 to 1.7 million today. The direct financial support from Structural and Cohesion Funds is evident in the large number of building and infrastructural programmes that have taken place in the last 30 years. The Common Agricultural Policy has afforded farmers a standard of living that was beyond their dreams in the 1970s. I hope we can further improve the situation in agriculture as we approach the mid-term review of Agenda 2000, although we must admit the sector has suffered seriously, particularly in recent months.
In 1972 when we decided to join the European Union we were politically free but economically over-dependent on Britain. Today we have rid ourselves of that particular legacy and we can now trade comfortably with all our European Union partners in the common trading partnership.
The prophets of doom are coming to the fore. It is extraordinary to see the same faces and hear the same arguments every time we try to do something positive for the country. Why do they not accept the fact that an expansion of the European Union will afford change and bring new opportunities and the prospect of further progress for the country? Can they not see that our membership of the Single Market has afforded us and our indigenous industries great opportunities in securing foreign markets and given the country the opportunity of attracting foreign investment with the consequent creation of new jobs? Hundreds of thousands of Irish people at work today depend directly or indirectly on foreign investment which the country has attracted through our membership of the European Union. It is critically important to our fellow member states that they know where we stand on Europe and European expansion.
It is important to remember that if we vote “No” things will not go on as before. It is not just the candidate countries that will feel let down by Ireland rejecting the Nice treaty. It will reflect poorly on our standing within Europe. If this treaty is ratified it will help transform Europe's economic and political landscape to the advantage of us all. The European Union has been good to us so let us stay at the centre of decision making within the organisation and not marginalise ourselves by rejecting it. We should remain fully engaged in the day to day events of the European Union and continue to play a critical role in its development.
We have much to gain by the expansion of the European Union. Let me put the following scenario to the prophets of doom who have tried to dampen and side track the debate. We can address and reverse some of the current trends of job losses here by a positive result in the referendum, particularly in the case of low-skilled and low-paid jobs where there have been a number of announcements of late. Some 225 job losses were recently announced at the Braun factory in Carlow, in my constituency. One of the main reasons given for these redundancies was the high cost of labour here and that more competitive rates of pay exist in eastern and central European countries.
If we were to encourage and allow countries such as Poland to become members of the European Union this problem could be addressed to some extent. Polish and central and eastern European workers would benefit in that they would start to earn European Union wage rates and their working conditions would improve. Multinational companies currently contemplating moving their low-skilled operations from here might then have second thoughts about doing so as the wage rates in these countries move towards the European average. There are many companies in this position and it is a win-win situation. It is a win for workers here because jobs will be retained and it is a win for the former eastern bloc countries because employees will see their incomes rise substantially. This is just one example of why we should vote “Yes”.
This country prospers or fails on the basis of trade. We depend more on foreign trade than any of our European member state partners. We need stable and prosperous markets for our goods. Expanding the European Union will give us that stability. As a well developed, competitive and high-tech economy we are better placed now than ever before to gain from the new wave of enlargement. We should be encouraging all these countries to join and not putting obstacles in their way.
Since the last Nice referendum things have moved on. We now find that the ten applicant countries are ready and able to join the European Union. Hopefully they will start doing so from 1 January 2004. It is not possible for these countries to become part of the Union without us ratifying the Treaty of Nice. Let us be clear that we are closing the door if we vote “No”.
The success of Irish negotiators and Irish Ministers in Europe over the past three decades is evident by the fact that Ireland now receives more per capita than any of our European partner countries. At best a “No” vote will disappoint our colleagues and at worst alienate them with a consequential knock-on effect for future negotiators. It would be interesting to see how the French colleagues we depend on, particularly in the area of debating and negotiating in the agricultural sector, would see us if we decided to vote “No”.
Last week the Dublin Chamber of Commerce published its manifesto for the referendum. It clearly sets out the implications of the “No” vote. It says that it would undermine investor confidence in Ireland as a location, would have a direct and damaging effect on foreign direct investment which is so vital to Irish jobs and would be exploited by our competitors. Anybody in the business of seeking inward investment knows we have a lot of competition in that sector. Every Member of the House who has a foreign company based in their constituency will have to weigh up the consequences of a rejection of this treaty. The Cork Chamber of Commerce has made the point that a “Yes” vote is good for Europe, Ireland and Cork, which we could extend to apply to every county. The IDA, and in particular its chief executive, has been criticised by some organisations and individuals for telling the truth. Seán Dorgan knows more than anybody else the impact of foreign direct investment into this country and we dismiss his comments at our peril. He states “We will be widely seen by potential investors as indicating the degree of our engagement in the European Union whether we are participating at the heart of its future development or whether we are marginalised.” We should listen to such people and the scare tactics being put forward by others should be rejected out of hand.
I hope the red herrings that were thrown into the first debate on the Nice treaty do not reappear. I have the utmost confidence in the good will and common sense of the Irish and I urge them to vote “Yes”.
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
Mr. Broughan: I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to what is probably the most important debate that will take place in the 29th Dáil. I have considered the Nice treaty at length and have read and reread publications and commentaries on it. Despite the improvements in the amendments before us I have deep concerns and reservations about the fundamental future direction of the European Union, especially the second pillar. Many citizens reflect the same concerns.
I followed closely the debate on the future governance of Europe which led to the current convention and also the deliberations of the national forum. There is clearly a body of opinion in Germany and elsewhere which favours the creation of a federal superstate – a Bundesstaat rather than a Staatenbund as Bridget Laffan, a professor of European, politics calls it. The Labour Party has had a long history of general critical support for the European Union project. We were the major party opposed to entry and about 17% of the people ended up voting “No”. Parts of my party in constituencies such as mine have opposed various developments over the years such as the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty. We have continued to input our critical demands. The sovereignty of the Irish State, especially regarding our foreign security policy, should be sacrosanct and I welcome the developments that have taken place concerning this amendment to the Constitution.
Having considered all of that, as I do for all referenda, on balance, narrowly, I will recommend my constituents to support the referendum and vote “Yes”. I agree more than ever with the fine publication issued by the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs some months ago entitled Ireland and the European Union: Identifying Priorities and Pursuing Goals, which states: “Due to our small size and geographic location there is an added onus on to be agile in order to protect our interests.” As the previous speaker said, we are at a threshold and are possibly approaching a watershed and it is important for us to always keep in mind that maxim from that useful publication. Along with the small nations hopefully about to join us, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the others, we will have to work harder than most, as the Minister is aware. At times in the past the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs failed in this regard and they failed in aspects of the Nice negotiations. So far the Government has failed to sell this development in Europe to the Irish people but it has a chance to do so in the coming weeks.
I pay warm tribute to the outgoing leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn, who has been a fantastic servant of our party for over 30 years. He always represented and led us with great distinction. In local politics, he was my former leader and I was glad to succeed him on the city council about eight or nine years ago. He has always been an enthusiastic worker for the most democratic development of the European project. The outstanding remarks he made 15 months ago about the result of the Nice treaty referendum in a supportive but critical speech articulated many of the main concerns of the Labour Party and the whole labour movement. These centred on the direction in which Europe was moving and the changes needed in the areas of accountability and transparency along with our deep concerns over the prevention of the construction of a military superstate in which, against our will, we would be involved. The lack of accountability on Europe legislation has also been eloquently teased out by the senior counsel, John Rogers, and many others.
Deputy Quinn came up with the idea of a national forum on Europe, which was accepted by the Government for which I commend it. Valuable work was done by the chairman and members of that forum. I did not have the opportunity to contribute, but I have read the reports and have seen what useful work was done. Deputy Quinn also produced his Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution Bill to place our UN commitments and our commitment to neutrality and non-militarism at the heart of our Constitution. Because of this, there is significant change from the bare treaty that was placed before us early last summer. This valuable contribution by Deputy Quinn on behalf of the Labour Party addressed two of the key concerns many of us had regarding the Nice treaty in its original form. However, there are other concerns regarding the fundamental direction of Europe.
The Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Administration played a large role in the defeat of the first Nice referendum. By its actions since the general election, it is threatening to send the second referendum to the same fate. When the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach returned after agreeing the Treaty of Nice, we had one of the best debates in this House. There were passionate exchanges between Deputies John Bruton and Cowen, during which Deputy Bruton said he would have vetoed some aspects of the Nice treaty. Deputy Cowen responded and, I believe, won the debate but Deputy Bruton won the argument. Some of those concerns have now been addressed but some still remain.
 In the subsequent campaign, Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats and in many areas, Fine Gael, seemed to become totally invisible and left the “Yes” campaign up to the leader of the Labour Party, his members and organisation.
Mr. Coveney Mr. Coveney
Mr. Coveney: Nonsense.
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
Mr. Broughan: It is true. In most of Dublin, the only posters were Labour ones. Labour was the only party canvassing in many parts of constituencies. Fianna Fáil members and activists were looking at us as if we had two heads. Their basis tactic seemed to be not to disturb the electorate in the run-in to the general election and let the Labour Party take the flak as usual. Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats and to a lesser extent Fine Gael played some considerable role in the defeat of the first Nice referendum. At the highest level this was matched by the hypocrisy of the Minister for Finance who welcomed the defeat as a healthy development even though it was the defeat of a key policy of his Government. We then had the ludicrous performance of the then Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, who campaigned for a “Yes” vote, but then voted “No” in the polling booth. For his trouble he has been elevated to a senior position in the Cabinet in charge of community, Gaeltacht and rural affairs.
The “No” opposition was well organised and motivated. I especially pay tribute to PANA, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, led by the remarkable and redoubtable Labour activist, Mr. Roger Cole. Mr. Cole's opposition was rooted in fears of the militarisation of Europe and what he felt was a remarkable juggernaut to a European superstate. At the time of the first Nice referendum, the people did have profound concerns and fears, which were reflected in the “No” result. The leading concern was perceived to be a drift to a superstate and there was a deep feeling that the Irish people were losing control over their own destiny. Due to the Government's incompetence, many people were unaware of the debate and the contribution of many European leaders, to which I will refer shortly. Many voters were just browned off at what they perceived to be euro fat cats prancing around the European stage, including commissioners, some MEPs and all kinds of eurocrats giving rise to all the sometimes crass paraphernalia of an arrogant European superstate.
People felt that while they were losing some important powers, some of the unacceptable regulatory changes had been extended to Ireland in the economic sphere. We were all trying to recover from what many people perceived as the vicious rip-off at the end of the deregulation of telecommunications markets resulting from the sell-off of the State company and the perceived wholesale sell-off of other State assets. While unacceptable directives regarding so-called deregulation were quickly extended to the country, many of the social and market labour protection measures have not been extended into Irish legislation where they are necessary. When I was spokesman for enterprise, trade and employment after 1997 I was struck by the fact that there was a long list of regulations for the protection of workers' salaries, safety and rights which were not implemented by the Minister. The first Bill I introduced in this House as my party's spokesman demanded that she introduce legislation for the transfer of undertakings with regard to workers' rights, which was done four or five years later meaning that years passed before valuable legislation from Europe was enacted by this House.
In the documents relating to Nice, we always talk about the internal market and greater competition, but a host of Irish markets are still dominated by cartels. The Competition Authority and Dr. Fingleton took credit recently for taxi deregulation, but regarding the more serious cartels in banking, financial services, grocery retail, and professional services like law and accountancies, as well as all aspects of the housing market, we seem to be no better off and much less well regulated than perhaps we were when we first joined the EU.
The lack of accountability to the Dáil and Seanad remains a key problem. In the 1940s, the fathers of the European Union, like Robert Schumann and Jean Monnet clearly wanted a process whereby institutions such as parliaments and courts would steadily develop until the infrastructure of a federal superstate existed to which we would jump regardless of whether we liked it. There are leaders, particularly in the larger countries, European parliamentarians and bureaucrats who think exactly like that and the public felt that this process was advancing with the Nice treaty and must not go any further without their consent. In that regard the people are correct.
The current “No” campaign has been disgraced by the outpourings of xenophobia and racism which have characterised some of its elements and the Minister of State has addressed some of that. Fertile ground was provided for that by the failure of the Government to legislate for work visas. Civil servants are crying out for this type of legislation, yet the Minister has steadily refused to provide it in her sixth year as Minister. She will not do so. I asked the Leas-Cheann Comhairle many times when he was Ceann Comhairle if this legislation would be introduced. People have also felt that an unfair and cumbersome asylum process was cause for deep concern.
The lack of accountability of Europe to this House remains a key problem for thoughtful “No” voters. In 30 years of membership, there was no attempt until recent weeks by successive Governments to involve Members and those we represent in the European project, to consult us regularly, to listen to our advice or to explain convoluted eurospeak, regulations and directives. I have never been a member of the European Committee, though I am familiar with its work, but apart from that we were treated with derision by successive Governments. Our Ministers who are responsible to this House go to Europe, negotiate and return – I referred to the famous debate after the Treaty of Nice had been drawn up – but they have done nothing to change our institutions.
That is the reason I have such high regard for the leader of the British Labour Party, Tony Blair, who has advocated that this Parliament, Westminster, the Bundesrat and all our sister Houses, with which the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is familiar, should form a strong second House. He advocates that we should all be involved, from the newest parties to the most established, particularly our backbenchers and spokespersons who are not Ministers. That is probably the most interesting proposal a British leader has ever come forward with in the European context. While some of the British papers interpret this as being a case of Tony Blair and the Taoiseach becoming super senators who together would run the show, that is not the formative idea here. What he wants is that, as the European Parliament develops and legislation is brought forward, the 15 or 27 Parliaments and the many thousands of local representatives in them would have a very clear role, though it might be very cumbersome. They should have a say in this Chamber as a grand committee regarding major changes in legislation.
There is a very special problem for the Government, particularly the Taoiseach, and this is our first opportunity to speak about that in this House. We have had a devastating series of cutbacks and this House was totally misled by statements made here before the dissolution of the last Dáil. There has been a swathe of cuts in health, education and housing, which show that we were told a pack of lies. Deputy Ring and I asked on local radio if we could hold the general election again, as did other Deputies here, given that we can have the referendum on Nice again. The two Ministers of State opposite would be delighted to have a chance to go out on the hustings and discuss these issues. The Taoiseach says the rate of increase is falling, but definite painful cutbacks are being made.
Clearly, we will not have the general election again and it is a concern that we are having this referendum. I justify it on two grounds. We have an obligation to the 12 applicant countries – I met the Romanian Minister responsible for enterprise, trade and employment last week. There is a deep desire by those countries to join in the European project and they look to us, particularly in Romania where, fortunately, the Labour Party is back in power. We look to them for advice about running for office and can advise them with regard to our history with the European project. It is for them and because of the economic gains we have made from the role we have played in the EU that, on balance, I support this referendum.
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Callely) Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Callely)
 Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Callely): I wish to share time with Deputies Harkin and Connolly.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely: As Minister of State with responsibility for the development of services for older people, I am pleased to endorse the “Yes” vote in the coming referendum on the Nice treaty. This is a small country which has achieved success beyond measure and certainly beyond the expected capacity of a nation this size. Through the efforts of previous generations, the economy is at the healthy level we enjoy today. Our success has been built on the shoulders of giants and added to in no small measure by our educated population. The efforts of successive Governments to develop the economy have borne fruit and since our entry into Europe we have diversified our economy because we have accepted the need for change. We have gained a strong reputation abroad for our skills which we have adapted to changing markets and we have created an environment which has allowed for the development of an economy which is the envy of many of our larger European neighbours. Ireland has never been afraid to adapt to change, which has stood it in good stead. Surely we want to be seen as a people with a pivotal role in shaping Europe's future and not as reckless gamblers prepared to stake a lifetime's work on a horse, which will always be, at best, second best.
As European partners we have enjoyed many successes. Socially, we have managed to stem the tide of emigration. Our older generations remember without fondness the hardship of 50 years ago. For some of our European neighbours these images represent their present and not their past. Our young people today can look forward to futures which are considerably brighter than those even a generation before. They are a more outward looking, confident generation. Surely we would not begrudge other young people their place in the sun. The Government continues its efforts against social exclusion and poverty. We all want our children to enjoy a good quality of life. We want to ensure they do not face the hardship of unemployment. We want our parents looked after in old age and the older generation to reap the benefit of their sacrifices. We want an Ireland where the progress of recent years is maintained and built on. We can only do this in the context of a strong Europe where we play a central role. We want to wear our badge of nationhood with pride. We also want to take our place with pride among the citizens of the world. We cannot do this if we do not have the generosity of spirit required by the Nice treaty.
Ireland should stand proud of its role not only in Europe but throughout the world. We are a small country yet our Army has been a source of pride in its various peacekeeping roles. Our strong sense of justice can be seen in the way our NGOs are respected throughout the world for their tireless efforts in struggling countries. Our contribution to important bodies such as the United Nations is evidenced by our former President who has tirelessly championed the cause of human rights. Everywhere there are examples of Irish people who are leading figures promoting equality and justice. While the problems in Northern Ireland are still not totally resolved, it is an example to other societies suffering from violent conflict about the value of dialogue and the need to respect other traditions. While we can be justifiably proud of our achievements, our vision of these achievements should not be blinkered. All of our progress cannot be solely attributed to Irish efforts alone. We have received much support from Europe, not just financially but also through access to larger markets. This should be acknowledged by all parties to this debate. Our economy has benefited from substantial investment in infrastructure through the Structural and Cohesion Funds. The Common Agricultural Policy has benefited our farmers greatly. Access to other learning environments and job markets have greatly broadened the scope for our young people and afforded them opportunities which could not have been imagined in the lifetime of their grandparents. Do we wish to see that economy marginalised by a “No” vote?
Our benefits have not merely been financial and should not be limited to such. Horizons have been broadened and our culture enriched. Let us not forget that the Union donates up to €7 billion from the budget each year for development, a considerably larger donation than other blocs. Let us not pay lip service to the notion of justice for all. By our actions let them judge us. The Statue of Liberty was a potent symbol to the downtrodden seeking a new life in the United States. Let our acceptance of the Nice treaty be our gesture of solidarity with our fellow Europeans who seek to contribute to the European experience. The facts are soberingly clear and stark. The rejection of the referendum on the Nice treaty on the last occasion, which may have been warranted in our eyes at that time, was perceived as a backward step by the rest of Europe. Membership of Europe has been, and remains, absolutely fundamental to our prosperity and economic success. We have been held in high esteem by our European counterparts for our progression of the development of the Union. For a small nation we are major players in European terms.
Our standing in Europe and among applicant countries, in particular, following our rejection of the last referendum on Nice could be viewed as a move back from our previous strong, competitive and hugely successful participation in the European Union. It is time to end that retreat, to show our courage and fight our way back to where we were, to ensure we play a central role to help create an even bigger Union in which our great country can participate with confidence and avail of opportunities for further progress. In my role as Minister of State with special responsibility for services to older people, I shall be looking to the European experience for the future development of our services. Until now Ireland's population has been relatively young. Different social patterns in Europe have meant that the development of an active and fulfilled “third age” has long been a reality. We have much to learn from their experiences in this regard.
A thousand years ago our capital city rang to a variety of foreign accents. These resulted from Viking traders. We adapted to those changes and the tapestry of our heritage was all the richer for the diversity woven into it. One thousand years later the world is a considerably bigger place. Today our membership of the European Union allows us to play an even more enhanced role on the world stage. In these globalised times a larger, stronger Europe is a necessity, not a luxury.
None of us expects enlargement to herald the dawn of a utopian age. We are a fiercely independent people, justifiably proud of our right to self government. When we joined Europe we were determined not to lose our national identity. Thirty years later our sense of pride in our nation remains strong. Our sense of who we are has not been weakened, although we have taken our place among the nations of Europe. We are comfortable with who we are but, of equal importance, our value as committed Europeans is high. It is important that we should not debase that value. A “No” vote would seriously undermine our future worth as members of the EU. There is no going back. We cannot simply return to the status quo. Things will have changed utterly and irrevocably. In an increasingly globalised world, Europe's strength will be Ireland's strength.
The new era for Ireland promised by EU membership has dawned. Thirty years ago we embarked on a great adventure. Then nobody could make promises but we were prepared to take a risk as we were sure our foundations were strong. On the strength of those foundations we were prepared to continue building Ireland of the future. We have not lost sight of the nation state. We have merely realigned it for changing times. We have replaced historic conflicts with international agreements. Surely a Europe comprised of many small states will be good for us? We shall belong to an alliance which will contain many more like-minded peoples. In these new alliances lies much potential for the development of a balanced, just and democratic Europe.
We know there will be differences within Europe. The unification of many diverse cultures and economies can lead to conflict which will require all of our considerable political skills to resolve. Each country brings its own precious gifts to the Union. It does so in the certain knowledge that the whole will be considerably stronger than the sum of its parts. Europe will be the stronger for this. Do we have the right to make this a closed party, to say to other Europeans “thus far shalt thou go and no further”? I believe we do not. When we joined Europe we were a generation not long removed from an horrific world war. If the economic argument for an enlarged Europe requires validation in the eyes of some, the argument for peace and mutual respect does not. A prosperous Europe will be a peaceful Europe. We owe this legacy to future generations. It is disingenuous to use the argument of lost neutrality in this debate. The Seville Declaration clearly states that Ireland's attachment to its traditional policy of military neutrality is reaffirmed. We choose to honour our military commitments through the UN and Ireland remains committed to control of its armed forces. The Treaty of Nice does not seek to change this.
Ireland Inc. is not for sale. It will be the responsibility of each government to bring forward the case for its people but it will also be the responsibility of all to contribute to the greater good. Enlargement will be about diversification. It will be about retaining our deep sense of self while embracing a much greater picture. We should recognise that we would be all the weaker for not belonging to that masterpiece. We owe it to ourselves to remain a significant part of that larger Europe. Those who see our role diminished know little about the skills of our politicians and diplomats and less about the depth of the national self worth. We have received much. It behoves us as a Christian country and a land long famed for its generosity in the spreading of its education and other skills to give something back.
As a small country which struggled hard to progress economically, Ireland has a greater understanding of the challenges facing the poorer countries hoping to join the European Union. As a country with a long colonial past, Ireland should recognise the value of what those applicant countries have to offer and what they have yet to be given – an opportunity to share their diversity and culture with us and the other members of the EU family.
In the enlarged Europe Ireland will once again play a pivotal role, a crossroads between the haves and have-nots, the democratic and not so democratic, the old and new. Yet another phase in our maturing as a nation is set to begin. Let us embrace that challenge.
Ms Harkin Ms Harkin
Ms Harkin: I thank Deputy Callely for sharing his time with me and Deputy Connolly. It is appreciated.
Up to now one thing has been largely missing from this debate, that is, a recognition by both sides that there are two sides to this argument. Many say they are confused, even after listening carefully to the arguments. Part of the reason for this is the almost exclusively adversarial nature of the debate up to now.
In a way deciding on the Nice treaty is like making many decisions we face every day in our lives. There are pros and cons. However, part of our difficulty in this debate is that we have many on the “Yes” side giving the impression that all will be well if we vote “Yes” and the “No” side issuing dire warnings about vague possibilities of what might happen in a particular instance. For many, finding a balance is very difficult.
Last night the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, said our involvement in the European Union has been “wholly positive”. He should tell that to the farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by SAC designation and those who are gravely concerned about the former Government's U-turn on Partnership for Peace.
Our participation in the European Union has produced many positive outcomes, but it is not all one-way traffic. To pretend that it has been simply turns people off. They think they are not getting the whole truth and who can blame them? They are right.
In the previous debate on the Nice treaty some on the “No” side talked of Irish soldiers returning home in body bags. Nobody in this House or elsewhere can guarantee that will not happen, if in a particular case Ireland participates in the Petersberg tasks. Tragically, it has already happened while Irish troops were on UN peacekeeping missions. Let us tell the truth in this regard. There is a danger, but that danger equally applies to UN missions. We have in the Nice treaty a triple-lock guarantee of UN approval, Government agreement and Dáil approval before a single Irish soldier can participate in such operations.
Having looked at the pros and cons of the Nice treaty my position is that the pluses outweigh the minuses. I will advocate a “Yes” vote.
We need to be realistic about the issue of qualified majority voting which is already part of EU decision making and will be extended by the Nice treaty. There will be times when it will be in Ireland's interests, but undoubtedly there will be times when it will not. To suggest otherwise or say it does not really matter is to try to fool people. At times qualified majority voting will pose a risk to Ireland's interests. However, should we be courageous and work with our European partners to form alliances, forge partnerships and strongly defend our interests or do we want to hold out for unanimity in every decision, something we know would be practically unworkable in the European Union?
We must consider what will happen if we vote “No”. In the last debate we were told enlargement would not go ahead unless we ratified the Nice treaty. We now know that is not strictly true. Enlargement as envisaged in the Nice treaty would not go ahead as planned, but let there be no doubt that Europe would get on with its business with or without us and that our contribution to the process would have been to disrupt and make things difficult. If we vote “No,” we will still remain part of the European Union and must continue to do business with our EU partners and the newly acceded states of the future, even though we will have held up their progress to accession.
I am concerned we will find ourselves on the outside looking in. Our tourism industry may suffer. Our influence in negotiating the mid-term review of the CAP will be diminished. Our suitability as a location for foreign direct investment will be seriously damaged. Neither Boston nor Berlin will be particularly interested. Our negotiators will face an uphill battle when looking for allies, friends and support.
At the MacGill summer school, Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, spoke about the difference between the influence of power and the power of influence. Ireland is a small country and in European terms can never be seen as powerful. We cannot exercise the influence of power because we do not have it. However, we have been very successful over many years in exercising the power of influence and can continue to do so. However, if we vote “No” to the treaty, we will lose that influence. We must ask ourselves if we want to.
If we vote “Yes,” let us not imagine that all will run smoothly. Even as a new member of the Joint Committee on European Affairs, I realise it is crystal clear that adequate supports and resources are not in place to allow the committee to do its work effectively. This is untenable and must be dealt with immediately. We need to continually monitor all developments in the European Union and be vigilant. Having considered the pluses and minuses we need to vote “Yes” to the Nice treaty.
Mr. Connolly Mr. Connolly
Mr. Connolly: I, too, would like to thank Deputy Callely for sharing time with me and Deputy Harkin.
As a country situated on the western periphery of Europe, it is of vital importance for Ireland to be influential in decision making at the very heart of Europe, rather than being isolated on the periphery. The Nice treaty presents a programme of institutional reform which will lead to a dramatic enlargement in European Union membership. How can any sane person seriously entertain the possibility of Ireland, which has benefited enormously from EU membership, stymieing the creation of this massive market for our exports, our agri-food exports in particular? We would squander whatever reservoir of good will that remains after the previous referendum and be depicted as Europe's outcast, cold-shouldered and held in base contempt by both existing and aspiring members.
Our rejection of the Nice treaty was interpreted by the candidate countries, rightly or wrongly, as a selfish rejection of their right to EU membership. Fifteen months ago our Government sold the pass in running a lacklustre campaign and failed to take it seriously until its polls showed that the referendum would be lost. The lack of proper information, voter apathy and the decision to hold three referenda on the same day resulted in a low national turnout and a humiliating defeat for the advocates of the Nice treaty.
We cannot wish the Nice treaty away. It remains a fact of European political, economic and social life and the future shape of the European Union depends on its ratification. There are two major issues in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan towards which the Government should direct its attention. The first is the farm income crisis, which affects all farmers nationally. Their incomes are down by 15%. The second concerns the Government's permitting the NEHB to downgrade Monaghan General Hospital. Both issues impact negatively on the referendum. I urge the Government to take a positive, hands-on approach as a matter of extreme urgency.
As far as European parliamentary representation and influence in the enlarged European Parliament are concerned, our MEP:population ratio will be the second highest in the European Union, second only to Luxembourg, with one MEP per 300,000 citizens, as against the larger states' average of one MEP per 800,000 citizens. With less than 0.8% of the total population in the enlarged EU we would have the same rights to the appointment or rotation of a Commissioner as every other member state and 2% voting weight in the Council of Ministers.
The Nice treaty is crucial to Ireland's interests in the EU. I urgently call on the Government to ensure that no information deficit on the treaty is allowed so that our future, together with that of all current and aspiring members of a stronger and more prosperous family of nations, will be safeguarded for current and future generations.
Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar athló.
The Dáil adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 September 2002.
Dáil Éireann 554 An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2002: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Second Stage (Resumed).