Seanad Éireann - Volume 118 - 18 February, 1988
Developments in European Communities: Motion (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Seanad Éireann takes note of developments in the European Communities since January, 1986.
—(Senator W. Ryan.)
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: It is some time since we had an opportunity to discuss matters relating to the EC. It is unfortunate that the last report we have from the EC, the 29th report dated January 1987, shows that even though we are a bit tardy about deliberating on matters relating to Europe, equally the Community is a little tardy in sending out reports. It is disgraceful that the latest EC report available in the Library is dated January 1987. Somebody should look into this to ensure that in future the reports from the Community will be available to Members sooner than has been the case in the past.
It is opportune that we should discuss matters relating to Europe because for the first time, there seems to have been a very serious attempt made last week at the Heads of State meeting to address the various problems that have been besetting us in attaining the objectives of European union both on a political and financial base. It is heartening to see that  success has been reached in the financial area and that there is a chance within the next few years, that the finances of the Community will be brought to what they should be. It is also heartening to see that there will be benefits for Ireland and for the other smaller nations of the Community in that there will be a change in how the contributions towards the European finances are gauged. It is a major breakthrough that we are getting a straightforward changeover from the largely VAT-based contributions to contributions based on GNP. There will be extra funds available to Ireland because of this and that.
For many people the EC has been far less than a success. When one sees the huge increase in unemployment that has beset the nations of Europe over the past number of years, it can be said that the European ideal has not been a successful one, particularly for the young in our society and, indeed, for those who have been working in traditional industries. The loss of jobs in every European country has been enormous. Unfortunately, the loss of jobs in smaller countries, like Ireland, has been much greater than in the stronger economies, such as Germany. One of the reasons for our entry into the EC was to avail of the markets in Europe to increase our job potential and to improve the standard of living of our people. We have a market of 320 million people. As a group of countries we are the biggest importers in the world but the benefits of this huge market have not yet been attained by the people, particularly in this country and in other smaller countries.
I hope, as a result of the meeting last week, and because the finances of the Community are being addressed in a sensible way for the first time, that this country will benefit to the extent of providing jobs for our very large number of young people. This will be of benefit to the people and the nation in general. At present we educate people to the highest level and unfortunately because of the lack of cohesion in the European market a large number of these people have to go outside the market to get jobs. First,  they have to go outside their country; secondly, they have to go outside the EC; and they end up benefiting stronger economies outside the European scene.
Since we last discussed European matters the Single European Act has come into force and this will have a bearing on the progress of the Community. It will have benefits which will accrue to Ireland but, equally, there are challenges to be faced in that the cross-country barriers will disappear in many areas of business and there will be extra competition. This will be very good in certain areas, but it will be detrimental in others. It is about time there was real competition in the area of finance. Mention was made during the discussions on the previous legislation which went through of the huge profits the banks are making in this country, often to the detriment of business people and to the detriment of job creation. It is time that banking became genuinely competitive. I welcome the fact that there are indications that we will have international banking with real competition and that the present banking cartel will be broken up and that people will be able to get money at a reasonable price. This should be of benefit not alone to the banks but to everybody.
Another area that has been of major concern for a number of years has been the insurance industry. Again, there has not been real competition in the insurance industry in Ireland. The cost of insurance is diabolical. When persons have claims they find that the small print is so small that it cannot really be read but it has a huge effect on the claimant's rights under a number of policies. The cost to business of public liability, the cost to business of motor insurance and the cost of insurance for young people is horrendous. The profits, it is said, in insurance are very small but the profits which insurance companies make on the investment of the funding from premiums are quite large. It could be said that the insurance businesses are more involved in banking more than they are in insuring people.
The completion of the internal market  over the next number of years is an important element in the chance of progress. For too long we have had a fragmented market in Europe. We have not been able, as they have in the United States and Japan, to use the huge market we have to the best advantage because of the problems associated with a fragmented market, with fragmented tax regimes and with border controls for goods travelling from country to country. We can only achieve the aims of an integrated Community when border controls — frontier controls — disappear and when the tax regimes within the Community are brought to a reasonable similarity.
Since we last discussed a similar motion we have had a breakdown in financial markets which seemed to many people to be of a horrendous nature and we have heard of the huge losses made by individuals and companies because of the failure in financial markets but, of course, these failures were to a large degree failures on paper. The price of shares had reached heights to which they were not entitled to go, and which had no bearing on the value of the companies in which the shares were being traded. Paper changed hands, at enormous profits to certain individuals but, again, this was of little value to businesses or workers in the financial markets. The computer seemed to take over and, thankfully, the computer seemed to have got it wrong. People in the financial markets, as in other markets, are now getting back to dealing with matters relating to finance as they should have been dealt with all the time.
Since we last discussed this matter we have had huge threats to our environment within Europe. In particular, we have had the threat to our environment, which is a very serious threat and which will continue for many years, as a result of the horrific accident at Chernobyl. This has proved that, whether they be inside or outside the market, countries do not stand alone when they are addressing themselves to energy production, or to the production of elements which can be  harmful to the environment. The accident at Chernobyl was a preventable accident and we must ensure that we have every control over what happens in the production of energy, or in the production of elements which can be harmful to the environment.
The co-operation we are getting from Britain in this area is not what it should be, as instanced by the Trawsfynydd and other experiments. We have a situation where Britain seems to cock a snook at the rest of Europe and in particular at us when it comes to nuclear production of energy from old fashioned outdated nuclear reactors. The EC on a Community basis will have to ensure that within any country in Europe the Community has the right to check everything that goes on in that area. If they do not have that right we could have a major catastrophe such as that which befell Europe as a result of the Chernobyl incident.
The spread of AIDS in the past couple of years has been one of the greatest epidemics to hit both Europe and the rest of the world. This disease presents a great danger to humanity within the Community. This is a matter to which the Community has not addressed itself. It may be that certain people do not want to admit that this is a threat of enormous magnitude but the Community must address itself to the problem with more diligence than it has done in the past. It is something that will not go away. It has enormous potential for death and also in terms of personal relationships.
Apart from being the biggest market in the world the Community is the largest contributor of aid to world bodies. Member governments should be complimented that they have always addressed themselves to aid on the basis of need and not on the basis of political implications. One of the reasons certain major traders and major countries do not get involved in sending aid to particular countries is because of the political situations in these countries. Unfortunately poverty does not recognise politics. Because certain countries do not agree with the politics of countries which are in  dire need sometimes the aid is not as heartily given as it should be. The European countries in general have been very good in this area.
However, the delivery of aid should be addressed more realistically. There is not much point in sending grain to Ethiopia if it affects the small farmers there when they do have a harvest and suddenly find they cannot sell the only cash crop they have because food is coming in totally free. This eliminates from the budget of the small indigenous farmer any hope he had of a cash flow. The objectives of organisations like Gorta should be the objectives we should have in terms of our aid, that is, to provide the means for people to provide for themselves. At times there will be the need to send food urgently but we must address ourselves to the realities of small farming in these donee countries.
The increase in technology and technological transfers has not been addressed on a Community-wide basis. I am glad that we set up a ministry to deal with technology immediately after the last election, developments in that area are being seen already. That is another area that has not been addressed significantly by the EC.
In Ireland there is quite an amount of emigration at present, there is a lot of immigration into the EC as well. This immigration to a large degree is from Third World countries and the people coming in unfortunately are not treated within the EC as having equal status. One only has to go to cities like Paris or Brussels or to cities in Germany to see the huge numbers of people from Third World countries working in very menial and lowly paid jobs who live in Third World conditions. They are being ripped off by landlords in the EC countries. They are a group of people who must be looked after because not alone is it in the interests of the people who come in for these jobs but it is equally in the interests of the European Community that these people have a proper place to live and that their working conditions should improve.
One of the reasons we should address  this matter is that the numbers of people coming in are growing at an enormous rate, their birth rate is much higher than the European average and it is true that there is one arrondissement of Brussels at present which has a total Muslim representation on the city council there. The same would apply in certain areas in Paris. This is a growing European problem. It does not affect us that much but on a matter of common humanity it is something the EC should address. The EC has a number of agreements which are made with countries outside the EC. We must ensure that if we are trading with countries from outside the EC, these countries obey the rules of association with the EC.
I must address myself particularly to problems associated with trade with Israel. The Israelis have a very good co-operation convention with the EC from which they benefit enormously. It is very hard to quantify it except to say that every night, for five months of the year a Boeing 727 leaves Tel Aviv with nothing but cut flowers. The level of trade with Israel is enormous but unfortunately we are dealing with a country which does not give to people who are under their control any degree of support.
In recent months the EC Commission made an agreement with Israel that goods which were manufactured or produced in the West Bank and Gaza could be brought into the EC without going through the Agresco, the Israeli agricultural co-op on the one hand, or through any trading group in Israel for manufactured goods. The agreement was that 12 of the chambers of commerce in the West Bank and Gaza would have rights to stamp certificates of origin and the certificate of origin would state that the goods came from the West Bank or Gaza and would be signed by one or other of the 12 chambers of trade. This would have meant a big boost to the people in the occupied territories as they would have been able to get their goods into Europe without going through Israel and They would not have to pay Israeli merchants for the right to export.
 As an indication of the goodwill of Israel — and this is the reason I raise it — the Gazan fruit company decided to send four crates of oranges as a commercial present to Claude Chasson, the EC Commissioner, as an initial test case. Two were to go by air and two were to go by sea. Seven weeks later the oranges were still sitting in Gaza because the Israelis would not allow them to go through. The week before last the Israeli Minister to the EC was called in as a result of a problem which arose with goods imported from Ramallah in the West Bank into England. The stamp of the Ramallah chamber of commerce was on the certificates of origin and the country of origin was down as the West Bank.
The goods arrived in England but luckily somebody at import control checked the documentation and found that the documents had been forged. The documentation had been changed from Ramallah to Israel and the country of origin was stated as Israel. The EC made an agreement in good faith with Israel but the Israelis would not abide by the agreement. The two incidents are actual facts and they can be confirmed through the EC Commission, through Mr. Morgan who is the EC Commission representative in Tel Aviv.
As Europeans we must address ourselves to the plight of the Palestinians who are living in such horrific conditions. Some are daily being beaten to death. Some are being shot and others are being subjected to the most horrific treatment — I will not call it genocide — they are being treated as inhuman by an Israeli Army. This is the army of a country which is supposed to be a friendly country towards Europe. When I say people are being beaten to death I mean they are being beaten to death. I have medical certificates here which are horrific, showing the numbers of deaths and the numbers injured.
Israel must be brought before the table of international justice. We in Europe have a part to play in this. The Europeans played a major part in the setting up of the State of Israel. European countries, apart from Ireland, raped and ravaged  the Middle East for many hundreds of years. The problems in Israel are to a large degree the responsibility of Europe. Europe can play a major part in trying to resolve the problems in that area. There is only one way the problems can be resolved and, that is, to ensure that the Palestinians get a State of their own. This is admitted by everybody in the world apart from the Israelis and to a lesser degree by the United States of America. The Israelis say that they will not talk to the PLO because they are terrorists. There will be no peace in that area until the Israelis get down to talking to the Palestinians and until a Palestinian State emerges. Europe can play a major role in this. An international conference should be convened. Over the past number of years the EC have supported that notion.
The best way to resolve any problem is for the two protagonists to sit down face to face. It must happen sooner or later. The reason an international conference is possibly the best way at present is that the Israeli Government will not take any steps towards the resolution of the problem. In the Knesset — the Israeli Parliament — there is an inept parliament who cannot make decisions and who have to be spurred on by some outside influence. The major outside influence in the past has been the United States. The only decision of any major importance made by Israel over the past number of years since 1948, was the reduction in the level of inflation which was forced upon them by the United States because of the huge inflation rates caused by the devaluation of the shekel in Israel.
The Camp David accords were at the instigation of America and the Egyptian-Israeli accord again, was at the instigation of the USA. Israel on their own will do nothing. They must have outside influence and, in the end, the problem can only be resolved by the Israelis sitting down at some stage face to face with the terrorists. In the past there have been terrorists on the one side and freedom fighters or patriots on the other.
There is not a country in the world that did not have to sit down and resolve  its problems, France had to do it with Algiers. Britain has had to do it with many countries, including Ireland. The European Community must sit down and resolve their problems. One might wonder why we should spend so much time speaking on this issue which is of importance not only to the Middle East region but to those of us in Europe. It is the near east; it is very close to us and a number of countries in that area have developed a nuclear potential. There is a certain amount of instability in many countries and what happens in that area could very well break across the boundaries into Europe and Europeans could find themselves engulfed in a major conflict in that area.
I am not suggesting that all the conflicts in the area will be resolved if the Israeli-Palestian conflict is resolved but at least it would be one element in the equation which would have a stabilising effect, which would be of strategic importance in terms of world strategy and of major importance to the people of the major religions in the world, when one considers that the three major religions in the world have their origins in that area. Europe is going through a period of relative political stability and because of this stability it can address itself to instabilities in areas outside the Community where it has connections.
The report before us is the 29th report: I hope we get the 30th report before January 1992. By that stage the internal market, as planned, will be complete. I hope what was started in Brussels last week will continue, that the arrangements that are being made in terms of the financing of the Community will bear fruit and that the disproportionate amount of money and the good things in life which are held by the central Europeans will be spread out and that as a result we, on the periphery of Europe, will be able to benefit as was originally intended. I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion and I sincerely hope that in the future we will be able to deal with European matters more quickly than we have been able to in the past.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
 Mr. Ferris: I welcome the opportunity to join with the Leader of the House in addressing this motion which takes note of developments in the Community. While being as brief as possible, I want to structure my contribution, under the following areas: the agreement between the Heads of State and its implications for Ireland, particularly in regard to cereals and milk production; the implications of the new dimension to the milk quota system; the possible extension of the disadvantaged areas; regional policy and how it will affect Ireland; unemployment in this country and throughout Europe and how we compare with our neighbours; and the definition of neutrality as accepted by our Community partners, as espoused at the recent Stockholm Conference. This deals with the last subject mentioned by Senator Lanigan in regard to the problems in the Middle East, the problems of the Palestinians, the workings of UNWRA and the contribution that we, as a small nation involved in peace-keeping duties with UNIFIL in Lebanon, can make in this area of international tension. This country has a clear and unambiguous policy in regard to the resettlement of the Palestinians and indeed the rights of Israel to secure, safe borders and a state of its own.
Last week we welcomed the fact that the Heads of State achieved a settlement, temporary or otherwise, which I believe was the best that could have been achieved from our point of view in very difficult circumstances. It required a step backwards on the part of the Prime Minister of our nearest neighbour for their settlement to be achieved and, fortunately for us on this occasion, the Single European Act stood in our favour. Those who supported the Single European Act as the basic treaty governing the future development of the Community were satisfied that it would establish a balance between the creation of a single market, involving internal free trade, the free movement of people and capital, the development of the poorer regions and a reduction in regional disparities within the Community.
This second objective is referred to as  “Economic and Social Cohesion”. Many of us felt that if there was not cohesion in a European context that small and poorer nations such as Ireland would suffer within the large club of the powerful European nations. This can be seen if one looks at figures quoted by the OECD in a report issued this month dealing with GDP/GNP in the OECD area. The report stated that in worldwide terms the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada are among the top performers. For instance the United States' share in 1982 was 40.6 per cent. It had increased by 2.9 per cent in 1986, 2.75 per cent in 1987 and 2.5 per cent in 1988. Those are the figures for the United States and yet they are experiencing difficulties.
Let us compare those figures with the Irish figures. The figures for Ireland in 1982 was 0.2 per cent, in 1986, it was - 1.6 per cent; in 1987, it was 2 per cent; this year it is expected to be -.25 per cent and in 1989 it is expected that it will be at zero. Those figures put in context the importance of being a member of a club which is fairly powerful. Dealing under the conventions of the GATT with powerful nations throughout the world this cohesion and the Single European Act gives us some assurances that we can survive and perform to the best of our ability among that company in spite of our massive unemployment figures and the massive emigration we have to contend with.
Under the title “Economic and Social Cohesion”, the Single European Act states, and I quote:
In order to promote its overall harmonious development, the Community shall develop and pursue its actions leading to the strengthening of its economic and social cohesion. In particular, the Community shall aim at reducing disparities between the various regions and the backwardness of the least-favoured regions.
None of us will argue with that aspiration. We live in one of the disadvantaged areas within the Community and we are disadvantaged in many respects. We live on  a small island, very far away from the golden triangle centred around the headquarters in Brussels and the nations of Germany and Britain who are major contributors to the Community. We have in the past been excellent Europeans: at times we have been accused of being too good. When you join a group you must be prepared to carry out your responsibilities but we must never be afraid to argue our case based on justice and equality.
We were forced to accept a milk quota regime which initially proved difficult. However, under the terms of that regime many of the major milk producers in the country were able to survive and indeed increased production in some cases. That has now changed. The Minister for Agriculture and Food in the middle of last year announced a further imposition in the quota regime which required that in the second phase of the milk cessation scheme people would have to voluntarily opt out of milk production. Unfortunately, most of those who voluntarily opted out of milk production in the second phase of the cessation scheme were from the West. The Minister, in consultation with ICOS, decided that he would not accept some of these voluntary applications on the basis that if he were to do so it would prove detrimental for the co-operative movement in the west. To reach his overall target the Minister imposed a penalty on other milk producing areas. I am particularly concerned about my own area in Munster which traditionally is a milk producing area. All the co-operatives in Munster, such as Mitchelstown and Tipperary, have objected to the introduction of this penalty even though some of their members have decided to opt out of milk production. If this philosophy is followed through those involved in milk production in Munster, and in my own county of Tipperary in particular, will be forced out of production because they have exceeded the quota and because of the penalties imposed by the Minister. As a consequence, co-operatives which have expanded and improved their milk processing capabilities will have very  little, if any, milk to process and the consequence of this for employment will be disastrous. Under this new milk regime, I ask the Minister to look again at the concept that people must, in addition to their other efforts, get out of milk production.
I would now like to deal with the backwardness of the least favoured regions as referred to under the heading “Reform of EEC Regional Policy and Implications for Ireland”. These are commonly known as disadvantaged areas. Many parts of this country are classified under different categories such as, most severely disadvantaged, less severely disadvantaged, disadvantaged for certain animal and other products. Parts of Ireland are designated as being in need of special assistance. This Government and the previous Government admitted that following the major review, and increase in acreage, that took place after the first application, certain anomalies remained in areas, which, having regard to the criteria laid down, should have qualified for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas and that other areas which had already been classified would now be classified upwards by one category. The consensus before the last general election was that this would take place. The outgoing Government submitted an application along these lines which included areas which had previously been left out in error or otherwise, so that these areas could be reclassified.
I would like to hear from the Minister as to how far down the road this Government have gone under that heading. Have we formally applied to the Community to have some areas redesignated and for other areas, which had been excluded, included? If so, have we lodged the application with the Community and have the Commission accepted our application? Has it been successful? If so, what contribution will the Community make and what contribution will be expected from the Exchequer? When will additional grants be paid to people in these areas? I ask those questions on the basis of the importance of maintaining family farms, not large ranch holdings or  large milk producing farms in the deluxe lands of the Golden Vale or elsewhere. We should remember the family farms on the mountains of Gleann Cois a Binne, Slievenamon and Gleann a Sceach and those areas which have been left out in the past, such as north of Cappawhite and Hollyford which are areas we know from the criteria laid down should qualify under these new categories. Perhaps the Minister, either now or at some future time, might communicate with me as to the progress he is making in this regard.
I am anxious that as many people as possible remain on the land, on family farms and stay in an occupation in which they are happy, particularly, since industrial employment or employment in service industries is totally alien to the kind of livelihood they are accustomed to. Remote areas are home for them and they are places in which they have managed to bring up families in peace and happiness. The least we owe them is the redesignation of disadvantaged areas. Prior to the last general election the present Government gave a commitment that they would do this.
With regard to the share out of resources between the three Structural Funds, the broad outline of the Commission is that 80 per cent of the Regional Fund will be allocated to objective (i) of the five priority objectives they have proposed in regard to reform of the Structural Funds which is the achieving of and the growth and adaptation of structurally backward regional economies so that they can be fully integrated into the Community. We also know that objective (ii) will be financed mainly from the Social Fund. This objective reads as follows: “Converting declining industrial regions by helping them to develop new activities”. This is a very laudable aspiration for the Commission and the Community to hold. The bulk of assistance of objective (v) will be from the FEOGA Guidance Section but the ERDF and the ESF will also make contributions. Objective (v) reads as follows: “Assisting the adjustment of agricultural structures and  the development of rural areas”. That is in line with the case I have made in regard to the milk quota and what I feel the Minister should be doing as regards the disadvantaged areas.
The unemployment figure at present is unacceptable to the Government, the Opposition and to the community at large. It does not compare very favourably with the figure in any of the other member states of the Community with the exception of Spain. On page 38 of the OECD report I mentioned earlier the question of the unemployment figure for Ireland is dealt with. This is one of the reasons I am anxious to ensure that as many people as possible remain on the land. According to the OECD the unemployment rate in Ireland in 1986 was 17.4 per cent; in 1987, it was 18.25 per cent; in 1988, it is expected to be 19.5 per cent and next year it is predicted that it will be 19.75 per cent which, in fact, will then be higher than the Spanish rate of unemployment. If we compare that figure with the figure, for example, in Austria which is outside the Community or with Belgium, which is within the Community, we can see that Ireland is certainly a least-favoured area. We have a major role to play in trying to maintain people on small holdings and in generating new employment in the industrial sector. If we fail to do so we will be at a severe disadvantage. There will be nothing left for our people except the emigration boat. In towns and villages all over the country people who were committed to this country are being forced out because there is no future for them here.
Finally, let me deal with the point raised by Senator Lanigan who is a committed parliamentarian and who has taken part in many Middle-East peace initiatives over the past ten or 12 years. He has never allowed himself to be deterred from what he has considered to be a just cause — the extension of rights to the Palestinians. In this context I would like to quote from the “Document of the Stockholm Conference” which was printed in September 1986, a conference  at which Ireland was represented. Under the heading “Refraining from the Threat or use of Force,” on page 2, at paragraph 9, it states:
The participating States, recalling their obligation to refrain, in their mutual relations as well as in their international relations in general, from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, accordingly reaffirm their commitment to respect and put into practice the principle of refraining from the threat or use of force, as laid down in the Final Act.
Paragraph 10 states:
No consideration may be invoked to serve to warrant resort to the threat or use of force in contravention of this principle.
Paragraph 11 states:
They recall the inherent right of an individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations.
Paragraph 12 states:
They will refrain from any manifestation of force for the purpose of inducing any other State to renounce the full exercise of its sovereign rights.
Paragraph 13 states:
As set forth in the Final Act, no occupation or acquisition of territory resulting from the threat or use of force in contravention of international law, will be recognised as legal.
That is the position of the United Nations and the position of the Stockholm Conference at which we were represented. It is totally contrary to what the Israeli Government are now doing in the occupied territories. The United Nations in Resolution 607 in January, instructed Israel that they had no legal or international right to expel civilians from the  occupied territories. Yet, innocent people have been deported and people have been tried in courts on flimsy evidence. People who have been arrested and not tried have been deported from their homeland. Tragically, they all happen to be Palestinians. I am struggling that we as a nation which provides troops for the UNIFIL forces and which participates to the full in the United Nations, must exercise all our influence — because we are respected worldwide — to bring forward, with our colleagues in the European Community, the concept of an international peace conference which will address itself to the problems of the Middle East.
Last week in a European capital I was honoured to be asked to be an observer on a peace mission which was considered to be in compliance with the Resolution of the United Nations of 5 January. I, together with other international observers and witnesses from countries throughout Europe, including Ireland, England, Italy, Malta, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Czechoslovakia, the United States of America as well as Arabs, members of the Israeli Parliament and other concerned people, joined together in solidarity with these refugees and deportees who were making an effort — as a token gesture of peace — to return to their homeland by ship. Unfortunately, the Israeli Government made every effort in a European capital to obstruct what was recognised as being an international peace mission. They used bribes, ultimatums, and their trade union movement to intimidate other ship workers, who were told that if they sailed on this boat or on any other boat they would never again be allowed to sail on a boat servicing Haifa or any other Israeli town. Finally, when another friendly nation provided a boat and before the peacekeepers could board it, the Israelis bombed the boat. They blew a hole in it to prevent the peacekeepers from setting sail in it.
This boat of peace was intended to provide a facility for Palestinian people  to return to their own homeland to where they could live in peace without threat of exile. All of us in this House and all of those international observers uphold international law. We all uphold the Resolutions of the United Nations in regard to the rights of the Palestinians, which were espoused by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Brian Lenihan, in this House before Christmas. Therefore, many of us consider that that voyage of peace was within the context of the United Nations Charter. This is a historic turning point in the question of the occupied territories and the Palestinian people. I would like to think that Ireland, as part of the Community, would express solidarity with them when they make sacrifices, which Senator Lanigan has seen at first hand, in the uprising of civilian revolt against intimidation. All they are trying to do is to liberate their occupied territories. I would like to think that we would reaffirm our solidarity with them as to their right to national self-determination.
Lest some of the reports as to the type of people on the boat coming from the Israeli Government might gain credence, let me say that included among them were some of the most eminent civil leaders such as the deported Mayor of Hebron, and some of the most eminent religious leaders whose only offence was to defend the rights of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Let me give a short list of those, particularly the religious leaders, who endeavoured to sail on this boat with the deportees and refugees. They included His Eminence, Sheikh Abdul Hamid Al Sayyaye, the most important religious Muslim leader ever to tread the sacred ground of Palestine; His Grace Archbishop Hilarian Capucci, a Greek Catholic deported by the Israeli authorities and given refuge by His Holiness the Pope and given a special responsibility by the Holy Father to ensure that he would maintain a religious link with his people; Dr. Alfred Lilienthal, one of the foremost American Jewish Rabbis who participated in an ecumenical prayer service. If Jews and  people of other religions can participate in a religious ceremony together, why can they not live together?
Also on board was His Grace Bishop Kouri of Jerusalem; Monsignor Jacques Gaillot, who is one of the foremost liberal thinkers in the Catholic Church and Bishop of Normandy; and Dom Bernard O'Dea from the Order of St. Benedict in Glenstal Abbey, whom I was privileged to accompany. Glenstal is the home of ecumenism and it was appropriate that Father Bernard was with us. He also participated in the religious ceremony. Also on board were Revenued Tony Crowe, an Anglican missionary from England, Reverend Fr. Mintoff, the Catholic founder of the peace movement of Malta and brother of the previous Socialist Prime Minister of Malta. They were assisted by Fr. Briot. O.P. of Lyons in France, Fr. Barth O.P. of Paris, with many other great religious people. They were the people who were on this boat trying to identify in solidarity and to supervise the type of project we were doing, which is part of a community problem to help with the Palestinians.
We all want this cycle of violence to be stopped. I know, and Senator Lanigan is aware, that the Palestinians want a just and honourable peace. I know from talking to Jewish and Israeli people that the people of Israel want peace and security, and none of us would deny them that. We have to insist that in any peace conference this should be emphasised so that there will be an incentive for them to sit down at an international conference. We were hoping this mission of peace would bring a sign of hope to the Palestinians that they could live in peace with one another. An international peace conference is essential. Negotiations and guarantees under international law are essential for any peace-making process, but a just and lasting peace is the only real guarantee to ensure the security of the Israeli people.
That is why we were involved in the mission. That is why I was honoured to be chosen as one of the observers. That is why thinkers and religious professors, scholars, artists and the international  media were part of this process, not as trouble-makers but as people involved in this process of bringing people together to live within the United Nations Charter in that area. I commend Senator Lanigan for his efforts and the information he has brought back from his visit to Gaza, the West Bank, Hebron and Jerusalem and outlying villages.
Ireland as part of the EC can play a major role, can be a catalyst in this, because we have our problems where religious beliefs have devided us. We have problems that became political though initially they were religious. We must know the implications of religious strife which leads to political tragedy and loss of life of innocent civilians and so we have a major role within the development of the European Communities to stimulate every effort in this area, I commend the Minister for his interest in this. I hope sincerely that he will listen to the plea I made to him privately about the funding of UNRAWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, which is working under the United Nations Charter which helps the fund, a Government in exile, almost, in Palestine, to ensure that people have schools to go to, that they have social services, that they have hospitalisation and health clinics and some semblance of humanity within refugee camps which, as Fr. Bernard said, Palestinians have been born into, have been gestated in, married in, got sick in, had problems of violence and violation of all their human dignity, and have died in. People outside know nothing of a refugee camp.
How can we in our small way sit back and take no interest in what is happening in that tragic land? Surely we have an obligation within the EC framework to stimulate any and every initiative which will bring the great powers together, the United States, the Russians, the Israelis, the PLO and the Syrians who have a major input to make in this whole process. That is a challenge and, while it might be slightly outside the inward looking European countries, we trade with those people, we have an interest in them, we support them financially. Let  us now follow it through with the political initiative at EC level and at United Nations level to ensure that an international peace conference will take place.
I commend the efforts of the Minister in his capacity as Minister of State in this area and look forward to working with him, but the UNRAWA must not be neglected because of the financial restrictions in this country at the moment. The demands being made on them since before Christmas have increased twofold from what was the normal unacceptable level of camp life. Now that there are curfews and everything else applied in many of these little villages and towns, UNRAWA's survival and their proper funding by us, by the EC and by all other nations and the United Nations is more essential than ever before.
Mr. McDonald Mr. McDonald
Mr. McDonald: The fairly lengthy period under discussion in the motion before the House today covers a significant time in the evolvement of the European Community. Perhaps I could be accused of repetition when I say that it is regrettable we must discuss three or four six-monthly statutory reports all together. However, the Minister very kindly came into the House to open this debate on 19 November last. Nevertheless we still have quite a bit to catch upon.
I am very happy to see that our distinguished Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Lenihan, is back working again and we all rejoice in that. We must look at the remarkable progress which has been achieved in the EC in the past two years and cast our minds back and remember that, among the main milestones during that period, going back to the London Council meeting in 1986, were the progress then reported, the achievement of a consensus on the convergence of economic and technical policies, the accession of the two new member states, Spain and Portugal, which brought us up to a Community of 12.
The adoption of the Common Fisheries Policy must be making reasonable progress or we would certainly be hearing  more about it in the press. Of course, the main thing was the agreement and the decision of the people in the Community to adopt a Single European Act. While some people may legitimately hold the view that last week's summit meeting may not have been as successful as some would have liked, the fact still remains that last week's summit succeeded in putting the flesh by the European Council on the Single European Act, because it has provided the means whereby the aspirations and the terms of the Single European Act will be and can be implemented over the next five or six years and indeed more.
That is something on which we have a great obligation, and as the Seanad we should avail of every opportunity to encourage the people of Ireland to use the next four years, between now and the extraordinarily important date of 1992, when the internal market, we hope, will be a reality. This will certainly have benefits for this country if we put our backs and our minds to it and are prepared to reap those benefits.
On the other hand, if we just sit back and crib and complain and perhaps pray or look for derogations, I firmly believe our economy, or significant portions of it, will be swamped.
I hope that the Government and both Houses of the Oireachtas will take every opportunity to emphasise that the main task of every person who is interested in the evolvement of the EC and in improving the living and working conditions of everyone in Ireland is to become preoccupied in ensuring that this country as a republic and as a full member of the European Communities will prepare and gear ourselves to the challenge of reaping whatever benefits there possibly can be by way of increased training opportunities and by way of freer access to the markets of the other 11 member states. We have only ourselves to blame if we fail in that task. As a politician I feel that we in the Seanad must accept the burden of doing what we can to highlight the problem and to make the choices and the decisions as easy as possible for individual  industries in our constituencies and in the country to assist them in gearing themselves for the great challenge that lies ahead.
We all agree that with the Single European Act, the European Communities took a significant step forward and it could be described as the second great step in the whole history of the European Community after the original signing of the Treaty by the founding fathers. While the success of enlargements of the Community were notable events, the ratification by the present 12 member states of the Single European Act which came into force last July must surely be the turning point in the fortunes of the Community. Last week's summit decision is of great importance and cannot be overstressed. The Single European Act enshrines in the Treaty of Rome the 1992 deadline for the achievement of the internal market, and the success that the heads of state achieved last weekend in reaching a consensus and agreement on the budget and on the funding of the provisions of the Act in the next number of years put us all on notice that we must do our part.
It will be much easier for Ireland if we make an early start. Might I suggest that as a start the Government should demonstrate their belief in the future after 1992. George Orwell wrote his book on 1984. People had been reading it for 30 or 40 years and 1984 came and went. The Government, and especially the chief executives of each of the 120 or 130 semi-State organisations that we have should be brought together and a strategy should be designed and devised to ensure that every economic sector are aware of the possibilities and will ignore them at their peril. I would like to see, for instance Coras Tráchtála, the IDA, SFADCo and the other development organisations at least holding a seminar initially to assist the productive sectors in embarking on whatever strategy we need in order to turn this magical date to our advantage.
It will not come automatically. Knowing Irish people as I do — and I am sure my colleagues will agree with me — unless they are badgered and pushed into  it they will do nothing and they will be whistling past the graveyard in 1992 when this country will be swamped with merchandise and products from each of the other 11 member states and we will have the prospect then of increasing dole queues and greater unemployment. On the other hand, if we prepare and devise an effective strategy we can completely turn that prospect not into increasing dole queues but increased job opportunities so that with quality Irish produce and merchandise we will be able to reap the benefit that the free internal market holds out for us.
We should remember that almost coinciding with that date we may have access to Europe through the new Channel tunnel. That should make the European market much more accessible to us. There will be only one short sea crossing and it will mean that our juggernauts or freezer lorries will be able to get to the main European markets considerably faster. We must be prepared for this kind of eventuality. It is not just sufficient any more for this country to send our Ministers and our senior civil servants across looking for derogations or enhanced grants and continuing on this traditional system of taking not only the begging bowls but our cáibíns as well.
That must stop. We have a challenge here and I believe the present generation of Irish entrepreneurs have it in them to turn this opportunity into a golden one for the country. The success on the one hand that the heads of state achieved at the summit last weekend should overshadow the fact that there were a few areas about which many Irish people can justifiably feel peeved or aggrieved. For instance, from an agricultural point of view I think the restrictions in the Common Agricultural Policy or the reform which is so important to our economy will be difficult enough to accept and to integrate. The one aspect that I personally greatly regret is that the Commission of the European Communities for the very first time should have embarked on the very negative policy of encouraging farmers and producers to do nothing by offering this set-aside grant to  people, especially in cereals, not to grow them. The quota system as we got to know it over the last couple of years has crept into the milk sector and the sugar agreement and for the last couple of years it has been applied to cereals.
The new policy of setting aside land and leaving it fallow is one that cannot endear itself or be attractive to Irish farmers, large or small. The reason I say that is that, even if a landowner wants to avail of that, it will be almost impossible for the people who are adjoining him to carry on farming successfully if an acreage over the hedge is left to grow thistles and every type of noxious weed which will pollute the entire surroundings. I would have thought the Commission would have come up with a more progressive policy, one of encouraging the farming community perhaps to grow energy crops, to change from producing agricultural commodities which are in over-supply and in intervention storage which is costing the European taxpayer considerable amounts of money.
I would have thought that with the great advances made in technology over the past few years the Commission should have encouraged or placed greater emphasis on the production of energy crops. For instance, they should have jazzed up the desirability of farmers going more into forestry. The present position here is that people consider marginal land only as suitable for forestry. That tradition has grown here because it is the only good use one could put marginal land to, whether it was predominantly peatland or mountain land. Nevertheless, we must accept the fact that even the best of mineral soils will grow trees even better than marginal land. I know the return is perhaps slower and the fact is quite evident across the country that there are very few hardwoods being sown. This is an opportunity for the Commission to put in a realistic proposal for farmers to get into energy production.
Similarly, new technology has meant that it would be profitable for Irish farmers to grow an energy crop such as rape seed — to produce rape seed oil as an  energy crop. This would not only mean that the land allocated to the growing of rape seed or sunflower oil would not be adding to the food mountain, whether in cereals or sugar beet, but would be an import substitution for fossil fuels which we are told will be in declining supply after 2015 or 2016. Since the new technology now available here has provided automotive power which can more than compete with fossil fuels, I would have thought that the DG17 or the commission with responsibility for the environment or the commission with responsibility for transport in addition to the agricultural commission would have been anxious to embark on such a course of action. Perhaps that can remain for the future.
Nevertheless, the European Parliament in the past year, during the term which is the subject of the motion before the House, have been extremely active and they have adopted resolutions which embrace a tremendous area, all of which are of interest to the Irish people, an environmental policy. We had last year passing through the Oireachtas the new legislation on clean air which has been implemented by most county councils, with very little results to date. We have also had in the European Parliament significant debates on the problem of the “glasshouse effect” as a result of certain aerosol pollutants. While the US Government have introduced legislation which bans some products, I think the EC as a whole have tended to ignore the dangers scientists and experts say exist if we continue to ignore the emissions of gas and pollutants from engines using hydrocarbon fuels.
There is great scope in the years ahead, both in the short term and long term, for the Community to think very seriously about the environment. Our present way of living is having a detrimental effect on the environment. I do not think we can go on indefinitely ignoring the advice and warnings we have been getting from eminent scientists, particularly from the United States.
Reading through the text adopted by  the European Parliament in the last term, I regret that, although we on the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the EC have considered at great depth a number of aspects and have viewed all of the regulations adopted by the Council, sufficient time is not set aside in this House for a debate on these important topics. I hope that, with our Committee on Procedure and Privileges we can endeavour to provide in this place a regular, perhaps monthly, spot so that on a continuing basis we can be able to focus some attention on the problems, opportunities, or possibilities which will present themselves to this country over the next four years. That is vital. This week the joint committee had a marvellous opportunity to hear the Irish Commissioner, Mr. Peter Sutherland, speak on the results, hopes and expectations after last week's summit. His presentation to the joint committee was impressive, encouraging and informative and demonstrated great hope for the future of the Community.
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary) Sean Calleary
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary): May I express my sincere thanks to all the Senators who have contributed to the debate since it first opened. In particular, I would like to mention the point raised by Senator Lanigan and also touched on by Senator McDonald on the question of delay in taking the debate. The facts are that the 29th report which is dated January 1987 is being discussed but the 30th report is now almost ready for publication and the 31st report is in the process of collation. One of the reasons for the delay was the amount of time which had to be devoted by various Government Departments to the Single European Act and to the referendum in connection with that matter.
As the Minister said at the conclusion of his opening speech, as a member state of the Community we are set to face challenges and, let it be said also, opportunities guaranteed to test our sense of commitment and determination as never before since joining the Community in 1973. Therefore, I welcome the chance  afforded by this debate to have the fullest discussion and airing of points of view on issues that are of immense importance to our people, our country and to the Community of 12 nations representing 320 million people, of which we are a full and committed member.
This debate was opened on 19 November, it was continued on 2 December and it is no exaggeration to say that the main focus of our discussions has undergone an historic change as a result of the European Council meeting held on 11 and 12 February in Brussels. That point was mentioned by three Senators who have spoken today. On 8 February and EPC meeting was held at which the Ministers there issued the strongest statement that has been issued in relation to the question of the Middle East and, in particular, the points raised very strongly by Senator Lanigan and by Senator Ferris in relation to the problems of the Gaza Strip.
That meeting was addressed by King Hassan and he also spoke very strongly of what he felt was the last opportunity that would be available and, in particular, he emphasised the importance of the peace conference which has been mentioned both by Senator Lanigan and Senator Ferris. I attended that conference and put on record Ireland's abhorrence of the situation that exists in the Gaza Strip and set forth our policy as has been outlined by various Ministers, particularly by the present Minister, many years ago in relation to the situation on the Gaza Strip — the rights of the Palestinians to have a homeland and also, as was mentioned here today, the rights of Israel.
All Senators will be aware that there was grave disappointment at the failure of the Copenhagen Council to resolve issues of critical importance to the future of the Community. This Government, however, approached the Brussels Council with renewed determination to succeed and our efforts and optimistic approach were rewarded.
In the course of the adjourned debate Senators expressed various concerns on the future of the CAP and the Structural Funds, etc. In view of the fact that we  would appear to have been very much overtaken by events, the best approach I can take to the issues raised is to review the results and achievements of the recent Brussels Council. Let there be no mistake but that the success of this council represented a major and historic breakthrough for Europe and its people. The institutional and financial underpinning of the Delors plan set us firmly on course for achieving the completion of the internal market by the target year, 1992, a development which, because of greater market efficiency, could mean as much as £80 billion to £90 billion in gains to the member states. The implications for Ireland are significant and far-reaching. This was a point raised by you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, in your contribution and also touched on by Senator Lanigan.
Agreement was reached in three crucial areas, first, secure funding for the Community for the next five years; secondly, guarantees for the Common Agricultural Policy in a disciplined framework which will provide security for the farming community; and, thirdly, a doubling in real terms of the Structural Funds for the regions in greatest need. In relation to the future financing of the Community between now and 1992 it was agreed that there would be an increase in our resources. The overall ceiling of the Community budget is to be fixed at 1.2 per cent for payments and 1.3 per cent for commitments of Community GNP by 1992.
These resources are to be provided through a change in the way in which member states' contributions are assessed. Heretofore, each country paid 1.4 per cent of its VAT base, in addition to agricultural levies and customs duties. However, since the VAT base varies between countries as a proportion of GNP, from 42 per cent in Italy, to 62.5 per cent in Ireland and 70 per cent in Portugal, it was agreed that while the 1.4 per cent VAT contribution will be retained the base on which it will be charged will be limited to 55 per cent of GNP. Under this new system of assessment Ireland, because our VAT base will be reduced from 62 per cent to 55 per  cent of GNP, will save about £20 million in the current year and about £25 million in 1992.
In addition, a new fourth resource has been introduced to cover the gap between financing by VAT and the overall level of funding each year. This extra resource will be charged on the basis of GNP. These charges will give a much more equitable distribution of the Community's financial burden in the years up to 1992. A further improvement on the existing situation is that henceforth the correction of budgetary imbalances, primary the British abatement, will be carried out in such a way that the amount of own resources available for Community policy will not be reduced.
On agriculture, our aim at the Council was to ensure that the Common Agricultural Policy would continue to function effectively in the interests of the Irish agricultural sector while, at the same time, not be seen to be opposing reasonable and necessary constraints on expenditures in this area. The base figure for agricultural expenditure set at £27.5 billion ECUs in 1988 does, we believe, take reasonable account of current policy needs. Given the possibility of an increase in expenditure in agriculture in future years at a rate equivalent of up to 80 per cent of the increase in Community GNP, this should provide a secure, even if tight, base for agricultural expenditure.
This is particularly the case when account is taken of the fact that special and adequate provision has been made for the disposal of old stocks, the cost of which will fall outside the guideline figures. A monetary reserve will also be set up to cover extra expenditure on agriculture due to dollar-ECU fluctuations and other exceptional circumstances involving difficulties as a result of developments in international trade and agriculture. Negotiation on curbing production increases has been largely worked out in the agriculture Council but contentious product sectors, such as cereals, had to be dealt with by the European Council. In the end agreement was  reached on a community limit of 160 million tonnes for cereals for the next three market years as opposed to the 155 million tonnes proposed by the Commission and supported by some member states.
Stabilisation measures were agreed in the event of the threshold figure being exceeded. The agreement reached on cereals met Ireland's essential concern to avoid the application of a threshold or penalty system which would marginalise Irish cereal production. The measures to contain production in the other sectors which were more or less in line with the majority view of the agricultural council will be deemed to have been adopted unless they are changed by qualified majority in the Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs at their meeting next week.
Another area in which agreement was reached and which is of importance to Irish agriculture is that of the set aside scheme which is intended to complement stabiliser mechanism and production, the point mentioned by Senator McDonald and Senator Lanigan. Those farmers who opt to take a percentage of their land out of crop production will be compensated. This compensation will be available for farmers who withdraw at least 20 per cent of their arable land from production for not less than five years. The land may be put into fallow grass or used for forestry or, and I would like to emphasise this, any other purpose not involving the output of products in surplus. I would recommend that people who are thinking about doing this should consider forestry even through it is a long term investment. In the case of the level of aid likely to apply in Ireland the Community would contribute 50 per cent of the cost of the programme. In general terms it could be said that the negotiations covering agriculture on the Council took a satisfactory course from Ireland's point of view. The important thing is that the viability of the Common Agricultural Policy has been secured for the foreseeable future. The agreement reached on structural funds at the European Council also represented a favourable outcome for this country. The funds will be doubled by 1993 in comparison  with 1987 reaching a figure of 13 billion ECUs in 1992 in comparison with 7 billion ECUs in 1987. Within the framework of this overall increased fund contributions to the less developed regions will be doubled by 1992 with a special effort being undertaken to aid the least prosperous regions including Ireland, the point that was raised by Senator Ferris, and while I have not got the details he required I will get in touch with him later.
An important added dimension to emerge from the negotiations on the structural funds is that the percentage rate of assistance will be differentiated in favour of the less developed regions. For Ireland this means that instead of matching community financing on the basis of pound to pound as heretofore future eligible national expenditure will be matched up by £1 to a £3 ratio of the funds. I stress that this will enable this country to take up the increased funding available while remaining within the parameters of the Government's programme to restore order to the public finances.
While the success of the European Council was due in no small measure to the progress already made in Copenhagen, the splendid efforts of the German Presidency in facilitating the reaching of an overall agreement must be acknowledged. In the final analysis the heads of Government took the constructive approach to the Delors plan and the outcome left no loser among the member states but rather a much strengthened and forward looking Europe.
In the course of this debate through the Tánaiste's opening speech and my remarks I hope that I have succeeded in imparting some additional information on developments in the Community in the period under review. It is an area that is of fundamental importance to all of us in this country. I would like to thank all of the Senators for their contributions.
Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.15 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 118 Developments in European Communities: Motion (Resumed).