Dáil Éireann - Volume 415 - 19 February, 1992

Written Answers. - EC Membership Extension.

189. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the proposal of the German Foreign Minister that Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary should be made full members of the EC as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): Association agreements linking Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to the European Community were signed on 16 December last in Brussels. These agreements respond to the desire to strengthen relations between the community and the new democracies. They provide for phased movement towards free trade over a ten year period, for comprehensive economic co-operation and for regular and institutionalised political dialogue.

The agreements, to which the individual member states are parties, contain a reference, in their preambular paragraphs, to the final objective for Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia of becoming members of the Community and to the part the association agreements can play in helping to achieve this objective.

Formal applications for membership of the Community have not been made by the countries referred to. The procedure by which the Council considers accession applications, having consulted the Commission, is set down in the Treaty. The Council's consideration of a membership application takes as its starting point the Commission's opinion on the merits of the accession application.

The overall question of enlargement of the Community is currently receiving specific attention. At Maastricht in December the European Council asked the Commission to examine the issues involved including the implications for the European Union's future development, and to report to the Lisbon European Council in June.

Ireland looks forward to the Commission's examination and will participate positively in the debate which will take place on the basis of its report at the European Council.