Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 16 October, 1997

Private Members' Business. - Amsterdam Treaty: Statements (Resumed).

Mr. M. Higgins: I join you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in welcoming our colleagues from Sweden, as I am sure does every Member of the House. I take this opportunity of congratulating my colleague, Deputy David Andrews, on his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I wish him well in his ministry, which he occupied previously, and I know he will bring to it the breadth of vision and compassion I know him to have exercised in the human rights area in the past.

I am also pleased to have an opportunity of speaking on a matter of foreign policy because it has been so many years since I did so. I intend, therefore, to use this freedom which has been conferred upon me and which will inevitably be informed by my experience as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. I want to develop a few themes which I spoke about two weeks ago in Stockholm at a conference on the report of the Council of Europe, In From The Margins, which points indirectly to a fundamental missing component of the Amsterdam Treaty.

One does not have to be against European integration to be in a position to set the Amsterdam Treaty in context. The Amsterdam Treaty generated a set of expectations as it was coming at a certain moment in the historic evolution of Europe. In matters of foreign policy, context is as important as form and style to diplomacy. That context is interesting, and while there is no need for me to repeat what the Minister and Deputies Mitchell and Durkan said in their contributions, expectations were upset in two respects on which people could express some disappointment.

First, the more enthusiastic interpreters envisaging the new treaty thought it would make far more gains in relation to redressing the gap between citizenship, the reaction of citizens, and the Union. Second, the approach is wrong. There is an assumption that a Europe of consumers can translate itself into a Europe of citizens, and that what one creates first is a liberal economic space that can later be converted into a space of citizenship. Unfortunately for those who hold such a view, it is both modern and not particularly well informed. Historically it has never happened. What has happened is that all forward movements of integration have been built on strong theories of citizenship with economics being regarded as a source of instrument for the achievement and enhancement of that citizenship. Depending on the point at which one starts, the language inevitably will be the same.

I will give another example. Commentators today speak of letting other countries in, but the people in some of the countries I visited speak of joining. Joining is different from being let in. Joining creates issues of respecting diversity, including cultural diversity. That brings us to one [1113] of the points where this treaty, the tenth in the current European drive, can be properly put in context.

There is no reference to culture in the founding treaties of the European Union and there are many reasons for this. Europe was too close to war and it had seen culture used as an informing principle of intolerant and appalling attitudes which in turn generated the most devastating effects on people in the name of a narrow version of culture. Europe saw culture, as it drew in on itself in an insular sense, as being very close to that part of the spirit of a nation which could not be negotiated. Hence, it was usually linked with education and later became part of subsidiarity, two untouchable areas.

Another was the excuse given on the foundation of the Council of Europe in the 1940s that Europe would deal with culture. One of the great disappointments is that when the larger family of nations, the Council of Europe, has discussed matters of culture, diversity, tolerance and so forth it has largely left the European Union's evolution untouched. The relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe in the sphere of culture are scandalously sparse.

There are also other reasons for this which are interesting. One is that the version of humanity in which we lived did not regard the cultural experience and creativity as central to being European. When the treaty was being discussed at Amsterdam Europe became dislodged on its philosophy and assumptions. It is trite to say that the European Union was started because of the experience of two world wars. The human rights movement was mainly based on the low point to which humanity had sunk in Dachau and Auschwitz, events we should never forget.

It is important to remember that the construction of “homo Europeanus” as “homo economicus” had led to the payment of an enormous price. I regret that we do not have a ministry dealing with cultural matters only. The Government decided to give responsibility for cultural matters to the Minister for Arts, Culture, Gaeltacht and the Islands and anything else one can think of on a fine day. It took this decision at a time when it was decided to call the British heritage secretary the Secretary for Culture.

This important omission in the Amsterdam Treaty is very revelatory in terms of the missing connections between the Union and its institutions. It also raises another issue to which the Minister referred in his fine speech in which he accurately and thoughtfully summarised the treaty for us, that a Europe of consumers will have different attitudes to security than a Europe of citizens. The issue of security for citizens, whether they are employed or unemployed poor or rich, usually derives from a theory of human rights and such constitutional certitude as is put in place as different states evolve. On the other hand, a view of security derived from a theory of sovereign consumership is about the safety of property. Common to this are issues such as the [1114] rights of children etc. I will not indulge in nonsense and say that one will be threatened by the greater co-operation in dealing with the drugs menace. Of course this is an area in which there should be co-operation if we want to eliminate this awful blight which affects so many people in Europe.

The 18 million unemployed people in Europe will not see hope in the present relationship between economic issues and issues of culture and citizenship. I do not want to bore the House but I want to give an example of this. I thank the Minister for acknowledging the preparatory work carried out by Deputy Spring and join in paying tribute to the officials for their work. The public gallery is not packed with people interested in which dimension of Europe we are discussing. Neither are they marching outside the gate with placards. We have a reflective view of Europe —we are not madly interested but we are anxious to take as much as we can at times. However, it is wrong to portray us like this at seminars as some people keep stressing our contribution before the European Union was heard of. We were European before many other countries in the sense that we had a relationship with other countries in Europe.

In addition to the democratic deficit in Europe in an institutional sense there is also a philosophical deficit. The thinking which existed at the end of the last World War which gave a great impetus certainly does not exist now. When the President of the Czech Republic visited the European Parliament he said he had come as an enthusiast but when he looked at the institutional operation he felt he was looking into a machine and could not discern the heart of Europe. If one speaks of Europe in terms of its citizenship one could be criticised for being weak on economics.

In addition to the philosophical deficit the economic model is seriously flawed because it is out of context. The only function of any instrument of economic integration is to serve a wider social purpose to which the 18 million unemployed people in Europe stand as an empirical contradiction. In his July speech the then Minister said we had come out of the Amsterdam process fairly well, the Commission was still strong and we had benefited from that. He also said that the Council of Ministers was very strong and there were appropriate strengthenings of the European Parliament. When that language is decoded the game is given away — it is that the last place European enthusiasts want to place their trust is the European Parliament. Thus, if one examines the treaty one will see that the enhanced powers of the Parliament are provided for in an annex.

I am making the case for a better and more generous Europe. The philosophical deficit has led to the neglect of culture. I stress that cultural diversity is very important as a feature of appropriate discussion on enlargement. It is not a matter of whether countries should be let in, it is a matter of who joins. The neglect of this dimension [1115] has led to net losses in terms of how economy and social space are used.

Lest people think I have lost the run of myself, it is important to point out that the cultural industries here employ approximately the same number as the banking sector. This is a comparison which usually sticks with people. The cultural industries employ 33,800 people, have a value of approximately £441 million per year and earn 88 per cent of their income by way of direct trading activity, with only 12 per cent coming from grants. They employ slightly more women than men, 54 per cent to 46 per cent, and seven out of ten jobs are full time. These statistics were published in the Coopers & Lybrand report published some years ago.

Millions of jobs can be created in the cultural area of Europe if we recognise the wonderful component of creativity which lies in our citizens. At my first meetings of cultural Ministers the view was expressed that when economic growth returned to Europe we could consider projects such as those put forward by Jack Lange, the former French Minister for Culture, and others, that culture would be a residuum of economic recovery. One of the points I advanced was that the cultural space is wider than the economic space, and it is at times of unemployment and poverty that an active cultural space is needed to head off racism and anti-immigrant feeling.

Perhaps it is good to mention this matter calmly here when people will take it in the spirit in which I want it understood. I have always had a reservation about images such as the Celtic Tiger. I have never understood the idea of putting forward the image of an animal with claws. It is not a very helpful image and for that reason I do not use it. We have a good economy with high growth, low inflation and low interest rates, but our experience of that is blemished by attitudes expressed towards those coming to Ireland, immigrants and others. In recent weeks and months I received some of the most appalling racist correspondence from people who direct their hatred against those who are black or Asian, people working in Dublin and other parts of the country. Given the way in which we sometimes speak of our diaspora 150 years after the famine, it is difficult to understand the unacceptable attitudes to those who come to Ireland.

We should ponder long and hard on what that tells us about ourselves at the end of this century. We began this century unfree. We established our own State. In the middle of the century tens of thousands of people left the country every year —55,000 left in 1955. When I was young I worked in England for the summer and cards were to be seen in windows stating that Irish people could not stay.

We are morally tested by our attitude to the way we share our prosperity and distribute it internally. As we make finance arrangements, I cannot see the case for an indiscriminate reduction of tax when the fruits of growth are so [1116] desperately needed in health, housing, education, remedial work and so on. It is time we spoke clearly about that. We must share the fruits of our growth with those from abroad. I am not saying we should throw the gates open, but some of the attitudes to people coming here are unacceptable. I have referred to the Minister for Justice correspondence relating to racism against the Asian community in Dublin.

My comments so far are by way of context in dealing with the Amsterdam Treaty, a great achievement in difficult circumstances. I do not agree with those who suggest a change in political direction has wrecked the prospects of a more complete treaty. Only a person with a completely historical view would suggest Maastricht was not influenced by the ideological complexion of the time it was framed. At that time Europe had moved to the right whereas at the time of the Amsterdam Treaty, Europe had pulled itself back from the right to the centre or possibly the left. It is reasonable to expect that would be reflected in the Treaty. It is important to bear in mind that what has been represented by way of iron laws through monetary union and the single currency must be put back in political context into a social Europe, a Europe of citizens, and account must be taken of the cultural space that is Europe.

I could spend a great deal of time dealing with interpretations of the treaty as it refers, for example, to fish or benefits that will accrue from enlargement. Enlargement is the second dimension by which people hope for greater benefits. Given our historical experience of poverty and emigration as well as recovery and shrewd management in the modern period by Governments of different composition, we must be very careful about the way we treat applicant and aspirant countries. I recall informal meetings during my time as Minister, conducted under presidencies other than the Irish Presidency, where it was evident that other countries had become like us. I regarded the attitudes of some European colleagues as almost offensive in that at best they were patronising. At informal Ministers' meetings, countries on the periphery suggested they had become very much like Ireland in issuing hundreds of radio licences and dozens of television licences to companies that usually collapsed within a year or two. They indicated they were adjusting themselves to become like us. At the same time many of the cultural institutions about which I spoke, ballet, theatre and drama, were collapsing as they were privatised and agents took over from the State.

The Amsterdam Treaty is about Europeans, and Europeans are entitled to ask what being European means and what it means to share and accept a common citizenship, which is a bigger agenda and requires a different moral vision than being similar consumers. For example, we could unite on issues such as public service broadcasting. That matter was discussed under the World Trade Agreement and the debate continued within the European Union as to the Union's attitude [1117] towards a product from the United States. The French supported the view that we should not be dominated. The issue was not to exclude anything but that all the audio visual product should not come from the one source. We could agree on that, but it is much more difficult to take on the bigger agenda of what we as citizens should think.

The next stage of development which will include enlargement will have to engage the issues I mentioned in a more overt way. Having begun with an admirable impetus to peace in place of war, the evolution before and throughout Maastricht has been one of incremental accretion of economic co-operation in an economic space. Various Governments have found it incredibly difficult to turn to their citizens and tell them what has been happening. They have fought back by telling people they are very lucky to be “in”. The tacit evolution of economic co-operation has been a substitute for debate on principles of political and cultural co-operation that could create the correct atmosphere for the citizenry. That is why people spoke in the Intergovernmental Conference of a necessary component in the agenda of improving citizenship, although I am at a loss to say how citizenship can be enhanced with such a comprehensive neglect of culture. I accept the views expressed about those who suggest that the unemployment problem can be solved as a consequence of monetary union. I do not think the evidence supports that. It is why I welcome Commissioner Flynn's proposals on promoting the employment agenda, often against the opinions of national governments.

Subsidiarity has also been one of the biggest blocks in discussing the issues of culture which I raised.

If flexible labour markets are a recipe for low wages and the suspension of protection for workers I hope it will be exposed for what it is. The Europe of which we speak which is creating prosperity and makes the joint experience possible, is not worth very much if it means rolling back the protections introduced in the 1970s, even when the former President Hillery was Commissioner for Social Affairs and when Michael O'Leary was Minister for Labour. It would be retrograde to regard the obdurate presence of 18 million unemployed as somehow explainable in terms of the characteristics of those people. It is not that the 18 million people have failed, rather that the European economy is failing them. That is the correct emphasis and one which must be stressed.

The next years will be crucial. I welcome acceptance of the obligations of the Geneva Convention. However, it is time to clarify any confusion concerning our compliance with such measures in a manner acceptable to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to the international agencies aimed at welfare. It would not be a great statement if it were said we had looked after the free movement of commodities and capital but had made everything about [1118] the free movement of people, particularly when they lacked assets, extraordinarily difficult. I mention these to be positive and constructive in a debate which I hope will encompass the full gamut of all that needs to be discussed between now and the referendum.

Ms Hanafin: The Amsterdam Treaty is yet another milestone in the history of co-operation between European nations which has occurred in the past 46 years. It is easy in the context of rapid development to forget the progress made by such nations since the end of the Second World War. The lessons of bridge building and friendship forging which have occurred in Europe ought not to be lost on us as we embark on negotiations with a view to creating a peaceful and agreed Ireland. Europe has come a long way in the past 50 years. It has developed economically, socially and politically in a fashion which few envisaged. It is a tribute to the vision and determination of a small body of men who strove to make their dream of a peaceful Europe a reality. Achieving that reality required negotiation and determination. The extent of the negotiation can be eclipsed by the scale of European economic success.

It has taken nine treaties to bring Europe to where it is today. The Treaty of Paris in 1951 established the European Coal and Steel Community. Its six states formed the nucleus upon which the Treaty of Rome of 1957, establishing the European Economic Community, was based. The Euratom Treaty, also signed in Rome the same year, established the single council and single commission of the European Community. The merger treaty of 1965, the Luxembourg Treaty of 1970, the treaty which amended the financing provisions of the community and the merger treaty of 1975 all modified the structures and financing of the European Community. The Maastricht Treaty, which came into force in November 1993, established the European Union and laid the foundations for co-operation on justice and home affairs. The Amsterdam Treaty has built on those foundations.

As one who, in the 1980s, worked in the European Parliament and spent my time at international youth work, for which I was awarded the Robert Schuman silver medal for services to the European Union, I welcome and recognise the progress and development which has brought us to the Europe we have today. The Amsterdam Treaty provides the necessary structures for increased co-operation between members states of the European Union on a variety of fronts. It is a recognition that the problems which confront Ireland are problems which increasingly have an international dimension and require an international effort to arrive at a solution. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of organised crime.

Within the past decade Ireland has been transformed from a country where crime was local and disorganised into a country where crime, to a disquieting [1119] degree, is organised on a professional basis. This transformation is the result of the profitable nature of illicit drugs sales in this jurisdiction. We have witnessed socially disadvantaged areas being flooded with cheap addictive drugs by unscrupulous pushers who foster addiction in vulnerable young people to create a market to make profits and provide a luxurious lifestyle for themselves and their associates. The priority of every democratic society must be to separate the pushers from their liberty and their profits. The message must go out clearly that any person who deals in drugs will go to jail and his assets will be confiscated. We must wage a remorseless campaign until drug dealing is inextricably associated in the public eye with incarceration and penury. That campaign must be both international and domestic.

In recent years, it was considered in some quarters that domestic governments were individually powerless to deal with drug dealers. It was believed that pushers not found in possession of drugs were untouchable in so far as criminal law was concerned. We have shown in the past 15 months that some effective action can be taken on the domestic front. The passing of the Proceeds of Crime Act in July 1996 is an example of what can occur when society resolves to act rather than prevaricate. It is possible in respect of any area of human endeavour to find reasons for inaction. Leadership requires action and a calculation of consequences. This House showed leadership in July 1996 when it accepted the Private Members' Bill introduced by Deputy O'Donoghue now Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. That leadership has led to the devastation of drug empires. Fifteen months ago it was unthinkable that criminals whose notoriety had led them to become household names would become international fugitives as a result of concerted Garda action, yet that is what has occurred. Within the past year the Garda, utilising the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act have stripped drug dealers of their illicit profits. Property, houses, cars and money have been seized and confiscated. That action will continue as long as a single criminal remains in possession of wealth derived from his criminal endeavours. That is a worthwhile objective but is not enough on its own. Society is entitled not alone to seize illicit assets but to demand that those who have broken the law, fostered addiction, ended and ruined young lives pay for their crimes.

Two years ago phrases such as “witness protection programme” were exclusively associated with America and Hollywood productions. Today such a programme is a reality in Ireland. I welcome this reality and every citizen should do likewise. It is a further example of the people's Government acting on their behalf. It facilitates the hands of the law on the shoulders of the untouchables.

We have demonstrated that domestic action can be swift and effective. However, the problem [1120] will continue for as long as it remains internationally feasible and profitable. It is for this reason that the crime co-operation provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty are to be welcomed. In particular, the more formal establishment of Europol should result in a transfer of information and intelligence among European police forces to the detriment of transnational criminals. The establishment of domestic committees will give Europol a tangible existence which should lead to rapid further development towards the much needed European police force.

The concept of Europol is about sending information across national borders in order to frustrate criminals who operate across borders. It is a measure capable of dealing a devastating blow to organised crime. It is incumbent on each Government to provide the necessary resources and skilled personnel to ensure that the initiative is a success.

Europol must be successful and be seen to be successful. It should have a firm, identifiable presence in a major port of entry. Dun Laoghaire is such a port. It is a gateway for tens of thousands of visitors to Ireland. Some 1.7 million passengers pass through it each year. Many arrive in cars and it is one of the ports used by drug traffickers. The physical presence in Dun Laoghaire of the Irish wing of Europol would be a strong signal of our determination to eradicate the evil of drug trafficking.

The European Union will soon grow to include 25 or more member states. Ireland need have few fears about such a development. We have shown an ability to compete in a single market. Our education, skills, capacity and productivity equip us well for the future of Europe. Within our lifetime the EU will stretch from Ireland to the Black Sea, from Finland to Malta. It will be a vast and stable continent which, if properly managed economically, will guarantee peace and prosperity. It will also enable Europe to play a major role in ensuring global development and prosperity. Europe ought not to be insular and exclusive or adopt a ‘them and us’ attitude. We owe a duty to our neighbours in Africa and Asia to see that technological developments are shared with them.

The spectre of a bloated Europe and a starving Third World is one which we must avoid. Europe will only be successful if it uses its resources to assist other continents. Hunger, famine and drought are all afflictions capable of being assisted. Europe has a duty to assist those less fortunate. I hope the external social dimension will be highlighted in future European treaties.

Ós rud é go mbeidh reifreann againn chun an Amsterdam Treaty a chur isteach sa Bhunreacht tá súil agam go leanfaimid as sin amach go dtí Eoraip a bheidh síochánta in a mbeidh saibhreas ach Eoraip in a mbeidh droichead á thógáil lenár gcomharsain chun cabhrú le chuile dhuine thart timpeall orainn.

Proinsias De Rossa: Tá áthas orm go bhfuil an díospóireacht seo ar siúl inniu mar is ceist antábhachtach [1121] é an Treaty seo. Ba chóir go mbeadh díospóireacht níos doimhne againn seachas ráitis mar atá ar siúl againn. Ba chóir an Treaty a chur os comhair Coiste den Teach agus é a chur os comhair ná Dála roimh an reifreann chun go mbéadh díospoíreacht againn ar na ceisteanna bunúsacha ann.

One of the issues which needs to be addressed is the chaotic manner in which the treaty amendments are negotiated. The clear lesson to be learned from Amsterdam is that the current method for revising the treaties is entirely inappropriate. As Maastricht and Amsterdam have shown, a more democratic and constructive system must be put in place to process the next revision which may be required before the end of this decade.

The failure to develop a meaningful social dimension to balance the neo-liberal character of EMU was the biggest single failure of Maastricht. In the lead up to Maastricht this was the issue which most occupied the minds of those for whom European integration represented an opportunity rather than a threat. The story of Amsterdam is a series of mildly significant incremental advances but no real feeling that effective instruments have been provided to ensure real, visible and lasting change.

However, I welcome the inclusion of the ‘promotion of a high level of employment and social protection’ among the specific objectives and tasks of the EU. I also welcome the recognition of the parallelism between employment policies and the community's economic guidelines and the insertion of a new chapter on employment which is entirely devoted to formulating this strategy.

While I welcome these items on employment as an attempt to provide a counter weight to the implementation of EMU and to respond to the aspirations of European citizens, judgment must be suspended until we see how member states and community institutions respond in practice. The practical effects must be in doubt given that the guiding principles are short on substance and specifics and, above all, extremely vague as regards details of financial programmes to give them effect. The constant iteration that employment policy is the exclusive responsibility of member states flies against the clear wishes of European citizens who are inclined to ask what is the point of Europe if it does not take action on unemployment. Offers of co-ordination and encouragement for pilot projects are likely to be given short shrift in such circumstances. The incorporation of the social protocol into the treaty is a genuine advance which gives community social policy the potential for greater unity and consistency. It also has a symbolic value in marking another shovel of clay on Thatcherism.

I am particularly pleased with the new Article 118(2) which provides the legal basis for measures to combat social exclusion. This was an issue in which my own Department and the previous Government invested a lot of effort with [1122] much support from the European Commission and social, non-governmental organisations. It is regrettable that, at the last minute, measures to help the elderly and disabled were excluded from this article. This highlights the inadequacy of the kind of negotiating process which produces the amended treaty.

The incorporation of the Schengen Agreement into the treaty is an advance but much of the good is undone by the retention of unanimity and the exclusion of the European Parliament with all its implications for democratic scrutiny and transparency. Similarly, Europol has been given operational powers without any enhancement of the limited powers of the Court of Justice and the European Parliament. In the wider sense, it is regrettable that the necessary integration of European police and judicial activity is not going hand in hand with integration of the administration of justice, and especially the rights of those brought before a court. The emphasis continually seems to be on providing instruments and mechanisms to take action against the potentially erring citizen with very little consideration for ensuring that his or her individual rights are protected, or that the actions of those in charge of police and judicial decisions are subject to adequate public scrutiny. I fear the democratic deficit in the justice and home affairs areas has been reduced little if at all after Amsterdam. The lack of transparency and the extreme complexity of the procedures are likely to increase rather than reduce public disaffection. The concept of free movement, an area where Europe really means something especially to young people, has been described as receiving a ceremonial burial at Amsterdam. Nonetheless, it must be admitted that the opt out be three member states from Schengen, the further five year delay following ratification of the treaty before free movement comes into force and the conditional provisions on external border checks which are simultaneously very stringent and vague make it unlikely that genuine free movement will be a reality in our lifetime. The fireworks of 1 January 1993 were obviously somewhat premature.

The most significant development for common foreign and security policy at Amsterdam was the retention of the separate pillar structure and the continuation of intergovernmental horse trading in the Council. The continued exclusion of the Commission, Parliament and Court of Justice does not best serve the interests of smaller member states or those of us who seek an alternative to the power block approach which has dominated Europe since the Second World War.

Among the changes being introduced are the establishment of a policy planning and early warning unit which will be integrated into the Council secretariat rather than the Commission as I would have preferred; the creation of the position of high representative for the CFS; the replacement of the old Troika with the current presidency, the high representative and the Commissioner for CFS and possibly the next presidency [1123] and a new decision making mechanism whereby common strategies will be defined by the European Council by unanimity. The general guidelines will be implemented by the Council by common majority when adopting joint actions and common positions. However, in the event of objections by one member state for reasons of national policy, a decision may be deferred to the European Council for agreement by unanimity.

With regard to security policy, the most significant change is the inclusion of the so-called Petersberg Tasks in the treaty. Operational capability will be provided by the Western European Union but non-WEU members will be entitled to fully participate in planning and decision making on Western European Union actions where these have been requested by an EU decision. Such a decision must have a two thirds majority of the willing and the constructive abstainers combined. Non-participating states will not contribute financially. This rather complicated system has been interpreted to allow for a scenario where a European force could have intervened in Bosnia after Dayton on a peacekeeping basis but could not have carried out the earlier NATO intervention because the peace enforcement option was excluded from the final treaty text.

While the changes increase the potential scope and efficiency of EU decision making on foreign and security issues, it is unlikely to have more than a gradual effect, and certainly much less than many would like, on its capacity to take common decisions or embark on common actions.

From an Irish perspective there is little in the new treaty which cuts across established foreign policy positions. Contrary to what some have loudly argued, it appears the integration of the Western European Union into the EU is even further away than Maastricht envisaged and given the requirement for unanimity at European Council level, most unlikely to arise in the foreseeable future.

The notion of common defence presented as possible within the EU and the Western European Union in the future is considered in the new treaty as “realised within a NATO framework”, thus reinforcing the subordination of European defence to NATO. As non-participants in the Western European Union or NATO we might be told this is none of our business. However, I disagree as any EU or NATO action will involve or affect us at least indirectly. In this context we should encourage a Europeanisation of defence and security within democratic and accountable structures, even if as a country we decide not to be part of it at this time.

The Amsterdam Treaty involved a series of small and generally beneficial technical steps forward. Compared with expectations and the task facing it, it failed to take the decisive steps that might have convinced sceptical European citizens that their lives would improve as a consequence. Some of this failure is attributable to the revision [1124] procedure in operation which ensures that as time runs out the lowest common denominator is the only agreement reached. Similar dissatisfaction with the outcome has been trenchantly expressed by both Commission President Santer and his predecessor, Mr. Delors. A new and better system must be found to fully involve the European and national Parliaments in the next revision process. This is a matter which the current Dáil might address with alacrity as it is likely that a new revision process will begin fairly soon due to the inadequate outcome from Amsterdam.

Some advances were made on the big economic and social issues which, while individually significant, are insufficient to effectively assist those who comprise Europe's misery statistics. The references to employment were agreed to by many states in the hope that they would merely remain as words on a page. By setting a higher employment target as the enemy of competitiveness and doing everything possible to deprive the employment chapter of the necessary financial resources, they have sought to ensure that their hope becomes reality. The special employment summit in Luxembourg on 20 and 21 November, a concession to French led pressure, will provide the first and probably definitive judgment on the EU's capacity to tackle the unemployment and poverty crises in the Union. The repeated assertion that no new money, not even a budget underspend, is available to tackle the unemployment problem does not bode well. I strongly urge that Irish Government representation at the summit insists on clear decisions being made which will take on board the concept of full employment. I expect this call will be taken on board by the Government.

The document, Full Employment: a European Appeal, is signed by hundreds of Members of the European Parliament, national Parliaments throughout Europe, trade unionists, representatives of local and regional government, writers, academics and Churches. While the vast majority of the signatures from Ireland are of Democratic Left and Labour Party members, there is one significant signature, namely, Deputy Mary O'Rourke's, which bodes well for taking on board the full employment appeal by the Government and its promotion of it at the summit. I strongly urge Deputy O'Rourke, if she is not present at the summit, to insist that the Government representatives call for the inclusion of meaningful and binding employment policies as a determining element for all fields of economic policy and that this should take priority over the pact for stability and growth; that we seek full employment as a central aim of the EU, guaranteeing a high level of equal access to dignified labour with proper conditions and remuneration for everybody without discrimination; that we seek the provision of a clear legal priority for full employment requiring the necessary adaptations in the fields of fiscal and monetary policy; that we seek the provision of a legal basis for combined and co-ordinated European actions to combat [1125] unemployment and that we seek a decision which binds member states to the useful and meaningful process of co-ordination of their policies in the area of employment. I strongly urge that we refuse of accept a Europe of mass unemployment. Ireland's good growth in employment should not blind either the Opposition or the Government to the fact that we still have mass unemployment in this State and that it is one of the biggest social problems in Europe in general, leading to the massive poverty and exclusion of 50 million European citizens.

Amsterdam graphically illustrated that the Community's decision making process is scarcely able to cope with 15 member states, much less a possible extension to 25 or 26. The current situation only benefits those who want a weak and imprudent EU which can be caricatured as bumbling and indecisive. The veto card is of little use if there are 25 others holding them. In practice it has long been recognised that only the powerful states have a real veto. We should support the positions adopted by the European Commission and Parliament and in the joint declaration from Belgium, France and Italy which call for strengthening of institutional structures before the conclusion of the first new membership negotiations.

Just as the budgetary proposals that made up Delors II were closely linked to the Maastricht Treaty changes, it is necessary to take account of the budgetary arrangements which will complement the Amsterdam Treaty. Regrettably, Agenda 2000 which includes the revision of the financial perspective — the Eurospeak for the budget — for the period 2000-2006 gives no grounds for optimism. In 1992 the original Delors II budgetary proposals provided for a ceiling of 1.4 per cent of GDP of the then 12 member states by 1999.

It has been argued by many that that figure —subsequently reduced at Edinburgh — was inadequate to manage the federal entity the EU was about to become. Economic and monetary union demanded that there be a central budget with the capacity to compensate for the loss of the adjustment mechanisms which a single currency involved. Five years later, on the eve of EMU, with EU unemployment almost 50 per cent higher than predicted, and the EU about to open negotiations with ten prospective member states, none of whom has a GDP even half the EU average, the Commission is proposing a budget ceiling of 1.27 per cent of GDP — less than Delors proposed five or six years ago. This is crazy. Even without enlargement the current budget could not be adequate to manage the degree of integration EMU will bring. Inevitably a pressure point will develop somewhere in the Union after EMU where a member state will be faced with a choice between mass unemployment or re-establishing national controls to protect jobs. That would be disastrous for the European Union. It is extremely shortsighted of those member states who control the purse strings not to see this and recognise that what they are doing is digging the [1126] grave of the European Union by refusing to provide the resources necessary to ensure we can develop full cohesion in Europe.

A federal budget with sufficient capacity to intervene will be required if a smooth single market and single currency area is to be preserved. It goes beyond madness to think we can manage to incorporate ten CEECs as members as well as adjust to EMU on a central budget less than was thought adequate with half the membership ten years ago. We cannot have enlargement on the current budgetary proposals and should say so now.

Mr. C. Lenihan: I pay tribute to Deputy De Rossa on his contribution. It is no accident that he is not only leader of his party and has led it through tremendous and tumultuous changes but also has served nobly for a period in the European Parliament where I had the privilege of knowing him as an MEP. He has learned a great deal and is greatly interested in the European ideal and the practical implementation of that ideal through this and other parliaments. It is important also to recognise the contribution by Deputy Michael D. Higgins. Both of them personify in some way the transformation of the left in Europe, Ireland and Britain in its attitude to the European Union. Many years ago the left was traditionally an opposition view point, viewing European Union as a nasty form of conspiracy. The debate has gone beyond that. In his contribution today Deputy De Rossa recognised that and made a traditional but timely appeal for a further more vigorous commitment to full employment. I agree with his sentiments, to which I hope the Government will give some form of declaration at European level. The whole issue of social exclusion is a practical one near to all of us as public representatives. In our different ways we all represent constituencies that have become so urbanised — both rural and urban constituencies are included in that definition —that we encounter in our daily work as public servants, severe economic deprivation among people without education, training and opportunities. The call for full employment is not a totem pole we bow to in misplaced idealism, it is a real call and one that should be taken seriously.

An economist would recognise that full employment can be achieved at an unemployment level of 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent. In certain economies including the US in recent years, that level of employment has been achieved. It is an attainable objective and is not some sort of Keynesian totem pole to which we should all bow ritually now and then and circumspectly run away from.

Deputy Higgins is right in saying the muddy compromise that emerged at Amsterdam was not symbolic of a new direction in the European Union. I disagree with him to the extent that he analyses much of the lack of progress achieved at European level on a strictly left-right basis, that the Community, in simplistic terms, veered to the [1127] right for a number of years in its desire to create a single market and has now rebalanced and moved to the left. Social democratic values are reasserting themselves at European level through the Community. In some ways one can argue the European Union, as an institution with all its frameworks, is dirigiste by its nature, is almost socially democratic and underpins socially democratic values, because of its commitment to planning and to the social debate. I agree with both speakers in the sense that the social agenda has been greatly neglected. One cannot simply ignore the figure of 15 million unemployed. It cannot be sustained and the only largescale economy with which the European Union could be compared is the US or the former Soviet Union which has a similar population and similar problems. We cannot ignore them and pretend they do not exist. There is a huge impetus to try to reassert the social agenda and the social democratic values that underpin it. It is important we push ahead and secure serious commitments at European level in respect of training and education — the key to the future of anybody seeking a job whether they live in Berlin or Dublin.

An issue raised by Deputy De Rossa was that there has not been significant altering of the security implications under the Amsterdam Treaty for our country. That is important. It is an emotive issue in Ireland because of our relationship to defence structures of one kind. I agree with Deputy De Rossa when he said we should encourage the establishment of European defence structures. If one takes a serious long-term view of Europe's development one has to look at security arrangements that involve defensive structures, in which inevitably, if we believe in the goals of European political union, we will have to participate. There tends to be a rather psychotic approach to this whole debate in Ireland. I am pleased Deputy De Rossa is not part of that psychosis, that he is looking at it in a practical way and to the future and not at certain constituencies who tend to play on the unreasonable fears people might have about a militarisation of European life.

Deputy Higgins spoke eloquently about the cultural space needed in Europe. Having worked for the European Commission for a period in the 1980s I am acutely aware of new applicant members being treated in an aggressive, arrogant or patronising manner, as being somehow supplicants at the door, looking for crumbs from the European table. We do not have a vested interest in restricting the further expansion or enlargement of the European Union. When I worked with the European Commission I noticed the almost total arrogance which was often directed in private at the long standing Turkish application to become a member. Rightly or wrongly, people in Turkey and elsewhere believe there were racist overtones to the rejection of their potential ability to become members of the Union. We must reject that and encourage the greater expansion [1128] of the Union to include small countries that, to a large extent, share our values.

Deputy Higgins's reference to the cultural space is important. We are not talking about a Union that will evolve with a single or stereotypical culture such as the United States or other large transnational conglomerate nations. We must consider the questions of culture, citizenship and the debate on the democratic deficit. These are important, not least because of the shared sense of values that exists on the European Continent. How to harness those values in a nonintrusive manner will be a great challenge. Deputy Higgins has championed the cause of film making and European film directives in the context of preserving our cultural inheritance and promoting the development of the European cinema, albeit from a low commercial base. As a small island nation we sometimes appear to be under siege from productions, good and bad, from Hollywood and the consumerist culture for which America is renowned. It is important that we build a separate cultural identity on the European Continent. That does not necessarily mean a single European identity, but one that cherishes the plurality of cultures and traditions.

Deputy Higgins referred to the swings to the left and right in Europe. I often characterise it as swings from digestion to indigestion. The Union is going through a period of indigestion as a result of enlargement. Some rich members have been integrated into the Union which can cause indigestion. It will take a long time for such a large Union to develop the institutional framework to bring about another great leap forward. I worked in the Commission during the l980s when the l992 campaign was being launched by Jacques Delors and Lord Cockfield. While practical moves, like the l992 Single Market campaign and the current drive to create economic and monetary union and a single currency by the year 2002, are important, the EU tends to get strung out on issues such as Euro federalism, cherishing the European ideals of Monnet. We need practical expressions of European integration and the currency is the single most practical example of how Europe will deepen and develop.

The primary task of the European Union should be to create a single currency and bring it to reality. The single currency will be a visible sign for ordinary people that there is a reality to the Euro rhetoric, to which Deputy De Rossa referred. We need to underpin that rhetoric with a practical example of a shared coinage. I do not know if Deputy De Rossa is young enough to remember our old money system. I cannot remember the denominations, but I recall vividly the introduction of the new currency. Decimalisation and the change of coins over night was a strange event which influenced our thinking and outlook. It certainly impacted on my mind as a small child and the introduction of the single currency will do likewise.

[1129] Mr. M. Higgins: The price of all goods increased.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Economists recognise that there is an inbuilt inflationary aspect to the introduction of any new currency and that it will also apply to the single currency. We must harness economic and monetary union, introduce the currency and then concentrate on the social agenda, to which Deputies Higgins and De Rossa referred. In that context we must develop an institutional framework within which we would play out the important mission of harnessing the economy to the needs of the people of Europe.

We should postpone further enlargement and not because of any subjective or national consideration. Some people here believe the European Union should not be enlarged because it would damage our access to European funds. I do not concur with that view. The principle of enlargement is worthwhile, but the practical reality of introducing ten new members would be difficult, particularly in the context of introducing a new currency which will have to be carefully patrolled by the new monetary institute and the new Central Bank for a number of years after its introduction. We should postpone entry of new members, particularly countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic whose economies must match up to a far greater level of prosperity than that which they currently enjoy. They will experience the same difficulty as us in meeting the Maastricht criteria. While there is a political benefit to be gained from including them, in terms of smaller nations like Ireland, the Union must address its social agenda and the type of institutions that would make decision making more efficient.

The lessons of Amsterdam are not disappointing, it is a matter of practical compromise. In the political atmosphere that existed then it was not possible for the leaders to make decisions about the institutional agenda, voting power and the position of commissioners for smaller countries. Only a few months ago the environment was hostile to great leaps forward. Germany was encountering great difficulties in terms of indebtedness and over spending by the Lander government. There was considerable doubt about the viability of economic and monetary union at that time. All those doubts have been dispelled and the project appears to be on course and meeting the tight schedule it set itself. Many other happy events have occurred for Ireland in the meantime. It is clear the British Government will participate in some form, albeit in a delayed manner, in the new currency. Deputies De Rossa and Higgins expressed concern about the social democratic ethos of Europe. Mr. Blair's thinking has developed along similar lines. This is good news for Europe, Ireland and for social democracy and socialist parties throughout Europe.

Proinsias De Rossa: Europe is following us, not the other way round.

[1130] Mr. C. Lenihan: I have no doubt it works both ways. There has been a remarkable transformation here and in Britain on socialist and social democratic thinking. I would like to count myself as a social democrat, but not of the variety of the two Members opposite.

The question of social security and how it impacts on our neutrality is important. The questions of security and enlargement are better parked than dealt with now, given the importance of achieving monetary union and developing the social agenda. I do not believe the social agenda and the call for full employment can be addressed in an environment in which the European Union is trying to transform its governmental institutions. A great deal of consideration must go into this matter. In politics people tend to yearn for great periods of leadership, dynamism and radical leaps forward. Europe is moving into a period when everything will settle down and it will be slightly more inward looking. We will be oiling rather than building a bigger machine or getting a higher performance from it.

In terms of defence, security and the development of Europe it is important to keep in mind the situation in Northern Ireland. Members on different benches should look to Europe as playing a positive part in resolving our problems on this island. John Hume and many others inside and outside this House have made that point. We should look to our Constitution, in terms of the way we run ourselves and govern this House, and the European context to provide the answer to the problems that exist north of our Border. The great European ideal provides a fabulous framework and point of reference for this country to resolve its difficulties of marrying different traditions and people with major disparities in terms of their political outlooks and ambitions. It is important that we, as a country and Parliament, demonstrate our commitment to the European ideal because the development of Europe has been the single most important development on our island in terms of bringing about the peace process we now enjoy and I hope it will provide a model and a reference point for developing it further. I urge the Minister, Deputy Andrews, who is preoccupied with the peace process, to look at European institutions in terms of his negotiations in Stormont. Those inclusive institutions are not perfect because of their democratic deficit, the powers enjoyed by the Parliament and other vexing issues, but we must look to them in the context of the north of Ireland. They may provide a form of Government that would be welcome in the long-term.

I pay tribute to the two left wing Members opposite who made significant and timely contributions. It is regrettable there are not many more like them in their — and my — ranks who put forward those type of views.

Ms Fitzgerald: I wish to share my time with Deputy Neville.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is agreed.

[1131] Ms Fitzgerald: As a committed European, I welcome the opportunity to reflect on the Amsterdam Treaty, but there are differing views on whether is it a step forward. I will outline the reasons I believe it is a step forward, but it is interesting to note that people would say Europe and Europeans are unwell, are hurting and that we must react more quickly than we do to the major problems of the day. That is the key point that will determine whether the Amsterdam Treaty is meaningful for the people of Europe. There has been a question in recent years about the relationship of the citizen to Europe. That was illustrated dramatically during the course of the Maastricht Treaty when it became clear that people felt distant from many of the European institutions and did not find it easy to relate to the language, perceived secrecy or institutions of Europe. Great changes have been made since then and the Amsterdam Treaty reflects a taking on board of the concerns expressed at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, but that is an ongoing task. The Amsterdam Treaty is another step on the road to European integration and to linking citizens' concerns. The terms of the treaty and the areas it addresses mean that Europe will be seen as more relevant and accountable to citizens. It is part of the journey but not the final statement. There are many areas that need to be addressed in an ongoing way.

As a national Parliament, we have a strong role to play in this. It is important that we have a European affairs committee and that we are discussing the Amsterdam Treaty but very little is known about it in this country. As the Minister said, there is a need for much more information. We will have to be imaginative and creative in the way this is addressed in the run-up to the referendum. There are many key issues that need to be debated openly and I would be interested to hear how the Minister intends to deal with this ongoing information deficit — an overused term— in the coming months. There is scope for a fairly creative approach to it. That deficit is there despite the best efforts of the previous Government and of all parties in the House.

There is a gap between those who are actively involved at NGO level within Europe, whether in anti-poverty networks, the European women's lobby or in various other projects. They have an ongoing creative, demanding and interesting relationship at European level, gain greatly from it and are very tuned in, but there is a gap between those who are actively involved at that level and the rest of the citizens. Europe will be seen as most relevant if it tackles matters of concern to citizens, such as long-term unemployment, social exclusion, marginalisation of minority groups and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. If the credibility of the European Union is to be sustained and developed, we must show that Europe can be effective in tackling those issues, that it has something to say about them and that there is interaction between member states in tackling them. I have no doubt that is [1132] the direction we should be going, but we should not underestimate the task involved in giving real example by how those areas are addressed at European level. It is important we do that in an ongoing way, but we should not underestimate the task involved in that.

The Amsterdam Treaty represented a step forward and put citizens at its heart. For the first time the social issues of fundamental human rights and tackling exclusion became more central at European level by the way the treaty dealt with them and that is very important. Lack of taking account of the social issues led to a gap during the campaign on ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and that was a primary reason people felt disconnected and somewhat uninvolved in the debate. They did not feel their concerns were being taken as seriously as they should be at European level. They felt the focus was centred too much on economic and financial aspects of the Union. While the best way to deal with marginalisation and exclusion is to give people jobs— and economic policies are critical — we must reach the point where we give equal balance to social and economic issues. The treaty represents a strong move in that direction. I congratulate Members of the previous Government and the former Minister, Deputy De Rossa, who is present, for his work on this aspect of the treaty to ensure that the question of social exclusion was placed more centrally in the debate. That is a major advance and will mean a good deal in the future in terms of citizens having more confidence in the treaties and in European integration.

I wish to mention specifically the new provisions in relation to women. They have reason to be grateful to Europe. Many an Irish Government has been dragged kicking and screaming to develop equality provisions because of European Court decisions and European action. Equality has always been given a great boost by the actions of the European institutions. For the first time in the Amsterdam Treaty there is a strong antidiscrimination clause which gives the EU powers to outlaw all discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. I welcome that as it firmly includes the concept of equal pay in its provisions. Many women's organisations feel it does not go far enough and should deal more strongly with other areas of equality, not just those in the workplace. This should be considered in the future.

It is interesting that so much work had to be done to ensure those equality provisions were included. There is still some concern about the final wording of the relevant provisions which was chosen by international women's NGOs. As we enter the 21st century, it is interesting that the equality provisions only apply to the area of employment. The area of equality has been given a boost by the Amsterdam Treaty.

This also applies to environmental protection. For the first time environmental protection provisions have been included and these will give [1133] more scope to member states. The provisions on employment will also ensure that EU institutions have something real to say to citizens. I hope innovative measures will be introduced and the yearly report on this area which member states must submit will ensure that tackling unemployment receives priority.

On defence and neutrality, the treaty makes it more possible for us to be involved in further peacekeeping work, which has a major role to play in developing democracy and furthering human rights. We have to think about our position on a common defence and security policy. We need a new debate on this area. It is not good enough to stick to the old-fashioned approach which underestimates the potential of neutral countries in Europe to play a strong role. If we are to do that, we need to create a new means of discussing our neutrality and how it can be used in the future.

The Swedish position on security and defence has progressed significantly. Sweden's sense of what security encompasses is probably the one Ireland would feel most comfortable with. It includes issues such as the environment, democracy, human rights, the disparity between rich and poor regions, sound economic growth and progressive social welfare as well as harmony and world peace in their understanding of what constitutes security. We could use this model in the inevitable debate on the progression of a defence and security policy.

We need to move beyond the “pulling at heartstrings” debates we tend to have when discussing our defence and security policy and neutrality. What constitutes Irish neutrality within the EU in a modern world? In what manner should the Government represent Irish citizens' interests in the CFSP framework and its successors? I look forward to being part of that debate which must be seen in the context of a changed, post-cold war world where the role of armies is changing and the potential of international peacekeeping is recognised by all.

As we move towards European integration, it is inevitable this debate will gain momentum. The Amsterdam Treaty is a step towards this integration and we owe it to our citizens to develop a well-rounded debate on this topic in the future. While this issue was not dealt with in detail in this treaty, the greater support for various humanitarian and peacekeeping missions means it is on the agenda and will inevitably develop in the coming years.

Socially, the Amsterdam Treaty is an important step forward and gets closer to addressing citizens' real concerns in its focus on equal rights, the environment, employment creation and its protection of emigrants. This is all positive but we still have a great deal of work to do in showing citizens the EU is dealing with its concerns. Ireland has benefited enormously from its membership of the EU. The Amsterdam Treaty will continue this and give us hope for a more social [1134] Europe which addresses the concerns of its citizens.

Mr. Neville: I welcome this opportunity to contribute to this debate. Ireland is regarded as one of the best European countries as we have responded to the challenges and opportunities that membership of the EU has given us. Europe has been good to Ireland as it has had an opportunity to lift our economy to the same level as some of the best performers in Europe. Governments over the past 20 years have responded to these opportunities. As we now become one of the net contributors to Europe, we should ensure we continue to remain good Europeans.

I wish to refer specifically to the free movement of persons and the withdrawal of border checks. I welcome the treaty's outlining of police co-operation in criminal matters to ensure the citizens of Europe a high level of safety. Common action is envisaged to prevent and combat terrorism, trafficking in persons, offences against children, drug trafficking, corruption and fraud. In a debate in the Seanad on 28 March 1990, prior to the introduction of the Maastricht Treaty, I said the removal of frontier checks within the Union would create a situation similar to that in the United States, which has a police system consisting of state forces plus an overall, nonuniformed countrywide force in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The system has given rise to dissatisfaction in the United States. I also said that the president of the Association of Chiefs of Police stated there was no apparatus available to help the nation mobilise, co-ordinate and focus their multiple law enforcement efforts. He also said the law enforcement of the state and local areas needed a collective voice at national level.

It is fair to say the European policing system is in that situation which I forecast in 1990. The association president also urged a common front against crime, with agreed strategies and remedial measures that focus resources, efforts and expertise. He argued that such an approach should be used to tackle the crime problem, particularly in relation to drugs. It is widely acknowledged by police and others that the drug problem in the United States was out of control at that time. I suggest that the drug problem in Europe is out of control. The fragmentation of the police forces in the United States, according to the President of the Association of Chiefs of Police, has been an advantage to criminals giving them freedom to move from one state to another with local police jurisdiction ending at the state lines.

A similar system exists in Europe where states have independent police forces but do not have the advantage of an overall police organisation such as the FBI in the United States. The creation of a uniformed European police force with authority to cross borders and arrest suspects for certain scheduled offences such as drug selling, arms trafficking and others is desirable. I am not advocating [1135] a blanket police force for Europe but we must look at the cross-border movement of crime and criminal activity. In the light of the massive scale of international criminal activity, drug trade, terrorist activity and so on, it is important that the police forces of Europe integrate in a cohesive unit which would have adequate resources to carry out detailed research into crime and formulate laws and strategies to combat it.

Urgent action is required to improve co-ordination and efficiency in all law enforcement agencies throughout the EU, especially in the area of drug trafficking which operates on a multinational basis and knows no boundaries. The war against organised criminal drug organisations will be lost unless we co-ordinate our forces. We urgently recommend that a European community drug task force be set up, modelled on the existing task force programme in the United States. I understand there is a semblance of this type of programme in Europe and that the Trevi group has looked at this. Perhaps the Minister could update us on the effect of the co-ordination and policing of the drug problem in Europe.

With open borders, the harmonisation of laws within the EU is an essential ingredient in the fight against criminal activity. In the event of continuing disparities in the law, criminals, drug dealers, illicit arms traders and others will centralise operations in the country which is perceived to have the most lenient legislation in the areas of penalties, seizure of assets and so on. We must look at harmonising policing activities and laws to ensure we tackle serious criminal activity on a European Union-wide basis.

Mr. Killeen: This debate on the Amsterdam Treaty presents the Oireachtas with an opportunity to initiate a national debate on Ireland's participation in the EU in general terms. It allows the House to examine the very important provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty itself and the way in which it will impact on Ireland, the Irish people and our continued involvement in Europe.

The very high level of agreement across most parties in the House in relation to our role in Europe has been one of the interesting aspects of the debate. Such agreement has not generally been seen in the past. I wondered what factors might have contributed to that. One may be that various parties, not very long ago, would have had great difficulty in imagining themselves in coalition Government or in Government at all. However, such parties were in Government and looked at the European experience and the reality of the EU from that perspective. People may have seen positive aspects to EU involvement which may not have been obvious to them previously. At one level, that approach to Europe and the EU is welcome; at another level, however, there is a feeling that a substantial number of people have very strong reservations about involvement in the EU at various levels or, indeed, involvement in it at all. Debate in this [1136] House on this and other matters is confined to a particular approach and voices in the House would generally tend to support one side of the argument, while examining various measures and differences, within an overall supportive context.

This debate provides an opportunity to examine the impact of the European Union on our lives as Irish and European citizens. It underlines a major change in approach by Irish people in general and by Members of this House in particular. We are gradually beginning to see ourselves as players who contribute in a very positive way to Europe. Heretofore, Irish people and successive Governments generally tended to approach Europe from the standpoint of the opportunities it presented, some of which were only monetary, and did not flatter us in the process. We are now contributors to Europe, financially, economically and culturally and we are helping to develop a forward moving Europe.

The Europol Bill was debated and passed in this House some weeks ago. That Bill recalled a number of levels of co-operation which have existed for some time and are now being expanded on. One of the points I made in relation to the Bill was that there was a worrying tardiness in initiating movement in various areas. The necessity for a body such as Europol became obvious some years ago and we are now at the stage where various parliaments are enacting the required legislation. The pace at which various criminal activities developed in this country and the Union in general has, in my view, underlined a tardiness on the part of European institutions, in co-operation with national institutions, to respond to them. While Deputies representing urban areas were drawing attention to the gradual growth in lawlessness and the drastic worsening of the drug situation, there seems to have been a delay in responding to the issues raised. People who were small time drug dealers four, five or ten years ago have now become huge international players in crime, involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. They are responsible for appalling abuses of people in various communities throughout this country.

One of my concerns in relation to the Amsterdam Treaty is that it has not moved as quickly as it should to ensure that there is pre-planning in the areas I have referred to and in ensuring that action across the community can be initiated and brought to fruition quickly enough to respond to the various problems being faced. There are some negative aspects associated with our involvement in Europe and there are two or three current debates which underline this. One such debate concerns the European ban on duty free sales. That will undoubtedly impinge on Ireland more than on any of our European partners as we are an island country which depends to a huge extent on external trade. As a small open economy we depend on having ready access to our markets in Europe and elsewhere and that can only be achieved through sea and air travel. The cost [1137] factor is enormous, particularly in terms of exports and travel by individuals.

Duty free sales have made a huge contribution to ensuring that fares to and from Ireland are kept at a reasonable level so that goods can be exported and people can travel at a competitive rate. A great fight has been initiated by the Minister for Public Enterprise and the Taoiseach, but there is a need to recognise that in matters such as this we need to look at all aspects that come up for discussion and ensure that the national interest is preserved. In this instance, whatever needs to be done will have to be done to ensure that Ireland continues to have a derogation in relation to duty free sales and that we continue to be competitive in the European market. If that does not happen there will be an immediate loss of jobs in that area. Those who argue against borders, tax and import duties say that the displaced jobs will show up elsewhere, but that has seldom happened in relation to any change. In this instance it is highly unlikely. Even if it happened we would still have the ongoing difficulty presented by the rise in the cost of access fares. That is something we simply cannot afford. It is within the competence of our membership of the EU to be dealt with and should be dealt with.

A similar problem has emerged over the past week or two whereby some of our provisions to aid job creation by grants and particularly by tax incentives also appear to be under attack. There are countries in central Europe and in the main European economies that would benefit enormously from the removal of these incentives but we continue, no matter what we do, to be on the periphery of Europe geographically, and we continue to need to have these provisions in place to ensure that we remain competitive within the Union.

Heretofore, transatlantic air services in and out of this country have been guided by bilateral agreements between this country and the United States or Canada. There is a strong move afoot to have that taken over by the European Union. There are some advantages in doing that. There may even be some advantages for Ireland, but in the short to medium term there are extraordinary disadvantages in terms of direct access to various parts of the country and in relation to the national airline. Even as politically and economically strong a country as France with its huge airline, Air France, finds it necessary to seek a derogation in relation to that. We need to look to those countries that are potential allies in that area to ensure that if the evil day must come it will be put off as long as possible to ensure that our sovereignty on that matter in particular is held for the longest possible time.

Deputy Conor Lenihan referred to the situation in the North where one community wishes to be part of the United Kingdom and the other wishes to be part of a United Ireland, while all of them are simultaneously citizens of a great united Europe which is moving ahead through a series of treaties towards closer and closer integration, [1138] and towards European citizenship — which in some senses supersedes national sovereignty —becoming a reality. It seems extraordinary that in that context we do not seem able to make a connection between the European citizenship which is common to us all and the various aspirations people have for national sovereignty and the great tragedies surrounding those aspirations. Let me take this opportunity to wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, well in his work in that regard; I believe he will make excellent progress, but a huge amount of work remains to be done. It is a great pity that the focus on national sovereignty could not be transferred at least a little towards the common European citizenship which we all enjoy although we sometimes curse it because it has its disadvantages as well. In that area there seems to be offered a lifeline and support to the efforts of national Governments which is not always brought into play.

In looking at the overall impact of the EU it struck me there are various groups here and within the Union who have a much closer feel for Europe than others. Agriculture is probably one of the areas where people feel closer to Europe, and farmers and people involved in farmer politics are more Euro-literate than people involved in national politics. There is a good reason in that Europe has impinged very strongly on agriculture here. It is sometimes said that the European Community or Common Market, as it initially was, did enormous damage to Irish agriculture, that it spelled the death knell of the small farmer and, by extension, did enormous damage to rural communities by removing the people who were involved in agriculture. Whether the arrival of the Common Market expedited or caused change that would have happened in any event, or whether external forces would have brought about these events, is a debate that has gone on for a long time and will undoubtedly continue into the future. There is a question about the commitment of the European Union to rural communities. There may well be a question about the commitment of the European Union to various urban communities. However, agriculture is still central to the continuation of rural communities. I was quite surprised when I made that point as a panellist on a programme coming from Galway that the vast majority of the audience disagreed with me. I am used to being disagreed with on a host of issues, but this struck me as an unusual issue on which to find such a huge level of disagreement.

People in employment and in trade unions who are close to trends in employment are also finding themselves gradually more and more connected to European than to national policy. As late as last night there were headlines about the Dutch experience. They have been gradually moving towards shorter working hours — they have obviously done other things which are right —and getting a huge level of employment, having easily the lowest level of unemployment in [1139] Europe at about 5 per cent. They are clearly doing some things right which others could copy. Some of the larger economies such as France and Germany which seem to have advantages are, unfortunately, moving in the opposite direction. We in Ireland have to be concerned about our own performance in that area.

The speed of the Celtic Tiger in economic development and economic progress has been encouraging recently, but there is a belief that it is not matched by the speed of job creation, and that continues to be a source of concern. Nevertheless, people in employment are gradually benefiting from the many European protocols and provisions which are subsequently transposed into national law. In the area of fisheries, for example, there is a common belief that Ireland got off to a poor start and subsequently went mostly downhill. This is an area where we have never been able to claw back ground and where, because of our geographic location and our access to the seas, a future treaty must allow us to regain some lost ground.

In the Amsterdam Treaty Ireland is, for once, credited with having been a leader in the area of social policy. There has been a perception that we have been dragged along screaming and against our will by our European neighbours, by the liberal elements of the media and all kinds of other people, into a new and improved social dimension. I welcome this as we have a contribution to make in the field of social change.

The Treaty deals at some length with environmental issues of which the level of awareness here has increased at a phenomenal rate in the past five to ten years. We can now afford the luxury of paying attention to such matters where previously we were too busy surviving. I am glad the Treaty strengthens provisions in this regard.

It deals also with health care issues which have dogged various Administrations here and in nations with greater wealth at their disposal. Infectious diseases which it was thought ten years ago or less had been defeated are gradually reemerging as a threat. It is appropriate that Europe should take the lead.

On the issue of transparency, while large volumes of information have traditionally been made available about the workings of European institutions, for one reason or another citizens of the European Union appear to have difficulty in accessing it. This is ironic.

I could not hazard a guess as to the percentage, but the European Union has played a major role in prompting the introduction of national legislation. Moves are made in the Treaty to increase the powers of the European Parliament. We should welcome this as parliamentarians and democrats but as a small country we should be concerned that our interests will be ignored.

The Treaty contains provisions dealing with minority languages and cultures.

Tá súil agam gur buntáiste é sin don Ghaeilge, don Chumann Lúthchleas Gael agus don tír i gcoitinne. [1140] Tá seans againn dul chun cinn a dhéanamh agus ba cheart dúinn greim a fháil ar an seans sin agus rith leis.

Mr. Deasy: I wish to share my time with Deputies Timmins and Joe Higgins.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Deasy: To say the least the Minister's statement is complex, unenlightening, woolly and unclear and I am none the wiser having read it. This is unusual. It is “tongue in cheek” and gobbledygook. I hope somebody will unravel it and the White Paper promised by the Minister will be more forthcoming and explain clearly exactly what is involved. Various caveats have been entered. While Ireland has observer status at the Western European Union we can opt-out of a defence pact. The same is true in the case of majority voting. The Minister said the Treaty specifically provides that all decisions having defence implications will require unanimity. One wonders whether it will achieve what it sets out to do.

At this stage heads of state have a good idea of who the new members of the European Union will be and the number and timescale involved but we are talking around the subject of enlargement. The Minister did not even mention the countries involved. While Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are likely to join in the next three to four years, will the Minister indicate when Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta and Cyprus are likely to join? Their membership would have major implications for Ireland.

The Minister referred to opt-out clauses, the Maastricht Treaty criteria, the Petersberg Tasks and Schengen arrangements but failed to address the real issues. What we should talk about is our Structural and Cohesion Funds allocations. Will these be scaled down after 1999 following the accession of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary and, if so, by how much? Will they be reduced gradually to nothing over a five to ten year period?

The Minister referred to illegal immigrants and racism, subjects we could discuss at great length. There is racism within the European Union as some of our entertainers discovered recently in Manchester Airport. All the cosy arrangements will count for nothing unless the words are translated into plain English.

Debate adjourned.