Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen T.D., welcomes the second interim Report of the National Forum on Europe
I warmly welcome the publication today of the Second Interim Report by Senator Maurice Hayes, Chairman of the National Forum on Europe.
Since its establishment in October 2001, the Forum has beyond question proved its worth as a vehicle for a wide-ranging discussion on Europe and Ireland's place in the European Union. Senator Hayes is to be congratulated for his success in ensuring that debate in the Forum is open, balanced and comprehensive. Many important issues have been debated in detail and every voice is being heard. It is also very important that the Forum in its work has reached out beyond Dublin and beyond the ranks of those who normally dominate debate on Europe. The issues are of vital importance to the prosperity and wellbeing of all our people.
The Forum Report identifies a number of areas in which common ground has been found between the participants. I particularly welcome the confirmation of consensus on the ‘moral and political imperative' to bring about the enlargement of the Union and to end the artificial division of Europe between East and West. The Government remains absolutely committed to the enlargement process and consequently to the ratification of the Nice Treaty , without which enlargement will be severely disrupted. I also welcome the recognition in the Report of the important role played by the European Union in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The Report also explores concerns expressed in the Forum - and more widely by the public- about the implications of the Nice Treaty and the future direction of the European Union. The Government is working hard to address those concerns. Next month, we will be seeking a Declaration at the European Council in Seville confirming that Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality is not affected by the EU Treaties. I welcome the recognition in the Report that such a step would be positive. The Government has also taken steps to address concerns about democratic accountability in our own parliament. A new and far-reaching system of scrutiny of EU affairs by the Oireachtas is being put in place. I am pleased to see the broad welcome our proposals received in the Forum.
More broadly, the Government recognises the vital importance, for Europe as a whole as well as for Ireland, of bringing the Union closer to the citizen, of making it more transparent and understandable. We seek a fair and balanced Union based on the nation state which does at European level only those things which can most effectively be done together. Those are our key objectives at the Convention on the Future of Europe. I am convinced that they are widely shared across Europe. The contacts between the Convention and the National Forum are very important, and I look forward to the continuing input by the Forum into the wider debate in the Convention as well as here at home. Top