Treaty of Nice: Sharing Peace, Security and Prosperity Across Europe City Hall, Remarks by Minister Cowen
I welcome the fact that the campaign for the Treaty of Nice is now fully under way, and that we can engage with the Irish people on what this Treaty is really about - enlargement. We in Fianna Fáil are determined, as we have done in every previous referendum on the European Union, to put the facts, the real facts about the Treaty, before the people of this country. I am confident they will recognise that behind the hype and distortion, which characterises much of the opposition to the Treaty, the agreement reached at Nice has one clear purpose: to facilitate the enlargement of the European Union. I have no doubt that the Irish electorate will not turn their backs on the people of the emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe. On the contrary, they want the applicant countries to have the same opportunities which we enjoyed over the past three decades.
The Irish people recognise that enlargement will be good for Europe, and good for Ireland. It provides the basis for a truly historic reconciliation on a continent divided over the past century by war, occupation and the Iron Curtain. It offers the people of these troubled nations a fresh start, one which we know they deserve. We will not, I hope, tell the Poles, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Latvians - who stood by us when proposing the newly-independent Ireland for membership of the League of Nations in 1923 - that this is not to be. We will not, I hope, be the ones to breathe life into the reactionary forces in those countries still hopeful that the path to democracy and pluralism can be reversed. Because, make no mistake about it, that is what voting No means. That would be the consequence of a decision by Ireland to block the ratification of the Treaty of Nice. A no vote would be disastrous for Ireland, the applicants and Europe itself.
It is important to be clear on this point because it has been suggested in some quarters that the Treaty of Nice is unnecessary, and that enlargement could proceed without Treaty change, on the basis of what was agreed at Amsterdam. This is simply not the case. As my Slovenian counterpart, Dmitrj Rupel, said last week "I don't see how we can proceed with any serious discussions without having the Treaty of Nice ratified".
The leaders of the European Union explicitly and formally recognised in a Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam that, and I quote, "at the date of entry of the first enlargement", the composition of the Commission would be adjusted, subject to agreement on the weighting of votes. This, clearly, relates to a situation prior to the accession of any new Member States. Equally clearly, these changes can only be effected by means of changes in the Treaty. This is why the Czech Foreign Minister said recently that the Treaty of Nice is fundamental to enlargement and urged the Irish people to support it.
It is also suggested that Treaty change is required only after the Union exceeds 20 Member States. As I have shown, this is simply not the case. But, in any event, are Treaty opponents so disconnected from the real world that they are unaware that we are preparing for a Union of 27, not 20, Member States? Perhaps the opponents of the Treaty will tell us which 7 of the applicant states will be told to stand aside. This cavalier disregard for the facts is not good enough. Fianna Fáil intend to ensure that for the remaining weeks of the campaign, this debate is about the facts. It is time to get real.
Reality has also been in short supply with regard to the issue of enhanced cooperation, and claims that it will lead to a two-tier Euope. This emphatically is not the case, not least because of the success of Ireland and other like-minded States in securing numerous safeguards for its operation. These exclude the Single Market - a large part of total Community activity - and all matters pertaining to security and defence from its scope. The role of the Commission in ensuring the overall coherence of the Union has been strengthened, and, as a guarantee of openness, the right of any Member State to join in establishing a group has been enshrined in the Treaty.
By common consent, including among the candidate countries, the overall result is to preclude the emergence of a single inner core, or twin-track Union. Far more likely is a number of groups with variable and over-lapping membership. The reality is that enhanced cooperation, in the carefully constructed terms agreed at Nice, is a last resort mechanism, available in circumstances where the interests of the Union so require. It is no more, and no less.
Here, as elsewhere, the satisfactory outcome is the product of a lengthy and complex negotiating process, in which we vigorously, and effectively, defended our interests. Listening to opponents of the Treaty, it might be imagined that the Union works on the basis of simply taking what you are given. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why else did the preliminary negotiations last almost a full year, and why else did we spend 5 days in Nice last December. Consistent with their defeatist approach and national inferiority complex, the ‘no' lobby seem incapable of realizing that whether in relation to structural funds, agricultural prices, or enhanced cooperation, those representing Ireland are quite capable of protecting our interests and working with our partners to secure an outcome with which all can agree. This is the essence of the Community system, one which the Irish people instinctively understand and support.
It is these very qualities which make the Union so attractive to the applicant countries. Indeed I wonder if critics of the Treaty reflect that obstructing early enlargement of the Union, which assuredly would be the consequence of rejecting the Treaty, will cement in place the current two-tier system of haves and have-nots, of ‘ins' and ‘outs', with clearly detrimental consequences not only for the candidate states, but for the continent as a whole.
It is being said that Ireland's neutrality is being eroded by the Treaty of Nice. It is being suggested that Ireland is no longer neutral. It is absurd to suggest that we have joined a European Army that is set to march to the four corners of the globe. I even hear talk of a new European imperialism.
Our policy of neutrality was formulated by Fianna Fáil on the eve of the Second World War and it remains at the core of what we stand for. As enunciated in the 1996 White Paper on Foreign Policy, the central elements of Ireland's security policy include non-participation in military alliances and a willingness to participate in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations throughout the world. We do not need advice on this issue from some people whose political predecessors were actively trying to undermine neutrality at a critical time when the very existence of the State was under threat.
The claims of the ‘no' lobby - the Greens, Sinn Fein, the Socialist Workers Party - are simply not true. Let me explain why.
For a start, the Treaty of Nice makes no significant changes in the defence area. In fact, among all of the changes in it, only two amendments relate to the security and defence area. These limited changes involve transferring responsibility for carrying out Petersberg Tasks of humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping from the Western European Union (of which Ireland was not a member) to the European Union itself. The second change is simply to provide a Treaty basis for the Political and Security Committee which will decide on these humanitarian and peacekeeping tasks under the direct political authority of the EU Foreign Ministers. This is clearly pointed out in the Summary of the White Paper, explaining what is in the Treaty of Nice, which has been distributed to every household in the country.
Let me be absolutely clear and unambiguous. These two limited changes in the security and defence area are the only changes in the Treaty of Nice over and above what is in the Treaty of Amsterdam which was approved by the people in a referendum in 1998. What's more, the Nice Treaty states, categorically and unequivocally, that enhanced cooperation will not apply to security and defence provisions. This provides an absolute protection. This is the sort of safeguard which Ireland and a number of other partners insisted on having included during the negotiations.
If the ‘no' lobby are interested in the public getting all of the facts about Nice, they cannot continue to campaign as if Amsterdam had never been agreed and the recent negotiations had never happened. They would also raise the quality of the debate on this very important Treaty if they simply took the time to read it.
Despite assertions to the contrary, there is nothing in the Nice Treaty about the arms industry or nuclear weapons. Nothing about a European Army and nothing about a mutual defence guarantee. These accusations are total ‘red herrings' in this debate. They have no basis in fact or in the Treaties of the European Union. The cataclysmic doomsday scenarios woven by the ‘no' lobby are figments of their imaginations.
It has been suggested that the Treaty of Nice alters the scope of the crisis management provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty. I also want to be absolutely clear on this score. The Treaty of Nice in no way alters or expands the scope of the crisis management tasks in which the European Union can engage. That issue was settled in the Amsterdam Treaty which was approved by the people in a Referendum in 1998.
The plain fact is that the ‘no' lobby are trying to whip up fears like a recent suggestion that Irish personnel will be getting involved in wars of aggression. This is another fear which is not grounded in any reality. Let me explain why. The type of crisis management tasks which might be undertaken by the EU are consistent with those we have engaged in, under the UN, for the last forty years.
There is a well established procedure for contributing troops to UN missions. In voting ‘Yes' for the Treaty of Nice, I want to make it crystal clear that precisely the same procedure will be used if at any stage we are invited to participate in an EU peacekeeping operation.
There is, you could say, a "five way lock" for any participation by Ireland in a crisis management mission:
First of all, any deployment of the Rapid Reaction Force must be legally in compliance with the provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty.
Secondly, any EU decision to deploy the Rapid Reaction Force would require Ireland's specific agreement. It could not be the subject of a majority vote. There must be consensus.
There must be a mandate of the UN Security Council – this is required by the Defence Acts.
The mission must then be approved by the Government.
Last, but by no means least, it has to be approved by Dáil Éireann.
Whether the call is for troops in East Timor or the Lebanon or former Yugoslavia or wherever, the same procedure will apply.
There is a direct read across between the EU and the UN in peacekeeping. The link between them is more than simply procedural. This was underlined last Monday night in Brussels when Kofi Annan welcomed these developments and explained how they would help him with his job.
The arguments being put forward by the "no" lobby about the so-called militarisation of the EU are, therefore, another red herring. Are they telling me that Kofi Annan has an army? He has a signed up capability submitted by sovereign Governments throughout the world in 88 countries for 147,500 people to be available at the disposal of the UN. These are capabilities that are available and the EU position mirrors the UN's own standby system. Indeed on Monday we discussed at length areas of cooperation between the EU and UN in the peacekeeping field.
The purpose of what the EU is trying to achieve is to get involved in identifying problems before they reach crisis point and doing something positive about it. For that reason the EU is also developing its capabilities for civilian crisis management. A key objective is to carry forward work on enabling the EU to provide police in support of peacekeeping operations. Only last week, the Garda Commissioner, Pat Byrne, attended an EU Police Conference to look at putting in place a pool of police and providing added value to existing UN arrangements for international police missions. The Gardaí have served Ireland with great distinction in UN police missions from Bosnia to Western Sahara. They should be able to continue to provide their much sought after expertise in an EU context as well. At all times under an overall UN umbrella. The point is that in a post Cold War situation the EU, in line with its basic raison d'être, is seeking to have the capacity to secure peace and democracy and prevent crises emerging in the first place rather than be a hapless and impotent onlooker as humanitarian crises emerge.
In many ways, it is the reconstruction and rehabilitation of society after conflict that is the most difficult challenge of all. The experience of the Balkans has illustrated these difficulties only too well. Working together in a common cause of bringing peace and stability, the international organisations in the Balkans are trying to reintroduce some semblance of normality to communities divided by civil war and destruction. It is heartening to see members of the EU, some of them former adversaries, working together - in Bosnia, in Kosovo - to build and preserve peace.
The Treaty of Nice is about enhancing peace, stability and prosperity across Europe. We owe it not just to the applicant countries; we owe it to ourselves. Ireland is one of the main beneficiaries of the single market. It currently has 370 million consumers. We export over 85% of what we produce on this island. With the enlargement of the Union, the market will grow to 500 million consumers. The message is clear and simple: new members mean new markets. New markets mean more exports. More exports mean more jobs at home. Who could say no to that?
Vote ‘Yes' on 7 June in our own interests, in the interest of our international relations with the existing and future member States of the European Union. And finally in the interests of allowing the men women and children of the applicant countries to achieve their potential for economic and social development which only full membership of the European Union can bring.
Let us vote ‘Yes' and embrace Europe. The Irish people must desist from listening to those who advocate a ‘no' vote. I do not believe the Irish people would want to turn their backs on our European neighbours.