Andrews highlights benefits of EU membership
Department of Foreign Affairs Press Release
IVEAGH HOUSE, ST. STEPHEN'S GREEN, DUBLIN 2
Tel: 353 -1- 478 0822 Fax 353 -1- 478 5942 / 475 7476 / 478 2708
Andrews highlights benefits of EU membership
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr David Andrews, T.D., has called for more attention to be paid, in debate on the Amsterdam Treaty, to the enormous advantages derived from our EU membership.
Mr Andrews said that "the Amsterdam Treaty represents the latest stage in the development of the European Union. A ‘Yes' vote in the referendum constitutes a Yes to Europe. In the debate so far, too much attention has been paid to things, such as supposed threats to our neutrality, that are not in the Treaty. More attention needs to be paid to what the Treaty entails and to what the European Union means to Ireland".
Mr Andrews said that "the Amsterdam Treaty should not be judged in isolation. It attempts to improve the workings of the Union in preparation for its future enlargement. In sizing up the Amsterdam Treaty, it is essential to keep in mind the enormity of the benefits we have enjoyed as a result of EU membership over the last 25 years.
Membership has given us access to a Single Market of 360 million people which has enabled us to expand and diversify our exports.
Our location within the EU has encouraged foreign companies to invest in Ireland. Such companies directly employ over 100,000 people, many of whom are highly skilled and highly paid.
Between 1973 and 1997, Ireland received total net funding from the EU to the tune of £21.5 billion.
The Structural and Cohesion funds have been of exceptional importance in helping Ireland to overcome the disadvantages of our geographical location.. Between 1989 and 1999 these funds will account for an estimated 2.5% of our GDP each year.
The operation of the Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds have brought great advantage to agriculture and rural development. In 1996, for example, the combined impact of transfers and more favourable agricultural prices came to over £1.8 billion, equivalent to almost 4.5% of GDP.
The Structural Funds provide support across a wide range of activities. These include:- economic infrastructure, industry, agriculture, transport, energy, communications, urban and
rural development, forestry, fisheries, environment, tourism, hospital infrastructure, education and training
EU membership has been a positive factor in the search for peace and political agreement in Northern Ireland. Over the years, the EU has given steady support and encouragement for the peace process. Between 1995 and 1999, the EU Peace Programme will provide about £400 million in special assistance to Northern Ireland and the border counties in the Republic.
The EU's value to Ireland cannot be measured in purely economic terms. Far from eroding our sovereignty as critics of European membership have always alleged, the last 25 years have coincided with a welcome increase in our national self-confidence. Meanwhile, our prosperity has climbed from 58% of the European average when we joined to well over 90% today. EU involvement has increased our international profile and improved our ability, through the EU, to exert a positive and valued influence in the international arena.
EU membership has positively affected many aspects of Irish life including: equal pay legislation; environmental protection policy; consumer protection law; health and safety standards; social and education policies.
The Amsterdam Treaty provides the potential for us to build on the advantages secured as a result of EU membership. The Treaty sets out to prioritise employment and citizens' rights, to remove obstacles to freedom of movement of persons, to give Europe a stronger voice in world affairs and to make the Union's decision making more efficient. The effect of the Treaty will be to strengthen the Union in ways that will make it more responsive to the needs of the citizens of Europe.
A noteworthy feature of the Amsterdam Treaty is that it enshrines the principles of non-discrimination, and equality between men and women. It provides for more effective cooperation between the police and Courts of Member States in combatting international crime, including offences against children and for provides for coordination of policies to increase employment.
It would be folly to turn our backs on the next stage of Europe's development as represented by the Amsterdam Treaty. It is in our best interests to retain our place at the core of the European Union as it takes on the challenges of EMU, of negotiating a new round of Structural Funds, and of a further enlargement designed to spread the advantages of membership to Central and Eastern Europe in the interests of future peace and stability.