The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD, told the Forum on Europe that the Reform Treaty would secure neutrality and tax sovereignty
Minister Ahern said: “The Reform Treaty secures these national gains. It secures neutrality and tax sovereignty. It empowers Ireland to deal with the significant global challenges ahead. It’s in our national interest – that’s the bottom line.
“We believe that the Reform Treaty sets up the Union to continue to take the interests of all Member States – large and small - into account. It recognises our common interests while at the same time respecting vital individual national interests, such as taxation and defence in our case, where decisions can only be taken by unanimity.
Minister Ahern welcomed the President of the EU Commission, Mr. Barroso to the Forum. “Throughout your term as President of the Commission you have demonstrated especially strong support for the vital principle of solidarity. Over the 35 years of our membership Ireland in particular has benefited from the Union’s commitment to this principle. We have also benefited from the Union’s commitment to the principle of equality between Member States, small and large.
“These are two central principles of the Union. They are at the core of how the Union operates. By signing the Reform Treaty in Lisbon all 27 Member States reaffirmed their faith in these principles. They are central to the continued successful operation of the Union in the years ahead. The practical effect of these two principles is visible in today’s Europe. It is the most peaceful and prosperous region on earth.
“Fianna Fáil has long supported EU membership for Ireland. Membership has provided opportunities for us to make great progress as a nation - to improve our standard of living, to stem the terrible flow of emigration and to create a country where we can plan a stable future for the next generations. These achievements are the result of past Irish decisions to pursue our sovereign interests within the European Union.
“The Union has been the great catalyst for our nation’s advance –
• Liberating Irish workers and their families from the stark
choice of the dole or the boat.
• Empowering our social, cultural and economic development from unhealthy dependence to equality with Britain.
• Projecting the values and interests of Irish people on human rights and trade and development aid from the core of the Union around the globe
• And securing peace on this island.
The sovereign choice of the Irish people to participate in the European project has delivered us from dependence to independence.
It has given greater voice to our values.
And made my generation the first since the famine to know that our children can stay and can thrive in Ireland.
“Membership of the Union has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for Ireland. In many respects we have found our feet and our voice as a nation over the past thirty-five years. Under the Reform Treaty, we can continue to make progress. Under the Reform Treaty, the Union can continue to make progress. This Treaty will be good for Ireland and good for Europe.
“I firmly believe that past behaviour is a good indicator of future performance. For this reason, Ireland has nothing to fear and everything to gain by supporting the Treaty. I am not naïve enough to believe that membership of the Union has not provided us with challenges and the need to compromise. I have no doubt that it will continue to make such demands.
“However, the benefits of active and positive EU involvement have far outweighed the costs. This will continue to be the case. The Union should not be seen as a zero-sum game– because it is not. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Aside from its positive impact on our daily lives, as consumers, workers, employers, pensioners, students, the Union has also given us the scope to deal with some of the largest questions of our time. Many of us will have heard Chancellor Merkel’s comments in this room on Monday that the EU played a crucial part in Germany’s reunification in 1990.
“In our own case, the Union has also played an enormously positive role in helping to bring to an end the conflict in Northern Ireland. In this respect I can wholeheartedly agree with Cardinal Seán Brady in his comments in Rome last Sunday when he stated that “…the transformation of the relationship between Ireland and Britain generally, and the Northern Ireland peace process in particular, is one of the most recent and tangible manifestations of the founding aims of the European Union.”
“I know that the Union remains engaged on Northern Ireland. President Barros visited Belfast late last year to see how the Union could assist in consolidating peace and promoting economic development. It is such continued commitment to principles of solidarity and equality, to which all EU Member States are pledged, which have helped us to make the unimaginable progress we have made on this island. Continued support for the principles and values that are embodied in the Reform Treaty will, I believe, ensure continued progress for Ireland and for Europe.
17th April 2008