Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 3 October 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs
Task Force Report on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and Doing Less More Efficiently: Discussion
I welcome our guests and thank them for their address to the committee.
I have some concern about the degree to which the consultation was evenly spread across the institutions throughout Europe. There is obviously an emphasis on regional structures, which do not exist here to the same extent, and for a long time I have thought that maybe there was an intention on somebody's part somewhere to reduce the national structures to regional level and thereby enhance the central structure. That remains a danger. Some countries across Europe have a long history of regional institutions, that were powerful and conflicted, and to some extent still are, and we need to keep that in mind.
When we look at what is required, I believe for my sins that the European unelected institutions have a difficult job to do. They should be able to interpret the concerns and the wishes, some of which are in conflict as well, of the national institutions and be able to bring them together in a way that is acceptable to all. It does not always happen that way. For example, if one does not have a national attitude in a particular country that in some way encompasses the European general attitude to a particular issue at any one time, everybody will go off on their own particular trail doing their own thing to the detriment of the European institution and, eventually, there will be fragmentation. There are some signs across Europe of individuality, re-nationalisation and, potentially, destructive fragmentation beginning to show. I note the importance of the national parliaments. The further one goes down the food chain, the more likely one will get conflicting issues and conflicting opinions, and more controversial opinions, and I would strongly urge that we be careful about doing something like that.
The report does not address the issue of re-nationalisation. It does not really say anything about it at all. There is merely a passing reference made to the 1930s. The point at issue now is the future of Europe, how we run it and how national parliaments recognise that we can either be together or be apart. There are indications in some quarters, particularly in one area, as one country is leaving. That is not a good sign. Sadly, there may be fault on both sides. That being the case, the institutions must examine that and its importance and they need to respond to it in some way, shape or form. Otherwise, we will end up in a very difficult situation. The exit of Britain might not be the last. If that happens, then the whole European Union concept of being together, of supporting each other and of shared sovereignty, will go down the river and be gone and then we will have the emergence of a different Europe.
I do not want to go on because other speakers want to participate as well but right across the globe at present, there is the emergence of nationalism. It is not a good development. We should have learned the lessons of history. It is a dangerous development. Neither is it good to overreact to it. The European and national institutions right across Europe need to be aware of its existence, to be able to plan in such a way as to show a clear advantage in following the cohesive approach favoured by the founding fathers of modern Europe and to stay on that path because moving away from it involves nothing but serious problems for the people of Europe, the individual member states and the European project in particular.