Tuesday, 20 January 2004
European Presidency: Statements.
Ruairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
Yes, exactly, and they were not all property owners either. The current situation concerning the IGC and the search for a satisfactory compromise on the EU constitution was not of the Taoiseach's choosing. It is now a necessity, however, to continue the search for a compromise, effectively between Poland, Spain, Germany and France. The Taoiseach knows, as I do, that agreement is close, but that should be proclaimed aloud in public rather than it being ascertained privately in the corridors of power in Brussels, Strasbourg and Dublin whether it is possible.
My second point concerns the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy. We cannot simply have six months of indifference to the chaos that now surrounds the abandonment of the Stability and Growth Pact by the Council of Ministers which was, sadly and wrongly, supported by our Minister for Finance. In voting against the Commission, Deputy McCreevy went against Ireland's best interests in every respect. It has been a canon of truth for successive Irish Governments and through the six Irish EU Presidencies that the European Commission is the best guarantor of small member states. When the Commission sought to have the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact properly applied, it was politically overruled in a procedural way with the outrageous support of the Minister for Finance. He may be a proclaimed eurosceptic, but his attitude should not be reflected in the view of this Administration through collective Cabinet responsibility.
The fact that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is also a eurosceptic with regard to the single currency is not of such a political prejudicial nature that it should override the interests not just of this republic but of the entire European Union. Therefore, I ask the Taoiseach to instruct the Minister for Finance to ensure that the Commission's proposals for the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact, which will be brought forward in a matter of weeks, receive the vigorous support of the Irish Presidency. If that is not done, the conclusion of the Internal Market, which was the hallmark of the Delors initiative when he took on the Presidency of the European Union 12 years or so ago, will begin to unravel. There is no such given state as a stable set of circumstances in which we can afford to do nothing because the status quo is permanently guaranteed. That is not the case in either personal or political life.
I make this request on behalf of the Labour Party — be brave about the IGC. Risk the possibility of failure for the prospect of success. Distrust your natural conservative instincts and go for the big prize which will be not only great for the Taoiseach but wonderful for the rest of the Union. This country, as many coming from the west of Ireland know, has a tradition of a landscape furnished and occupied by stone walls. The strength of the stone wall is provided by the big stones, but the unique, architectural creativity of such masterpieces of natural architecture is the stability provided by the small stones.