Tuesday, 20 January 2004
European Presidency: Statements.
Trevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
Is mian liom "Go n-éirí libh" a rá leis an Taoiseach, na hAirí, an Rialtas agus na státseirbhísigh sna sé mhí rompu. Is trua é nach bhfuil ceisteanna chun an Taoisigh ar ár gclár an tseachtain seo, rud a chuireann díomá ar mhuintir na hÉireann agus ar Theachtaí Dála. This is supposed to be a debating Chamber but unfortunately all we have at the moment is a sounding board. It belittles the House that we do not have a full operating Dáil this week.
Is onóir don tír agus is tábhachtach an deis é Uachtaránacht an Aontais Eorpaigh. I want to focus on items important to the Green Party, the EURATOM Treaty, the arms industry, Third World debt, the status of the Irish language and the issues surrounding sustainability and environmental well-being, which the Taoiseach, unfortunately, omitted in his opening remarks.
The EURATOM Treaty and the proposed EU constitution will be debated during the six months of the Presidency. Addressing the treaty should be given clear priority. As the Taoiseach knows, the EURATOM Treaty, which dates back to 1957, was designed primarily to promote nuclear energy. We know now about the environmental, safety and security issues surrounding nuclear power. The Irish people are all too well aware of the horrors not just of Sellafield but of Chernobyl and other sites at which accidents have occurred. Attaching this protocol to the EU constitution will ensure that it continues to be the case that nuclear power is afforded special treatment not given to other forms of energy generation. This distorts the single energy market to the disadvantage of other energy sources, including renewables. It is also, unfortunately, contradictory to the Article 3, section 4 provisions of the draft EU constitution which require the integration of high level environmental protections into all other EU policy areas.
The draft protocol simply amends the administrative aspects of the EURATOM Treaty. Unfortunately, the aspects of the treaty which promote nuclear energy remain. This will permit the continued provision of special and exclusive help to nuclear energy producers. Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are arguing, as we are, for the scrapping of this protocol. Issues like nuclear safety and the regulation of the nuclear industry can be dealt with in other ways. The regulatory powers could be incorporated into the EU constitution and specific measures subsequently enacted as directives or framework laws as appropriate. It would be farcical were the Government, which enjoys flaunting its anti-nuclear credentials, to oversee the adoption of an EU constitution which promoted nuclear power.
The Green Party is very concerned by the fact that the new EU constitution will boost the armaments industry by establishing a European armaments and military capabilities agency which will encourage and support EU arms industries. All member states will be obliged to "progressively improve" their military capabilities in this context. Boosting armaments in this way represents a regressive step in terms of the implications domestically and, lethally, internationally. Amnesty International, Oxfam and AFrI have recently highlighted the role Ireland now plays in the arms trade. Deals are now being brokered on Irish soil which kill civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has released figures which verify that the export from Ireland of military and dual-use goods is a multi-million euro business. Many of the goods in question are being sold to countries with dubious human rights records.
Only this morning, I spoke to a friend of the late papal nuncio, Archbishop Michael Courtney, who told me that a plane he was travelling in was shot at as it came in to land in Burundi. That illustrates the great proliferation of armaments throughout the world. Every year, 500,000 people are killed through armed violence which is the equivalent of one person every minute. It is time Ireland and the rest of the EU developed much stricter arms export rules and stopped promoting the arms trade. EU member states are among the worst offenders in the arms trade.
Deputy Harkin referred to Third World debt. The members of the Green Party welcome the fact that the Irish Presidency is trying to refocus EU attention on Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. It is welcome that the Presidency is focusing on the HIV-AIDS crisis. The millennium development goals will not be achieved through a business-as-usual approach. New thinking and behaviour is required of the developed states. Ireland must promote a 100% debt cancellation policy to other member states. We call on the Government and others to establish a timetable, as called for by Trócaire, in the first quarter of 2004 to demonstrate the manner in which Ireland will increase overseas direct assistance to 0.7% of GDP as promised. We are falling behind in achieving this UN goal at a time when we must encourage other member states to aim for it also.
Ó thaobh stádas na Gaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil san Aontas Eorpach de, caithfidh go mbeidh cothrom na Féinne ann do gach saoránach in Éirinn mar atá ann do dhaoine i dtíortha eile. Tá sé ráite go soiléir ag neart eagrais, Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge srl, ó thaobh na fostaíochta de, go mbíonn postanna in institiúidí an Aontais oscailte do shaoránaigh ag a bhfuil dhá cheann nó níos mó de theangacha oifigiúla an Aontais acu. Mar sin, faoi aitheantas conartha, mar atá ann faoi láthair, fágtar saoránaigh na hÉireann faoi mhíbhuntáiste toisc nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge san áireamh. Níl le déanamh ach cnág a bhualadh ar an doras de réir gach duine a labhair linn ó thíortha eile. Beidh bua éigin ann tar éis sé mhí má bheidh an Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil.
It is strange to hear the Taoiseach talk about the success of liberalising the energy market and of cheap energy as if it were going to be there forever and a day, given the way in which we are using it. In a report published last month, Amárach Consulting stated quite clearly that the era of cheap energy was at an end, not just for Ireland, but for the rest of the world. A combination of international trends, including the peaking of global oil production in the next five years, 12 European initiatives, which include a carbon tax on CO2 producing business activities, and domestic realities such as our island status and the lack of indigenous fuel sources on any scale mean that energy costs to Irish businesses and consumers will rise inexorably over the next five years. The pace of that rise will be well in excess of the general rate of inflation. Ireland must address this issue. During the Presidency, Ireland must communicate that we are not in a position to have cheap energy because cheap energy will not be available in the future. It is a reality we must recognise.