Dáil debates

Tuesday, 20 January 2004

European Presidency: Statements.


3:00 pm

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)

The Government programme has disappointed Irish hopes for a distinctive and progressive Presidency that could be a source of pride for our people. This failure reflects the Government's characteristic lack of vision and political will when it comes to Europe. Sinn Féin, on the other hand, believes that another Europe, a socially just and socially responsible Europe of equals, is possible, but remains to be built. In keeping with this vision, Sinn Féin has set out its proposals for a positive Presidency, and I urge the Minister and the Government to adopt and act upon them.

The Presidency should initiate a global social justice agenda equivalent to the Lisbon and Tampere agendas, whose priorities would include UN reform and fulfilment of the millennium development goals. The Irish Presidency should also initiate a process for human rights proofing of all EU legislation and policies focusing not only on aid and trade, but also on the so-called EU anti-terrorism road map measures and the common migration and asylum policies which the Presidency will be responsible for progressing. Sinn Féin commends to the Government the Trócaire recommendations on how the Presidency could be used for the greater good, the proposal from Dóchas to make human security the priority for the Presidency and the recently launched Amnesty International EU Presidency campaign entitled Human Rights Begins at Home. There is no valid reason these recommendations should not be accepted by the Government.

On the issue of the Tampere agenda measures which the Government is responsible for progressing, the human rights concerns raised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles and Amnesty International, not to mention our own Human Rights Commission and the Refugee Council, must guide the development of any common migration and asylum policy. Such a policy will not be acceptable to Sinn Féin unless the human rights sector is satisfied that it is fully compliant with our international obligations and maximises protection of the rights of refugees and migrants rather than effecting a downward harmonisation, as is the current trend. We demand a full Dáil debate on this critical issue and I hope it will be accommodated as soon as possible.

In the economic field we recommend that the Presidency seriously address the problems caused for particular member states by the fact that some states are in and some are outside the euro zone. Ireland is a prime example of a country whose economy is distorted by a euro zone border. We recommend two key environmental initiatives, to campaign to make the EU a GM-free zone and to initiate a programme for the targeted reduction of carbon emissions on an EU-wide basis. To enhance social protection, the Presidency should oppose the privatisation agenda in the Lisbon agenda and defend public services. It should push for the EU-wide upwards harmonisation of workers' rights and for further EU equal rights instruments, including a specific gender equality directive and a disability directive.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an naoi dteanga a mbeidh aitheantas acu mar theangacha oifigiúla oibre don Aontas Eorpach ar Lá Bealtaine 2004. Ba chóir go mbeadh an stádas céanna ag an Ghaeilge, agus tá rún maidir leis sin curtha os comhair na Dála inniu ag Teachtaí Shinn Féin. Deireann an rún "Go dtathantaíonn Dáil Éireann ar an Rialtas cur in iúl do Chomhairle na nAirí gur mian leis an Rialtas go mbeidh an Ghaeilge in a teanga oibre oifigiúil don Aontas Eorpach agus iarraidh ar an gCoimisiún Eorpach an leasú cuí ar Rialachán Uimh. 1, 1958 a dhréachtú agus a chur faoi bhráid Chomhairle na nAirí."

We note that there will be great pressure on the Irish Government to conclude the fundamentally flawed constitutional treaty, the text of which has now been fully agreed, save for the text on the vote weighting formula. We urge the Government to stand up for the right of states not to be bullied into accepting the formula that the most powerful states' interests will insist on. By agreeing to the common defence text of the draft constitutional treaty, the Government has not only acquiesced to the EU militarists, but has also failed to pursue a policy of positive neutrality and action as recommended by my party.

We note with alarm that the Chair of the EU Military Committee, General Haglund, has suggested that the agreements on common defence need not wait for the treaty conclusion but instead should be progressed by the European Council. I cannot stress strongly enough that this would mean depriving the Irish and other populations of the right to a referendum on this issue and cannot be allowed to happen under this Presidency or any other. I note with regret that, not for the first time — it has happened as a pattern — the Taoiseach left the Chamber after the Labour Party's contribution and that is a discourtesy to the Independents and smaller parties in a very important statement opportunity.


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