Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Post-European Council: Statements
I know Brexit has been discussed here but I will concentrate on some of the other serious issues raised at the European Council meeting, particularly migration. The European Council agreed to continue to follow the EU's failed and disastrous migration policies to date. The EU is increasingly giving in to the demands of the far right. I agree with Deputy Micheál Martin that this is no surprise considering that Viktor Orbán, the openly fascist Prime Minister of Hungary, and his Fidesz party are welcomed with open arms by the European People's Party, EPP, grouping where they continue to spread their poisonous rhetoric.
The EU's policies surrounding migration are based on an inherent contradiction. On the one side, there is an acknowledgement that migration is a structural phenomenon with long-term implications driven by deep developmental and governance shortcomings. On the other, the EU's reaction is for the most part tailored towards the short term. We have seen an increased tendency to divert funds formerly allocated to European development co-operation to the task of migration management and border security. This undermines and weakens EU action in the realm of poverty reduction and good governance.
Libya shows how a focus on short-term fixes largely ignores deeper, structural challenges. Despite the chaotic political situation on the ground, the EU has invested heavily in border and migration management in Libya. This includes supporting a brutal coastguard and armed militias involved in human slavery and trafficking. The EU's aim is clearly to stop people leaving Libya to seek asylum, which is a human right, and to keep them in the country where their human rights are violated. According to EU data, all EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, EUTF, contributions to north Africa, particularly Libya, have so far been devoted to the issue of migration management and control. The combining of the securitisation of migration and overseas development aid is a dangerous and counterproductive development.
Ireland should stand resolutely against the increased focus on the short-term security implications of migration when it comes to overseas development assistance.
The UN global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was signed last week in Marrakesh and I am astonished at the amount of lies and misinformation being spread about this non-binding compact. Sinn Féin supports the compact. I welcome that the compact recognises that migration is a global phenomenon and it needs a global framework to deal with some of the challenges it can create, but also recognising the huge positives it can bring. Globally we need to tackle illegal migration, including human trafficking, and make legal migration more orderly and regular on a global scale, while protecting human rights and international law. However, the far right and others are spreading lies on social media that the compact will lead to open borders, that it will legalise all migration, and that illegal migration will no longer exist. These people suggest it will lead to a tidal wave of immigration into Europe and that the compact says migration is a human right, and other similar things. There is no foundation to most of what they say. All of us in this House have a duty to stand up and counteract these lies and explain the reality and positivity of the compact.
Tackling climate change was the other big issue addressed at the European Council meeting. The recent climate change performance index, CCPI, ranked Ireland last in addressing climate change in the EU and among the worst in the world. That is a colossal embarrassment. The Taoiseach said it did not have much status because it was published by an advocacy group, but the failure of the Government to tackle climate change is going to cost the Irish taxpayer in financial terms and in climatic and environmental terms because we are failing to meet EU emissions and renewable energy targets for 2020. The Government seems quick to sign international agreements and climate conventions, but when it comes to delivery and practical steps to combat climate change, it has repeatedly failed to meet targets or introduce the necessary changes.
Although we are a small state in global terms, we as an island should lead by example. It is frustrating that we continue to import billions of euro worth of fossil fuels each year while we have a wide variety of renewable energy sources available which are lying underdeveloped and unused. Even basic steps are being overlooked, with future development plans not being climate proofed. Simple steps like having a facility for homes which harness excess power to transfer that to the national grid is an obvious place to start. Sinn Féin introduced a Bill to do this in November, and the Government must continue to support its passage through all legislative stages.
A quicker roll-out of retrofit schemes of homes is another basic step that needs to be developed, encouraged and requires greater State intervention. Sources such as offshore wind, hydro, biogas and solar need to be developed and will form an important part of our energy mix. Pilot schemes on these sources simply will not cut it at this stage and they need to be mainstreamed.
Clear action must be taken on a cross-departmental basis to address climate change and the aim for the Government must be to develop broad sources of renewable energy technologies. We need to specify our future energy sources. We need to recognise the opportunities we have available to us on this island in the move to greater renewable energy in job creation, security of energy supply and improving the national and global environment around us.
Like many others, I have been shocked by the images of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We are all hopeful that the peace talks in Sweden, which have led to some localised ceasefires, will continue and develop. The humanitarian crisis falls completely at the feet of the Saudi regime. We have seen how it has used its military might to bomb civilian infrastructure, homes and even school buses. I hope this breakthrough in the talks will lead to a wider and sustainable ceasefire and ultimately the end of this devastating war which has been caused by Saudi Arabia.