[Sinn Fein]

8th November 2001

EU must remain a partnership of equals

Sinn Fein representative to the Forum on Europe Aengus O Snodaigh speaking following contributions from representatives of the Czech Republic, Malta and Slovenia said: ``Sinn Fein wants to retain the EU as a partnership of equals, something that will be eliminated under the Nice Treaty. Not only would this see the setting up of a two tier EU, it would see applicant countries entering on a different basis than current members.''

Mr. Ó Snodaigh said:

``It has now been 5 months since the people of this state rejected the Treaty of Nice when it was put to them in referendum. Unfortunately there is still no indication that the Irish government intends to respect the will of the electorate. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs must instruct all other EU countries to stop the process of ratification of the Treaty.

``During the referendum campaign, and indeed in its aftermath, those who supported the Treaty claimed that those of us who called for a No vote were opposed to the entry of applicant countries into the EU. Nothing could be further from the truth especially where Sinn Fein is concerned. Entry to the EU is a matter for applicant countries. But what we want to see is all applicant countries being dealt with on a basis of equality with current members.

Sinn Fein wish to retain the EU as a partnership of equal democracies, regardless of population size. There is no doubt in our mind that Nice, if passed, would have moved us another step closer to an EU dominated by the larger states and possibly, through the use of the ``enhanced co-operation'' clauses, to a two tier EU.

In the last two weeks the secret meetings of the defence ministers and prime ministers of Britain, France and Germany together with the meeting hosted by Tony Blair this week of 8 EU member states to discuss the war in Afghanistan, leaving out the other seven all give tangible proof that this emerging two tier Europe is a reality.

When the 26 Counties joined the then EEC, the process of economic integration was in reality only beginning and we joined the EU on the same terms as the existing states. There was a power of the veto and every member had at least one commissioner. There was no majority voting, no enhanced co-operation, no economic and monetary union. Yes, there was the growing tentacles of the unelected EU bureaucracy, but not on the scale experienced today.

``One important point of interest in terms of enlargement was the accommodation of Greece (1981), Spain and Portugal (1986) into the union. These states were welcomed into the union on equal terms with the existing members as a help to cement the institutions of these newly established democracies. Why is the same hand of help not being offered to the new applicants from eastern Europe this time around?

``Sinn Fein want a Europe of equals and we will continue to lobby and demand a better Europe for all rather than a second best one for some.''ENDS

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