[Sinn Fein]

18th June 2002

Declaration on neutrality will have no legal effect - Neutrality needs to be enshrined in the constitution

Sinn Fein TD for Dublin South Central and party representative to the Forum on Europe, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, this morning said that the proposed declaration on Irish neutrality from EU states is a political stunt which will have no impact whatsoever on the Nice Treaty. He called for neutrality to be enshrined in the constitution. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``It is good that the work of the Forum on Europe is restarting. With the EU summit coming later in the week, this is an important time in terms of taking further steps towards the reform of the EU and its structures.

``Many of the concerns Sinn Fein has regarding the current state and direction of the EU are shared by ordinary people the length and breadth of this country. In a wider context, this is also evident in the debate on the future of Europe, taking place within the EU Convention.

``However, there are growing concerns in recent weeks at attempts by the EU Commission to find ways to bypass the democratically expressed will of the Irish people and by the failure of the Irish government to properly deal with people's concerns on Nice. The proposed declaration on Irish neutrality will have no legal effect and, more importantly, has no effect on the Nice Treaty.

``It also ignores the fact that the Irish electorate had other reasons for rejecting Nice, not least of which is the Treaty's effect on democracy within the EU.

``Central to the rejection was the fact that only a minority of voters felt confident to actually say that they understood the Nice Treaty provisions. Except for the work of the Forum and the ongoing efforts of parties like Sinn Fein, there have been little positive contributions to help the electorate not just to understand the Nice Treaty but to help them discuss and debate what sort of Europe we want to live in, what sort of institutions should we have and how decisions should be taken."

Welcoming the Slovenian President to the Forum this morning, Deputy Ó Snodaigh reiterated Sinn Fein's support for an enlargement process but said it must be one that treats all of the EU member states equally. He said: ``We want an inclusive and democratic EU and the Nice Treaty is not the way to achieve that goal.''

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