Council of Europe—Motion Resumed.

Wednesday, 13 July 1949

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 117 No. 6

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Debate resumed on the following motion:—

That the Dáil approves of the Statute of the Council of Europe signed at London on the 5th May, 1949, a copy of which was laid on the Table of the Dáil on the 23rd [742] June, 1949.—(Minister for External Affairs.)

Minister for External Affairs (Mr. MacBride): Information on Seán MacBride Zoom on Seán MacBride Last night I was dealing with the functions of the Council of Europe in relation to economic matters. I pointed out that, at this stage, it was not quite clear whether these functions would be taken over by the Council of Europe or would remain vested, as they are at present, in the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. It is a matter which has been touched upon only very slightly in the discussions which have taken place in connection with the Council of Europe. One of the difficulties, of course, of the present era is the number and multiplicity of international organisations. At first sight, one might feel that there would be a good deal to be said for transferring the functions of the O.E.E.C. to the new Council of Europe. However, I think that that is a rather superficial view. I feel that the economic problems that confront Europe, and Western Europe in particular, are of such a nature that they cannot be dealt with adequately on a purely regional basis and that therefore the O.E.E.C. might be a more potent organisation for dealing with such problems. In that way, the Council of Europe would merely deal with economic problems that are incidental to the over-all problem.

The main economic problem that faces Western Europe and, indeed, the world at large, is the lack of economic integration and planning on a worldwide scale. I feel that there is not very much value in Western Europe planning by itself for increased production unless the result of that increased production can be distributed and can find outlets in other portions of the world. One of the difficulties of the present situation is that industrial production and, to a certain extent, agricultural production as well, has increased very rapidly in the western hemisphere. You could say that the production of the United States has been nearly doubled in terms of prewar quantities. Likewise, the production of Europe has increased rapidly in the last two or three years. The problem, therefore, is to find an outlet [743] for that production. The only alternative to the finding of an outlet for the increased production of both the United States and Europe is what, in effect, would be the slump policy of reducing production, causing consequent unemployment and depression.

At the moment, the United States is entering on a very serious period of economic readjustment. I feel that the economic problem of the United States is one which cannot be dealt with on a purely regional basis, that it is a matter of the utmost concern to Europe as well as to the United States. For these reasons, we have suggested that there should be an over-all discussion between the countries who form part of the O.E.E.C. in Western Europe on the one hand, and the United States together with the other large producing nations of the western hemisphere, on the other. In particular we have mentioned that these discussions should embrace Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and also such countries as India and Egypt that are undeveloped in the ordinary sense of the word.

We feel that surplus products should never be considered as a problem so long as the populations of any part of the world are living in sub-normal conditions and that, therefore, instead of advocating a policy of, if you like, a tightening of belts, when surpluses are being produced, the function of the producing countries is to plan for the utilisation of surplus production so as to ensure full production and a higher standard of living not merely in the producing countries but in the undeveloped areas of the world. I merely mention these matters to indicate that there is a good deal to be said for not limiting the economic planning of Europe to Europe itself but rather to use an organisation such as O.E.E.C. which has already contacts with the western hemisphere. I mention these matters now so that they can be considered and discussed by the House at a later stage.

Statements were made by the Leader of the Opposition and by Deputy Cowan yesterday expressing certain hopes and certain fears as to the [744] attitude of the Government on economic and other matters. One thing I should like the House to realise is this: the Council of Europe, if it works as it is intended to work, will provide a forum for the representatives of the various Parliaments of Europe to discuss these problems themselves. I should like, therefore, the House, and the different Parties in the House, to examine these problems, to consider them so as to be in a position to instruct their delegates to the Consultative Assembly on the various major world issues that are likely to be discussed there.

Deputy de Valera asked whether the Government had yet considered the method of representation which was to be adopted for Ireland's representatives. The matter has been discussed and considered very carefully and fully by the Government in the last few weeks. The position is this: Ireland is entitled to send four delegates and four substitute delegates. The substitutes, as I visualise the position,' will not merely act in the absence of the delegates themselves, but will probably deputise for the delegates on various commissions and committees that will inevitably be set up. The Government proposes to divide the representation coming from the Oireachtas in the following proportions: three from the Opposition and five from the Government side of the House. In relation to delegates and substitutes, the Government proposes that the division should be: two delegates from the Government side and three substitutes; two delegates and one substitute from the Opposition side.

The method of selection was also considered and it was decided that the selection would be left to the individual Parties, at least in practice. Theoretically, the position is that the Government appoints the delegates. Therefore, what I propose to do in relation to the two delegates and the one substitute to be nominated by the Opposition is to ask the Leader of the Opposition to be good enough to let me have the names of the two delegates and the substitute that he proposes [745] so that the Government may then appoint them. To a certain extent, the same procedure will operate in relation to the Parties that compose the Government. It is very hard to lay down a hard-and-fast rule as to the method of selection beyond general acceptance of the principle that the representation should be proportionate between the Government side and the Opposition side and should seek, as far as possible, to enable each of the Parties in the House to be duly represented at the Assembly. It would then be a matter for each of the Parties to decide whether the delegates they select should be members of the Dáil or members of the Seanad.

I hope that it will be possible to arrange for the selection and appointment of Ireland's delegation as soon as possible. I feel there would be a certain advantage if they could be appointed rapidly so that they could meet and discuss the various items that are likely to be on the agenda and make themselves familiar with the statute and the rules which are at present being drafted. It would be of assistance to me to have the benefit of the advice of the delegation as soon as they are appointed.

The Government has also decided to pay the expenses of the delegation which goes to Strasbourg. I expect it will be necessary to provide at least one officer from my Department to be available to them during the course of the Assembly meeting. On all these matters it would be of great help to me if the delegates were appointed in the near future so that I can ascertain their wishes and their requirements and make all the necessary arrangements.

I hope that the delegation going from Ireland will be able to act, as far as possible, on all major issues as a national unit; that it will be able to discuss, aside from Party issues, major questions that are likely to come up in the course of the Assembly meeting, and, if any questions arise upon which a difference of opinion prevails, that at least these questions will have been discussed by our delegation in their committee room in advance among themselves.

[746] Deputy de Valera also asked me the basis upon which the delegates had been selected and the basis upon which the contribution of the various countries was being assessed. I am glad to say that the number of delegates allocated was not based on population or national income figures. It was intended, and I am glad to say that effect was given to that intention, to give adequate representation to small countries irrespective of their size, population or wealth. To that extent, I think that the small nations of Europe have benefited. As to the contributions payable by the different member nations, these contributions are to be based upon the populations, not upon the number of delegates.

Deputy de Valera also asked me some questions in relation to the secretariat. The secretariat is appointed by the Consultative Assembly on the advice of the Council of Ministers. Article 36, paragraph (b), deals with that and provides that the secretary-general and the deputy secretary-general shall be appointed by the Consultative Assembly on the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers. Apparently, the procedure will be that the Committee of Ministers will make the recommendation and that the Assembly will adopt or reject that recommendation.

Questions were raised as to the use of the term “Irish Republic” in the course of the text of the statute. I agree that the description is not possibly as accurate as we would have liked it to be. The draft was prepared before the Republic of Ireland Act came into operation. Deputies will have noticed, of course, that the term is used in a general sense in the way the State is described: the French Republic, the Irish Republic, the Italian Republic, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and so on.

I also sympathise fully with the point of view put forth by Deputy Cowan in relation to the description of Great Britain as “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” I do not know whether it may be some consolation for members of the House to know that, [747] in point of fact, I understand that the proper title of the King of Great Britain is still “the King of Great Britain and Ireland.” No doubt, in the course of time that will be adjusted in the same way as the claim of the British Monarch, in relation to France, was adjusted. If my recollection is right, the King of England described himself as “the King of France” until the year 1814. There are still some instances of monarchs who claim in their titles to be Kings of countries that have long ceased to be under their regency or tutelage. I noticed, while the point was being made in the House last night, that in Article 26 where we are referred to as “the Irish Republic,” Great Britain is referred to as “the Kingdom of Great Britain” without any reference to Northern Ireland. However, these are points of detail, that, no doubt in a very short space of time, we will be able to surmount.

I think these are the main matters that were raised by Deputies in the House. I think I indicated clearly in opening this debate that I cannot claim that this statute is anything more than a compromise between different viewpoints. I cannot make any grandiose claims as to its likely achievements. I can even say that it is extremely badly drafted, but nevertheless, it is the beginning of an attempt to secure co-operation on planes other than military planes in Europe, and to that extent it is good and to that extent we are in favour of it. With the Leader of the Opposition, I regret that, in some respects, it does not go further. I am glad, however, that, for the first time I think, in one of these international agreements, recognition is given to the importance of establishing and strengthening the moral and ethical basis upon which European civilisation is based. In the final analysis, however, our point of view of European civilisation as we know it, is based on Christianity. We would have liked to have a recognition of that in the statute, but, for one reason or another, that was not possible. At least, we did secure a recognition of the importance of rebuilding [748] moral and ethical values in Europe. That, in itself, I think is good.

The value of the Assembly will largely depend on what the members of the Assembly will make of the Assembly. It will largely depend on the activities of the members of the Assembly, including the members of the Assembly that, I hope, will come from Ireland. To a large extent the statute which is presented to the House is designed to shackle the members of the Assembly but I feel that, with the passage of time, the members of the Assembly themselves will take things into their own hands. I feel that it is even quite likely and quite possible that the members of the Assembly will combine together against the Foreign Ministers' Committee, and that they will feel that the Committee of Foreign Ministers is an instrument designed for the purpose of preventing them from reaching decisions themselves. They may therefore combine to free themselves from the constraint placed upon them by the Committee of Foreign Ministers. That may be bad for the Foreign Ministers concerned, but it may be quite good for the development of the idea of European federation.

Mr. Little: Information on Patrick J. Little Zoom on Patrick J. Little May I ask the Minister whether the Vatican State has been invited to join the council?

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride Zoom on Seán MacBride Invited, no. No State has been invited as such to join since the original discussions were initiated in relation to the drafting of the statute. The only States at present members are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden and Britain. There are a number of countries that are not yet members but are, for instance, in the O.E.E.C., namely, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Iceland.

Question put and agreed to.

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