Collins urges Yes vote to EU treaty


The leader of the Fianna Fail group in the European Parliament has strongly advocated a Yes vote in next year's referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty. Mr Gerard Collins, who represents Munster and is a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, said he hoped "the Irish people will once again give a strong endorsement of my country's continued participation in the European Union as they have done on each of the three previous occasions when a European referendum was held."

Mr Collins criticised a report by the parliament's Institutional Affairs committee on the treaty, which, he said, should have confined itself to a simple recommendation to vote for or against in the referendum.

"There is no need to reopen the argument about the membership of the Commission. This issue was discussed at length prior to the Amsterdam summit and, in my view, the correct position was taken by the heads of state and government to maintain the present practice whereby each country has the right to nominate a commissioner." Mr Collins said the view had also been taken in Amsterdam that there was no compelling case to involve the parliament in the administration of the Common Agricultural Policy and that a common defence policy should not be included in the treaty. These were decisions which he fully endorsed.

Dublin Labour MEP Ms Bernie Malone also advocated acceptance of the treaty, saying it would not undermine Ireland's policy of neutrality. "The treaty is designed to strengthen the union's policies and the effectiveness of its institutions," she said. "I particularly welcome the fact that the EU is being given enhanced powers in the fight against crime. The aim is to ensure that law-abiding citizens can benefit from free movement, while criminals cannot."