My generation owes a great deal to the European Union. Membership of the EU provided me, growing up, with wonderful opportunities and with real economic advantages. Today, many of my generation are working in businesses and in institutions that benefit from Ireland’s membership of the EU’s Internal Market. Parents & grandparents who want their children & grandchildren to benefit from the type of opportunity that the EU has provided for us all to date should view the Lisbon Reform Treaty as a chance to secure existing and new opportunities for them. As a parent of young children, I welcome the Lisbon Reform Treaty as a good deal that ensures a great future for them in this country. The Lisbon Reform Treaty will refashion and energise the EU’s 51 year-old machinery. The original ‘Treaty of Rome’ was designed for 6 countries but that is not sufficient today for the administration of a European Union that now has a membership 27 countries and a population close to 500 million people. The Treaty will enable our representatives and administrators in Brussels to begin, again, to deliver effectively for European citizens. The Treaty guarantees the future of Ireland’s low corporate tax rate strategy, and it provides better job security and employment conditions for European workers. Importantly, it offers new market opportunities for Irish exporters, both internationally and within the EU Internal Market. Currently there are 980 international companies in Ireland that provide 140,000 very good jobs for Irish people here. Expect both of these figures to increase if we vote ‘Yes’ to Lisbon. The Treaty’s provision for the improvement and integration of EU transport infrastructure is a very positive development for those of us who look towards the future. This commitment will ensure that Irish businesses will be able to transport their produce around the European Internal Market much more quickly and cheaply. The Reform Treaty offers us an opportunity to build greater co-operation between member states in the area of justice. The Treaty will extend the EU’s powers in the fight against serious cross-border crime such as organised crime, terrorism, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of adults or children as well as drugs and arms trafficking, and will lead to increased border controls at the external borders of the EU. The Lisbon Reform Treaty puts children’s rights and the protection of children at the top of the EU’s agenda. The Chairperson of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs has said that ‘children’s rights are emphasised again and again’ throughout the Treaty. Article 24 of the Charter declares that ‘in all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration’. The Treaty declares that every child in Europe has the right to enjoy a regular personal relationship with his or her parents. Article 24.3 states that ‘every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both of his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.’ Child labour in Europe is prohibited in article 32 of the EU charter. This article also lays down that ‘young people admitted to work must have working conditions appropriate to their age’. The Treaty’s commitment to environmental sustainability should be embraced by all who are concerned about our globe’s future. Climate change and energy security are the two major challenges that face humanity in the 21st century. Ireland cannot tackle these problems alone. The Treaty empowers us to tackle these issues together with our fellow Member States. It makes the fight against climate change and pollution a fundamental objective of the EU and it formally makes the promotion of sustainable development a central principle of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. The Lisbon Reform Treaty is an investment in our future, and in the future of our children. It is a visionary treaty that identifies and addresses the challenges that face us now and in the future. I believe that the children of today must be given the same opportunity that the EU has provided to my generation and that is why I’m voting ‘Yes’ next Thursday. Denis Naughten TD is a member of Fine Gael’s Front Bench. He is calling for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Lisbon Reform Treaty referendum.