Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Permanent Structured Cooperation: Motion

5:00 pm

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance) | Oireachtas source

I do not think it is acceptable or democratic to make the decision on this issue tomorrow. I believe the Minister of State deliberately buried the matter under the unfolding Brexit drama, albeit a very important drama. The PESCO topic has been tactically and deliberately buried under the Brexit drama.

I now turn to the substance of the motion. The Lisbon treaty reference is a red herring. Most of the time during the debate on the Lisbon treaty, over a whole range of things, the Government's line at the time was to say Europe has been good to us so do not vote against Europe. Those of us who opposed the treaty constantly pointed to the military and defence elements of the treaty and those in favour of signing up to it denied the potential implications. In so far as there was a significant vote against that treaty it was due to concerns around this matter. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe knows very well that people in Ireland have a big allegiance to the idea of military neutrality and are deeply concerned about any move away from it. This motion is not a satisfactory justification for moving ahead with this.

With regard to the substance of the motion, the Minister of State needs to explain commitment No. 1 in the PESCO commitment which reads: "Regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms, in order to reach agreed objectives." What does that mean? It means that agreed objectives are 2% of GDP. According to the last question the Minister of State replied to on this, I believe we are currently spending .5% of GDP. To meet those targets we would have to quadruple current defence expenditure. Please do not tell me this is to pay soldiers better wages. We do not have to sign up to a binding commitment to do that. We should pay better wages to soldiers who are on family income supplement, but that is not what this is about. This motion is about binding commitments to progressively increase defence spending exponentially. Is it not the case that the people who stand to benefit, and indeed who have actively lobbied for this, are those in the arms industry? The NGO website vredesactie.be,submitted freedom of information requests to the European Commission. It discovered that between 2013 and 2016 there were 36 separate meetings between the heads of the arms industry and the Commission, all in the context of PESCO. We have had all this lobbying by the arms industry - whose lobbying budget jumped from €2.6 million to €5.8 million in the same years - while we are to sign up to a treaty with binding commitments to increase arms expenditure and to increase the proportion of that expenditure for weapons and not on soldiers or their wages. These are binding commitments and we are tied in to them. That is what it says in the motion. The motion makes several references to member states entering into commitments and there are constant mentions of binding commitments. This has huge potential implications.

The Minister of State suggests that Ireland's participation in PESCO does not have implications for our neutrality, when it is clear that the architects of this proposal believe it to be part of developing the apparatus of, and a stepping stone towards, an EU army. In 2015 Jean-Claude Juncker straightforwardly said that the EU needed an army. I do not have all of the quotes in front of me but they say the same thing. The Franco-Prussian axis, sorry the Franco-German axis wants an army.


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