Tuesday, 27 September 2016
European Defence Capabilities
29. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the comments of the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, who recently stated that the EU needs a military headquarters to work towards a common military force; if he shares Mr. Junker’s views; and his views on whether the further militarisation of the EU and the attempts to create a standing EU army undermines and erodes Irish neutrality. [27136/16]
This question relates to the statements of the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, seeking to further militarise the EU, something that was anticipated by many of us who argued against this position in various referendums in the State. Is the Minister of State concerned about it and will he oppose it at every juncture?
The statement by the Commission President is not something new. He has made similar statements in the past. However, these are matters for the EU member states to decide together and do not fall within the competence of the European Commission. Proposals have been around for some time that the EU should establish a joint operational headquarters to support the planning and conduct of its civil and military operations. A permanent joint civil-military operational headquarters, appropriately configured, could potentially deliver more effective and responsive CSDP operations in support of the UN and international peace and security, a position which Ireland supports. However, this is a matter which EU member states, including Ireland, will consider in the context of the implementation plan for the recently published EU Global Strategy of Foreign and Security Policy. Ireland will participate fully in that process and in the ongoing development of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy in support of the UN and international peacekeeping and crisis management.
The Treaty of Lisbon does not provide for the creation of a European army or for conscription of any military formation. The Government’s 2015 review of foreign policy and the Defence White Paper confirmed that Ireland will continue to maintain a policy of military neutrality which is characterised by non-membership of military alliances and non-participation in common or mutual defence arrangements.
I have been down the road of debating this issue with a number of Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministers for Defence and taoisigh. Over the last few years, there has been a growing shift within the EU towards further militarisation by countries which are already quite militarised and which are in NATO and other military alliances. Why should Ireland have anything to do with this? We should be quite categoric in stating that we will have nothing to do with further militarisation and the further co-ordination or concentration of military resources or military policy within the EU. We have already taken a step too far and are involved in the EU battle groups under the British, despite the fact they are withdrawing from the EU. Will Ireland take a very hard public stance against the position taken by Jean-Claude Juncker and other EU Ministers, in particular Defence Ministers?
Let me repeat to the Deputy what I said in my original reply: the Treaty of Lisbon does not provide for the creation of a European army or conscription of any military formation. Any change to this position would require a treaty change. Let me state absolutely that no change is proposed in any manner or means. As I said in my original statement on the President of the European Commission, it is not something new as we have heard him say this previously in other fora. However, there is no such proposed change.
While I accept that there is nothing in the Lisbon treaty on the creation of a European army, we have argued during the years that each single treaty that has been voted on in this country has gradually increased the militarisation of the European Union. As is usual for those in positions held by persons such as Jean-Claude Juncker, they are preparing the ground using a soft approach. It is only when a country stands up and forcefully rejects the move or push towards that position that they back off. It is very interesting that the recent statements have arrived in the context of the Brexit vote. In the past Britain would have been opposed to the centralisation or concentration of military policy in Europe, other than in NATO. This is an opportunity for those who have previously said such things to try to further the debate. It is only if countries such as Ireland reject it that they will back off. I welcome what the Minister of State has said, but it needs to be said forcefully, not just in this Chamber but also outside it, that Ireland will not countenance this approach and will oppose it in every way. We should be seeking out allies throughout Europe and beyond to ensure a new military alliance will not be founded.
All member states of the European Union understand Ireland's position on neutrality. As is stated in the White Paper, "Ireland will continue to maintain a policy of military neutrality which is characterised by non-membership of military alliances and non-participation in common or mutual defence arrangements". I know that the Deputy might have concerns about the comments made by Mr. Juncker, but I can assure him that what I have said stands. The Government has no plans or proposals to change our neutrality policy in any manner or means.