Written answers

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Department of Foreign Affairs

Common Foreign and Security Policy

5:00 pm

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Question 34: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the ongoing developments at European level with regard to the agreement of a common EU security and defence arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26867/05]

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Question 90: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the ongoing developments at European Union level with regard to the formation of a common EU defence and security arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25954/05]

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 121: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will give support to an EU wide common security and defence mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26915/05]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 90 and 121 together.

The European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP, is an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP, and serves the Union's general objectives of peace and stability. These objectives and the provisions governing the ESDP are set out in the treaties of Amsterdam and of Nice, which were approved by referendum. In this context, the European Union is increasing its ability to contribute to both the civilian and military dimensions of crisis management.

Over the past year, the ESDP has become increasingly operational. Following significant preparatory work undertaken by the Irish Presidency, the EU launched Operation Althea in December last year, a follow-on military crisis management mission to the previous NATO-led SFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is the largest ESDP mission to date. A total of 7,000 personnel from 33 countries are participating, including 54 members of the Irish Defence Forces. The mission is authorised by a Chapter VII UN mandate, as was the case for SFOR.

On 15 September 2005, the EU, together with five members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, ASEAN, as well as Norway and Switzerland, deployed a monitoring mission in Aceh, Indonesia. This civilian mission within the ESDP framework is designed to monitor the implementation of various aspects of the peace agreement set out in the memorandum of understanding signed by the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement on 15 August 2005. Three members of the Defence Forces are currently serving with this mission.

In addition, the work of the EU police missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM, is continuing, with the former headed by Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty of the Garda Síochána. A European Union Police Mission in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, EUPOL Kinshasa, was launched in April 2005; this is the first civilian mission for crisis management in Africa within the ESDP framework.

The EU is continuing to develop its capabilities for crisis management, both military and civilian. The European Defence Agency, established last year, is intended to play a central role in addressing shortfalls in European capabilities. It has functions in the areas of defence capabilities development, armaments co-operation, the defence industry and research and technology. The agency aims to ensure that the defence forces of EU member states are properly equipped to carry out crisis management missions.

The development of the battlegroups-rapid response elements concept has been an important focal point for ESDP. Member states have committed up to 13 battlegroup formations which will be available on a rotational basis to deploy to crisis situations within a five to ten day period, to carry out the Petersberg Tasks of humanitarian, rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management operations, including peacemaking. As I have stated in my reply to a separate question by Deputy Gormley, an interdepartmental group, which includes representatives of my Department, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Attorney General's office is currently considering the policy, legislative and operational issues surrounding Ireland's possible participation.

The European Union is also examining how existing civilian capabilities can be further developed to ensure a more rapid and flexible EU response to crisis situations. The aftermath of the tsunami has demonstrated the importance of developing such a capability. The Government is following this exercise closely, and will seek to identify how Ireland can best contribute to overall international efforts to assist in large-scale rapid onset emergency situations.

It is important to distinguish between the European Security and Defence Policy, which continues to develop, and the possibility of a common defence. Any move to a common defence would be for decision by the European Council acting unanimously and in accordance with member states' constitutional requirements. At present it is important to distinguish between the European Security and Defence Policy, which continues to develop, and the possibility of a common defence. Any move to a common defence would be for decision by the European Council acting unanimously and in accordance with member states' constitutional requirements. At present, there are no proposals for such a move. In any event, Ireland's position is clear. The amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann in October 2002 precludes Ireland from participating in a common defence. As a consequence, the Irish people would have to amend Bunreacht na hÉireann before Ireland could take part in a common defence.

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