Written answers

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Department of Defence

Overseas Missions

5:00 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 159: To ask the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that EU peacekeeping missions are adequately co-ordinated with a view to ensuring a complete understanding by all member states contributing with particular reference to the need to ensure the safety of all personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13774/08]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 160: To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has had discussions with his EU colleagues with future EU lead peacekeeping deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13775/08]

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

Minister O'Dea is constantly in touch with his EU colleagues both in the context of European Defence and Security and other matters, which would include discussions on possible future EU lead peacekeeping deployments. Two (2) official meeting of EU Defence Ministers are held during each six (6) month EU Presidency. These present the opportunity to engage in bilateral meetings with his Defence colleagues. The most recent meeting was the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting in Brussels on 19 November 2007. He attended this meeting where the discussions covered a wide range of European Defence and Security issues. The Minister for Defence is also kept abreast of issues arising from meetings which officials from his Department attend to discuss European Defence and Security.

The final decision to engage in a particular EU peacekeeping mission is decided on by the European Council. Such a decision must always be taken unanimously. Thereafter, each Member State has a sovereign right to determine whether and to what extent it should take part in the mission.

In Ireland's case, any decision to participate in EU peacekeeping mission will be for sovereign decision on a case-by-case basis and in line with Irish constitutional and legislative arrangements i.e. "triple lock" — Government, Dáil and UN approval.

Among the factors taken into account by Ireland when considering any particular request to participate in a mission is the degree of risk that may be involved, the extent to which the required skills or characteristics relate to Irish capabilities and whether the operation is adequately resourced.

Prior to the official deployment of military forces from the European Union, the EU Military Committee (EUMC) briefs the Political and Security Committee (PSC), on a regular basis, on all security aspects of the particular mission. The EUMC is officially made up of Chiefs of Defence Staff of member countries and is the Union's most senior military body and a forum for consultation and cooperation between member states. The PSC consists of Ambassadors of each member state meeting twice a week in Brussels and deals with all aspects of European Security and Defence Policy. In the event of a deployment of military forces from the Union, it assumes political control of the day-to-day direction of military operations.

From Ireland's perspective, the Government's decision to send troops to a mission is not taken lightly. The safety of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to the Minister for Defence. While no absolute guarantees can be given with regard to the safety of troops serving in missions, it is the policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission. All possible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of our troops. The detailed threat assessment and reconnaissance undertaken informs decisions regarding the configuration of the contingent and its armaments and protection. In addition, Standard Operating Procedures are kept under review in light of experience and best practice.

Prior to the official launch of any EU mission, EU Military staff attend regular Force Generation Conferences, the focus of which is to ensure that the necessary key enablers and protection are in place. Unless the Minister of Defence is satisfied that all safety measures and protection would be in place in advance of deployment of Irish troops to a mission he would not recommend Ireland's participation in that mission.

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