Thursday, 21 June 2012
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Question 140: To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has had discussions and EU and UN level with regard to future deployment of the Defence Forces overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30240/12]
During each EU Presidency both formal and informal meetings of Defence Ministers are held. Last November I attended the formal meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council with Defence Ministers. The Operation Commanders of the three current EU-led missions were also in attendance. Discussions were focused on these current operations and future proposed developments.
Ireland contributes Defence Forces personnel to two of the three current EU military missions. Ireland contributes seven personnel to the Operation ALTHEA mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ireland also contributes ten personnel, including Mission Commander Colonel Michael Beary, to EUTM Somalia, the EU's mission to train Somali security forces in Uganda. The other EU military mission, Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA, is the EU's first maritime operation which contributes to improving maritime security off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean. Ireland does not currently contribute personnel to this operation. Ireland has received an invitation from the Operational Commander of Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA to contribute an Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD) to the Operation. The Department is considering whether it will be in a position to contribute an AVPD to this operation.
The EU is also planning a Regional Maritime Capacity Building mission to enhance the capacity of Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa region to fight piracy. The proposed mission will be complementary to and have close coordination with Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA and EUTM Somalia and international actors. This will be a civilian mission augmented with military expertise.
Ireland will participate in the Austro-German led Battlegroup which will be on standby from 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2012. The other members of the Austro-German Battlegroup are Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Training and planning is currently ongoing in preparation for a Battlegroup deployment if such a decision is taken by the Council.
Regarding UN missions, Ireland currently contributes 356 personnel to the UNIFIL Mission. Following the deployment of a contingent of some 170 personnel of the Armed forces of Finland to UNIFIL, a joint Irish-Finnish Battalion was formed in May 2012. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with several United Nations missions. Six Defence Forces personnel are currently serving as military observers with the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). Overall there are currently 440 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas.
The Department of Defence constantly reviews the deployment of Defence Forces personnel overseas. However, following the deployment to UNIFIL, it is not anticipated that there will be any major deployments of troops to further missions in the foreseeable future. Within the EU itself, a number of committees, including the Political and Security Committee and the EU Military Committee, keep the issues of troop deployments, including rapid response, under constant review in consultation with all EU Member States.