Address by Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, introducing Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, in the Forum on Europe Thursday 14 October 2004 Part II
During our recent EU Presidency, as well as arranging for the Union to make an important contribution to the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel, we mainstreamed the centrality of effective multilateralism in the Union’s discussions with strategic partners and regional groups.
We succeeded in advancing the critical area of EU-UN cooperation in crisis management – our actual theme here this afternoon.
Last year, the EU drew up a European Security Strategy, with the objective of ensuring that the various international organisations worked more closely together in the area.
Our premise was that the multilateral approach is not just the right way to conduct business, but is indeed, and very clearly, the best way to do so.
Crucially for Ireland, this Strategy backs a strong and effective United Nations.
As a result of its focus on ‘effective multilateralism’, the EU’s relationship with the UN in the crisis management area has, I believe, not just been renewed but actually reinvigorated.
In prioritising cooperation in the crisis management area, the Union has in many ways been mirroring priorities for the UN itself.
Javier Solana put this pertinently and well to the Forum here last January, when he said – “Ultimately, I believe that the best way Europe can contribute to building a stronger UN is by building a strong and capable Europe; a Europe firmly committed to effective multilateralism.”
Against this background, I especially welcome the growing UN policy of using regional organisations to assist it in carrying out its peacekeeping and conflict resolution functions. And I note in particular your acknowledgement of the importance to the UN in this regard of the EU’s developing capabilities for civil and military crisis management.
The Union is now well situated to further develop its role in this area, building on the civilian and military crisis management missions which we have already undertaken.
In contrast, we should not forget that even relatively recently, if the EU had wished to stop or prevent ethnic cleansing, we simply had not developed the capability to do so in any kind of unified or coherent manner.
In our Presidency, we sought also to harness synergies between the EU and UN by progressing the implementation of the Joint EU-UN Declaration on Cooperation on Crisis Management, giving particular priority to the areas of planning, training, communications and best international practices.
A further dimension of EU-UN cooperation is the rapid response capability being put together by the EU, and which will be available to the UN. This capability – the so-called “Battlegroups” – will be ready on an initial basis in 2005, with the full complement of formations of 1,500 troops being available in 2007.
I do feel that the phrase ‘battle groups’ is unfortunate and one would have thought a less-threatening, more appropriate term could have been used.
However, despite the phraseology, it is hoped that the formation of this rapid response capability will enable the EU to respond effectively to situations at the UN’s request, where it has often been unable to do so in the past.
I want to make it clear today in any consideration of Irish troops acting overseas that this Government will not allow our policy of military neutrality to be eroded. The triple-lock will remain. Ireland will only participate in military activity overseas with Government, Dáil and UN mandate.
I would make one final point, and this relates to the comparative advantages of the EU in this whole area. We have, I would argue, a unique range of instruments to deploy for conflict prevention, for crisis management and for peace promotion purposes.
These instruments span and embrace the political, diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, as well as the civil and military dimensions of crisis management.
In addition to being able to respond to calls from the United Nations, as is our duty, I believe that the Union in this way can also further deepen European participation in consensus building, democratisation and the advancement of human rights in our increasingly troubled world.
This is an objective worthy of the great Organisation that is the UN, and also of our vocation as Irish people and as Europeans.
I would like to once again welcome you to Ireland, and I look forward to hearing your views on both the significance of the close cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union and the prospects of further developing it in the period ahead.