Minister Dick Roche comments on Report of Convention Defence WG (“Barnier Report”)
Minister of State Mr Dick Roche has described this week's Report of the Defence Working Group - the “Barnier Report” - as “a thought provoking analysis of the challenges which confront the European Union in the area of security and defence”.
The Minister welcomed the fact that the Report highlights the different security and defence positions of the various Member States and the need to tailor the Union's development in the security and defence area to accommodate these differences.
The Minister reiterated Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. He also noted that Ireland, following the vote approving the Nice Treaty, is Constitutionally prohibited from entering an EU common defence arrangement unless this is first approved by the people in a referendum.
Commenting on the recommendations in the Report, the Minister noted that elements in the Report are close to the Government's own views. There is full recognition of the role of the UN and for the principles of the UN Charter. The Report's assertion that existing structures must be maintained is also in keeping with Ireland's approach.
Minister Roche welcomed the suggested extension of the EU's humanitarian and crisis management activities. The inclusion of such areas as conflict prevention, joint disarmament operations and post-conflict stabilisation is consistent with Ireland's approach.
The need to cope with the threat of international terrorism and the use by terrorist groups of weapons of mass destruction is also covered in the Report. Minister Roche said “ We can understand the importance being given to the idea of using all the resources available to the Union to protect the civilian population and in dealing with the implications of possible terrorist attacks. The days when the world was dominated by two hostile power blocs trapped in an embrace of assured mutual self-destruction are over. Threats to international peace and stability are now more varied and asymmetrical. Terrorist organisations and rogue States bent on the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction now pose significant risks to all of us”.
The Minister drew particular attention in this regard to the proposal for a solidarity clause aimed at mobilising the various resources of the Union for the protection of civil populations and democratic institutions.
Minister Roche said “Notwithstanding its many positive points, there are aspects of the Report which raise issues for Ireland. These include reference to a mutual assistance or mutual defence clause. Proposals in the area of armaments and enhanced cooperation will also need to be carefully studied”.
The Report's recommendations will be the subject of full debate in the plenary of the Convention on 20 December. This will provide an opportunity for the Government, represented by Minister Roche, to express its views and hear those of our EU partners. The Government is following developments closely and maintaining contact with other members of the Working Group and EU Member States, particularly those that share a similar perspective in the security and defence area.
Minister Roche thanked Mr Proinsias de Rossa MEP and Deputy John Gormley T.D., the Irish members of the Group, for their active participation in the Group.
Note for Editors
The report of the Chairman of the Defence Working Group of the Convention was published this week.
Chaired by French Regional Affairs Commissioner, Michel Barnier, the Group was asked to consider the Union's role in the field of security and defence and, in particular, whether there is support for developing this role beyond the arrangements agreed at Amsterdam.
The Irish representatives on the group are Deputy John Gormley and Mr Proinsias de Rossa MEP. The Government has not been represented on this Group.
It will fall to an Intergovernmental Conference, involving all Member States acting unanimously, to take the final decision on any proposals to amend the security and defence provisions of the Treaty. Furthermore, in line with the amendment to the Constitution approved by the people in October, the State may not become party to a common EU defence unless it has been approved by the Irish people in a referendum to remove this prohibition from the Constitution.