Adjournment Debate on Seville Declaration on Neutrality: Statement by Minister Cowen
"I am glad to have this opportunity to clarify to the House the Government's approach to the Declarations we are seeking at Seville. That is the National Declaration by Ireland and the related Declaration by the European Council.
First of all I would like to emphasise that the texts of the Declarations fully reflect the views expressed in the Second Report of the Chairman of the National Forum on Europe. The Forum was of course established as part of the Government's response to the concerns of the people raised in last summer's first referendum on Nice. Chairman Hayes, in his Second Report, underlined the importance of assurances that:
the Nice Treaty did not imply a departure from our traditional policy of military neutrality;
that we had no plans to enter a military alliance or participate in the development of a European army and would not do so without the approval of the Irish people;
and that there is no plan to change the basis on which Irish troops participate in peacekeeping and conflict prevention operations.
Each and every one of these points is being fully dealt with by the Declarations.
The National Declaration will reaffirm, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Treaty of Nice poses no threat to our traditional policy of military neutrality. In doing so, it will confirm that Ireland is not party to any mutual defence commitment and that we are not party to any plans to develop a European army. It will also reaffirm that we will take our own sovereign decision on whether Irish troops should participate in humanitarian or crisis management tasks mounted by the EU, based on the triple lock of UN endorsement, Government decision and Dáil approval.
Moreover, the National Declaration will also make clear that Ireland will not adopt any decision taken by the European Council to move to a common defence or ratify any future Treaty which would involve a departure from our traditional policy of military neutrality unless it has first been approved by the Irish people in a referendum.
In the European Council Declaration we will be asking our Partners to confirm that the understandings in the National Declaration are shared by all fifteen EU Member States. This of course includes Sweden, Finland and Austria, who are every bit as attached to their policy of non-alignment or military neutrality as we are.
The Declarations have a formal status and authority. Should the people decide that the State may ratify the Nice Treaty, our National Declaration will be lodged with our instrument of ratification.
The Deputy asks why the wording is not being placed before the Dail before the Summit.
The Taoiseach and I have been as transparent as possible on the Government's approach to the Declarations. However, there has been a need for discussion with our EU Partners. As well as consultations with the Spanish Presidency, the Taoiseach has discussed the matter with the Prime Ministers of Finland and Sweden last week and to-day he is having talks in Rome and Vienna with the Prime Minister of Italy and the Chancellor of Austria. For obvious reasons, it has not possible to reveal the texts of the Declarations until negotiations on them have been concluded with our EU Partners in Seville.
The Declarations are being adopted on the authority of the Government, which is responsible under the Constitution for the exercise of the executive power of the State in the field of foreign relations.
There will be a full discussion in the House next Tuesday on the outcome of the European Council being held in Seville.Top