Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen T.D. on the Nice Treaty and on Disarmament
Pax Christi Seminar
19 June 2002, 10:00 a.m.
I would at the outset like to thank the organisers of this event for their invitation. I welcome very much the opportunity to speak about the new Government's priorities in respect of international relations, including the important subject of your seminar today .
The Government's number one priority is for the people of Ireland to ratify the Treaty of Nice. This Government believes that our membership, as a full and equal partner in the European Union, is indivisible from the protection and promotion of our vital national interests. As the European Union is entering the final stages in the current round of enlargement, to be completed by the end of this year - to bring in up to ten more Member States - it would be tragic if Ireland was to choose this moment in its history to marginalise itself.
The ratification of Nice is of such vital national importance that the Government has decided to put this question to the people again. We are not ignoring the result of the first referendum. On the contrary, we have heard the concerns of the Irish people loud and clear, as have the people and Governments of our partners in the EU and in the candidate countries.
There are four main reasons why it is right to ask the people to think again on Nice.
The first, because it is a decision of the utmost importance which has serious implications for our international relations and our long-term prosperity. Our newfound prosperity is firmly rooted in our membership of the European Union. Rejection of the Treaty of Nice would damage our relationship with the other Members States of the Union and the applicant countries, call in to question our long-term commitment to the Union, undermine our international reputation and would, almost certainly, have a negative impact on inward investment, exports and jobs.
The second, because the issues were not adequately explained the first time around. Despite the considerable efforts which went into the last campaign it is clear that the issues were not adequately explained. Far too many people complained that they could not understand the issues at stake and far too few people were persuaded to vote. We can and will do better. A second campaign will provide an opportunity to explain the issues with greater clarity and will hopefully encourage more people to participate in this crucial decision. We cannot afford to fail in this and I can assure that the Government parties will be giving their total commitment to this task.
The third, because the Government has acted to change the context in which the decision will be taken. The Government has acted decisively to address a number of concerns which were identified as having contributed to the initial rejection of the Treaty of Nice: concerns such as the need for more public debate on Europe; the desire to preserve Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality; the demand for greater domestic oversight over EU business; and a wider concern about the loss of influence in Europe. In doing so, we have created an entirely new context against which the people are being asked to reconsider their decision.
In particular :
o we have established the National Forum on Europe in which domestic opinion has been able to express its views and concerns on the future of Europe;
o we have indicated that we will issue a national declaration affirming Ireland's commitment to our traditional policy of military neutrality and making clear that there will be no change in this policy without the agreement of the Irish people;
o we have taken steps to secure a declaration from the European Council confirming that Ireland's neutrality would be unaffected by the entry into force of the Treaty of Nice; The Taoiseach and I will be representing Ireland at the European Council in Seville later this week, where we expect to secure the agreement of our EU partners to the Seville Declarations on Ireland's neutrality.
o we have introduced new arrangements for Oireachtas scrutiny and oversight of EU business;
o we have taken a robust position at the Convention on the Future of Europe in defence of the kind of European Union which the Irish people support: a Union which respects the identity and diversity of its Member States, in which all Member states - big and small - retain the power to influence decisions, which brings prosperity to its all its citizens, and which uses its wealth and strength in the cause of international peace and justice.
The fourth reason, is because 478 million Europeans are appealing to us to reconsider our initial decision. 376 million of our co-citizens in the European Union and 106 million people who live in the twelve applicant countries currently negotiating accession to the Union are urging us to reconsider our decision and clear the way to the enlargement of the Union. The President of Slovenia made these points in a very convincing way at the Forum on Europe in Dublin Castle yesterday, the latest of the representatives of the candidate countries to come to Ireland to make known their hopes and wishes as regards the ratification of Nice.
Enlargement and the ratification of the Treaty of Nice to enable it to proceed is in Ireland's interest, in Europe's interest and in the interest of international peace and security, a core strategic goal of Ireland's foreign policy. Our Programme for Government makes it clear that we believe that EU plays a key role in the maintenance of a secure and stable environment and we will wish to play our part in shaping the way that role is developed in the future.
In our vision of what is important for Ireland and for Europe issues such as development, human rights, conflict prevention and crisis management, as well as disarmament are all building blocks of a coherent strategy for a foreign policy which strongly supports the primacy of the UN in promoting constructive international relations.
In the field of development, Ireland is committed to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2007. Earlier this year the Government published a Review of development policy which articulated a vision of continued strong commitment to bilateral programmes as well as an enhanced engagement with many of the UN agencies involved in, for example, humanitarian relief.
On human rights, Ireland will in 2003 again resume a seat on the Human Rights Commission for three years and there will seek to advance an agenda based on the international promotion and protection of human rights. Ireland played an active role during our last tenure of office on the Commission including chairing a key Committee on the mechanisms of the Commission itself. With our return to the Commission, we will be in a position to again have an active profile, not least during our EU Presidency.
With regard to conflict prevention, there is I believe considerable scope for an enhanced focus on the question using the many resources of the European Union. The European Union is active in many regions of the world in seeking to use diplomatic, economic, and other means to defuse conflict before it reaches catastrophic levels. For example, in recent years the EU has, with considerable success, taken the lead in stabilising the situtation in the Western Balkans, in particular in Macedonia. Learning lessons from successes and failures is part of the process of developing the skill base of the European Union in addressing early and directly the seeds of violent confrontation in the years ahead. The EU has comparative advantages and strengths on which it can build, and there is scope for further developing the EU-UN cooperation in this regard.
Peacekeeping activities by Ireland are a tangible demonstration of our support for UN operations worldwide. From Eritrea to East Timor we continue to provide forces for a purpose which expresses our vision of maintaining collective security. A lasting development at the Security Council during our tenure has been the progress made in increasing cooperation between the Security Council and troop contributing countries. The Security Council now consults with countries who have peacekeeping troops on the ground before it makes decisions about UN missions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme of your seminar today is nuclear disarmament and global security. I would like to acknowledge the role of seminars such as this one today. Without the attention and support of those in civil society who follow the nuclear disarmament issue the task of those who work to develop a constituency for achieving nuclear disarmament would be all the harder. I particularly want to welcome to Ireland UN Under Secretary General Dhanapala who has worked with such distinction in the field for many years.
I also want to welcome Senator Doug Roche, whose Middle Power Initiative has been so supportive of disarmament efforts over the years and who continues to focus on the need for political will to address nuclear disarmament.
I would also like on this occasion also to express considerable gratitude and appreciation for the work of Pax Christi International on the questions of disarmament and international peace and security. Let me pay tribute to the organiser of this seminar, Mr. Tony D'Costa, whose association with Pax Christi has been longstanding and whose work in the field of disarmament is widely recognised and valued.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The importance of the question of nuclear disarmament can often be lost sight of in the fast changing world we live in. Ironically, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent easing of tensions between the two nuclear superpowers has led to an assumption that nuclear issues are not the most pressing matters for the international agenda. The recent tensions, which now appear to be easing, between India and Pakistan, were a sharp reminder to the contrary.
The recent agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States concerning their deployed nuclear weapons is significant and encouraging. It sets the scene for the development of a new strategic framework which can have a very great impact on international peace and security.
The promise of new strategic relationships is therefore very evident but, nevertheless the threat represented by nuclear weapons remains. A concerted effort is required to see the potential benefits of a new global strategic stability realised. The elimination of the weaponry which in our view contributes nothing to stability and continuously provides a potential for disaster on a vast scale must remain our goal.
Ireland's response to the possible use of nuclear weapons has been consistent and determined. That is why Ireland proposed the Nuclear Non?Proliferation Treaty in 1958 under the then Foreign Minister Frank Aiken. The essential bargain of the NPT was and is that in return for the foregoing of nuclear weapons by States Parties to the Treaty, the nuclear powers ? essentially the current permanent members of the UN Security Council ? undertook not only to reduce but also to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a legal obligation which commits these States Parties to nuclear disarmament.
That is why we have joined with our New Agenda partners - Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico and Egypt - in 1998 to seek ways in which the post?Cold War environment could be used to eliminate one of its most dangerous relics: nuclear weapons. Progress must be based upon dual tracks: non?proliferation and nuclear disarmament, which objectives together constitute the basis of the approach of the New Agenda countries.
In 2000 we achieved a road map for how we might achieve nuclear disarmament as well as the globalization of the diplomacy of international security. The blueprint of 2000 of course contains a number of key steps - the so-called "thirteen steps" - which must be taken to achieve the goal. A comprehensive test ban treaty, and a fissile material treaty, which would ban the production of weapons grade nuclear material, are just some examples of what could be both short and medium?term objectives. The question of regular reporting by all States Parties on their efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament is also key element of the Final Document of 2000.
In short, in the nuclear field, we have I believe a clear picture of what building blocks we need to put in place for a durable, verifiable and irreversible progression to a nuclear?free world.
However, we must also be aware that the security challenges which the new Millennium is producing are becoming more unpredictable and less susceptible to expensive, static defences, based on nuclear weapons. There is also the growing concern about terrorist access to nuclear weapons technology, once the preserve of well?resourced governments, but now within the reach of determined individuals and groups. No one is safe from the actions of such individuals or groups. Notwithstanding the positive developments between the United States and the Russian Federation, the current climate for multi?lateral nuclear disarmament can however hardly be called promising.
Some multilateral Treaties are being stressed by internal pressures. Commitment to multilateralism is equally under strain. Within the UN disarmament system deadlock is preventing the kind of dialogue and negotiation which is essential. In this year there has been no meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission and for a number of years the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been unable to agree on a programme of work. Given the urgency which we in New Agenda attach to progress in the field of nuclear disarmament this is a situation which must be resolved as a matter of urgency.
Work continues, nonetheless within the NPT process where he review cycle began again this year. A meeting of the first preparatory committee for the 2005 Review Conference focused on the question of reporting to be carried out by all States Parties on what efforts they have made to implement the provisions of the Treaty relating to nuclear disarmament. In Ireland's view such reporting, in particular by the nuclear weapons states, is an essential bridge between procedure and substance because it permits the international community to establish whether, how and when implementation of collectively agreed steps to nuclear disarmament have been undertaken.
The period of duration of the NPT Treaty was made indefinite in 1995 on some very specific understandings: the conclusion and entry into force of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the negotiation of a Fissile Material Treaty. Today, as we speak, neither has been achieved. Fissile material has even become an issue related to terrorists and still we do not have agreement to achieve a limitation on its development. The ratification of the Test Ban Treaty remains impossible. These glaring anomalies are testimony to how far we still have to go in our search for a nuclear free world, but they are not a reason for the abandonment of that search nor for a lowering of ambition.
The range of areas in which action is long overdue or in which emerging questions need to be addressed is large and growing. We need a new energy in the dynamic of disarmament which reminds us of the goals and the essential bargain of the Non Proliferation Treaty. Fulfilment of that bargain cannot be a pipe-dream but is rather a vital test of the validity of the multilateral system. Ireland remains a believer in the multilateral approach to global security and will continue to be active on all key fronts in pursuit of international peace and security.