Address by Minister Cowen to Royal Irish Academy, Friday 16 November 2001 Part 1
The Crisis of 2001 - Values and Interests in the International System
Opening Address by Mr. Brian Cowen T. D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the 2001 Conference of the National Committee for the Study of International Affairs of the Royal Irish Academy Friday 16 November 2001.
I am delighted to deliver again this year the opening address to your annual conference. Recent events have reminded us all that we ignore international affairs at our peril. The study and understanding of the international system is a pre-requisite to all our efforts to work for peace, stability and prosperity for our own people and for people around the world.
11 September 2001 is a defining moment in history. Such defining moments are always recognisable because they lead us to re-examine our place in the order of things; to be clear about what our real interests are; and to re-define and re-commit ourselves to the values we hold and for which we are willing to stand-up and be counted. Ultimately, such defining moments inspire us to try, once again, to re-order the international system to address the mistakes and fault-lines of the past so that such upheaval and destruction can be avoided in the future.
There were at least three such defining moments in the Twentieth century.
Out of the slaughter of the trenches of World War I, the League of Nations was founded on the resolve that never again would countries go to war. Tragically, the early promise of the League of Nations was eroded and the world once again slid into global conflict.
Out of the horrors of World War II and the holocaust, came an even greater resolve to make sure that there would be no repeat. Out of the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dresden and Dachau, the United Nations was born. Somehow again all too soon divisions emerged, momentum was lost and the world entered the Cold War period.
In our own generation, the fall of the Berlin Wall was another defining moment that was accompanied by the resolve to replace the dangerous divisions of the Cold War with a new world order of justice and international cooperation. Europe has been transformed. US-Russia relations are slowly thawing, but what ever happened to all the optimism of the early 1990s ? As we now know all too well, the end of history it wasn't.
Today's challenge is whether the events of 11 September can be our motivation, can renew our resolve, to address the root causes of conflict and strengthen the international system to achieve peace and prosperity for succeeding generations. I believe they can and I believe they must.
Your programme for today is an excellent one. The range of perspectives through which you intend to examine the theme of values and interests in the international system in the light of 11 September should be very informative, and will hopefully lead to some valuable conclusions.
Without pre-empting your distinguished guest speakers, I would like to take some time to comment, from my own perspective, on the impact 11 September is having on the international system and the pursuit of foreign policy, in particular as regards the US, Russia, the EU and the Arab-Islamic world. I might conclude with some thoughts on Ireland's place in this debate.
Let me begin with the United States in the post-11 September world. I have just returned from the United States where I attended the delayed annual UN General Debate at the General Assembly and meetings of the UN Security Council on counter-terrorism and on the situation in Afghanistan. I have spent a lot of time in the United States in recent weeks arising from our Presidency of the Security Council for the month of October. I have visited Washington, where I met the US Secretary of State Colin Powell. I also saw at first hand the utter devastation that is Ground Zero where I paid my respects and those of the Irish people to those who lost their lives in that day of infamy. It is clear to me, as it is to many observers, that this attack on the United States' mainland, and the largest ever loss of US lives in such an attack, will have a profound and lasting effect on the United States and on its foreign policy.
The over-riding priority being given to counter-terrorism is fully understandable and fully justified. The US-led action in Afghanistan is in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter which recognises the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence. UN Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 1373 set out a two stage approach. In compliance with 1368, we must do all in our power to bring to justice those who perpetrated the vile acts of 11 September and to prevent further terrorist attacks. Resolution 1373 provides us with the framework for the international community to erect permanent barriers to the operation of terrorism, from its funding to its methods of operation.
The fact that the United States has looked to the United Nations as a central venue for the follow-up to the attacks of 11 September is very significant and welcome. Even more important, is that the UN has responded quickly and effectively. Not only has the United States looked to the United Nations to play a central role in the ongoing fight against terrorism, it has also looked for the United Nations to play a central role in the post-military phase in Afghanistan. Underlining this renewal of faith in the UN, the Bush administration recently cleared a large proportion of the arrears the US owed to the UN, thereby greatly alleviating the UN's chronic financial situation.
Prior to 11 September, there were fears among many observers and commentators that the United States was heading into an era of increased unilateralism. Such commentators cited, inter alia, the US Administration's abandonment of Kyoto, its opposition to the International Criminal Court, its plans on missile defence which could have included the unilateral renunciation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, as evidence of this drift towards unilateralism. Since 11 September, the focus on building an international coalition against terrorism, of deepening cooperation with the EU and other partners across a range of issues, of reviewing relations with countries with which US relations have been strained in the past, and of involving the United Nations , augurs well for the future. Doubts and suspicions remain, but there appears to be a better prospect that we should see a more engaged, a more multi-lateralist approach from the US into the years ahead.
For Russia as well, 11 September has provided a new focus and impetus to its approach to international relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly the first world leader to call President Bush on 11 September, and since then Russia has been resolute in its cooperation with the United States in relation to Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism. Indeed, Russia would claim that it had long been warning of the dangers posed by fundamentalist terrorism, particularly in former Soviet States and within Russia itself.
As you know, President Bush and President Putin have just concluded a very important three day Summit. There is no doubt that the new strategic relationship between the United States and Russia that is the outcome of this meeting is highly significant for the whole international community. There is also no doubt that the decisions by President Bush and President Putin to deepen relations reflects the need, in the post-11 September world, for States to put more emphasis on what they have in common than on what divides them. The world will be a much safer place as result of the agreement announced for both the US and Russia to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear warheads to one third of their current levels and their agreement to work together on the problems of proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The impetus to increase cooperation between Russia and NATO should help to bring Russia closer to the rest of Europe to the long-term benefit of all. A Russia that is confident of its relations with the US and with the enlarging EU, feels more secure and is incorporated into the mainstream of the world's economy, can greatly contribute to peace and stability in Europe and in the wider world.
Let me turn now to the impact that 11 September has had on the European Union and how we define our values and interests in the period ahead. Despite all of the attention that has recently been focussed on differences in the EU over who did and who did not get invited to a Downing Street Dinner Party, [I've eaten there on many occasions, the food is good, but Iveagh House is better !] the truth is that the EU has responded with a very significant degree of cohesion and purpose to the 11th of September and its aftermath. The EU has voiced its steadfast support for the US since 11 September, it has worked closely with the US to deepen cooperation on counter-terrorism and to take forward its own action plan agreed by EU Heads of State and Government at their special summit on 21 September.
In tandem with taking forward the counter-terrorism agenda, the EU has also committed itself to deepen its cooperation and improve its relations with Arab and Islamic countries, to underline our view that this is not a clash of civilisations, but rather an affront to the whole international community and the values that unite us. It is in this sense that the EU has continued to highlight the importance of the Middle East Peace Process and has worked tirelessly to bring about an early return to the peace negotiation.
The transformed international situation has also given renewed impetus to taking forward the EU's current agenda. The EU has made clear that its commitment to enlargement remains undiminished and if anything has been reinforced by developments.
The EU will also continue to develop its common foreign and security policy as a means of playing a greater role for peace, stability and security in Europe and in the wider world. A core element of this work is the framing of a security and defence policy to equip the EU to undertake humanitarian, conflict prevention and crisis management tasks as provided for in the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties.
Early next week, I will be attending, together with the Minister for Defence, an EU Conference, referred to as the Capabilities Improvement Conference, which marks the next stage in putting together the pool of capabilities for these tasks, known as the Headline Goal but so often referred to as the “Rapid Reaction Force”. Among other aspects, the Conference will look at shortfalls in European crisis management capabilities and see how these can be addressed.
Allow me to put this in context. As agreed by European Heads of State and Government at Helsinki in December 1999, the EU is continuing to work towards a voluntary goal to be achieved by 2003. The aim is that the Union should be able to deploy within 60 days, and to be able to sustain for at least one year, military forces of up to 50-60,000 persons capable of the full range of humanitarian, peacekeeping and crisis management tasks. In Ireland's case, the participation of up to 850 members of the Defence Forces has been authorised. Why is it so important that Ireland is involved in this project?
In my view the answer is clear. It is because it presents an opportunity to play a constructive role in promoting peace and stability. Nothing more, nothing less. If we have learnt anything from the horrific events on 11 September, it is the critical importance of cooperating to enhance the prospects for peace and security. This is a key challenge for all of us. I do not believe that the Irish people would want us to shirk our responsibilities in this area. At the same time, our participation should be, and is, consistent with our foreign policy principles and objectives. Involvement does not entail any mutual defence commitment, and does not affect our position outside military alliances.
Close cooperation has developed between the EU and the UN on peacekeeping and crisis management. This cooperation should grow in the coming years. Also, in every case Ireland would take a decision to participate in a particular humanitarian or crisis management mission on a sovereign basis. The bottom line is that we would only take part in a mission where we feel comfortable being involved. Also, where we can add-value from our wealth of experience and expertise in peacekeeping. In short, where our involvement reflects values which have always been at the heart of Irish foreign policy.
The European Security and Defence Policy also entails capabilities for civilian crisis management. Early next week, in addition to attending the Capabilities Improvement Conference, I will also be taking part in an important Police Commitment Conference. In the first meeting of its kind, EU Ministers for Justice, meeting with their Foreign Affairs counterparts, will be taking forward work to enable the EU to provide police – up to 5,000 – in support of peacekeeping operations. This work is focussed on providing added value to existing UN and OSCE arrangements for international police missions.
I attach priority to Ireland playing an active part in the civilian crisis management area. The Garda Siochana have served Ireland with distinction from Bosnia to Western Sahara. In the past fortnight, the Government has decided to send five members of the Gardai to the Former Republic of Macedonia to participate in the OSCE mission there. They should be able to continue to provide much sought after expertise in the EU context as well.
In advance of next week's Police Conference, I am pleased that the Government has decided to increase the ceiling for police officers serving with international policing missions abroad from 60 to 80. Top