Treaty of Nice: Opening Statement by Minister Cowen in Seanad Debate, 3 May 2001 Extract 1
The Treaty of Nice has made only limited changes to the existing provisions for the Common Foreign and Security Policy which are intended to make it more coherent, effective and visible. These limited changes, which I will now describe, concern the deletion of references to the Western European Union and providing a treaty basis for the political and security committee in Brussels.
At the time of the Amsterdam Treaty, it was envisaged that the Western European Union would play a key role, acting on behalf of the EU, in the area of crisis management and conflict prevention. However, given the development of the Union's capabilities in this area, the role of the WEU has diminished.The deletion of the clauses concerning the WEU can, therefore, be seen in the light of the evolution of the European Security and Defence Policy and of a desire to update the treaty.
Reflecting the fact that the European Union will now implement the decisions it may take in this area, the Treaty of Nice also provides for the replacement of the existing Political Committee, which comprised representatives from capitals, with a political and security committee, based in Brussels, and operating on instructions from the respective Governments. The new committee will assume functions relating to the conduct of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. As part of its responsibilities, the political and security committee may exercise, under the direction of the Council, the political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations.
On Committee Stage in the Lower House, a debate took place on an amendment tabled by Deputy Gormley which sought to suggest that Ireland should opt out and that it should sign a protocol of some description. The example of the Danes' insistence on signing a protocol in relation to the Treaty of Amsterdam was put forward to support this argument. The reasons the Danes sought such a protocol is that they want to pursue their security interests exclusively through NATO and they do not want to be involved in the shaping of security and defence policy within the European Union. Denmark is a member of NATO and it wishes to proceed exclusively within the framework offered by that organisation.
Ireland has helped to developed and has taken a full part in the European Union. When opponents of the Union speak in relation to this aspect of the matter under discussion - which is not central to the Treaty of Nice but is really a re-run of previous arguments relating to the Treaty of Amsterdam upon which the Irish people have already spoken - it is important to point out that the development of competence in this area for the European Union relates to the Petersberg Tasks. That is the framework within which we are seeking to develop a European security and defence policy. The Petersberg Tasks specifically relate to crisis management and conflict prevention. We must move beyond the paradigm - which is really a confirmation of the time warp in which those who oppose the treaty by putting forward the type of arguments I mentioned find themselves - that the European Union is trying to become like NATO or is attempting to become a military superpower capable of competing with the United States.
The Cold War era is over. The Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice were introduced because progressive forces in the emerging democracies of Europe, for whom no one had much to say when they were under Soviet control and influence in the Cold War era, want to be part of the European Union. Those governments are speaking for their people and they are enthusiastic about enlargement. To facilitate that enlargement, other countries will pursue a parliamentary process while we, in compliance with our constitutional law and jurisprudence, will pursue the referendum process.
Is anyone seriously suggesting that those who claim to hold the high moral ground in terms of their views on neutrality can praise the extraordinary and excellent contribution Ireland has made, through its UN involvement, in far off fields in the Lebanon, East Timor and elsewhere while at the same time stating that we should not be involved in crisis management, humanitarian operations and conflict prevention in Europe? Are these people stating that we should not be involved with former adversaries, applicant countries and others, that are working in Kosovo at present? Are they saying that the efforts being made to try to rebuild the Balkans region should be abandoned and matters should be allowed to progress in the manner in which they progressed in 1914 or 1940? Do they believe that Ireland should take all the benefits of membership while not meeting its various responsibilities?
Given that the security and defence policy is being shaped in line with Ireland's foreign policy traditions, the competence or capability that is being constructed by the European Union is precisely designed to prevent crises and conflicts reaching the stage that was reached in the former Yugoslavia. There is a need to rebuild civil society and democratic structures and become involved in new policing arrangements in areas of crisis and conflict. There will be a military requirement to ensure that ethnic cleansing, which made its first reappearance since the Second World War in Europe in the 1990s, is not allowed to proceed. Do I understand it that people want Ireland to state that, as a member of the European Union, it does not want to make a contribution in this regard?
The idea that Ireland would not meet its responsibilities repels me - the idea that there are people in the Houses of the Oireachtas who, for some reason, seem to suggest that it is fine to be involved in peacekeeping in the Lebanon and the Middle East but that we should not become involved in peacekeeping in Europe. What is the logic of that position? On what basis are we pursuing our national interests when it is clear the European Union will work to be involved in conflict prevention and humanitarian tasks? We were all appalled when hundreds of thousands of refugees left Kosovo after their homes were burnt by a dictator. They had to go to another impoverished country, Macedonia, which took on that humanitarian responsibility single-handedly and without much help from the developed world or the more enlightened democracies. Macedonia met its responsibilities and it did not have many financial or other resources to do so. Will we say we are not prepared to contribute? That is not what Irish people believe.
There is a vociferous minority who continue with a line of argument which is irrelevant since the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down. The proof of its irrelevance is that the people who suffered under those regimes are saying they want to become part of the European Union. They do not have a problem with the European Union developing a competence in these areas to assist these people so they do not suffer the ethnic atrocities we have seen in past decades in those parts of Europe. Ireland is mature and intelligent enough to recognise that the responsibilities we have there are of the same moral quality as those in East Timor, Lebanon or anywhere else. Top