Address by the Minister Cowen to the 10th Junior Command and Staff Course, Military College Part 2
In parallel to developing its military capabilities for Petersberg tasks, the EU is also developing its capabilities for civilian crisis management. The EU's policy in this area is being taken forward by a Committee for Civilian Crisis Management. One of its primary tasks is to carry forward work on the establishment of a goal to provide police in support of peacekeeping operations. Good progress is also being made on the three other priority areas - the Rule of Law, Civilian Administration and Civil Protection. In addition, with a view to ensuring that the EU's future crisis management capabilities develop in a comprehensive and balanced manner, the Swedish Presidency have given priority to the issue of civil-military coordination. Experience in Kosovo has pointed to the key importance of ensuring close coordination in this area. The overall intention is to harness civil and military responses to achieve the same goal of restoring stability and facilitating reconstruction.
It was also as part of this response to potential future crisis management challenges that the European Council at Helsinki in December 1999 set the EU Headline Goal B a voluntary goal to be able to deploy within 60 days and 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. The objective is to achieve this Goal in 2003.
At the Capabilities Commitment Conference last November EU member states formally committed forces to the Headline Goal. Member States were invited to identify the ways in which they could contribute to this voluntary goal. In Ireland=s case, the commitment of up to 850 members from the Defence Forces was authorised. Participation by members of the Defence Forces will only arise in clearly defined circumstances, name when UN authorisation is in place and when the terms of the relevant Irish legislation B the Defence Acts B have been met. Our commitment to the Headline Goal is therefore fully consistent with Ireland=s approach to overseas peacekeeping and consistent with our foreign policy traditions. Also, any offer which we have made will not prejudice in any way the fact that participation in any Petersberg mission remains a sovereign decision to be taken by the Government. The Government will decide on a case by case basis whether, when and how to commit either troops or other resources.
Soldiers like clarity of thought and expression. They do not like fudge. One of the questions which will be one your minds is, in spite of all I have said, is whether or not Ireland=s policy of military neutrality will continue to be relevant in the world of the twenty-first century. Let me give you a clear and unambiguous answer. It is Ayes@. The Government remains firmly committed to Irish military neutrality and sees our involvement in European Security and Defence Policy as fully consistent with our policy in this area. The Government have consistently made clear that the consent of the people, in a Referendum, would be required if the issue of joining a mutual defence guarantee were ever to arise at any stage in the future.
The EU Headline Goal is emphatically not a standing army. The EU=s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr Javier Solana, emphasised this in a speech to the Institute for European Affairs in Dublin last year when he said:
AAll member States are agreed that the Union is not in the business of creating a European Army. That is quite clear. ESDP is not about collective defence. The Union has no ambition to take over or duplicate the work of NATO@.
What=s more, these facts have been repeatedly recognised by the conclusions of successive European Councils, including most recently at Nice.
Perhaps it is the description of the EU Headline Goal as a Rapid Reaction Force that has allowed those who are so-minded to create doubts in other peoples minds. Rather, what the EU is doing is putting together a pool of capabilities which provides the Union with the means to carry out Petersberg tasks. The national elements can only be deployed on foot of decisions by each potential contributor. The question of a UN mandate for identifying, developing and organising these capabilities does not arise. However, when it comes to a question of participating in a particular operation, I would underline that Irish troops will only take part in an operation with a UN mandate. Also, I would reiterate that this participation would require Government decision and Dail approval.
What role is being played in all of this by NATO? The EU is not a military organisation and does not seek to duplicate NATO. As participation in the UN-mandated operations such as SFOR and KFOR have shown, the EU would be likely to need access to NATO infrastructural capacity. This could, for instance, involve the EU borrowing airlift to transport personnel and equipment to an area experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis.
Another question often asked is whether Partnership for Peace has any role in preparation for the EU Headline Goal. Ireland's decision to join PfP was of course taken independently, and with the approval of Dail Eireann. There is no institutional link between PfP and the EU but PfP is nevertheless relevant to the Petersberg tasks. Essentially, our participation in PfP will facilitate the necessary training and equipment to undertake Petersberg tasks. Also, like other neutral EU states who participate in PfP, Ireland will use the mechanism of PfP's Planning and Review Process to assist in planning for Petersberg tasks.
The development of the EU=s capability to carry out Petersberg tasks should be seen in the context of the range of instruments available to the EU including diplomatic and economic measures. European Security and Defence Policy is not only about developing military capabilities. It involves developing a spectrum of tools which the EU can have at its disposal with the objective of making the common foreign and security policy more effective and more visible. In this connection, the development of the EU's conflict prevention and civilian crisis management capabilities have a central role to play.
Indeed, a key test will be to enhance the Union=s ability to prevent conflict. The European Commission have recently published a Communication on Conflict Prevention which outlines the variety of political and diplomatic options available where the situation in a particular country or region look s like deteriorating sharply. The Swedish Presidency of the EU fully recognise the central importance of conflict prevention and the subject will be a prominent theme for the Gothenburg European Council in June.
I spoke at the beginning about Ireland ‘s proud record in UN peacekeeping. With the development of European Security and Defence Policy, as I have outlined, you might ask how the UN and the EU link together? Are there contradictions between the two approaches? The answer is that one complements the other or, to put it in another way, they are mutually reinforcing. The UN has encouraged regional approaches to peacekeeping and there have recently been discussions between representatives of the UN and the EU on peacekeeping and crisis management issues. The Deputy Secretary-General of the UN visited Brussels last month and had productive discussions with the Political and Security Committee. Taking the dialogue another step, my Foreign Minister colleagues and I are scheduled to meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in May. I anticipate that the close cooperation between the EU and the UN on these matters will further develop in the months ahead.
I do not accept the arguments put forward by those who would seek to exclude us from the forms of regional peacekeeping which the UN Secretary-General is seeking to develop. There is no contradiction between Ireland's participation in UN missions in, for example, Lebanon, and our involvement in UN mandated operations in the Balkans.
From Ireland=s perspective, what the EU is doing in identifying capabilities is in many respects similar to which has been happening at another level at the UN with the UN Standby Arrangements System, in which Ireland participates. This is a mechanism for coordinating the peacekeeping contributions of some 88 countries and almost 150,000 personnel.
The developments I have outlined are based on the provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty. I would nevertheless like to mention the relevance of the Treaty of Nice in the security and defence area.
The Treaty of Nice, on which we will be having a Referendum soon, has made only limited changes to the existing provisions for the common foreign and security policy which are intended to make it more coherent, more effective and more visible. These limited changes are 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 reflect the latest developments and the desire to update the Treaty.
As the European Union will now implement any decisions it takes in this area, the Treaty of Nice also provides for the replacement of the existing Political Committee, based in Brussels. 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 authority of EU Foreign Ministers, the political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations.
Let me be absolutely clear on this issue. The Treaty of Nice contains no other security and defence provisions beyond the very limited changes which I have just outlined. It in no way expands or alters the scope of the Petersberg task provisions as contained in the Amsterdam Treaty and as already approved by the Irish people.
Before I conclude, let me say a few words about what membership of the UN Security Council will mean for us. The Security Council plays a central role in peacekeeping. When new mandates are being drawn up over the next two years, it will be interesting for us to be able to influence these arrangements from Athe inside@. As the Defence Forces= involvement in Southern Lebanon comes to an end later this year, we will be able to consider serving the cause of peace in new and different parts of the world if required. With the demand for the unique skills of Irish peacekeepers remaining high there will, I am sure, be no shortage of opportunity for officers such as yourselves to write a new chapter in the proud history of the Irish soldier abroad.
At the United Nations Ireland=s day-to-day approach on the Council is guided by the longstanding principles which have informed our UN policy since we joined in 1955, including our peacekeeping experience, our focus on human rights and humanitarian issues and our highly respected development cooperation programme. We are particularly pleased to be able to demonstrate that small and medium sized states can play a constructive role on the Council.
Finally, let me wish you all good fortune and success for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in your careers. In doing so you will be carrying forward the proud tradition of the Defence Forces in peacekeeping operations. I am fully confident that Ireland can continue to play an important and meaningful role in this area, while respecting our traditions and values. The possibility of contributing to the enhancement of peace and security for the generations to come is not to be taken lightly.