Address by Liz O'Donnell Minister of State Department of Foreign Affairs on "Small States and European Security"
Opening Address by Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for Overseas Aid and Human Rights
at the Royal Irish Academy's 19th Annual Conference on
"Small States and European Security"
20 November 1997
It gives me great pleasure to open this conference on "Small States and European Security". I would like to welcome all of you and in particular Mr. Ole Norrback, Minister for European Affairs of Finland. The Finnish contribution to international peace and security is a substantial one. I would like to express appreciation for the support offered by Finland to the peace process in this country, and in particular for the contribution of Harri Holkeri. As one of the Irish Government's representatives to the talks, I have personal experience of, and therefore great admiration for, the contribution he and the other co-Chairmen are making.
The theme of this Conference is European security, with particular reference to the role of small States. Today we can speak of "European security". For most of this century however, and preceding centuries as well, I feel that it might have been more accurate to speak of insecurity in Europe - an insecurity which bore particularly heavily on the smaller nation states. Indeed, until relatively recent times security would hardly have been viewed in European terms at all - instead the focus would have been on the role of Great Powers and on balance of power diplomacy.
At the end of the First World War, there emerged a broadly agreed diplomatic definition of a Great Power as one with general as distinct from local interests. Today globalisation, a concept undreamt of at the Paris Conference of 1919, but now a defining characteristic of our age, means that each State, almost without exception, has a limited capacity by itself to shape and influence its external environment. Today we all share "general interests"; you could say we are all great powers now !
The contrast between the great powers and the small states that they overshadowed is greatly reduced: the former European great powers have neither the motivation nor the capacity to act on their own; and the smaller States can envisage cooperation with the larger states without the fear of being dominated by them. For the post-Cold War generation, for the first time, the concept of indivisibility of security in Europe has acquired real meaning. In this sense, for the first time we can speak of European security.
While interdependence has reinforced the need for cooperation, the nature of the security risks which we face has also changed. The end of the Cold War was rightly a matter for rejoicing. But the disappearance of the bipolar focus, and the balance of power that went with it, means that international affairs are now characterised by a measure of instability and uncertainty. Since the end of the Cold War, new risks and challenges have appeared; ethnic conflicts, regional conflicts, humanitarian crises, large scale abuses of human rights, international terrorism, organised crime and drug-trafficking, and transnational threats to the environment.
As I speak the international community, at the Chernobyl Shelter Project Pledging Conference in New York, is attempting to address collectively the financial aspects of one major environmental disaster over eleven years ago. The Irish Government and people want to be part of this international effort. We see it as a necessary investment in the safety and health of the present and future generations, not only in Chernobyl and surrounding regions but throughout and beyond Europe. It is essential, though by no means sufficient, that the damaged reactor be sealed permanently in a stable structure. I am pleased to announce that, in addition to its contribution as an EU member State, Ireland will this year contribute one and a half million ECU or approx £1.037million to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. Moreover, the Government are committed to contribute a further one million ECU, about £ 800,000, we hope, by the year 2001.
Ireland, Finland and other likeminded countries have long shared, and have acted on, some basic tenets which underpin international security. We have always understood that the quest for peace and stability must be based on a comprehensive approach to security that extends beyond traditional military concepts; on inclusive cooperation among the community of nations; and on fundamental priorities, such as:
the rule of law;
the search for equity and justice in international affairs through the protection of human rights, through democratisation and through consolidation of civil society;
a commitment to eliminate the causes of conflict, in particular through advocacy of, and action for, sustainable development;
a commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes; and a willingness to engage in conflict resolution, crisis management and to respond to humanitarian needs when they arise;
a commitment to the conduct of orderly and peaceful international relations, which manifests itself in strong support for multilateral organisations at the global, regional and local levels.
The end of the Cold War has thrown into greater relief the disparities between the developed and the developing world. The vicious circles of poverty, hunger, abuse of human rights, disease, debt and under-development, in too many corners of the globe, are a testament to the gap between the high rhetoric we tend to engage in on these occasions, and the harsh realities we must always strive harder to address. In the broader sense of the definition of security, "European security" cannot exist in isolation.
That is why the United Nations remains the indispensable organisation. The United Nations is the cornerstone of international peace and security, and it must be reformed and strengthened. Increasingly, the United Nations is reliant on regional organisations to help it meet the new challenges of the post Cold War world. The new reality that we must face is that no one institution in isolation can cope with the full range of new and multi-faceted challenges to international security.
I welcome the new willingness by global and regional organisations to cooperate in support of the efforts of the UN. The OSCE is now being developed as a regional organisation in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. The other security organisations in Europe, notably NATO, the Western European Union and the Council of Europe, have declared themselves willing to respond to requests from the UN or the OSCE to assist in addressing potential or actual conflict situations. I welcome this move towards a common sense of purpose among Euro-Atlantic security organisations.
The European Union is at the heart of these developments in Europe, in a unique way. The Union, by virtue of its potential as a pole of attraction, as a zone of stability, and as an instrument for exporting stability beyond its frontiers, has a particular vocation to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and the world. EU enlargement, which Ireland fully supports, is key to the consolidation of security in Europe. I hope this conference will consider the enlargement dimension in its deliberations.
The EU's collective commitment to fostering the conditions for international and regional peace and security is a significant one; many might argue that it is still inadequate. The EU is the largest contributor to both the regular UN budget and the peacekeeping budget, and the world's biggest contributor of development aid. The EU and its member States provide more than half of the humanitarian aid distributed in the world and half of the international development assistance.
The European Union recently agreed to enhance its capacity to contribute to tasks of humanitarian support, crisis management, conflict prevention and peacekeeping in the Treaty of Amsterdam - what are known as the Petersberg tasks. These tasks respond well to Ireland's concerns, as a small country with an active record in UN peacekeeping. The European Union already has at its disposal diplomatic, humanitarian, economic and political instruments. The inclusion of the Petersberg tasks should enable the European Union to play an enhanced, more coherent and effective role in international relations in support of international peace and security.
One of the inescapable lessons of recent years has been that emerging conflicts and crises have been complex and multidimensional, requiring sophisticated responses - for example, election monitoring, humanitarian assistance, civil policing, economic assistance, human rights monitoring, assistance to re-establish civil society, as well as military tasks of peacekeeping and peace support. Some or all of these elements must be combined, as in Bosnia, if the international community is going to prevent crises, or successfully manage and resolve them when they occur.
It is worth recalling that the agreement to include the Petersberg tasks in the new Treaty reflected close cooperation between Finland, Sweden and Ireland. In the course of the Intergovernmental Conference, Finland and Sweden took a joint initiative which proposed including the Petersberg tasks in the new Treaty. It fell to Ireland, as the Chair of the IGC, to prepare an outline of the Treaty for the European Council in Dublin at the end of 1996. The agreement that eventually emerged at Amsterdam from the Irish draft proposals, closely reflects the Finnish/Swedish initiative.
As Minister with responsibility for development cooperation, I particularly welcome the opportunity provided by the inclusion of the Petersberg tasks in the new Treaty to develop a more holistic approach to humanitarian operations, conflict prevention and crisis management. To have any chance of long term success, humanitarian and peace-building activities must be better integrated with political, economic and security action by the international community. In many situations the humanitarian community's response on its own can be insufficient. What is required is a coherent and coordinated response that covers the range from diplomatic and economic means, through to the use of military means if required - be it emergency airlift and transport, or in the form of peacekeepers to provide the environment in which humanitarian assistance can be provided.
The reforms in the Amsterdam Treaty are fully consistent with the objectives and principles which inspire Irish foreign policy. We want the EU to maximise its contribution to international peace and security, respect for human rights, the pursuit of justice in international affairs, including the development needs of the wider world.
Ireland's non-membership of military alliances remains unaffected by the provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty. The new Treaty does not provide for the integration of the WEU into the EU, nor is such integration stated anywhere in the Treaty as an objective. What is provided for is development of closer relations and practical cooperation between the EU and the WEU. This is natural and indeed necessary in view of the inclusion in the Treaty of the Petersberg tasks.
Far from posing a threat to Irish neutrality, as some have claimed, the Amsterdam Treaty will enhance the EU's ability to respond to the new and emerging challenges. It will also enhance Ireland's ability to continue to play a full and active role with our EU partners, building on our long tradition of commitment to, and achievement in, UN peacekeeping and humanitarian activities.
The international security environment has gone through profound changes in recent years. This process of transformation is continuing and its evolution is not always easy or even possible to predict. What can be said with certainty is that the factors which influence that environment are broad in scope and go well beyond the military dimension: economic, social and cultural change; the development of market forces; the consolidation of democracy and civil society; environmental issues - all of these are factors which shape international security and which require inclusive international cooperation.
The contribution of small states, such as Ireland, to development aid, to human rights, to crisis management and peacekeeping, is I believe, a substantial and important element in the maintenance and consolidation of peace and security.
I look forward to seeing you all at Iveagh House later this evening for a reception in honour of the Conference.Top