Minister Burke Welcomes Amsterdam Treaty
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ray Burke, T.D., in his first Dáil statement since taking office, said that the outcome of the Amsterdam European Council represents "an important step forward for Europe and for Ireland."
He said that Ireland had every reason to be satisfied with the new Treaty. "Many points of specific concern to Ireland have been addressed in a very satisfactory way including the continued right of all member States to nominate a full member of the European Commission."
The Minister said that "one of the main challenges facing the European Union has been how to improve the functioning of the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) so that the Union could act more effectively and cohesively on the international scene ... and specifically how the Maastricht Treaty provisions relating to security and defence required revision to take account of international developments since Maastricht".
"I believe that the new Treaty provisions will enhance the capacity of the Union to act more coherently and effectively in its response to international developments. At the same time it fully safeguards the specific character of the policies of member States, such as Ireland, who attach importance to military neutrality."
Mr Burke said that he believed the Amsterdam Treaty would facilitate pursuit of the objective identified in the Government's Action Programme "that Ireland plays a full and constructive role as a member of the international community." He said the Government "have made clear that positive and constructive participation in the further building of Europe is a key priority. This participation must take account of our specific traditions and interests. The outcome on security and defence is very satisfactory from Ireland's standpoint. Although many of our EU partners wished to see substantial movement towards common defence arrangements, this has not happened."
The Minister gave five main reasons why he regarded the outcome as very satisfactory:
- the explicit inclusion of the Petersberg tasks, covering humanitarian, rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management activities
- Ireland's position outside military alliances is further protected in the Amsterdam Treaty.
- the Treaty provides for closer institutional relations and practical cooperation between the EU and the WEU, which will facilitate implementation of the Petersberg tasks. EU/WEU integration, however, is mentioned only as "a possibility, subject not only to the requirement of unanimity in the European Council but also to the assent of each member State including Ireland. I do not see how integration could be compatible with our policy of military neutrality."
- the approach to the framing of a common defence policy, originally agreed at the time of Maastricht, will now be structured around the Petersberg tasks, and not the creation of mutual defence commitments more suitable to an Alliance.
- The Treaty provides for a review mechanism - the convening of a further IGC - whereby any decision in this area would have to be taken by unanimity.
The Minister said he welcomed the inclusion of the Petersberg tasks within the Treaty, as "this accords fully with Ireland's interest, as a UN peacekeeper with over forty years experience, in contributing to European peace and security in a manner that is totally in keeping with our commitment to international peace and security and our policy of military neutrality."
In the area of armaments, which the Minister described as "a sensitive area for many member States," Mr Burke said that he believed "that any EU cooperation with regard to armaments must embrace also more effective control of arms exports. I am pleased therefore that the European Council explicitly underlined in its Conclusions the vital role of concerted international efforts towards proper regulation of arms exports and called for renewed and sustained work in this area."