Cowen: An Emphatic ‘Yes' to Military Neutrality

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., has re-affirmed Ireland's commitment to UN peacekeeping in an address today to officers at the Curragh Military College. He said that the EU Headline Goal is "emphatically not a standing army. What the EU is doing in identifying capabilities is the same as what has been happening in the UN with the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS)." UNSAS, in which Ireland participates, is a mechanism for coordinating the peace-keeping contributions of some 88 countries and almost 150,000 personnel.

Outlining Ireland's proud record in UN peacekeeping, he said the Government fully agrees with the recent UN Report on Peacekeeping Reform which recommended that the UN rapid deployment capacity be strengthened and that police be made more widely available by member States for peacekeeping. The UN has encouraged regional approaches to peacekeeping and the Minister said that he is looking forward to productive discussions between the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and his EU colleagues next month. Emphasising the complementary approaches of the EU and the UN, the Minister rejected the arguments put forward by those who seek to exclude Ireland from the improvements in peacekeeping supported by Kofi Annan.

"The developments in the EU which I have outlined are based on the provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty, approved by the Irish electorate in May 1998. The Treaty of Nice, which is intimately linked to the plans for the enlargement of the European Union, makes only limited changes to the existing provisions of the common foreign and security policy and these are intended to make it more coherent, more effective and more visible. The Amsterdam Treaty defined the operational focus of the EU on tasks of peacekeeping and crisis management. Clearly, these are not areas where we would have chosen to opt out, ostrich-like, and isolate ourselves".

The Minister stressed the Government's firm commitment to Irish military neutrality. "Ireland's involvement in European Security and Defence Policy is fully consistent with our policy in this area", he said. "One of the questions which will be on your minds is, in spite of all I have said, whether or not Ireland's policy of military neutrality will continue to be relevant in the 21st century. The clear and unambiguous answer is ‘yes'. Participation by Irish troops in the EU Headline Goal will only arise in clearly defined circumstances, namely when UN authorisation is in place and when the terms of the Defence Acts have been met. Our voluntary commitment to the Headline Goal is fully consistent with Ireland's approach to overseas peacekeeping and our foreign policy traditions," he said.Top

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