Dáil Éireann - Volume 656 - 29 May, 2008

Written Answers. - Constitutional Amendments.

Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the purpose of the mutual defence clause in the Lisbon treaty; if those to be defended and participating in the mutual defence refer solely to members of the EU which are being defended and who will do the defending under this clause; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21554/08]

Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the decision making procedure for Ireland to join the Lisbon treaty’s permanent structured co-operation; if such a decision will require Dáil Éireann approval or a referendum of the people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21556/08]

  Deputy Micheál Martin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 78 together.

The article in question refers and applies solely to Member States of the European Union. While the article sets down a requirement of aid and assistance to a Member State which is the victim of armed aggression, it provides no mechanism for implementation of such aid and assistance. Moreover, it specifically states that this commitment “shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States”, a formulation originally proposed by Ireland to protect our position. It would, therefore, be for Ireland to take its own sovereign decision on whether and how to come to another Member State’s assistance, taking into account our traditional policy of military neutrality.

The Lisbon Treaty also makes provision for permanent structured co-operation among those Member States “whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions.” [123] It would, of course, be a matter for each Member State to decide whether to participate in such permanent structured co-operation.

There have been no proposals to date in this area. Moreover, the possible future development of structured cooperation would not in any way change the requirement for all European Union peace-keeping or crisis management missions to be decided upon unanimously by EU Member States. Participation by the Defence Forces in any overseas mission will, of course, continue to require compliance with the ‘triple lock’ of Government decision, Dáil approval and United Nations authorisation. There have been no proposals to date in this area. Moreover, the possible future development of structured cooperation would not in any way change the requirement for all European Union peace-keeping or crisis management missions to be decided upon unanimously by EU Member States. Participation by the Defence Forces in any overseas mission will, of course, continue to require compliance with the ‘triple lock’ of Government decision, Dáil approval and United Nations authorisation.

I would like to emphasise finally that the Bill for the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty specifically retains our Constitutional prohibition on participation in an EU common defence, should one ever be proposed.