Written Answers. - EU Foreign and Security Policy.

Ivor Callely

Question:

79 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ireland's likely involvement in EU foreign and security developments over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8304/98]

The Deputy will be aware that with the coming into effect of the Amsterdam Treaty, probably early next year, certain changes in common foreign and security policy of the European Union will come into effect. The treaty will determine the shape of the European Union's CFSP into the next century. Ireland will continue to play a full role in the CFSP as it develops along the lines envisaged in the treaty. The changes provided for in the treaty include a greater use of qualified majority voting, although it will remain possible for a member state in the last resort to block a decision; the wording of security-defence provisions in the Maastricht Treaty is revised somewhat; specific provision is made for the carrying out the Petersberg Tasks, operational expenditure arising from the implementation of CFSP will be carried in the union budget; the Secretary General of the council will become the high representative for the CFSP.

Yesterday, 31 March, the intergovernmental conferences with the six applicant countries, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, and Cyprus, commenced. Depending on progress in these negotiations, the next five years may well see the accession to the union of some or all of these countries. This enlargement of the union to 21 states and extending the boundaries of the union further eastward may well have an effect on the focus of the CFSP. Exactly what this effect will be is difficult to foretell, however, I am confident that Ireland will continue to contribute to the CFSP in as meaningful a way as it has to date.