Written Answers. - Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

41 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of the discussions on European defence issues which took place during the recent European Council meeting in Austria. [22158/98]

An informal meeting of EU Heads of State or Government took place at Portschach in Austria on 24 and 25 October 1998. Ministers for Foreign Affairs were not present at this informal meeting.

I understand that discussion focused on a number of issues of current importance on the EU agenda including external security matters. British Prime Minister Blair, at the invitation of the Austrian Chancellor, introduced a discussion on enhancing the effectiveness of the Common Foreign and Security Policy in the face of crises such as Kosovo, particularly if and when the United States does not wish to be fully engaged. I understand a discussion ensued which focused on the need to enhance the EU's capacity to act in peacekeeping and crisis management, against the background of institutional developments such as the arrangements set out in the Treaty of Amsterdam, under which the EU can use the Western European Union to undertake the Petersberg Tasks. The discussion also focused on NATO's evolving role as an instrument and resource for peacekeeping and crisis management, and on emerging arrangements within NATO which may facilitate European capacity to act in the peacekeeping and crisis management areas.

No institutional proposals were made at the discussion. Several partners underlined the prime importance of political will in managing and resolving crises such as Kosovo.

The Taoiseach, in contributing to the discussion, recalled with some other speakers that the Amsterdam Treaty, which some partners have not yet ratified, provides potential to act together more effectively on the external front, including in peacekeeping and crisis management. The Taoiseach commented that the EU should seek to use the treaty's provisions to the best effect. The Taoiseach also drew attention to the importance of ensuring unity of purpose and approach among the member states of the EU, which is a necessary condition for an effective Common Foreign and Security Policy.