Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (227)

John Gormley

Question:

367 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the solidarity and the mutual defence clauses in the proposed EU Constitution; the impact of same on Ireland’s neutrality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25373/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The solidarity clause and so-called mutual defence clause are separate issues in the European constitution.

As regards the solidarity clause, Article I-43, it is for each member state to determine how to respond to a request from another member state in case of terrorist attack or natural or man-made disaster. No member state is bound to take any particular course of action. The European Constitution also contains a declaration on the solidarity clause, which clearly states that none of the provisions of the solidarity clause are intended to affect the right of another member state to choose the most appropriate means to comply with its own solidarity obligation towards another member state. Any decisions having military implications under the solidarity clause would be taken by unanimity. The Government has welcomed and supported this provision which is fully consistent with our traditional policy of military neutrality.

With regard to the so-called "mutual defence clause", Article I-41.7 of the treaty, the constitution states that if a member state is a victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other member states will have a obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter. Importantly for Ireland, the article goes on to make clear that this obligation shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states.

As the Taoiseach and my predecessor have consistently made clear, in the event of another member state coming under attack, we would continue, as we do now, to determine our own response, consistent with our own constitutional and legal arrangements. Ireland is not bound by any mutual defence commitment and the entry into force of the European Constitution will not change this. Our traditional policy of military neutrality is not altered or compromised by this Article in the constitutional treaty.

Question No. 368 answered with QuestionNo. 174.