In the European constitution, member states express their determination to ensure that the Union is capable of fully assuming its responsibilities as part of the international community. They also recognise that the United Nations may request the Union's assistance for the urgent implementation of its missions. In order to undertake peacekeeping and conflict prevention missions in the framework of the European security and defence policy, the so-called Petersberg Tasks, the Union must be able to use the capabilities, or resources, of member states.
The European constitution puts in place a new arrangement known as permanent structured co-operation to enable those member states wishing to do so to commit to being able to undertake the most demanding crisis management missions. Structured co-operation is open to all member states, on the condition that they undertake to enhance their defence capacities through the development of national contributions and subject to participation in a number of areas specified in Article III — 312.
Member states can signal their decision to take part in structured co-operation once the constitution comes into force. Alternatively, member states who decide not to participate immediately can decide to do so at a later date, providing they meet the criteria outlined.
Decision-making procedures in relation to structured co-operation are set out in Article III — 312 of the European constitution. These provide that decisions will be taken by unanimity among the states participating in permanent structured co-operation. The detailed arrangements for the implementation of structured co-operation, including financial aspects, have yet to be elaborated. The Government will consider further its approach to possible Irish participation in structured co-operation in due course. Such consideration will include an assessment of the national implications from a financial perspective.