I thank the Deputy for asking this question. I am glad to have the opportunity to put a statement on the record on this matter. The European peace facility, EPF, which was first proposed in 2018 by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, is designed to provide the EU with an off-budget financing mechanism of up to €5 billion to finance a range of EU common security and defence policy, CSDP, actions with military or defence implications for the period of the next multi-annual financial framework from 2021 to 2027.
The EPF will unite and expand the scope of two existing mechanisms, the Athena funding mechanism, which handles the financing of common costs relating to EU military operations under the CSDP, and the African peace facility, which primarily supports African Union actions. The EPF will expand the geographical scope of the African peace facility and also include a mechanism for funding assistance measures in support of capacity-building for peace and security. This will cover both non-sensitive measures and sensitive measures, incorporating the equipment to which the Deputy has referred. Discussions are ongoing at EU level to finalise the provisions of the EPF, but negotiations are close to finalisation and it is expected that it will be operational in 2021. Officials are closely engaged in the process in order to ensure the outcome reflects Ireland's interests and Government policy, including our policy of neutrality.
With regard to the role Ireland and the Defence Forces will play in the EPF, Ireland is an active participant in both civilian and military CSDP missions and operations. Our Defence Forces currently participate in three EU military operations: Operation Irini, the European Union training mission in Mali and Operation Althea. Ireland's participation in the EPF does not impact on the Defence Forces' role in these operations. Under the EPF, Ireland will continue to contribute to the costs of these missions and the other three military CSDP operations. Decisions on any EU military operations overseas and generally in the area of the CSDP require unanimity at the Council of the European Union. Ireland retains a veto in this regard, along with all other member states.