Written Answers. - EU-WEU Merger.

Eric J. Byrne


52 Mr. E. Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the reported proposals by the European Commission that the Western European Union be merged with the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5141/96]

One of the main issues to arise in the course of the Intergovernmental Conference will be how the EU's common foreign and security policy provisions can best be developed to enhance the EU's contribution to European and global peace and security, including through the EU-WEU relationship and the handling of Petersberg tasks.

In this context, the European Commission has joined a number of our EU partners in stating its preference for the eventual merger of the Western European Union with the EU according to an agreed timetable and its wish to make progress towards that goal at the Intergovernmental Conference. The Government is studying these and other proposals carefully.
It will be recalled that various possible institutional options for future EU-WEU relations were identified in the Reflection Group report and in the Western European Union contribution to the Intergovernmental Conference. These ranged from maintaining the EU and the Western European Union as separate organisations, but with enhanced co-operation between them, through to proposals for eventual full merger. Both the Reflection Group report and the Western European Union contribution to the Intergovernmental Conference accepted that the different positions of member states would have to be respected and that negotiations on the various options were a matter for the Intergovernmental Conference itself.
The broad approach being pursued by the Government in relation to issues expected to arise at the Intergovernmental Conference, including the question of relations between the EU and the Western European Union, has been the subject of a number of statements by me in this House and elsewhere and was dealt with most recently in reply to parliamentary questions on 7 March last — Official Report Vol. 462, No. 7, col. 1881-1895. Chapter 4 of the Government's White Paper on Foreign Policy examines the security and defence policy aspects of the Intergovernmental Conference and sets out the underlying principles that will guide the Government's approach to these negotiations.