Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 30 Jun 1999

Vol. 507 No. 3

Written Answers. - EU Defence Meetings.

Olivia Mitchell


43 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if he has been invited to attend meetings with other Defence Ministers in the EU; if so, his response to these invitations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16599/99]

Frances Fitzgerald


104 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Defence if he has been invited to attend meetings with other Defence Ministers in the EU; if so, his response to these invitations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16815/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 104 together.

At the invitation of the Austrian Minister for Defence I attended a meeting of Defence Ministers of the member states of the European Union in Vienna on 3 and 4 November 1998.

The invitation from the Austrian Minister was extended in September last year when Austria held the presidency of the EU. The meeting, a once-off and informal event, was non-decision making in character and was held outside the institutional framework of the EU. No decisions or conclusions were reached and no final document was, therefore, produced. Defence Ministers of all the 15 EU member states, including of course the EU neutral states, attended as well as the secretary general of the Western European Union – WEU. Discussions focused primarily on the development perspectives of European peacekeeping and crisis management with particular emphasis on the practical effect of the inclusion of the Petersberg Tasks in the Treaty of Amsterdam. This reflected a recognition that the need to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts, such as those that have occurred in the former Yugoslavia, is the current key security challenge facing the UN and the international community as a whole. I found this an area of great interest and, indeed, importance for Ireland in view of our strong commitment to European integration and in consequence of our long history of support for peacekeeping operations. These two fundamental concepts are brought together in Ireland's readiness to contribute to Petersberg Tasks on a voluntary and case-by-case basis as is our right in accordance with our observer status at the Western European Union. On the basis of our voluntary and long peacekeeping experience, Ireland is ready to make continuing contribution to strengthening the international community's conflict prevention and crisis management capabilities and I made this known during the course of the meeting. Indeed, Ireland has, along with our fellow neutral EU member states, and many other non-Nato states, moved into a new dimension of regional peacekeeping through our participation in the stabilisation force in Bosnia – SFOR – and now with our intended participation in KFOR in Kosovo. I found that the Vienna meeting provided a timely opportunity to share experiences in the peacekeeping area with those other countries with which we have much in common.
As can be seen from what I have outlined, the focus of the Vienna meeting was very firmly in the area of peacekeeping and crisis management. My contribution to the discussions was in that context. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to the meeting and to indicate Ireland's approach to the issues raised.
Apart from the Vienna meeting, I might mention that I have had occasional meetings with other European Defence Ministers on the margins of Western European Union ministerial council meetings as the occasions presented. Such a meeting took place prior to the Western European Union ministerial council meeting in Bremen on 10 May 1999.
I received an invitation from the German Minister for Defence to attend a meeting of European Defence Ministers at Bonn on 28 May 1999 in order to,inter alia, exchange views on developments, such as the Kosovo crisis, in advance of the EU summit at Cologne. Due to prior commitments I was unable to attend. Ireland's permanent representative to the Western European Union, ambassador Eamon Ryan, represented me at the meeting.