Written Answers. - European Rapid Reaction Force.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

80 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 18 of 15 May 2003, if the Government will object to the deployment or use of depleted uranium or cluster bombs by the European Rapid Reaction Force; if, during any of the meetings of EU Defence Ministers, the issue of cluster bombs and depleted uranium in relation to the Rapid Reaction Force's munitions has been raised; if not, if he will raise the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18866/03]

As the Deputy will recall from my reply of 15 May, the Defence Forces do not possess armaments of the type referred to by him. Specifically, the issue of cluster bombs and depleted uranium in relation to the capabilities, including munitions, offered by member states in the context of the Rapid Reaction Force has not been discussed during any of the meetings of the EU Defence Ministers held to date.

As I also mentioned in my reply of 15 May, the planning process for a Petersberg Task operation includes the drafting of a concept of operations, which includes the operation plan and rules of engagement for the respective mission. This plan is specifically tailored to the nature of the proposed operation. It is at this stage that the specific military capabilities which would be required are identified and member states have the opportunity to raise any concerns regarding the deployment or use of weapons which might be contributed to the operation by participating countries. I should add that in accordance with EU crisis management procedures the concept of operations is then submitted to the Council for approval by unanimity. The hazards posed by unexploded cluster bombs in a post-conflict context is of serious concern to the international community, which is endeavouring to address this question through discussions within the framework of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. In December 2002, state parties to the convention agreed to give a mandate to a group of governmental experts to negotiate a new instrument on post-conflict remedial measures of a generic nature which reduce the risks of explosive remnants of war.

Ireland, which has been an active and energetic contributor to these discussions, recently co-sponsored an international conference on explosive remnants of war and development which was organised by Pax Christi Ireland and took place in Dublin Castle between 23 and 25 April. The conference provided a forum for Governments, international and non-governmental organisations, researchers, representatives of the media and other experts to exchange views on the subject of explosive remnants of war. The conference was funded by Ireland Aid together with the Governments of Austria, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. My colleague Deputy Roche, the Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs, opened the international conference. He emphasised in his opening address that "the pursuit of a reduction of the threat posed by the use and manufacture of inhumane weapons is a key objective of Irish foreign policy and Ireland strongly supports and wishes to contribute to the development of international controls to reduce the suffering caused by unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war."