When the Lisbon treaty enters into force we will be sure to have an Irish Commissioner at the Commission table. However, if the ratification process is not completed and the Nice treaty remains in force, the size of the Commission will be reduced and no country, including Ireland, will be guaranteed a place at the table.
The Lisbon treaty will simplify and stabilise the Union's external representation. One of the key elements in this area is the establishment under the treaty of two important new positions which are relevant to the foreign policy area. As I have mentioned both already, I will not repeat them. I shall say a few words about the post of High Representative because there was some misrepresentation on this matter. This new post will improve the interaction and coherence between the Council and the Commission in that the High Representative will also be a Vice President of the Commission, with responsibility for external relations. The High Representative will be able to make proposals in respect of the common foreign and security policy and elaborate the Union's external action on the basis of the strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council. He or she will be assisted — this is a considerable innovation — by a European external action service which will have a presence both in Brussels and in third countries. The EEAS will include staff seconded from the national diplomatic services of the member states as well as officials currently serving in the Commission and the general secretariat of the Council.
Turning to more general points, I wish to refer to the European Defence Agency. The Lisbon treaty also puts the European Defence Agency, which was established during the Irish Presidency in 2004, on a treaty basis for the first time. The purpose of the agency is to assist and support the member states to develop the necessary capabilities to undertake peace support and crisis management operations. It is important to say that participation in specific EDA projects is entirely voluntary and is for national decision on a case-by-case basis. The legally binding guarantee on our traditional policy of military neutrality, secured by Ireland at the June Council meeting, provides that it will be a matter for each member state to decide, in accordance with the provisions of the treaty and any domestic legal requirements, whether to participate in the EDA.
The Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, which was published last month and introduced in the Dáil last week by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, makes clear that Irish participation in EDA programmes will be subject to the prior approval of both the Government and Dáil Éireann. It also provides that the Government will not approve participation unless it is satisfied that such participation would contribute to the enhancement of capabilities for UN-mandated missions in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
I hope that, with the passage of this Bill, we will be able to turn a page and move on from the protracted discussions on institutional issues and focus our efforts on issues of direct consequence and relevance to the citizens of Europe. That is not only the view of the Irish Government but is the common governmental view throughout the Union. We want to take Europe away from internal discussion and navel gazing about institutional arrangements and move onto the bigger issues of concern to citizens. I have in mind issues such as climate change, energy security and the global economic crisis. The Lisbon treaty gives the Union the tools it needs to tackle big ticket issues such as these and issues which are beyond the scope and competence of any individual member state.
European Union membership continues to be vital for our future and the ratification of the Lisbon treaty represents an important step we can take on the road to national recovery. I recall, as the Minister, Deputy Martin, did yesterday, what Jack Lynch said in April 1972, namely, that the decision to be taken in our referendum on EEC membership would in future times "be recorded either as an unprecedented opportunity which we chose to grasp with incalculable gain or which we chose to throw away with irreparable loss". The people faced a similar decision on 2 October and once again made a wise and comprehensive decision.
Again, I offer my personal gratitude to Members from all sides who participated in an extraordinary referendum effort. If we as a nation might sometimes put partisan considerations to one side and focus on the big ticket issues, we could achieve wonderful results. I thank the House.