As the Deputy will be aware, discussions within the EU in the area of defence and security take place in the context of the Common Security and Defence Policy, for which decisions require the unanimous approval of all member states. These discussions take place at regular meetings of Heads of State and Government, at ministerial level meetings and through the Council preparatory bodies.
To date this year, I have met my EU ministerial colleagues on two occasions, at the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) in March and more recently on Saturday last, 6 May, at the informal defence ministerial meeting in Sofia. At both of these meetings, PESCO and matters relating to it were agenda items. At the ministerial Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting on 6 March, the Council decision detailing the first set of PESCO projects and the Council recommendation on the way forward on PESCO implementation were both adopted. Arising from the Council recommendation, discussions are ongoing between my Department, EU colleagues in other member states and the PESCO secretariat in respect of a common set of governance rules for PESCO projects.
The Council decision detailing the first set of PESCO projects confirmed Ireland's participation in two projects - the European Union training mission competence centre and the upgrade of maritime surveillance. Both of these projects are in the very early stages of development and, accordingly, the scope and timeline for participants' involvement has not as yet been fully determined.
PESCO projects will enhance the capability and capacity of the Defence Forces to successfully undertake UN-mandated missions, including CSDP operations, consistent with the provisions of the Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. Ireland's participation in PESCO projects is on a wholly voluntary, case-by-case basis.
The common set of governance rules for PESCO projects and the implementation of PESCO were discussed at the informal ministerial meeting held in Sofia on Saturday last. Following discussions at this meeting, it is anticipated that High Representative Mogherini will present an annual report to the Council each year, potentially in May. The report will have input from the participating member states and will detail progress on implementation of PESCO.
In terms of informing Dáil Éireann, I welcome the opportunity to discuss defence matters here and would encourage more extensive discussion on the important and emerging security and defence challenges we face as a country. I am always available to update the Oireachtas on developments, including in the context of CSDP and PESCO, as I did recently when I accepted the invitation of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence to answer questions on 26 April.