The Defence Forces are not participating on a PESCO project in Mali. The Defence Forces are participating in the EU Training Mission in Mali. The purpose of this mission is to train the Malian armed forces and support the Government in Mali is asserting sovereign control over its national territory. The mission is undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006. It is also supported under a resolution of the UN Security Council. It does not in any way compromise Irelands traditional policy of military neutrality.
PESCO is a capability development mechanism which is provided for under the EU treaties. It is not a mechanism for launching crisis management or peace-keeping operations. Ireland's participation in PESCO was agreed by Government and approved by Dáil Éireann prior to the Council Decision establishing PESCO on 11 December 2017. As a participant in PESCO, Ireland is required to participate in one PESCO project. It is important to note that participation in each project is on an “opt in” basis and is therefore entirely voluntary.
Ireland, and therein the Defence Forces, is currently a participant on two PESCO projects - (1) The German led European Union Training Mission Competence Centre and (2) the Greek led Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance Project. Both projects are from the initial round of PESCO Projects. We also have observer status on a further eight PESCO projects - six from the initial round and two from the second round.
Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO has no implications for Ireland’s policy of military neutrality.
The establishment of PESCO represents a further development in EU Cooperation in support of international peace and security under CSDP. Under PESCO, Member States will come together in different groups to develop and make available additional capabilities and enablers for peacekeeping and crisis management operations.
Within the EU, it is accepted that defence and security is a national competence and that any decisions, including any deepening of EU cooperation, require unanimity. Ireland continues to have a strong and equal voice on defence issues within the EU institutions.