As a committed EU Member State, Ireland supports fully the efforts of EU Member States to improve the Union's capacity to respond to the prevailing challenging security environment, including in the area of defence. The establishment of PESCO in December 2017 represented a further development in EU Cooperation in support of international peace and security under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Through participation in all aspects of CSDP, Ireland has been able to influence the overall direction of CSDP, in particular ensuring recognition by the EU of the UN as its key strategic partner and ongoing support for the UN and multilateralism. Participation in PESCO is important in continuing that influence.
PESCO provides a framework for capability development designed to contribute to enhanced capabilities for CSDP crisis management operations in the medium to long term so as the EU has greater capacity to act in support of international peace and security.
Ireland is currently participating in two PESCO projects - (1) The European Union Training Mission Competence Centre and (2) Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance, and is an observer on a further nine projects.
As part of Ireland’s participation in PESCO, Ireland, together with fellow participating Member States, have made several commitments which include regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms, increased cooperation on cyber defence and the use of the European Defence Agency as the forum for joint capability development, among other commitments. As a participating Member State, the PESCO commitments inform our defence planning in the short, medium and long term. Ireland also completes an annual PESCO National Implementation Plan which is shared with other participating Member States in order to track progress on these commitments.
In relation to engagement with European defence manufacturers, the principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to ensure fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site and on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where appropriate, in line with the EU procurement Directives, including the Defence and Security Directive. Such tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions. In following these guidelines and codes, the Department of Defence must deal impartially with all companies that are entitled to enter its procurement competitions and must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria.
In relation to Ireland's overall participation in PESCO and the specific PESCO projects in which we are engaged, my Department has not been subject to lobbying by European arms manufacturers. However, as the Deputy will appreciate, to ensure our Defence Forces have the best equipment required to undertake the roles assigned by Government, including on difficult and dangerous overseas operations, it is important that officials and members of the Defence Forces remain abreast of the latest developments in defensive and military equipment through engagement with industry representatives and manufacturers. My Department would also engage in market sensing and attend international conventions on military equipment in this regard. In the normal course, manufacturers would also meet with officials and members of the Defence Forces to make presentations on new and emerging technologies and equipment. This is part and parcel of the business of my Department.