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EU Defence Ministers renew their commitment to support UN Peacekeeping

The Informal meeting of Defence Ministers concluded this afternoon in Dublin Castle. The meeting, which is one of the Informal meetings of the Irish Presidency, was chaired by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD., on behalf of Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission.

The Ministers discussed a range of issues including the upcoming European Council on Defence, Mali, the Horn of Africa and Partnerships between the EU and the United Nations.

Ministers also had the benefit of the presence of the Secretary General of NATO Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Under-Secretary General in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Mr. Herve Ladsous, representing the UN, for the first time, at an EU Defence Ministers meeting.

In relation to the European Council on Defence in December, Ministers agreed that this forum would provide them with the opportunity to increase the effectiveness, visibility and impact of Common Security and Defence Policy.

Minister Shatter Commented “I consider the discussions that took place over the past two days reflect a renewed impetus for developing military capacity for the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy”. He went on to say that “much work remains to be done, specifically in relation to European Council on Defence and I also hope that I will see some new dynamism reflected in a renewed commitment by EU Member States to re-engage with the UN and to support UN Peacekeeping through the provision of the necessary military capabilities, when and where needed. There is a unity of approach from all sides, that view defence as critical to the security of the people of Europe and indeed security in the world. We need to safeguard those who cannot defend themselves and ensure that we have the requisite defence capabilities to this end”.

Ministers had a detailed exchange of views in relation to Mali and received a briefing from the Mission Commander Brigadier General Francois Lecointre. The broad consensus arising from the meeting was that this Mission will impact greatly on the prevention of terrorism in the region and safeguard Europe and its citizens in the future.

In relation to the agenda item concerning Operations, Ministers received a briefing from Brigadier General Gerald Ahern of the Irish Defence Forces, who is the current Mission Commander for the EU Training Mission in Somalia. Also, Rear Admiral Robert Tarrant, the newly appointed Operation Commander, gave an update on EUNAVFOR Atalanta. Ministers congratulated the Commanders on the progress that all are making in their respective missions.

Partnerships, in particular, between the EU and the United Nations, were the final item for discussion. This is a priority in the Defence area during the Irish Presidency and this discussion was a natural successor to a very successful seminar held recently, in Dublin Castle, on the subject of Regional Organisations support for the UN. This topic, afforded EU Ministers of Defence and Mr. Ladsous, Under Secretary General, Department of Peacekeeping Operations in the United Nations, the opportunity to discuss how to foster more effective co-operation and build partnerships in order to enhance the effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping operations. Minister Shatter said “we need to overcome the lack of political will in using the EU’s military capabilities so as we do the right thing when people are in danger. It is incumbent on all of us to defend those who require it and we must remember that the Common Security and Defence Policy is there to save peoples’ lives. CSDP matters.”

In relation to the Informal meeting itself, the Minister said, “The meeting of Defence Ministers is extremely important in enabling Member States shape the evolution of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, both strategically and operationally. There is great enthusiasm and commitment from all Member States to work together on issues of concern at both national and international level. I am sure that this enthusiasm will remain for the duration of Ireland’s Presidency and beyond”.

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