Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009.
Second Stage Speech
Minister for Defence, Mr Willie O’Dea T.D.
Thursday 15 October 2009
I am pleased to bring this Bill before the House and I would like to thank the members for agreeing to take the Bill at short notice.
Before I go into detail on the Bill, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere condolences to the family, friends, Air Corps and Defence Forces colleagues of the two pilots who tragically lost their lives while on a training mission earlier this week. I was shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely deaths of Captain Derek Furniss, an experienced instructor, and Cadet David Jevens who died when their two-seater light aircraft crashed on a remote mountain valley in Connemara. Our sympathies and prayers are with the families, friends and colleagues of the two young men who lost their lives. Both men will be a major loss to the Air Corps and the Defence Forces.
I will now return to the provisions of the Bill.
This is a short Bill, which gives effect to the provisions of the National Declaration on the Lisbon Treaty relating to Ireland’s participation in certain activities of the European Defence Agency (EDA). It also puts in place approval procedures for any participation by Ireland in Permanent Structured Cooperation.
The Bill introduces the requirement for prior approval of the Government and Dáil Éireann for participation by Ireland in certain projects run by the EDA and in Permanent Structured Cooperation.
In accordance with the terms of the National Declaration, the Bill also provides that any participation must be for the purposes of enhancing capabilities for UN Mandated missions for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
The Bill also introduces a “triple lock” type mechanism in relation to any decisions regarding Ireland’s participation in these initiatives. This is similar to the “triple lock” we have for the deployment of Defence Forces personnel on peacekeeping operations overseas.
As is the case in relation to all defence issues within the European Union, any decision by Ireland to participate in the projects of the EDA or in Permanent Structured Cooperation remains fully and completely within Ireland’s control. Also, participation in either will not affect Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.
The Bill provides that participation in EDA projects and in Permanent Structured Cooperation can only take place where the Government is satisfied that such participation will enhance capabilities for UN mandated missions. Under the Bill, any decision by the Government must be endorsed by Dáil Éireann.
Before I outline the provisions of the (Defence Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill I would like, as useful background information, to briefly outline the EU’s role and that of the EDA in the development of capabilities and provide you with an overview of Permanent Structured Cooperation.
The EU is developing a range of capabilities and capability standards to support the EU in deploying military capabilities in support of the Petersberg Tasks. As you are aware, the Petersberg Tasks are an integral part of the EU’s European security and defence policy (ESDP). They cover:
· humanitarian and rescue tasks;
· peace-keeping tasks;
· tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.
The European Defence Agency was established under a Joint Action of the Council of Ministers on 12 July, 2004, during the Irish Presidency "to support the Member States and the Council in their effort to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the European Security and Defence Policy as it stands now and develops in the future”.
The EDA affords EU Member States the opportunity of keeping track of best practice in modern technology in the development of capabilities. This process is designed to address and overcome shortfalls in capabilities. Such shortfalls could impede the efforts of EU member States to achieve the capacity to undertake appropriate crisis management missions.
Ireland has participated in the framework of the Agency since its establishment. It is important to note that participation in the framework of the EDA imposes no specific obligations or commitments by Ireland other than a contribution to the budget. This is used to fund the Agency’s day to day operating expenses. Participation in the EDA means that Ireland has access to research and information, on developing and maintaining professional capabilities and research that we cannot self generate.
Ireland’s objectives, in participating in the Agency, is to achieve economies of scale in defence procurement and to keep abreast of best practice and new developments in the defence environment - particularly as it impacts on multinational crisis management operations.
It is vitally important to the protection of our troops, when they are deployed on UN mandated peace keeping operations that the Defence Forces have access to the latest developments in these fields. My primary concern as Minister for Defence is that we can provide the best protection possible for our troops.
Since 2007, Ireland has participated in the Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection run by the EDA. This project is an important enabler in the development of technologies to protect troops from threats such as snipers, booby traps and improvised explosive devices. Body armour, sensors and systems to counter explosive devices are key elements of the programme.
As part of the EDA’s annual work programme we are also involved in ongoing work on:
· defence against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Explosives threats;
· improved communications systems for use on the ground in operations;
· health and medical support for EU military operations and;
· the development of improved Counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) - this is a capability that enables military forces operate safely in an environment where such devices are present.
In relation to Permanent Structured Cooperation, this simply allows for a group of member States to come together, under the EU umbrella, to make available to the Union higher-end capabilities for the more demanding EU operations.
It is not clear at this stage how Permanent Structured Cooperation might work as no such arrangements currently exist. However, it could be the case that a number of member States may come together to provide the Union with, for example, large aircraft or helicopter transport capabilities.
Also, Permanent Structured Cooperation could facilitate the sharing or pooling of assets like helicopters. This would eliminate duplication and allow these capabilities to be made available more economically for ESDP operations.
For Ireland, the important thing is that any participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation arrangements will be entirely voluntary and the legal guarantee puts this beyond any doubt.
As I have already stated, it is not clear how Permanent Structured Cooperation might work in practice. However, this is an issue which will be discussed in greater detail at appropriate level in the EU, where Ireland can ensure that its values and principles are fully represented.
Member States recognise that they have an obligation to ensure that their troops have the necessary capabilities when serving on ESDP Crisis Management operations. As such, member States participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation arrangements and EDA projects is a mechanism for ensuring that these capabilities are available. Member States working together within the EU can do this more effectively.
With regard to the actual Bill:
The Bill recognises that Ireland already participates in the framework of the Agency and notes the purposes for which it was established. Ireland’s participation in the framework of the Agency is not subject to the provisions of the Bill.
The main provisions of the Bill are contained in Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill.
Section 2 deals with Ireland’s participation in projects or programmes established under Articles 20 and 21 of the Joint Action establishing the Agency. Section 3 deals with Ireland’s participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation (Article 42 TEU as amended).
Section 1 is a standard provision in relation to the terms mentioned in the Bill. It sets out definitions for:
· the Council Joint Action establishing the European Defence Agency;
· the Treaty on European Union;
· the Treaty of Lisbon and;
· United Nations mandated mission which, as outlined in the guarantees is authorised by the Security Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Section 2 (1) provides that participation by Ireland in projects and programmes established under Articles 20 and 21 of the Joint Action will be subject to prior Government and Dáil Éireann approval.
Article 20 of the Joint Action allows for the establishment of a project or programme which shall presume general participation by the participating Member States, unless a Member State specifically opts out of so doing.
Article 21 of the Joint Action allows for the participation of a group of interested Member States to come together to establish, finance and develop specific projects of mutual interest which are within the remit of the Agency.
Section 2 (2) requires that the Government should only approve participation if it is satisfied that such participation will contribute to enhancing capabilities for UN-mandated missions for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The text of the provision is drawn directly from the National Declaration by Ireland, annexed to the Lisbon guarantees.
Section 3 (1) provides that any decision enabling Ireland to participate in Permanent Structured Cooperation shall require the prior approval of the Government and the approval of Dáil Éireann.
The National Declaration by Ireland on Permanent Structured Cooperation does not contain a similar UN qualification to that pertaining to the EDA. It seemed to me that the arrangements in relation to Permanent Structured Cooperation should be consistent with the arrangements for participation in EDA projects.
I have therefore included the qualification that participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation will contribute to enhancing capabilities for UN-mandated missions for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
This qualification is set out in Section 3(2) of the Bill.
Section 4 sets out the short title.
In conclusion, I should remind the House that European Security and Defence Policy is an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This encompasses the EU’s international obligations in relation to the maintenance of international peace and security. Military capabilities are but one element among a wide range of instruments which the EU can deploy in this regard, which include economic, political, administrative, rule of law, etc. Ireland’s participation in UN mandated peacekeeping operations is undertaken within the framework of the EU’s European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). This is a continuation of our long and honourable tradition of support for multilateral arrangements in the maintenance of international peace and security.
While military capabilities are but one element among a wide range of instruments which the EU can deploy in its international obligations in relation to the maintenance of international peace and security, it is indeed a very important element.
As Minister for Defence, I am committed to ensuring that we can contribute effectively to UN mandated operations. Also, I am committed to ensuring that the Defence Forces have the best protection and the best equipment possible for participation in UN mandated operations. In this regard, where an EDA project or a Permanent Structured Cooperation arrangement has the potential to assist in the enhancement of capabilities for UN mandated operations then, obviously, I will consider the merit of such of project or arrangement, in terms of Ireland’s participation.
I commend the Bill to the House and I look forward to a constructive discussion.
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