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Statement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., on the Motion before Dáil Éireann seeking approval
of Memorandum of Understanding regarding Ireland’s Participation in the Austro/German Battlegroup

I move the motion:

"That Dáil Éireann approves Ireland’s accession to the Memorandum of Understanding concerning the principles for the establishment and operation of a Battlegroup to be made available to the European Union in the second half of 2012”.

In commending the motion to the House, I would like to briefly outline the background to the Ireland’s participation in the Austro/German Battlegroup.

The ambition of the EU is to be able to respond rapidly to emerging crises with a key objective being the continued development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU has set itself the objective of being able "to respond with rapid and decisive action applying a fully coherent approach to the whole spectrum of crisis management operations covered by the Treaty on the European Union".
A key element is the capability to deploy forces at high readiness, broadly based on what the EU defines as the Battlegroups concept. The purpose this concept is to undertake operations known as the Petersberg Tasks as outlined in the Amsterdam Treaty and expanded upon by the Lisbon Treaty. These include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and peacemaking, crisis management by combat forces, joint disarmament operations, conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilisation.

These tasks are those that are already undertaken on UN mandated crisis management operations combining the efforts of both civilian and military personnel. They recognise the need for a comprehensive response to crises so as to prevent conflicts and for co-ordinated action in post conflict situations to ensure stability.

The purpose here is, very simply, to enable the Union to be more effective in contributing to international peace and security in support of the United Nations by putting in place a rapid response capability.

A central tenet of Irish foreign policy is to support the multilateral system of collective security represented by the United Nations. Ireland has worked to uphold the primacy of the Security Council in maintaining international peace and security. This commitment has found expression in Ireland’s longstanding tradition of participation in UN peacekeeping operations. Participation in EU Battlegroups represents another means for Ireland to express our commitment to the UN and its principles.

At its meeting of 19 July 2010, the then Government formally approved the arrangements for Ireland’s participation in the Austro/German Battlegroup 2012, agreeing to provide a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to participate in the Battlegroup. The contribution will involve a Recce/ISTAR Company together with staff posts at both the Operational and Force headquarters. Recce is, obviously, an abbreviation of Reconnaissance. ISTAR is an acronym for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target, Acquisition and Reconnaissance.

The total number of personnel involved in this Battlegroup will be approximately 175 personnel incorporating the Recce/ISTAR core of the Battlegroup, a Command and Control function, a Combat Service Support Capability and a Force Protection Capability. I must emphasise that this level of resource commitment will only arise should the Battlegroup be deployed and should Ireland agree to participate. The commitment in terms of personnel other than with a deployment will be one Officer.

This Memorandum of Understanding is an agreement between all the participants, namely Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which sets out principles in relation to the operation, deployment and management of the Austro/German Battlegroup.

There are various sections within the MOU covering areas such as;

definitions and reference documents,

the consultation process, exercise, training, certification and the operation of the Battlegroup.

financing, logistics, classified information, the status of forces and the issue of claims and liabilities

additional participation by other countries, timelines for coming into effect and termination of the MOU and dispute resolution.

Most training will take place within the contributing Member States own borders. However, some level of joint training with other elements will be required. In this regard, Defence Forces personnel will participate in joint training exercises, alongside other members of the Battlegroup, in preparation for the standby period. Exercise European Endeavour 2012, the main Austro/German Battlegroup 2012 exercise, will be conducted in May 2012.

It is important to note that each participant retains the right to deploy or not to deploy its forces, irrespective of any EU decision. Equally, each participant retains the sovereign right to withdraw its contingent at any time. The command of each contingent remains under national control, with operational control delegated to the operational commander. As a result, any deployment of the Irish contribution will still be subject to a unanimous EU Council Decision and then the “Triple-Lock” (UN mandate, Government and Dáil approval). This will remain unaffected by Ireland signing the MOU.

In 2007 Ireland previously acceded to a similar Memorandum of Understanding, following the approval of Dáil Éireann, in relation to the Nordic Battlegroup.

While no Battlegroup has deployed to date, the concept has yielded many benefits to the Defence Forces by improving interoperability with other Member States’ forces. It has also enabled the EU to develop its decision-making processes for rapid deployment on crisis management operations.

Ireland’s active engagement in this area with the EU enhances our capacity to influence the ongoing development and evolution of the rapid response capacity of the EU, in particular, reinforcing and acting as a strategic reserve for UN blue-hat operations. Active engagement by Ireland across the range of activity under the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy, means that Ireland can help shape this policy in a manner which is consistent with our values and our support of multi-lateralism and for the UN.

In summary, Ireland’s participation supports the development of rapid deployment skills and capabilities within the Defence Forces, together with improved interoperability with like-minded States. It also enhances Ireland’s credibility as a provider of professional and effective military forces for crisis management operations. Finally, it reinforces our standing and capacity to influence the ongoing development of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy in support of international peace and security and the UN.

I commend the motion to the House.



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