Defence policy not threatened by EU security ties - Kenny

EU move to bolster security policy will not affect Irish nonalignment policy, Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives for the second day of the European heads of states summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Julien Warnand

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives for the second day of the European heads of states summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Julien Warnand


The European Union’s commitment to strengthening its common security and defence policy (CSDP) does not affect Ireland’s policy of nonalignment in any way, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Speaking in Brussels after a two-day meeting of EU leaders, the Taoiseach said the discussion on deepening co-operation on defence issues had been “balanced.”

“[This] doesn’t in any way impact on our nonalignment, and our requirement for participation involving the triple lock,” the Taoiseach said, referring to the arrangement by which Irish troops can be deployed only with the approval of the Irish government, the Dáil and the United Nations.

the Taoiseach added, noting Ireland was actively involved in 10 of the 16 CSDP missions.

Agenda topper
For the first time in five years defence topped the agenda of the EU summit, amid concerns in Brussels about the recent decline in defence spending by individual member states – a concern shared by Nato.

Leaders resisted France’s request to create a military defence fund to finance military deployments of national missions. However, they pledged to examine ways to support the French intervention in the Central African Republic. The EU’s high representative, Catherine Ashton, will present a proposal to foreign ministers next month.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy praised France for its intervention in the region, stressing that the decision had the EU’s full support. Nonetheless, German chancellor Angela Merkel insisted there would be “no retroactive financing” from the EU for a mission started by France without an EU mandate, over which it had no control.

The situation in Ukraine was discussed at length by EU leaders yesterday, with the European Union insisting the door remained open to an agreement, despite Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich’s last-minute choice for a trade deal with Moscow.

Europe is open for Ukrainian people but not necessarily for this government. That’s the message,” said Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania, which holds the presidency of the European Council.

Permanent European Council president Hermann Van Rompuy was more circumspect, insisting the promise of an association agreement was not an exclusive deal designed to exclude Russia but to encourage Ukrainians to chart a course for their own future.

The summit also resulted in EU leaders moving forward, slowly but steadily, towards the idea of committing to national programmes of growth and job-enhancing reforms in exchange for financial incentives.

Germany and France proposed these so-called contractual arrangements to maintain reform momentum and move the EU – and euro zone members in particular – beyond a repeat of the euro crisis.

Binding arrangements would, Berlin and Paris argue, fill in the final gaps of European economic union by addressing disparities in competitiveness and productivity across the union.

Reform weariness
But many EU leaders are wary of the initiative, faced with reform-weary voters at home and dealing with a raft of crisis-era fiscal reforms at EU level.

Southern European countries – those likely to face the greatest reform demands – are holding out on committing until they see what incentives are on offer.

Meanwhile, the Dutch and Belgians, usually German allies in reform matters, are critical, arguing at the meeting that countries should be reforming without the need for financial incentives.

Ireland is understood to have reservations about the proposed “contracts.”

While leaders postponed the deadline for agreement from next June to October, chancellor Angela Merkel said the intense discussion indicated the proposal was now well on its way to becoming policy, “though we are moving forward millimetre by millimetre, I admit that”, she said.