EU and Nato to endorse closer ties at Brussels summit

Move to more closely align institutions will prove uncomfortable for Ireland

Soldiers taking part in the “Baltops” military exercise in Ustka, northern Poland, earlier in June. It is the largest and most important Nato exercise in the Baltic Sea. Photograph:  Adam Warzawa/EPA

Soldiers taking part in the “Baltops” military exercise in Ustka, northern Poland, earlier in June. It is the largest and most important Nato exercise in the Baltic Sea. Photograph: Adam Warzawa/EPA

 

EU leaders are expected to endorse “accelerated and practical” co-operation between the European Union and Nato at Tuesday’s EU summit in Brussels, in a move that is likely to prove uncomfortable for Ireland.

While Brexit is expected to dominate the two-day summit in Brussels, EU leaders will discuss co-operation with Nato on Tuesday afternoon, in a bid to give political backing to increased interaction between the two institutions ahead of a Nato summit in Warsaw next week.

Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg will attend the EU leaders’ summit which commences on Tuesday afternoon in Brussels and will be attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Ireland is one of six EU member states that is not a member of Nato, and traditionally has been strongly opposed to any move that would align the two institutions.

But Russia’s incursion into Ukraine has given a new momentum to greater EU-Nato co-operation, driven by France, Germany and Britain.

A joint EU-Nato statement is expected in Warsaw on the sidelines of the two-day summit which will be attended by British prime minister David Cameron, who is expected to underline Britain’s commitment to the alliance despite Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

According to a draft text to be signed off by leaders, the EU will endorse “accelerated and practical co-operation between EU and Nato in selected areas”, but crucially this will be “without prejudice to the specific character of the defence policies of member states”.

Ireland, supported by Austria, Cyprus and Malta, had been keen to ensure that a commitment to individual countries’ defence stance was included in the final statement, as well as the confirmation that the EU and Nato are still classed as autonomous and very different organisations.

Less sensitive

But two other non-Nato EU members, Sweden and Finland, are less sensitive about encouraging closer links between the two institutions amid concerns in the Nordic countries about increasing Russian aggression. The question of whether Sweden and Finland should join the transatlantic alliance has emerged as a key discussion point in both countries in recent years.

As well as a statement on EU-Nato co-operation, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will present an EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy at the two-day summit. Although the much-anticipated policy paper had been in the pipeline for years, its presentation was expected to be delayed due to Brexit.

Instead it will now be discussed by leaders at the summit, despite the fact that Britain’s impending exit has struck a blow to the EU’s foreign policy agenda given the country’s status as a member of the UN Security Council and a leading global foreign policy player.

In her forward to the global strategy document sent to leaders at the weekend, Ms Mogherini writes that: “This is no time for uncertainty: our Union needs a strategy.”

“The purpose, even existence, of our Union is being questioned . . . Yet, our citizens and the world need a strong European Union like never before.”

Though Ireland is not a member of Nato, the transatlantic defence organisation that was established in 1949, it has previously participated in Nato-led, UN-mandated missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Additionally, Ireland is part of “Partnership for Peace”, which allows non-Nato members to take part in certain Nato operations.

The biennial Nato summit takes place in Warsaw on July 9th and 10th and will be attended by global leaders including US president Barack Obama.

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