Government focuses on maintaining neutrality, fostering security role


THE Government is to consider participation in the Nato sponsored Partnership for Peace (PFP) and in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions with the Western. European Union, according to the White Paper.

Such involvement would not compromise neutrality as it would involve no mutual defence commitments, the paper says. Any suggestion that Ireland might participate in a common European defence policy would require a referendum.

Maintaining neutrality while developing a more active international security role are the two themes running through the key chapter on international security. The paper emphasises the Government's view that the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe are the two organisations it wants to see cent restage in the debate on European and global security arrangements.

The paper states several times it is not proposing that Ireland join Nato or the WEU. Both have commitments to collective action in the event of an attack on one or more of them. Membership of either would not be compatible with neutrality, says the paper.

But the UN and OSCE are broader based bodies, involving former Warsaw Pact, Nato and neutral states. While the WEU and Nato are military alliances, the UN and OSCE are non partisan bodies based on the principle of "collective security".

Partnership for Peace

"The Government have decided to explore further the benefits that Ireland might derive from participation in PEP," the paper says. A decision to join would be taken only after consultation with the relevant Oireachtas committees, and the terms and scope of involvement would have to be approved by the Oireachtas.

To join, the Government would have to subscribe to a framework document which set out the basic objectives of PFP. Ireland would then agree "a practical programme of co-operation" in areas of interest to this State.

The objectives of PFP include maintaining a capability to contribute to operations under UN or OSCE authority, and joint planning, training and exercises to strengthen states ability to participate in such operations.

Western European Union,

The Government has decided to, discuss with the WEU the possibility of taking part in humanitarian and peacekeeping tasks under the Petersberg Declaration.

Ireland would only be involved in non combat operations. They would not involve defence commitments and would not therefore have implications for military neutrality, says the document. The paper says it seems appropriate, desirable and right that Ireland should share its extensive experience of international peacekeeping with other European states.

Inter Governmental Conference

The document also discusses what would happen if the WEU and EU moved towards a merger. The future of the EU's relationship with the WEU will be on the agenda of the Inter Governmental Conference of the EU which opens at the end of this week in Turin. Serious discussion of a merger is unlikely at this stage but could arise.

Article V of the WEU Treaty commits members to mutual defence, a commitment which, according to the White Paper Ireland wants to avoid.

But if the EU debate moves towards a merger, the State may be faced with a difficult choice would Ireland join the WEU and make the commitment to provide military and other aid to fellow members in the event of their being attacked? Could it maintain its status as observer, attending WEU meetings but possibly having little influence? Or could it find an arrangement whereby it could deepen military cooperation in peacekeeping and humanitarian exercises while not entering a mutual defence commitment?

The paper indicates a preference for the third option, but there is no certainty that this would be available. If negotiations result in Ireland's participation in a common defence policy, the paper says, the Government has said that such an outcome will be put to the people in a referendum.

The UN and OSCE

The paper acknowledges recent UN failures in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda, but does not accept the view of many commentators that this shows the UN to be unsuited to peacekeeping tasks. Some mandates given to UN forces have been over ambitious, contradictory and seriously under resourced, it argues. Despite that, the organisation has had successful operations in Cambodia, Namibia and Central America and in ending the Iran Iraq war.

The paper highlights the operations of the OSCE, a body that receives comparatively little attention. The Government intends to increase its participation in OSCE missions.

The OSCE originated in the 1970s as an attempt to reconcile the interests of Nato and the Warsaw Pact countries. It is the only regional organisation to which all the states of North America and Europe adhere.

It should develop further its role as a focal point for European security co-operation, the paper argues. Ireland's policy will be to strengthen the OSCE as a permanent organisation for European security co-operation and to further develop the organisation's capacity for preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping."

Steps have been taken to strengthen Ireland's representation at the OSCE it has opened a permanent delegation in Vienna staffed by diplomatic and military officers and has participated in OSCE missions in former Yugoslavia and Georgia.