Ireland to sign up for two EU Pesco projects

Defence Forces to engage in shared Europe training and maritime surveillance schemes

Ireland is to agree to join two projects as part of its participation in a European Union defence project, the Permanent Structured Co-operation (Pesco).

Minister with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe will travel to Brussels on Tuesday for a meeting of foreign affairs and defence ministers and confirm Ireland will engage with just two of the 17 Pesco projects.

Pesco is an EU agreement on greater co-operation on military missions around the world. It enables EU states to co-operate with each other on defence projects, services, programmes and procurement and will contain legally binding commitments to increase defence expenditure.

Mr Kehoe will inform the meeting the Defence Forces will participate in the European Union "Training Mission Competence Centre" project, which refers to the training and education of personnel for future missions.


International waters

Ireland will also engage with the “Maritime Surveillance” project, which aims to provide timely and effective response to threats in international waters.

The Government’s decision to sign up for Pesco, which was supported by Fianna Fáil, was criticised in the Dáil last year with some opponents saying the move was undermining Ireland’s traditional policy of neutrality.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Kehoe said the participation in the two selected projects would ensure Irish troops were equipped with the latest and best equipment and training.

The Minister will also commit to the continued active participation in the EU migrant search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

Operation Sophia aims to disrupt people smugglers in the Mediterranean and to enforce an arms embargo of Libya.

The operation in the Mediterranean began in April 2015 and Mr Kehoe will confirm Ireland’s continued participation.