EU military proposal poses challenge for Ireland

Bratislava forum to discuss 'ambitious implementation plan on security and defence'

EU defence plan: Ireland has traditionally been staunchly opposed to the concept of enhanced EU military co-operation. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

EU defence plan: Ireland has traditionally been staunchly opposed to the concept of enhanced EU military co-operation. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Ireland’s relationship with the European Union is facing a fresh challenge with EU leaders consider increasing security and defence co-operation.

EU leaders are gathering in Bratislava on Friday to consider the future of the European Union following Britain’s decision in June to leave the bloc.

The imminent departure of the EU’s second-largest member has given renewed momentum to calls for a common European defence strategy.

Traditionally, London has blocked any moves towards a more integrated foreign and security policy, arguing that European defence interests are better served through Nato.

A joint paper by the French and German foreign ministers issued days after the Brexit vote called for a “new European security contract”, arguing that the security of Europe’s citizens would be better served through more co-ordination on security and defence.

Ireland has traditionally been staunchly opposed to the concept of enhanced EU military co-operation, though it does partake in a number of common security and defence policy missions.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini outlined her intention earlier this month to devise “an ambitious implementation plan on security and defence” that would make use of previously unused articles of the Lisbon Treaty.

Among the main proposals under consideration is a “permanent structured co-operation” mechanism which would encourage like-minded countries to pool military and defence capabilities.

Defence procurement

Irish officials said that the Irish protocol to the Lisbon Treaty secured after the first Lisbon referendum in 2008 ensured that Ireland would not be obliged to subscribe to any new common defence policy. But the prospect of a more integrated EU defence policy is likely to cause headaches for the Government as Ireland reflects on its role in the EU post-Brexit and navigates the continuing controversy over the Apple judgment.

A call for greater European co-operation in defence will also form part of Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech when he addresses the European Parliament on Wednesday in his annual “state of the union” speech, two days before the Bratislava summit.

While Mr Juncker has previously voiced support for the creation of an EU army, officials stressed that the new policy did not constitute the first steps towards the creation of a common army.