Thursday, 5 November 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): Ireland's input into the development of the common  foreign and security policy is considerable. Currently this is focused on three aspects of the CFSP which arise in the context of the implementation of the Treaty of Amsterdam which is expected to come into force early next year.
The Amsterdam Treaty provides for a revision and systemisation of decision-making under the CFSP. The role of the European Council in defining principles and general guidelines, which was already provided for in the Treaty of Maastricht, will be highlighted to a greater extent.
Under the new Treaty of Amsterdam provisions, the European Council will decide on common strategies in selected areas where the member states have important interests in common and the General Affairs Council will recommend and implement such strategies. Treaty provisions allow for decisions taken on the basis of a common strategy to be adopted by majority vote, subject to safeguards — the so-called emergency brake. It is envisaged that a common strategy will be adopted by the European Council by unanimity in the customary way, and that it will provide a more or less detailed outline of policy objectives on the basis of which subsequent implementing decisions could be adopted.
Discussions are taking place at senior official level among partners with a view to the Vienna European Council in December agreeing on a list of topics for the first common strategies to be adopted under the Treaty of Amsterdam, probably at the Cologne European Council in June 1998. Ireland is participating in and contributing to these discussions. The Amsterdam Treaty also provides for two related institutional changes to the operation of the CFSP.
The High Representative-Secretary General of the Council will have responsibility for assisting the Presidency in representing the Union on CFSP issues and contributing to policy formulation. The Cardiff European Council in June decided to appoint the High Representative at the Vienna European Council in December. It has been agreed that the High Representative will have a political rather than civil service background. The Austrian Presidency has taken up a suggestion of mine and indicated that it will conduct bilateral discussions with partners with a view to submitting a name to the Vienna European Council in December.
The Amsterdam Treaty provides for the establishment of the policy planning and early warning unit. It is intended to provide the Presidency and the council with timely assessments of situations and to produce argued policy option papers to be presented by the Presidency to the council as a contribution to policy formulation. The Western European Union Secretariat will have a presence in this unit. Ireland has been involved in the discussions on the preparations for the establishment of the unit.
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