Thursday, 20 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): I welcome this opportunity to address the House on important issues of foreign policy. For understandable reasons there has been a great deal of focus recently on the terrible events in Kosovo and surrounding countries and the debate about our proposed membership of PfP. I will address both issues in my speech today. Important as they are, however, they constitute but part of the broad spectrum of our foreign policy. In well over 40 capitals where we have resident missions, in cities as diverse as Washington and Maputo, in the chambers of the United Nations and the Council rooms of Brussels I am proud that  Ireland plays an active role in world affairs. We have a strong and effective foreign policy which is well positioned to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
Ireland is a militarily neutral country, but that does not mean that we have a neutral approach to the major issues confronting us in the world today, or that we are ineffective in our efforts to promote constructive solutions to the problems facing us. It is precisely because of the traditional values that have long inspired our foreign policy that we are better placed to promote positive developments than many larger countries, who are restricted by various constraints. We do not seek to emulate the larger countries. We have no aspirations to “force projection” in sensitive regions of the world. That is not for us. What we can do, and I believe we are doing, is to use our advantages to best effect in a number of key areas.
Before I turn to the issues of Kosovo and Partnership for Peace, it may be useful to set out the broad context in which the approach that we are taking on these two specific issues is situated. This will provide reassurance that the objectives of Irish foreign policy remain those that we have been following for many years and that there is no intention whatsoever of redefining these to serve any short-term needs.
Let me give some examples. Last week in the Hague, I gave one of the opening addresses to the Hague Peace Appeal and chaired a round table discussion involving three Nobel Laureates: Archbishop Tutu, Ramos Horta and Rigoberta Menchu. In my opening statement, I described the efforts which Ireland has been making, together with a small group of like-minded countries, to promote further our initiative for nuclear disarmament. Already, last year, our resolution in the United Nations General Assembly was adopted by an overwhelming majority. This year we are actively preparing for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2000, and we look forward to even greater support at the General Assembly in the autumn. I cannot accept that on issues of such fundamental importance Ireland cannot or should not make its voice heard.
In that regard it is interesting to note in today's edition of the International Herald Tribune an article under the heading “The World Rejects Nuclear Arms”. It is a joint article by Swedish colleague, the Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, and myself. It is interesting that it should receive significant prominence in a paper of the reputation of the International Herald Tribune. It is indicative of the fact that although we are a small neutral country people listen to us and read what we have to say.
I also described in the Hague the efforts we have been making to ensure the effective implementation of the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. Earlier this month I attended in Maputo the first conference of state parties to the treaty. I witnessed at first hand the trauma and devastation that these inhumane weapons  have caused in Mozambique. I saw the efforts that are being made, including those funded by Irish aid, to clear the land of these abominable devices. I challenge anyone who says that we do not have a foreign policy to go out and see for themselves what is being done.
When I was in Maputo, I had detailed discussions with President Chissano and, separately, with my Mozambican counterpart on a wide range of issues. We discussed the conflicts that are raging in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola as well as between Ethiopia and Eritrea and in the Sudan. Many thousands of people are dying in these conflicts and the fact that they are not European is no reason for spending fewer resources on efforts to settle them.
The issue, however, that my interlocutors were most interested in was what was happening in East Timor and my recent involvement when, following my visit to Dili last month, I sought to focus international attention on the urgent need for action. There have been some positive developments, but major threats remain. Following the recent signature of an agreement in New York, we will participate actively in activities under the auspices of the United Nations in support of the consultative process. I also took the opportunity at that conference to speak to the Foreign Ministers of many other countries in connection with our upcoming contest for the Security Council.
My last example relates to what I saw in Africa during my recent visit to Tanzania, which is a great country, and South Africa and also on earlier occasions in relation to our development co-operation programme. The Irish aid programme has grown, in the quarter century of its existence, from a budget of £1.5 million to over £159 million. It has also grown in spread and quality, focusing on people in some of the poorest countries in the world. We seek to make our development assistance activities sustainable. By tackling the basic problems of deprivation, whether in health, education or other basic needs, in a spirit of equal partnership and working with public and private bodies, including NGOs, we are making a tangible and meaningful contribution to building peace, justice and prosperity in the areas where it is most needed.
I have given these examples to show that we have wider horizons and ambitious goals not confined to Europe. However, the same principles and approach apply to what we aim to achieve in Europe and acting in concert with our EU partners, in the Union's common foreign and security policy. Earlier this month an important event, not only for Ireland but for all the countries of Europe, took place but it did not attract as much public attention as it deserved. This was the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam. This treaty put into place the framework within which the European Union will seek to achieve its objectives of providing a peaceful and prosperous Europe, free of all tensions and dangers which  overshadowed the history of our continent and the whole world in the first half of this century.
A year ago, however, we were engaged in a wide-ranging and lively debate on what the Treaty of Amsterdam meant for Ireland, what its implications for the future might be and how Ireland could play its full part in the construction of Europe while preserving the core values which have always inspired our foreign policy. I suggest the reason the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty has attracted relatively little attention is that we are comfortable with it. We can identify well with the provisions relating to conflict prevention and peacekeeping activities and we want to see them becoming effective. If any warning is needed of what happens when conflict prevention activities are not effective, we need look no further than the Western Balkans. The 1990s will be remembered for the appalling carnage and atrocities which took place first in Croatia and Bosnia and are now being replicated in Kosovo.
The overriding imperative is a moral one. A Europe which turns a blind eye to gross abuse of human rights is a Europe which allows the seeds of its own self-destruction to take root. That is why we in Ireland attach such enormous importance to upholding human rights and why we have been very active in this area internationally. Mrs. Mary Robinson's tireless efforts, including in Kosovo, on behalf of the whole international community have rightly received attention. We should also, however, recognise the efforts of all the non-governmental organisations which ensure that these issues cannot be swept under the carpet. I pay tribute to the efforts of the Irish delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, which last month chaired the annual session of the Commission on Human Rights.
However, it is not enough to increase awareness of human rights and ensure adequate means of protecting them, we must also ensure that the abusers of human rights are brought to justice. It is vital that those who have in the past committed atrocities, and who are doing so even as I speak, should be identified and brought to justice as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should they be rewarded. This applies in the case of Kosovo. Prevention is much better, and less expensive, than cure.
Apart from the moral imperative, there are very powerful arguments for ensuring that conflict prevention is successful. The costs of failure, in human and economic terms, vastly outweigh the costs of preventive action. If one looks, for example, at the annual budget of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the regional organisation with wide-ranging responsibilities for maintaining peace in Europe, and contrast it with the cost of just one day's military activity related to Kosovo, one might question the priorities. If one looks at the chronic financing problems of the United Nations, and the effect this is having on its conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations, the short-sight edness of the current approach is even more apparent.
The greatest human costs are those being borne by the Kosovo Albanians themselves. Those whom we seek to protect are the main victims. Nearly one million have already lost their homes. What we are doing in Ireland to help refugees is very necessary, but represents only a small part of a much bigger international response. I know the refugees would like to return home as soon as circumstances permit but, tragically, there is little prospect of this in the immediate future.
My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, will visit the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia next week in order to assess the situation and in particular the needs of refugees, including those who will be coming to Ireland. I reiterate that we will be generous. Ireland is committed to taking 1,000 refugees immediately, but if and when it becomes necessary to take more, we will not be found wanting. The Government will do its duty in the international community.
The economic costs of the conflict are also horrendous for the people of Kosovo and others in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the neighbouring states. At the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, which I attended in Brussels last Monday, we agreed on the broad content of a stability pact for the region and this is now being developed as a matter of urgency. We are participating actively in this work.
The greatest priority of all is to bring the conflict to an end in a way that will achieve the key objectives of the international community. At the General Affairs Council on Monday, I welcomed a role for President Ahtisaari of Finland whose country has not been involved in NATO's military actions and which will shortly assume the EU Presidency. Working with Mr. Chernomyrdin of Russia, the UN and the other permanent members of the Security Council and the G8, he can play a useful mediating role. I have made clear our willingness to assist these efforts in any practical way that is open to us.
Mr. Andrews: The conflict in Kosovo highlights another key issue, the extent to which the international community is capable of addressing problems which reflect internal and ethnically based issues. Frequently these are linked to the legitimate wish for self-determination. A core principle of the UN Charter is that of non-inter vention in the internal affairs of states, except with the endorsement of the Security Council. This principle respects state sovereignty and is intended to ensure stability internationally. Unfortunately, it has been invoked – as in Kosovo – as a means of frustrating the legitimate concern of the international community in human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing and other violence. In a world where conflicts are increasingly internal to states, the challenge for the international community is to weigh the sometimes conflicting rights that exist in international law, including the UN Charter. Should a tyrant practising ethnic cleansing escape the concerted action of the international community because of a veto in the Security Council, a veto which was originally intended to ensure that permanent members of the council would not mandate UN military action against each other, rather than as a device to protect ethnic cleansers?
This is a complex and evolving issue. The welcome growth of international concern for human rights has led to a situation in which the issue of intervention on humanitarian grounds, even in the absence of a Security Council decision, must be looked at in a serious and sustained way at the international level. I do not see a “quick fix” solution through an amendment to the UN Charter for the simple reason that it is almost impossible to amend it, given the veto powers of the permanent members of the Security Council. However, creative efforts should be deployed by statesmen, stateswomen and international legal experts to come to a working international consensus on how to address this problem. Meaningful reform of the UN is a priority if that organisation is to be able to discharge its core responsibilities effectively.
Strategies of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and crisis management are central to what we in the EU are trying to achieve in searching for stability and security in Europe. This is an important element in the background to the Government's wish to participate in the Partnership for Peace. PfP is structured around co-operation for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. These are techniques of fundamental importance. Our Defence Forces should have the full benefit of participation in training and co-operation for these techniques.
I have encouraged debate on the issue and am grateful for the contributions made on all sides of this House. However, debate must be well-informed and there has been a demand for factual information about PfP. That is why the Department of Foreign Affairs has today published an explanatory guide.
Mr. Andrews: This guide sets out exactly what is entailed in PfP, demonstrating clearly that our military neutrality, which we value greatly, is not incompatible with our participation in co-operative efforts to enhance security in our continent. This excellent, truthful and honest guide speaks for itself. It is transparent, open and leaves nothing unsaid. I urge all those interested in the truth and in an honest approach to PfP to read it carefully. There is full transparency – nothing relevant is left out or concealed. The guide reproduces the views of the previous coalition Government and, with the permission of the four states concerned, the presentation documents which Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland presented to NATO when they first joined PfP.
That an issue merits thorough debate both inside and outside the Oireachtas does not mean that a national referendum is called for. Successive Governments have made clear that if Ireland were to join a military alliance such as NATO this important question would be put to the people in a referendum. That remains our commitment. However, the Government has concluded, based on crystal clear legal advice, that a referendum is not required. I have annexed to the guide the letter incorporating the Attorney General's conclusions on this matter.
At the heart of Ireland's commitment to a peaceful world has been support for international collective security and active engagement in peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks. PfP is a framework geared to the need for greater co-operation in peacekeeping. Far from marking a radical departure in our foreign policy, participation in PfP would be in tune with our basic and enduring approaches to international affairs. Participation in PfP would reinforce our ability to support the United Nations and the OSCE in implementing peacekeeping operations and would be in full accordance with our policy of military neutrality.
It would also be of considerable benefit in ensuring that our Defence Forces remain at the forefront of best practice in UN peacekeeping. Our Defence Forces have a great record and as a former Minister for Defence I express again the Government's deep appreciateion of the brave and courageous manner in which they have conducted peacekeeping missions in many parts of the world. They have acted in the name of international peace, served their country with pride and gave us pride in turn. PfP is not in conflict with our traditional support for United Nations peacekeeping operations, nor will it hamper our continuing commitment to UN peacekeeping outside Europe. Participation in PfP will enhance the  ability of the Defence Forces to meet the challenges of UN peacekeeping in the next century.
The external environment in which Ireland must now operate has changed fundamentally in recent years. All the major international organisations active in Europe. including the EU, NATO, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe, have adapted themselves to this new environment. A feature of this process of adaptation has been co-operation between these different organisation and among the states who form their different but overlapping memberships. Participation in PfP and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council is an important means of having Ireland's voice heard in an international environment of increasing complexity.
Ireland is an island but we are not insular in our approach. We are neutral but by no means indifferent to what is happening in the world around us. PfP and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council offer the possibility of engagement in Euro-Atlantic structures in ways which are in keeping with our traditions of conflict prevention and peacekeeping and with a wide range of countries, including all our EU partners and the North American countries, on issues of mutual concern. The Government is committed to participation in PfP on terms which are consistent with our values and national interest. The nature and scope of Ireland's proposed participation, set out in a presentation document, will be submitted to the Oireachtas for its consideration and approval.
I stress the importance of maintaining a correct perspective on PfP. I do not see it as an end in itself, rather as one of a range of instruments we can use to obtain our objectives. These objectives remain those that the Government have pursued and will continue to pursue with, I hope, the widest possible support.
Mr. G. Mitchell: The impression has been given that this debate is only being launched now. In January 1998, Fine Gael published a detailed policy document setting out its position in favour of joining Partnership for Peace and in January 1999 allocated its Private Members' time to the first debate in this House on the subject. That debate smoked out the Government's position and induced it to declare publicly that it had changed its mind in respect of Partnership for Peace. Fine Gael welcomes the opportunity to debate again Ireland's proposed membership of the Partnership for Peace, particularly in light of developments since the last debate on this issue in January.
I wish to discuss whether the current crisis in Kosovo should affect the timing of our decision to join PfP. Some have argued that the Kosovo crisis should give us pause for thought before joining. I argue the reverse – the crisis in Kosovo points yet again to our current isolated position in Europe, unable to influence or try to influence events. It emphasises the urgent need to recify that situation by joining Partnership for Peace  immediately. Furthermore, I ask the Minister to confirm that Ireland will appoint an ambassador to NATO when it joins Partnership for Peace, as the other European Union and non-EU states have done. I urge him to make that appointment now so at least there will be channels open to NATO for the views of this House and of the Irish people to be put directly to the Secretary General.
Events in the Balkans represent, in the first instance, a crisis for the people of Kosovo terrorised by the actions of Slobodan Milosevic and his band of ethnic cleansers. It also represents a crisis for the European Union which has again demonstrated its weakness by its failure to respond to a crisis only a few miles from its border. The debate on the future shape of the European security architecture is gathering pace. If Ireland wishes to influence this debate and not leave it to others to decide that architecture, we must join the other European Union neutral states in the PfP now.
I welcome Fianna Fáil's belated conversion to Partnership for Peace. If it had not chosen to play politics with the issue when it was in Opposition, Ireland could have joined some time ago. The debate on Irish entry to PfP goes to the heart of the issue of where Ireland sees its role in the world. Do we continue to develop our proud tradition of contributing to the maintenance of peace in the world by joining the pivotal forum in Europe through which co-operation and peacekeeping missions are increasingly organised, Partnership for Peace? Do we simply shout encouragement to others from the sidelines? Are we self-confident enough as a state to enter such a forum, knowing our values and principles, ready to argue for them and, in so doing, make a distinctive contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in the world?
We hear again the cant from opponents to Ireland's entry to Partnership for Peace that PfP in some way represents second class membership of NATO, a military alliance with mutual defence obligations, and that Irish entry would mean an end to Irish neutrality. Let us be clear about this issue. Partnership for Peace is not a military alliance. It carries no military mutual defence obligations. It is a co-operative structure in which participants pick the areas in which they choose to co-operate. For this reason, ultra neutral Switzerland, which is not even a member of the United Nations because of the obligations it imposes on members, is able to join PfP. It is the reason other traditionally neutral countries such as Sweden, Finland and Austria, were willing to join PfP.
In January 1998, I set out in detail in the Fine Gael policy paper the nature of PfP and the advantages of Ireland joining. I also put forward that case in the Dáil last January. Rather than rehearse it, I wish to address the argument of opponents of PfP that there should be a referendum on the issue. Ireland is a representative democracy in which the people elect their representatives to legislate under the auspices of a Constitution which was also democratically  chosen by the people and is open to amendment by the people.
This House decides many matters that are crucial to the lives of people, for example, tax rates, levels of social welfare, consumer protection, environmental protection and criminal law. Nobody suggests that the Government must consult the people by referendum on these crucial issues. However, on the issue of PfP, a number of people believe there is a need to so do.
Let us get serious about this. Partnership for Peace involves no mutual defence obligations. Even Switzerland, which holds four or five referenda per year, did not hold a referendum on its entry to Partnership for Peace. Opponents of PfP are aware that the elected representatives of the people favour PfP membership. They simply wish to subvert our representative democracy and get another bite of the cherry by holding a referendum.
There are three reasons for my opposition to holding a referendum on this issue. The first relates to the Good Friday Agreement. The Irish people voted on that Agreement and agreed to amend the Constitution to give effect to the Agreement. We must accept that Northern Ireland is part of NATO and that Northern Ireland is the reason Ireland is not part of NATO. Partition is the reason Ireland did not join NATO from the beginning.
We must regularise our relationship with Northern Ireland and with Britain. That involves taking into account what future relationship we want with Britain and with other countries with which Britain has alliances. That includes examining security and defence issues. Partnership for Peace allows us to do that without joining NATO. We must learn to co-operate. To amend the Constitution again after already amending it on foot of the Good Friday Agreement is nonsensical.
The Constitution was also amended by the Amsterdam Treaty which came into effect on the first day of this month. That treaty incorporates the Petersberg tasks which include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace enforcement. Partnership for Peace will allow our Defence Forces to train for participation in the Petersberg tasks yet there is a demand to put the question to the people again. It has already been dealt with in two referenda and holding a third referendum on the issue would undo the work of the Good Friday Agreement and the Amsterdam Treaty.
What question would be put to the people? Would it be “Should we join Partnership for Peace?” or “Should we join Partnership for Peace and carry out the following tasks: A, B, C, D and E?” If we take the first option and the people agree, we can negotiate virtually anything under the guise of Partnership for Peace. If the second option is agreed to, we might find that the issues on which we initially sought to co-operate need to be varied, increased, decreased or that  they do not suit and we will be unable to participate without a further referendum.
I was sorry to see a recent editorial in a reputable newspaper, The Irish Times, taking this soft option. This newspaper is generally imaginative, fair, balanced and reasoned and it gives good coverage to serious issues. To change its stance and produce such an editorial, which has the implications I outlined earlier, was, to put it mildly, a great surprise to people who have faith in that newspaper.
I have no doubt that those in favour of Ireland's membership of Partnership for Peace would win a referendum on the subject. Recent opinion polls show a clear majority in favour. However, that is not the point. In a representative democracy, the people elect their representatives to govern and if they do not agree with the actions of those representatives, they have the opportunity at least every five years, usually more frequently, to replace them.
I wish to address a further matter relating to our “cherished neutrality” and the type of role Ireland wishes to play in the world. To many of its advocates neutrality has been imbued with almost mystical value. To the neutralists, we still live in a world of two armed camps, and there is something pure and moral about being neutral between these two equally loathsome camps. I am not sure I ever bought into this view of Ireland's role in the world, but I do not accept it in the Europe of 1999. Irish neutrality seems to consist of being, to quote the Minister for Foreign Affairs, stuck between a rock and a hard place, with the hope that somebody somewhere will do something. I do not take pride in the way Ireland and the rest of Europe stood aside while murder, rape and ethnic cleansing took place in Bosnia. I am not levelling that criticism at my colleague in Government. As Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs, I attended General Affairs Council meetings, and we did nothing. We did not have the capacity or will to do anything until NATO went in and took on the tyrants. Srebrenica was only the start of a number of Srebrenicas. We should be ashamed to talk in the terms we talk considering what happened in Srebrenica. Ireland cannot speak out or influence these issues unless it is willing to play a role. We cannot be neutral on ethnic cleansing.
In terms of Kosovo, Milosevic could not have been allowed to act again with impunity as he did in Bosnia and Croatia. The world could not stand idly by while millions more were raped, murdered and forced out of their homes. NATO was left with no choice but to bomb the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That is not to say mistakes were not made. The failure to plan properly for the influx of refugees, even though it was foreseeable and foreseen, and to develop a plan B if the bombing did not succeed were serious miscalculations. The argument that the world should have continued the way it was, with endless talks with President Milosevic while ethnic cleansing was taking place in Kosovo, could not be sustained.  The world tried negotiations and unarmed monitors, but to no avail. Those monitors were held outside Racak while people were murdered and the only thing they could verify was that people were dead. Milosevic understands only one thing. Like all bullies, he must be stood up to. All other options failed in Bosnia and in Kosovo. Ireland must make its voice heard at meetings of the UN Council, the European Union and Partnership for Peace. We have a distinctive contribution to make with our sense of justice and long experience of peacekeeping and some of peace enforcing.
I welcome this debate because it gives us an opportunity to raise these issues. Sixty million Europeans lost their lives in the first half of this century because of conflicts that started in Europe. The European Union was set up to prevent a recurrence of such conflict. The integration of countries into the European Union brings with it rights and responsibilities. If the objective of integrating Europe is economic and political security, we should take our share of the responsibility for security.
The European Union is open to all European democracies. I hope one day the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will join the EU, when it becomes a democracy and respects human rights – a criterion for membership. It is currently not a democracy and does not even remotely meet the EU requirement in terms of respect for human rights. It perpetrates genocide within its borders. The stealth with which this genocide commenced in Kosovo is best summarised in the words of an experienced Irish diplomat, who has had much experience of the Balkans. He said their approach is that a village a day keeps NATO away. That is the reality. Kosovo was planned. The Holbrooke process, Racak or the Rambouillet process did not work.
The genocide continued during all that time. Nobody with any sense of morality wants people to lose their lives in Serbia or anywhere else. Accidental death of civilians, however dreadful, cannot be compared with the genocide the bombings aim to prevent. The position in regard to refugees is somewhat different. It was foreseeable and foreseen. It is appalling that the response to the refugee crisis, including our response, was so meagre and so late. I hope a basis can be found to allow for a cessation of the bombing, but such a basis must include provisions for the secure return of refugees to their homes and a force to guarantee the security of all Kosovars in Kosovo.
I say this for a reason. The KLA, by some accounts, has a split personality, with hints of fascism on one side and Stalinism on the other. There are reports that 130,000 Serbs left Kosovo between 1966 and 1989 because of harassment and discrimination by the Kosovan Albanian majority. That has not been mentioned very often. I read that recently in a respected journal entitled Foreign Affairs. If this is true, it is alarming and must also be condemned. The KLA  objective may well be a greater Albania with all the worrying implications that has for Macedonia and Montenegro.
An article in Foreign Affairs by Chris Hedges of Harvard University in the May-June edition states that Kosovo, unlike Cyprus and Bosnia, has no fixed lines dividing the antagonists and that the province's battle lines resemble the constantly shifting sands of the 1980s guerrilla wars in Central America. He also states that a stretch of road that is safe in the morning can be deadly in the afternoon and that because this is an insurrection, rather than a war between armies, rebels can be farmers one day and combatants the next and that it will be impossible to define them. He goes on to state that, in contrast, the frontlines in Bosnia had changed little by 1992.
Sending in a land force is not a simple solution. We cannot adopt a policy to fight to the last American. Those calling for an end to the bombing, the commencement of negotiations and a ground force to be sent in must realise such a ground force must be representative of all member states of the European Union, as well as having an input from NATO and, hopefully, Russia, but it will have a difficult task. It would not be its task to simply hand over to one side to the detriment of the other. This is something that needs to be kept to the forefront, and I hope the Minister will do that in any discussions he has in Europe.
We must learn from this crisis that Europe and its people must be defended from attack and genocide from outside or inside, and that Ireland has a responsibility to share in such defending. On the issue of security and defence, it gives me no pleasure to say we behave like selfish adolescents rather than a mature proud independent State. Independence does not mean indifference. It means choosing to become involved when we see injustice done. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we did not know how Charlie Haughey got his wealth. It is well known that people did not want to know about it. They hoped he would pull the same stroke for the country as he did for himself. We can fool ourselves into thinking we did not know about Belsen and Dachau. We can even fool ourselves into thinking we can revise history and pretend that fear of the IRA usurping the State is what really kept us neutral in World War II, but what excuse can we give for Srebrenica? I am ashamed of the role of the EU, including ours, as we stood by and talked nonsense when people were murdered in large numbers in Srebrenica. Yet some people in this House and outside it spit out the name NATO as if it is a foul word.
Mr. G. Mitchell: Of course they shroud their abuse in cosy references to arms manufacturing states. However, some of those states are also members of the EU. We must strive to reduce  and eliminate the arms trade, but abusing the only power capable of preventing genocide is not the way to do it.
Mr. G. Mitchell: The EU may, in time, evolve into a defence community. This may come about through the merger of the EU and the Western European Union. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend not to know yet again. We cannot and must not go on fooling ourselves. If the EU-WEU merger comes about, those who will join at the beginning will make the rules and NATO participants will have to take all or nothing, just like EMU.
From the beginning, it would serve our strategic interests best to take part in the debate in a real way. We should argue that the Western European Union commitment in article 5, which requires one state to automatically come to the defence of another if attacked, should be an optional protocol. This gives us the maximum number of options if the merger goes ahead. I know, as a member of the reflection group which prepared the agenda for the Amsterdam Treaty, that a number of European states would be prepared to listen to that argument. We should not miss this opportunity because if the merger goes ahead and that protocol is not dealt with, it will be very hard to undo it later.
So far, Ireland has voted for the EU to give policy direction to the Western European Union in the area of the Petersberg tasks. Those who smugly and immorally camp on the high ground of Cold War rhetoric and are emotionally dead when it comes to the real concerns of humanity – defending the weakest human beings from genocide – who use every opportunity for political self-advancement—
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Under Standing Orders, I ask the Deputy to give way to an intervention. Does his concern about genocide extend to that of the Kurdish people being perpetrated by Turkey, a prominent member of NATO?
Mr. G. Mitchell: They do not clamour to suggest that the European Union or the Western European Union should replace NATO in these conflicts. These self-satisfied people see their role in life as opposing, not proposing. Public house republicans to whom the late John Kelly referred  as “sneaking regarders” have much in common with the public house rhetoricians—
Mr. G. Mitchell: If we are to take on the Petersberg tasks we must prepare defence forces to do so. I have previously argued in this House for law and order in this country, not because I am right wing or indifferent to social injustice – I am no such thing – but because law and order protects the weakest people in the community. Those who suffer in my constituency are the elderly, usually women, and children who cannot be sent to the shop because they must run the gauntlet of thugs. They are the people who suffer when there is no law and order. I make no apology for arguing for law and order as a social justice issue. Social justice requires us to take our part in securing our neighbours in Europe. In preparing to undertake the Petersberg tasks we must take on the responsibility of joining Partnership for Peace.
In a previous debate I cited the reasons we should join Partnership for Peace. I wish to make two further points and to repeat those reasons. First, whatever happens at the end of the conflict in Kosovo, there must be no safe conduct, no safe haven and no absolution for those who have perpetrated the terrible crimes of genocide. This must be made absolutely clear in the final outcome.
Second, I wish to make a special case for Bulgaria and other countries who have suffered enormously because of the war in Serbia. As Todor Gradev argues in today's edition of The Irish Times, Bulgaria deserves an open and straight road to western Europe. A country which has struggled to bring about democracy and a market economy is now being devastated because it cannot get its goods to the marketplace. Bulgaria and other similarly affected countries in the region must be given assistance now.
Furthermore, as a result of the economic suffering in Bulgaria and other countries and the political implications, with people looking to Russia rather than the West, I ask the Minister to urge his colleagues to bring forward EU enlargement and the financial assistance promised to those countries to allow them take on that responsibility. We need this as much as they do. If we are to have peace and stability in Europe we must have integration, not disintegration.
There are many reasons I believe we should join Partnership for Peace. Our extensive peacekeeping experience which is disproportionate to our size, can be shared in a structured way with other states. We in turn can learn in a structured way from the experience of other states. Member ship of PfP would create an outward looking perspective, keep our Defence Forces in a modern mode and boost morale. Ireland should not set a precedent of splendid isolation – if other states follow its example, instability in Europe could ensue.
Membership of PfP would not affect our tradition of military neutrality, as is evidenced by the role in PfP of Austria, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and even Russia, although we need a separate debate on neutrality. There will be an opportunity for greater North-South, East-West and British-Irish co-operation, building on the strong foundations of Air Corps-Naval Service-RAF search and rescue practice. The co-operation of neutral Sweden and NATO member Norway, both of whom are members of PfP, shows how neutral and aligned neighbours can co-operate. Increasingly, international strife is of an internal nature in countries such as former Yugoslavia and Algeria and requires a new response.
Humanitarian aid can be distributed only where there is security, stability and good order. Participation in PfP can help to maximise our capacity to assist in circumstances of this kind. Training to counteract illegal drugs importation could be written into any PfP agreement. As an island state this could bring many benefits in dealing with the drugs epidemic. It demonstrates to our EU partners and the wider international community that we are prepared to play an active role in the evolving post-Cold War European security architecture and helps establish our credentials for influencing this evolution. PfP is a mutual agreement. We agree the role we want and this is designed to suit our circumstances. It is not a “one fit” suit which states must wear. A cogent argument in support of not joining it, based on sustainable principles has not been put forward.
In response to Deputy Higgins, I recently raised the question of the Kurds with the speaker of the Turkish Parliament and with an all-party delegation from that Parliament. I have no difficulty raising such issues.
Mr. Ferris: As one of Ireland's observers in the Western European Union, I have on numerous occasions re-emphasised our neutrality. Compliments were regularly paid to our neutrality and the role Ireland has played as a peacekeeper. I welcome this opportunity to speak about the current crisis in Kosovo and the Government's plan to join PfP. However, it is regrettable that the House is only now getting around to holding a substantive debate on PfP, particularly as it is long after the Government has made its decision and Fianna Fáil has reneged on the commitment it gave to the electorate prior to the last general election that a referendum would be held.
The conflict in Kosovo is the biggest Europe has witnessed since the end of the Second World War. The House has not discussed the matter since March when there was a brief debate in the  immediate aftermath of the initial NATO attacks on Yugoslavia. We are living in a period of rapid political change. Within the past ten years, we have witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the map of eastern Europe change beyond recognition. New alliances are emerging and the Thatcherite tide that threatened to swamp Europe during the 1980s has been reversed with 13 EU member states having left or centre/left Governments. The EU has developed at a rapid rate moving closer to political and economic union with the Maastricht Treaty, the Amsterdam Treaty and the introduction of the single European currency on 1 January 1999.
Attitudes are changing, positions are being re-examined and views are evolving. For instance, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Germany is a member of the Green Party and he participates in meetings of NATO foreign Ministers. In this rapidly changing world, it is not sustainable to repeat a meaningless mantra about “the sacredness of Irish neutrality” as if we were still in the midst of the Second World War or trapped deep in the dark days of the Cold War.
As papers released earlier this year indicated Ireland's neutrality during the Second World War was not as neutral as many people had believed. In addition, any objective study of Ireland's role during the Cold War will show that it's neutrality was lopsided. That is not to devalue our record on neutrality or, particularly, that of successive Governments in keeping the country out of military alliances.
Despite its neutrality, Ireland has not been isolationist. As far back as the 1930s Ireland was an active member of the League of Nations. It has been a member of the United Nations for 40 years, has served on its Security Council and provided the President of the General Assembly on one occasion. Irish troops have served with distinction in virtually every continent. Irish foreign Ministers, such as Deputy Spring, have served with distinction as President of the EU Council and in that role have helped to broker solutions to many international conflicts and disputes.
It is against that background that the entry of Ireland into PfP must be considered. In the context of the people's long standing commitment to neutrality and non-participation in military alliances any proposal that Ireland should join PfP, an organisation that is effectively a NATO sub-group, was always going to be controversial. It is known, that there is a range of views within most political parties on this issue but whatever decision is finally taken I am absolutely satisfied that there is a need for a full and informed debate on the implications of all the security needs of the EU in advance of any application for membership.
Despite the repeated promises of the Government we have not had that debate and it has done nothing to promote one. The leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn, made a distinction between a debate and statements on the Order of Business earlier. Only today the Government got  around to issuing a discussion paper on the matter. Some people have read it and said that some statements in it are confusing.
The recent opinion polls published showed that a majority of people is in favour of PfP membership but also that a majority is in favour of holding a referendum. This indicates the level of uncertainty that exists. Fianna Fáil made a specific statement in its general election manifesto that it opposed Ireland's participation in NATO-led organisations such as PfP. The Taoiseach also stated in the House in March 1996 that “A decision to join the PfP without a referendum would be a serious breach of faith and fundamentally undemocratic”. For any political party to renege on such a solemn pre-election commitment is to further undermine public confidence in political parties and create further cynicism about the entire political process.
I recall the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burke, when he was a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committees on Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, continually saying Fianna Fáil would not allow Ireland to join PfP without a referendum. He emphasised that so often that all of us were convinced that if anybody else attempted to join PfP based on any legal opinion, Fianna Fáil would oppose it if it were in Opposition. It has transpired that in spite of the commitment it gave to the electorate, Fianna Fáil has reneged on it in Government.
Last week, the Tánaiste stated that the people elect representatives to give leadership and make decisions. That is undoubtedly true, but I hope she will also acknowledge that the electorate votes for parties and expects them to keep their promises, especially when it is a solemn commitment such as that given on this important matter.
Fianna Fáil's position defies logic. It acknowledges that it needs a new mandate for its U-turn but says the election to the European Parliament on 11 June will provide it. How can those electing the European Parliament provide a mandate for membership of PfP, an organisation that has no relationship to the European Parliament, as it is not an EU institution? That there are a range of views on this subject in virtually all the political parties, means the European elections are a particularly unsuitable mechanism for testing the wishes of the people on this issue.
I acknowledge that the legal advice available to the Government, which was re-emphasised by the Minister today, is that a constitutional amendment is not required to allow membership of PfP. Similar advice was given to the previous Government. However, the Fianna Fáil party committed itself to holding a referendum or consultative plebiscite to establish the views of the electorate on such an important matter. It was elected to Government on the basis of that commitment.
The Government is already committed to holding a referendum to establish a constitutional basis for local government on 11 June, in conjunction with the local and European elections. It would have been a relatively simple administrat ive and organisational task to put another question to the people on PfP – as it promised it would do – on the same day, without any additional expense.
It is most unacceptable that the Government has failed to honour its commitment to a full national debate in advance of any decision to join. Regardless of whether this country ultimately joins PfP, it is essential that there should be a full and informed debate on the implications of membership and of all the security needs of the European Union. In this regard, I commend Deputy Gay Mitchell for at least attempting on several occasions to institute this debate. A limited discussion within the narrow confines of the Fianna Fáil party does not constitute a national debate, irrespective of how big its members believe their party to be, or the percentage of the vote they expect to get in any future election.
I have no doubt that, regardless of one's views of PfP, all democrats would accept the decision of the people as expressed through a plebiscite. The people have shown consistent support for full membership of the European Union and the sharing of sovereignty this requires. I fully support Ireland's participation in the development and implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy envisaged by the Amsterdam Treaty. Partnership for Peace and the security needs of the European Union are separate and distinct issues. One can support one without necessarily supporting the other.
The shocking conflict in Kosovo and Yugoslavia serve only to emphasise the need for new security arrangements in Europe and to illustrate once again that NATO, with its Cold War legacy, is not a suitable or appropriate body to try and deal with this conflict in Europe. It is most disappointing that the Government has done absolutely nothing – apart from attending meetings – to help to broker a solution to this conflict. We are now a month into what is the biggest war Europe has seen for the past 50 years, yet the Government has been reduced to the role of silent spectator. The silence and inactivity of the Government has been in stark contrast to the commendable efforts of our other neutral colleagues in Europe, such as Finland, and even NATO members like Greece and Italy, to secure an end to the fighting, and broker a political solution. Inevitably, this will have to happen.
The plight of the people of Kosovo – and the way in which the international community should react to that plight – raises political, moral and legal questions to which there are not easy answers. There are different views within the Houses of the Oireachtas as to whether NATO attacks were a legitimate or effective way of defending the Kosovar Albanians. However, what is abundantly clear is that the situation cannot be allowed to drift and that new diplomatic initiatives are required to secure a settlement to the conflict in Kosovo and bring about an end to the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia.
Slobodan Milosevic is a brutal dictator who  seems to be imbued with the most malignant form of nationalism. His forces have been guilty of serious atrocities against the civilian population in Kosovo. The desire of all democrats should be to see Milosevic out of office, proper democratic structures established in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and significant autonomy for Kosovo, which would ensure that the civil, religious and cultural rights of its people will be protected and their civil rights upheld.
Raising questions about the wisdom of the NATO approach does not imply support for Milosevic. It is clear that the NATO approach has not worked so far. Milosevic is still in place, ethnic cleansing continues and hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians have been driven out. Many of them are in refugee camps, the conditions of which are appalling. Other refugees are being dispersed all over Europe, including Ireland. Enormous damage has been caused to the civilian infrastructure in Yugoslavia and many innocent civilians have died.
Overnight, we have heard reports of three patients being killed when their hospital building in Belgrade was struck by a missile. If anyone believed it was possible to have a war without innocent victims, then surely they must have been disabused of this view by the horrific images on our television screens in recent weeks of the Kosovar refugee camps and the mutilated bodies and broken people in the aftermath of the latest NATO attacks. This is not the first conflict to show that smart bombs and surgical strikes are concepts that exist only in the minds of generals and military strategists.
Equally shocking have been the accounts of ethnic cleansing and rape being carried out by official and unofficial Serbian forces, free from the glare of television cameras. It simply cannot be allowed to continue. There should be no question of pursuing a war that is not going to work, simply because to end it would damage NATO's credibility.
New political initiatives are required, therefore. The Labour party believes the following steps should now be taken. There should be an immediate suspension of NATO bombing for a specified period of perhaps 72 hours, which could then be extended as appropriate. There should be a simultaneous end to all hostile actions by Serbian forces and the KLA and Slobodan Milosevic should undertake to facilitate the immediate and unconditional return of the Kosovar Albanians who have fled to neighbouring countries. There should also be an acceptance of the need for a UN mandated peace enforcement presence – including troops from NATO countries, Russia and neutral states – to guarantee the safety of those returning.
Among the steps to be taken should be an immediate commencement of the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and the phased introduction of the UN force, the immediate re-entry  to Kosovo of the OSCE monitors who left prior to the NATO bombing and a massive international aid package to provide food, facilities and health services for refugees, pending their return to Kosovo. There should be political negotiations under the auspices of the UN, involving Serbia and the two separate Kosovar strands, represented by Ibrahim Rugova and the KLA to determine arrangements for the future governance of Kosovo. A regional UN conference should be held to settle all outstanding issues in the Balkans with the participation of Russia, Serbia, Greece and other local states and an EU stability pact for south-eastern Europe which would include substantial economic assistance for the Balkan countries and an association agreement, including trade agreements, leading to eventual membership of the EU.
I welcome the tentative indications during recent weeks that some NATO countries are beginning to seek a way out of the present campaign. I also welcome indications that within Serbia there are people beginning to question the intransigent position of Milosevic. What is beyond dispute is that the people of Europe cannot allow this conflict to drag on indefinitely while the casualties mount, the plight of the people of Kosovo continues and we drift inexorably towards a more deeply divided world and a renewed arms race that will have incalculable consequences for the poor of the world.
It is also beyond doubt is that, even when Milosevic eventually calls off his killers, when the KLA put away their arms, when the bombers go back to bases and the missiles are returned to their silos, there will still be a huge humanitarian relief effort required. The conflict in Kosovo has led to the greatest mass displacement of people in Europe since the end of the Second World War and there are now up to 750,000 refugees in the region. To put this in a familiar context, it is the same as the population of the entire Connaught-Ulster region being forced to move out of that area and into Leinster and Munster. This movement of people has, of course, put a huge strain on those countries which have received the refugees – mainly Albania and Macedonia. They have taken the majority of refugees created by this extraordinary war. It has also put a huge strain on the resources of the humanitarian organisations that have tried to ensure basic food, medical care and some degree of shelter for the refugees. These bodies have performed heroically in the most difficult circumstances and without their intervention many more of those who fled the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in search of safety would have died of hunger and disease.
While there are many humanitarian organisations in different countries, including Trócaire, Concern, GOAL and others in Ireland, who are doing great work, the international body with primary responsibility for dealing with the plight of refugees is the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Its role is to protect and assist refu gees worldwide and to try to find a solution to their plight.
The UNHCR is now in crisis because of the strain put on it by the scale of the exodus from Kosovo. The Commission has spent all the cash available for the Kosovo emergency and it would be appalling if, as a result of a cash shortage, its operation in the Balkans had to be either stopped or even scaled down. The UNHCR has appealed for $143 million to allow it to continue its operations. So far I believe it has received only about $71 million but much of this is already spent or committed. My colleague, Deputy De Rossa, raised this matter on the Adjournment last week and urged the Government to substantially increase its contribution to the UNHCR. So far the response from the Government has been disappointing – a rather miserly £400,000. This is a conflict taking place in Europe, the wealthiest continent in the world, with Europeans being displaced and Europeans dying at the hands of other Europeans. Yet the biggest response to the UNHCR has come from Japan. With the enormous resources at the disposal of the European Union, it must be possible for it to respond in a generous way to the appeal from UNHCR.
Surely it is possible for this country, which is creating record wealth and where the Exchequer is literally awash with cash, to respond to the UNHCR and to at least match the contribution of $3.4 million made by Denmark and the Netherlands, which are similar in size to Ireland. If, for whatever reason, the Government does not consider that it can take any political initiative to help stop the conflict, then surely it can give a lead in terms of humanitarian response.
I believe there is also a particular obligation on those NATO countries which are waging the air war against Yugoslavia to match the money they are spending on the military campaign to provide resources for the humanitarian effort. The war has so far cost billions of dollars, though nobody other than the Governments involved know the exact amount. Since each cruise missile costs in the region of $1 million, the money the UNHCR is seeking is the equivalent of 143 cruise missiles. That money must be found.
There are increasing signs of a possible deal in relation to Kosovo, which is welcome. Any action by the international community which leads to an end to bombing must be fully supported. However, it would be cynical in the extreme if, in the course of negotiations which will now almost certainly begin, anyone were given immunity for crimes committed during this conflict, especially for crimes committed in the name of ethnic cleansing. This is intolerable and people involved should be tried as war criminals.
Almost 1 million people have lost their homes in Kosovo in the past 14 months and three out of every four of them have been displaced in the last two months. According to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe the crimes committed against those people include killing, execution, physical abuse, rape, forced displace ment, destruction of civilian property and looting, sexual assault, including rape of groups of women, torture, ill-treatment, harassment, intimidation and the use of groups of people as human shields. All the people so cruelly treated have not been accounted for and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that if and when the people of Kosovo return home, mass graves will be found as further evidence of the atrocities committed.
It would be unthinkable if the people responsible for these crimes were to be given immunity from prosecution in return for some compromise agreement. The only basis the west would have for agreeing to such immunity is the fear that in its absence, the west itself could be called to account for such matters as the deliberate bombing of TV stations in which journalists and others were at work.
All of us want to see peace. All of us want to see the people of Kosovo to their homes and begin the rebuilding of their lives and their communities but a peace deal which lets war criminals off the hook would bring further shame to the entire international community.
Before the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began, I said in this House that the action would cause major difficulties in the region, that it would play into the hands of Mr. Milosevic, weaken our relationship with Russia and, worst of all, worsen the position of the Albanian Kosovars. All that has come to pass. I agree with Deputy Ferris that we need an immediate ceasefire. We must continue the diplomatic initiative begun by my German Green Party colleague, Joschka Fischer, so that we can bring about peace in the region. It is interesting to note that, according to the President of Albania, the Apache helicopters and the troops are in Albania and Macedonia because of PfP commitments. This is not some innocuous organisation or what Jamie Shea calls “an educational forum”. It is much more than that.
It is important to outline the positions of the parties with regard to Partnership for Peace. Deputy Ahern, when Leader of the Opposition, said it would be a gratuitous signal to others that we were giving up our neutrality; it would be a breach of faith and fundamentally undemocratic to enter PfP without a referendum. We now see Fianna Fáil doing a brazen U-turn with very little  explanation of what has changed in the meantime. Fine Gael, since 1994, has intended to abandon Irish military neutrality. The party stated in its election manifesto that it wanted to join the Western European Union. Fine Gael's position is quite clear and Deputy Mitchell has even called for a debate on full NATO membership.
This morning I was greeted with howls of derision and even outright hostility by my colleagues in the Labour Party because I had the temerity to ask what their party's position is on PfP. I am still not clear, having listened to Deputy Ferris. Is it too much to ask a main opposition party their stance on the NATO-led Partnership for Peace? What is wrong with asking that question? The Labour Party is deceiving people by calling for a referendum while not stating what its position will be when the referendum is called. The people would like an answer to that question. The holding of a referendum is supported by 71 per cent of the people and they are being ignored.
The smaller parties who are opposed to membership of PfP have been allocated ten minutes to speak in this debate. This reflects the attitude of the main parties; they do not want a debate on this issue. Partnership for Peace is a stepping stone to NATO. We should forget the argument that other neutral countries are members of PfP. In a position paper prepared for the US Congress, those neutral countries have been referred to as former neutrals and within those countries there is internal opposition to PfP. That position paper prepared for the US Congress states: “Public opinion is still attached to Sweden's military neutrality. However, elite opinion sees the logic in joining a military alliance”.
The position is exactly the same in this country where the debate is being led by elite opinion. Members of the Defence Forces have behaved disgracefully speaking in public about sensitive political matters. A civil servant attending the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs disagreed with his Minister and stated that we should join the PfP. What will happen next? Can we expect a Secretary General to recommend to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs that we should join NATO?
All the predictions made by the Green Party in the Amsterdam Treaty referendum campaign have come to pass. We warned that by signing Article J.7.2 of the Amsterdam Treaty we were committing ourselves to further military activity and that this would represent a significant erosion of Irish neutrality. I note that this is used in the document published by the Department of Foreign Affairs today, quoting the Petersberg tasks. Once we join the PfP, it will only be a matter of time before this House debates full NATO membership.
The Labour Party now fudge on the issue of membership of PfP. In its place they suggest a European army. Would such an army be based on first strike nuclear weapons? It is time the electorate knew where each party stood on the  issues of Irish neutrality and PfP. The US ambassador to NATO has said that enhanced PfP is furthering the goal of military inter-operability and “making the difference between being a partner and being an ally razor thin”, in other words, the difference between being a member of NATO and of PfP is practically non-existent. We will spend a great deal of money which could be used to build hospitals, schools and houses on military equipment to bring ourselves up to the required standard for inter-operability. When that happens it will only be necessary to sign on the dotted line and become a member of NATO. What will the Attorney General's advice be on the need for a referendum on joining NATO? When Ireland signed the Amsterdam Treaty, his advice was that there would be no need for a further referendum. The people must not be led up the garden path.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): The Government, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have behaved shamefully in ganging up to ensure that the opponents of PfP do not have adequate time to debate this question. The major parties are afraid of a debate because they know the truth will out.
The Partnership for Peace explanatory guide published by the Government this morning is a disgraceful document. It is utterly dishonest and attempts to convey the impression that joining PfP is like joining the boy scouts or the girl guides. We need only read the documentation to see that the reality is the opposite. The framework document which set up PfP on 10 January 1994 is explicit. It states: “The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the other states subscribing to this document resolve to deepen their political and military ties . The states joining PfP will co-operate with NATO for the development of co-operative military relations with NATO for the purpose of joint planning, training and exercises and the development over the long-term of forces that are better able to operate with those of the members of the North Atlantic Alliance . NATO resolves to promote military and political co-ordination at NATO headquarters in order to provide direction and guidance relevant to partnership activities with the other subscribing states including planning, training, exercises and the development of doctrine”.
These are chilling words which signal the preparation for a full military alliance into which this country is being dragged by a grand coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The Labour Party is utterly dishonest, refusing to state where it stands but favouring an EU army. The denial of a referendum is a denial of a debate on this issue. This is a deliberate action by the Government because it is afraid the truth will come out. The Government is afraid the people will see that this is not a partnership for peace but a new military alliance.
Language is daily degraded by NATO in the Albanian and Serbian conflict. Language is also degraded in the politics of this State. Deputy Mitchell demonstrated the hypocrisy of those who  advocate PfP. He completely failed to recognise the position adopted by NATO towards Turkey where the Kurdish people are routinely repressed and denied their rights.
Mr. Daly: As chairman of the Irish delegation to the Council of Europe, I am glad to avail of this opportunity to raise some matters relating to this very important issue. Time is equally short for all contributors to this debate. There is a need to draw the attention of the public to the alarming and deteriorating situation in the Balkans and Kosovo in particular. In the past two years no issue has taken up as much time in the Council of Europe. Many were caught by surprise. It was the hope that a formula would be found in the peace negotiations near Paris around St. Patrick's Day. The situation is deteriorating rapidly and there is now little prospect of finding a speedy solution. The military action looks set to continue for some time. There is a real danger – this is the view of many on the Council of Europe – that the conflict will extend beyond Kosovo and engulf the entire region in what would be an enormous international tragedy.
It is relatively safe to comment from a distance but if one speaks to representatives on the Council of Europe from Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Slovenia and the other countries which have suffered enormously at the hands of Slobodan Milosevic it is obvious they believe that there is no option but to decide his future militarily. He will not make any effort to resolve the conflict and, in the view of those familiar with his tactics and conduct, is hell-bent on escalating the conflict in Kosovo and dominating the entire region in a way that is inexplicable.
I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the non-governmental agencies involved on their efforts to find a way of dealing with the refugee crisis which is of enormous dimensions and escalating. The majority opinion is that refugees want to remain as close as possible to the areas from they have been expelled and to return as quickly as possible. The problem has been resolved to a limited extent in Croatia.
The Government, which has made a valuable financial contribution, has agreed to accept up to 1,000 refugees. I congratulate the local community in Farranfore for turning up in large numbers at a late hour and in bad weather to welcome the first group of refugees on their arrival in County Kerry. This indicates a willingness on the part of the community at large to make every effort to be supportive. I compliment the Departments and non-governmental agencies involved in the provision of accommodation, education services and interpreters.
When people are being slaughtered and ethnically cleansed, Ireland, no more than any other civilised country, cannot remain neutral. Slobodan Milosevic has to be tackled head on. I can  see no other way of dealing with the crisis which the Russians and the Germans are making efforts to resolve. The sooner Slobodan Milosevic is defeated the better to restore sanity to the region and avoid the prospect of the conflict spreading which is too horrific to contemplate.
The previous speaker criticised the document issued today by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland and Partnership for Peace, from which he quoted at length. His logic baffles me. I compliment the Department for explaining in detail the issues involved and for outlining the background to the establishment of Partnership for Peace in January 1994.
Partnership for Peace is a framework for greater co-operation in the area of peacekeeping. There are no constitutional implications for Irish sovereignty or neutrality and no mutual defence commitments. There is no need for a referendum which would be overwhelmingly carried. Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland remain committed to their neutrality. Switzerland has made it clear that if Partnership for Peace forms a military alliance, it will withdraw to preserve its neutrality. Ireland would be in a similar situation.
There has been a transformation in Europe since the end of the Cold War. The Council of Europe was established with 11 countries 50 years ago. There are now 41 member states following the accession of Georgia about one week ago. We are living in an era of co-operation. Our involvement in Partnership for Peace would be a welcome endorsement of our peacekeeping efforts.
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