Wednesday, 8 December 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
78. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence the contact, if any, he has had with other defence ministries in the EU; if he has attended recent meetings of EU Defence Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26258/99]
Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): At the invitation of the Austrian Minister for Defence, I attended a meeting of Defence Ministers of the member states of the European Union in Vienna on 3 and 4 November 1998. The invitation from the Austrian Minister was extended in September last year when Austria held the Presidency of the EU. The meeting, a once-off and informal event, was non-decision making in character and was held outside the institutional framework of the EU.
Discussions focused primarily on the development perspectives of European peacekeeping and crisis management with particular emphasis on the practical effect of the inclusion of the Petersberg tasks in the Treaty of Amsterdam. This reflected a recognition that the need to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts, such as those that have occurred in the former Yugoslavia, is the current key security challenge facing the UN and the international community as a whole. On the basis of our voluntary and long peacekeeping experience, Ireland is ready to make a continuing contribution to strengthening the international community's conflict prevention and crisis management capabilities and I made this known during the course of the meeting.
I received an invitation from the German Minister for Defence to attend a meeting of European Defence Ministers in Bonn on 28 May 1999 in order to, inter alia, exchange views on developments, such as the Kosovo crisis, in advance of the EU summit in Cologne. Due to prior commitments I was unable to attend. Ireland's permanent representative to the Western European Union, Ambassador Eamon Ryan, represented me at the meeting.
Defence Ministers of the 15 member states of the European Union were invited by the Finnish Presidency to participate in discussions at the recent EU General Affairs Council on 15 November 1999, particularly with reference to the question of military capabilities for the Petersberg tasks. I attended the meeting and contributed to these discussions, emphasising Ireland's strong and long-standing tradition in UN peacekeeping and crisis management.
Apart from the aforementioned meetings, I have had occasional informal discussions with European Defence Ministers on the margins of Western European Union Ministerial Council meetings as the occasions presented.
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