Tuesday, 30 January 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): It was important that the Nice European Council sent a positive message to the candidate countries that their difficult reform programmes would be rewarded by membership of the European Union in the near future. The greatest reassurance which could be given was the successful conclusion of the intergovernmental conference, which has now paved the way for enlargement to begin. For further information on the treaty agreed at Nice, I refer the Deputy to the answer I gave to Question No. 87.
With regard to the enlargement negotiations themselves, the Nice European Council endorsed the Commission's strategy paper, which includes an indicative road map for accession negotiations over the coming 18 months. On the basis of the  decisions at Nice, we can now make a substantive leap forward in the negotiations. The Swedish Presidency, in its ambitious programme of work for enlargement, has shown that it is determined to maintain and add further to the momentum of Nice. Ireland is anxious to play its full part in the success of this programme of work and looks forward to a positive review of enlargement at the European Council in Gothenburg in June.
ESDPOn European security and defence policy, the European Council approved a Presidency report on progress made in establishing an EU capability to undertake crisis management tasks. The mandate for this report was given by the European Council in Feira, and its scope embraces the implementation of the decisions reached at Helsinki, supplemented by the further decisions of the Feira European Council in June. Annexes to the report cover permanent structures for ESDP, civil crisis management, the outcome of the capabilities commitment conference, EU-NATO relations and relations with third countries. The Council took note of contributions from the Secretary General/High Representative concerning both conflict prevention and a framework for crisis management. Conflict prevention has been listed as a particular priority of the current Swedish Presidency.
We consider the progress made to be satisfactory and we are pleased that the report itself took substantial account of Irish views and concerns. For example, considerable emphasis has been given to the role of the UN, to the principles of the UN Charter, including a reference to the UN Security Council and to recent contacts between Kofi Annan and the EU, and to the role which the EU could play in support of the UN and the OSCE.
The focus in ESDP is clearly on peacekeeping and crisis management, that is, the Petersberg tasks. These developments, on which I have reported regularly to the House, do not represent the creation of a European Army, nor is any mutual defence commitment involved.
Treaty ChangeAs the basis of the current work on ESDP is the Amsterdam Treaty, in common with the great majority of our partners, we took the view that it was neither necessary nor desirable to undertake a substantial revision of the relevant provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty at Nice.
In view of the developments on ESDP, there was merit in updating and tidying those relevant provisions of the treaty which had become redundant or outdated. This has been done in the case of two articles in a way which does not change or expand their scope.
In Article 17 there has been agreement to remove clauses on the Western European Union, including the possibility that Western European Union could be integrated as a whole into the EU. We see this as representing a positive development as the EU had already agreed to  take over the Petersberg task responsibilities of the Western European Union. In the case of Article 25, there is an adjustment to reflect the agreement at Helsinki that the political and security committee, under the authority of the Council, will assume the functions of the existing political committee.
Enhanced Co-operation in the Second PillarEnhanced co-operation or flexibility has been agreed as a procedure which could apply in the common foreign and security policy, subject to unanimity in the decision establishing the group and involvement by a minimum of eight countries. It does not, however, apply to the security and defence area.
While we have questioned the need for such a provision, our main concern was to exclude its application from security and defence matters. There is already sufficient scope for member states to choose whether or not to be involved in Petersberg tasks or in co-operation on such tasks without the added layers of enhanced co-operation which could have the effect of fragmenting the EU's approach.
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