Tuesday, 30 January 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
219. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent statement by the British Government that the rapid reaction force cannot be independent of NATO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30476/00]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): As indicated in my reply to Question No. 52 of 28 November, the involvement of NATO in European security and defence policy stems from the fact that the EU, which is not a military organisation, is likely to remain dependent on NATO infrastructural and transport capacity.
The EU has therefore been working with NATO on co-operative arrangements to ensure that access to NATO assets and capabilities would be facilitated in the event of an EU operation needing to use them. The involvement of NATO, in a co-ordinating and planning capacity, would take place against this background. Principles agreed at the Feira European Council concerning EU-NATO relations specified that there should be full respect for the autonomy of EU decision making, recognition of the different nature of the EU and NATO and no discrimination against any of the member states. These principles are fully reflected in the documents approved by the Nice European Council.
The comments to which the Deputy refers were made at a recent meeting of NATO Defence Ministers and, in the context of internal debate within NATO, underlined concerns on the part of certain NATO members that the EU should not set up a separate operational planning capability. However, such remarks should also be seen in the context of the principles on EU-NATO relations agreed by the EU at the European Council at Feira and now confirmed by Nice. We attach particular importance to maintaining the principle of decision making autonomy in any co-operation arrangements between the EU and NATO.
I emphasise that the command arrangements for any EU led operation would ultimately be a matter for the EU to decide. The EU would maintain political control of any operation using NATO assets and capabilities. Moreover, Irish involvement in any EU crisis management operations would be subject to Government decision on a case by case basis and would only occur where there is a UN mandate and approval by Dáil Éireann.
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