Tuesday, 23 November 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
621. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the questions regarding Irish participation in the proposed EU battle groups which he has raised with the EU civil service as indicated to Dáil Éireann on 17 November 2004; the questions raised with EU counterparts on this issue; and any other questions currently being examined by him in relation to this issue. [30305/04]
Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea): The development of EU rapid response elements to carry out crisis management operations was a key aspect of the Helsinki headline goal agreed by the Heads of State and Government in 1999. Following on from the realisation of the Helsinki headline goal, albeit with some shortfalls, earlier this year member states adopted a new headline goal with a horizon of 2010. Under the new headline goal, member states decided to commit themselves to be able by 2010 to respond with rapid and decisive action applying a fully coherent approach to the whole spectrum of crisis management operations, that is, the Petersberg Tasks, which, in short, involve humanitarian, rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management operations, including peacemaking. In this context, the ability of the EU to deploy force packages at high readiness as a response to a crisis either as a stand-alone force or as part of a larger operation enabling follow-on phases, is a key element of the 2010 headline goal.
At a military capabilities commitment conference on 22 November 2004, I informed my EU colleagues of Ireland’s preparedness to enter into consultations with partners with a view to participation in the rapid response elements which will make up the high readiness force packages. As with many developments in the European Union, the development of rapid response elements has involved much consultation between the member states. This consultation largely takes place at EU level between the civil servants and military personnel of the member states assigned to their respective representations in Brussels. In addition, a key aspect of the development of the multinational rapid response elements will be the question of interoperability with prospective partners. In this context, some informal consultations have taken place between both civil and military officials of my Department and those of Sweden and Finland, with whom the Defence Forces already have a good working relationship in Liberia and Kosovo, respectively.
As stated in my reply to the House on 17 November 2004, further detailed analysis on Ireland’s participation in the rapid response elements will take place over the coming months. Following completion of the necessary analysis I intend returning to Government with proposals regarding the level of such participation. I re-emphasise that Ireland’s participation in such rapid response elements will remain subject to the usual requirements of Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation.
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