TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said Ireland will not be joining a European army.
Labour’s Brendan Howlin raised the issue with the Taoiseach today, stating that the French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed an EU army and a shared defence budget.
However, the Taoiseach clarified today that Ireland will not be paying into a defence fund.
“Ireland will not join a European army, nor will we contribute to a common European defence budget. However, we want to be part of a common security and defence policy because we believe it is in our interests as a nation and in the interests of Europe,” he said.
However, Varadkar said security threats exist today which are not the traditional ones that existed in the 1940s when NATO was established and when Ireland enunciated our policy of neutrality.
“They include cyber terrorism, cyber attacks, traditional terrorism and drug and human trafficking. We want to be involved in European actions against all of these. We also want to share our experience and knowledge, as we do already, through the European Defence Agency, of which we have been a member since 1992,” he said.
European defence pact
Howlin asked the Taoiseach if Ireland will take part in Europe’s permanent structured co-operation on defence (Pesco) – what some argue is the first step towards an EU army.
According to The Financial Times, more than half the EU’s member states are expected to sign up within days to the landmark joint defence pact.
Proposals for Pesco include work on a European medical command, a network of logistic hubs across Europe and a creation of a European Crisis Response centre, as well as the joint training of military officers.
One of the goals is to reduce the numbers of weapons systems and prevent duplication to save money and improve joint operations.
It’s understood Germany and France have led the attempt to persuade countries to pool military logistics and troops while also roll out the development of new weapons such as a next generation tanks.
It’s believed Pesco might be a way for the EU to deal with defence budget restrictions, while also appeasing the US who are calling for European countries to shoulder more of the burden for the continent’s security.
Howlin said Ireland cannot “drift” into such an agreement, and called on the Taoiseach to make it clear if Ireland plans to sign up to the agreement.
The Taoiseach said Pesco is an opt-in or opt-out system.
“In the first instance, it will require a decision by the government and in the second it will require a decision by the Dáil. As there is no clear proposal yet, it is not possible to put anything to the Cabinet or Dáil. Once we know what we can or cannot sign up to there will be a discussion at Cabinet and a debate in the Dáil,” he said.
EU states that want to sign up must give formal notice at a meeting of European foreign and defence ministers on 13 November.