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Luke Ming Flanagan: If we are heading for an EU army what does that mean for Irish neutrality?

As EU military and defence spending skyrockets, Ireland’s commitment to defence co-operation compromises its neutrality, writes Luke Ming Flanagan, MEP

Luke Ming Flanagan

FOR YEARS NOW the question of what Irish neutrality meant has hung over Ireland.

Academics and politicians alike have disagreed on its legality and validity, as well as Irish alliances which impact the concept of our neutrality.

There have been countless attempts to dissolve and amend it throughout the years but the will of the people, who have historically always been pro-neutrality, has managed to outweigh the money-hungry politicians who bend to the will of the European Union any chance they get.

Many people have questioned the Irish role in NATO’s Partnership for Peace, the use of Shannon Airport by the United States, the role Ireland played in World War II, our membership of the European Union and what all of these mean when it comes to the standard universal definition of neutrality.

Although we may not fit into the same category as countries like Switzerland when thinking about our position we must view neutrality as a spectrum and not as ‘one size fits all’.

There are some major factors that prove the authenticity of and Irish commitment to neutrality. As it stands, Ireland must get Government approval, Dáil approval and UN approval before the Defence Forces are deployed overseas.

There is also Article 29.9 of the Irish Constitution:

The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State.

However it is now clear that both of these protections to our neutrality are under threat.

After we signed up to Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in December of last year, Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes called for the ‘redefinition of neutrality’, as well as ‘amending Ireland’s triple lock system’.

Although both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil deny that PESCO affects Irish neutrality, this is not the case. What is happening is far more sinister – that is, the redefining of what the European Union was set up to be. 

Military Spending Skyrockets

The road from a ‘Peace Project’ to a ‘European Defence Union’ has begun.

With programmes such as the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (€500 million), Military Mobility (€6.5 billion) the European Defence Fund (€13 billion) and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) all coming into existence in just the last year. Who knows what the next year may hold?

The EU security and defence budget is set to increase 22-fold in 2021 to €28 billion. 

This is not including border control with a budget of €21 billion for an army of 10,000 border guards or the many other billions interwoven into every aspect of the budget that will aid in the development of the defence industry in Europe.

This defence industry was already worth more than €97 billion in 2014, and employs over 500,000 people directly and 1.2 million indirectly. It is an untapped goldmine in the eyes of Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and many other EU officials.

France and Germany have some of the biggest arms-making companies in the world and the EU arms exports amount to over 27% of the world’s total, just second after the United States who export 34%.

When you question why they are militarising the European Union you must understand that this it is not to protect or defend you. It is about money and billions of it.

This was not the only lie they told when pitching PESCO and this European Defence Union to the member states.

It was also sold as a cost-saving mechanism because apparently this lack of cooperation costs the EU €25 billion annually. However, it will cost smaller countries like Ireland much more and as our Defence Forces continue to be underpaid, underappreciated and ignored by Defence Minister Leo Varadkar.

We will instead line the pockets of the European defence industry and invest in equipment we are ordered to buy by our European overlords instead of investing in our own people.

A Real European Army

With all that has happened over the last number of years with the militarisation of the European Union and the major Irish political parties continuing to support the dissolution of our neutrality, the question needs to be asked: ‘Are we heading towards an EU army?’

Last week concerned political representatives, neutrality activists and academics held a public meeting in Galway to discuss what the future holds for Ireland in this era of European militarisation. 

That meeting examined a range of issues including how the massive increases in military spending will affect spending in other areas including agriculture. 

It was timely too, as the French president Emmanuel Macron used the armistice centenary commemorations to call for the formation of a “real” European army. 

Luke Ming Flanagan is MEP for Midlands-North West 

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