Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 07 December, 1995
Written Answers. - Relationship with Western European Union.
Mr. N. Ahern Mr. N. Ahern
10. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he envisages closer ties between Ireland and the Western European Union above and beyond our current observer status in view of his comments on his perception of the growing common ground between Ireland and the Western European Union. [18319/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring) Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring)
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Ireland became an observer in the Western European Union on the basis of the relationship established between the EU and the Western European Union in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) provisions of the Maastricht Treaty.
Article J.4.2 provided for the EU to “request the Western European Union, which is an integral part of the development of the Union, to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications”.
The Maastricht Treaty also provided for the convening of another Intergovernmental Conference in 1996 to review, inter alia, its CFSP provisions,  including the relationship established between the EU and the Western European Union.
As I have said on previous occasions, our observer status in the Western European Union is proving to be useful, particularly as the preparations for the Intergovernmental Conference are advancing. Moreover, like the other neutral states which are observers at the Western European Union — Finland, Sweden and Austria — we see scope for exploring further the Western European Union Petersberg tasks in regard to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. This is an area where I see potential for Ireland, in view of our accumulated expertise in peacekeeping and humanitarian work, to make a contribution. The other European neutrals which are observers at the Western European Union are thinking along similar lines. I should make clear that Ireland's approach to involvement in the Petersberg tasks of peacekeeping or humanitarian operations in no sense entails any mutual defence commitments that would be incompatible with Ireland's policy or military neutrality.
As the House will be aware, in the context of preparations for the Intergovernmental Conference, various possible institutional options for future EU-WEU relations have so far been identified. In the Reflection Group report, which was agreed yesterday, 6 December, for submission to the Madrid European Council on 15/16 December, and in the Western European Union contribution to the Intergovernmental Conference, which was adopted by the Western European Union's full member states at the Western European Union Ministerial Council in Madrid on 14 November 1995, a range of possible options have been identified.
The options so far identified range from maintaining the EU and Western European Union as separate organisations, but with enhanced co-operation between them, through to proposals for eventual full merger. Both the Reflection Group report and the Western  European Union input for the Intergovernmental Conference have been useful in providing insight into the development of the positions of partners at this stage in the preparations for the Intergovernmental Conference.
A central question in the Intergovernmental Conference negotiations will be to determine how the CFSP provisions, including the EU-WEU relationship, can best be developed to enhance the EU's contribution to European and global peace and security. There is an emerging consensus that the EU should be better able to contribute to conflict prevention and crisis management tasks in such areas as peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. It is possible that these peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks could provide a focus for the further development of the EU-WEU relationship.
At the Madrid meeting of the Western European Union, I commented on the acceptance by the Western European Union members in their contribution for the Intergovernmental Conference that a comprehensive definition of security is required, rather than an exclusively military one. The Western European Union members also explicitly acknowledged that the Intergovernmental Conference will need to harness to the best effect the diverse contributions to security and defence that European nations are able to make, and the national security and defence positions of each country must be respected.
There is also an understanding that the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference must be acceptable to people in each member state. The Government's approach to the Intergovernmental Conference negotiations and to the Western European Union, will continue to be in harmony with our outlook and traditions and at the same time responsive to the new and still evolving challenges that face us in promoting peace, security and progress at the European and global level.
Dáil Éireann 459 Written Answers. Relationship with Western European Union.