Dáil Éireann - Volume 491 - 28 May, 1998
Written Answers. - Arms Exports.
Mr. Penrose Mr. Penrose
30. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to the negotiations to agree a European Union code on conduct on arms exports; and the position he has taken on behalf of the Irish Government in relation to the human rights criteria. [12435/98]
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
49. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's negotiating position regarding the proposed EU code of conduct on the export of arms; the progress, if any, made to date; if he has satisfied himself with the adequacy of provisions in the code to protect human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12499/98]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews) David Andrews
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 49 together.
Following extensive discussions on a joint British and French proposal for a European Union Code of Conduct based on eight agreed common criteria, political agreement was reached on the text of the code at the General Affairs Council on Monday.
Ireland has long advocated the adoption of measures to ensure the effective implementation of the EU common criteria in line with our objective of the promotion of restraint and responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and technologies for military use. During the Irish Presidency in 1996 some initial elements of interpretation of particular criteria and some practical measures for application of the criteria for internal use by arms export licensing authorities was agreed.
During the negotiations for the EU Code of Conduct, our primary objective was to ensure the code' s credibility as a promoter of restraint and responsibility. To be credible, the code needed to contain clear unequivocal language on human rights. Throughout the process, Ireland advocated the strongest possible language on human rights consistent with the importance we place on human rights in our foreign policy.
I am disappointed therefore at the outcome in respect of the human rights criterion. I had wanted to see a provision envisaging complete  abstention from arms exports to countries where there have been serious violations of human rights but certain partners were not even able to accept the possibility of restraint in respect of such arms exports.
While Ireland could have blocked adoption of the code on the grounds of this inadequacy, I took the view that even a limited step by the EU in this area is preferable to no step at all. We will use the opportunities presented by the annual review mechanism in the code to continue our efforts to ensure that responsible export control policies are put in place by all our partners in the EU and to press for the clearest possible language on human rights.
Dáil Éireann 491 Written Answers. Arms Exports.