PESCO - Further Erosion of Irish Neutrality

  • Posted on: 26 November 2017
  • By: shannonwatch

The Irish Government has given the go-ahead for Ireland to take part in an EU security and defence pact called Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO). This is one of the most important decisions this Fine Gael / Independeny Alliance government will make. As such there should have been serious debate on the issue, with all points of view presented, in the mainstream corporate media. This has not been the case; the media has largely ignored this further erosion of Irish neutrality, just as it continues to ignore the use of Shannon Airport by US troops.

The clear aim of PESCO is to develop the EU's military capabilities and to make them available for EU military operations. These missions are not confined to peacekeeping missions, and would allow the EU to intervene in conflicts such as those in Libya and Syria, outside of UN and NATO structures. PESCO is largely being driven by France and Germany, both key members of NATO. In fact the strategic aims of PESCO are inseparable from those of NATO.

The Minister for Defence has already confirmed that the Government has approved a proposal to notify the EU of our intention to participate in PESCO. Like many other organisations and individuals in Ireland, Shannonwatch are outraged by this decision.

Thanks to PANA for compiling these articles and analysis of PESCO:

1. In a European Council article about the recent signing up to PESCO a number of things become evident: (1) the NATO dimension; (2) the necessity to increase defence spending ("regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms in order to reach agreed objectives"); and (3) that the Petersberg Tasks (a list of military and security priorities incorporated within the EU's Security and Defence Policy) are not as innocent at portrayed. The underlying thread of supporting the arms industry is also a huge point.

2. Also this article from French TV notes the following:

"EU officials insist this is not just bureaucratic cooperation, but real investment that will help develop Europe's defense industry and spur research and development in military capabilities that the bloc needs most".

The article notes that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the move would complement NATO's security aims. The EU, she said, "has tools to fight hybrid warfare - the use of conventional weapons mixed with things like propaganda and cyber-attacks - that the military alliance does not have at its disposal."

3. An article from a German news site notes that Mogherini described the signing of PESCO as a "historic moment in European defense". The decision to launch PESCO indicates Europe's move towards self-sufficiency in defense matters instead of relying solely on NATO. The EU, however, also stressed that PESCO is complimentary to NATO. 22 of the EU's 28 countries are NATO members.

It should also be noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the launch of PESCO, saying that he saw it as an opportunity to "strengthen the European pillar within NATO." Stoltenberg had previously urged European nations to increase their defense budget.

"I'm a firm believer of stronger European defense, so I welcome PESCO because I believe that it can strengthen European defense, which is good for Europe but also good for NATO," Stoltenberg said.

4. Finally here's a link to an interesting document re EU/NATO Council Conclusions on the Implementation of the Joint Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the Secretary General of NATO.

The Lisbon Treaty and Structured Cooperation

Enhanced cooperation was a phrase much used during the Nice Treaty. It is a mechanism allowing a group of States to forge ahead in an aspect of EU development that not all Member States may be ready or willing to join in. Critics of enhanced cooperation point to the fact that it could lead to a two-tier, two-speed Europe, with an elite corps moving to closer integration while others were left outside, in a lesser status.

The Irish Government made much of the fact, during the Nice debate, that enhanced cooperation - while applying to some aspects of EU foreign policy - did not apply to defence matters.

The Lisbon Treaty changed all that. In addition to the fact that the previous exclusion of enhanced cooperation in the field of defence in Article 27b (Treaty of European Union) was dropped, Member States may now establish 'Structured Cooperation' among themselves on military matters.

Article 28 A(6) states

"Those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish permanent structured cooperation within the Union framework."

This cooperation is governed by several provisions and a Protocol on Structured Cooperation.

Those Member States with 'more binding commitments' are now allowed to set up permanent military structures within the EU institutions. Those wishing to establish such mini-alliances must inform the European Council and the foreign affairs/security High Representative, and the Council will approve the Structured Cooperation and the list of participating Member States by qualified majority vote.

Admission of new members to the Structured Cooperation shall also be determined by QMV but only the Member States already participating in Structured Cooperation can vote.

In other words, Ireland could be opposed to the establishment of Structured Cooperation by a group of States but not be able to veto it. In addition, Article 28 E(6) states:

"The decisions and recommendations of the Council within the framework of permanent structured cooperation, other than those provided for in paragraphs 2 to 5 [dealing with admission, suspension or withdrawal of membership] shall be adopted by unanimity. For the purposes of this paragraph, unanimity shall be constituted by the votes of the representatives of the participating Member States only"

, i.e. the functioning of Structured Cooperation is subject to unanimity but only the states taking part in the Structured Cooperation can vote. There is a lack of clarity as to what this section means in practice. What sort of 'decisions' and 'recommendations' are to be decided upon exclusively by this vanguard EU military grouping.

Furthermore, Article 28 C allows the Council to "entrust the implementation of a [Petersberg] task to a group of MemberStates which are willing and have the necessary capability for such a task'. The 'management of the task' shall be agreed among themselves and the High Representative.

Klaus Heeger, legal adviser to the Independence/Democracy group in the European Parliament and an expert on the EU treaties, sent PANA the following analysis:

"According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the implementation of Common Security and Defence Policy by a group of Member States is to be distinguished from Structured Cooperation. Therefore, structured cooperation can be considered as more far-reaching". He goes on to say that because the treaty provisions and the specific Protocol on Structured Cooperation "don't clarify this point, it remains unclear to what extent the member states having established structured cooperation can define their own defence policies and commitments within the 'Union framework'." There must also be questions raised about control and accountability for what could be military actions carried out in the EU's name.

Structured Cooperation is also subject to a Protocol in the Treaty. It states that the EU's Petersberg Tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities of the member States "in accordance with the principle of a single set of forces".

It is very difficult to argue that the Structured Cooperation forces are not in fact an EU army.

Expanding the Petersberg Tasks

PANA has argued that the Petersberg Tasks are already broad enough to include every military mission up to and including waging war. The original tasks of humanitarian, rescue and peace-keeping and peace-enforcement missions have now been expanded into joint disarmament operations, military advice and assistance tasks and post-conflict stabilisation. In its European Security Review (July 23, 2004), the Brussels-based International Security Information Service (ISIS) stated that joint disarmament operations "could include anything from providing personal security to UN inspectors to full scale invasions á la Iraq".

The Irish Government can of course make great play of the following paragraph in the Protocol on Permanent Structured Cooperation. This wording has been contained in every EU Treaty since Maastricht:

"the common security and defence policy of the Union does not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States".

This is taken to refer to the neutral states in the EU. However, the next two paragraphs say the following:

"Recalling that the common security and defence policy of the Union respects the obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty of those Member States which see their common defence realised in NATO, which remains the foundation of the collective defence of it members, and is compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework; Convinced that a more assertive Union role in security and defence matters will contribute to the vitality of a renewed Atlantic Alliance, in accordance with the Berlin Plus arrangements [sharing EU/NATO assets]."

Contributing to the "vitality of a renewed" NATO and stating that the EU's common security and defence policy is compatible with NATO's should hardly be the goal of a neutral state.

The Protocol goes on to state that the EU may assist the UN if requested in peacekeeping and peace-enforcement missions but no where does it state that a UN mandate would be a pre-requisite for any Structured Cooperation operation. Any Member State wishing to participate in permanent Structured Cooperation must "intensively develop its defence capacities"; "have the capacity to supply by 2010 at the latest, either at national level or as a component of multinational force groups, targeted combat units for the missions planned, structured at a tactical level as a battle group,..."; and shall undertake to cooperate on the "level of investment expenditure on defence equipment", "bring their defence apparatus in line with each other as far as possible", increase interoperability, cooperate on capability development..."without prejudice to undertakings in this regard within NATO", and develop major joint equipment programmes in the framework of the new European Defence Agency.