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Ireland’s neutrality is not threatened

This weekend in Dublin, the Sinn Fein ard fheis will debate that party’s attitude towards the EU Constitutional Treaty.

Thomas Lefevre • 2 March 2005

It is likely that SF's southern delegates will speak in opposition to the Treaty, as SF has campaigned for a `no' vote in every `European' referendum in the Republic, from the membership poll in 1972 to the adaptation of the euro.

The Irish Minister for European Affairs, Mr Noel Tracey has said that the Irish referendum on the Treaty will take place in the second half of this year, and promised a "strong public information and predicted that a lively debate would begin on the Treaty within the next few months", according to the Irish Times.

Northern Ireland in Europe will not be participating in the debate in the South, but will be watching events with interest. There are over 40 per cent of NI voters who vote for Irish nationalist parties, and they will be very interested too. Sinn Fein voters are in a unique position, as their party policy is formulated on an all-Ireland basis, so what their fellow supporters in the South do has an effect on the situation and debate in the North.

The following article is written by Thomas Lefevre, a PhD student of European Studies at Queen's University Belfast, and explores the perception common among many in the South and among some nationalists that Irish neutrality is under threat. The reality is, as usual, quite different.

Contrary to a common perception, the security side of the European Union is not emerging with the European Constitutional Treaty (ECT). The Common Foreign and Security policy (CFSP) was set by the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) signed in Maastricht. The CFSP was built during the Bosnian tragedy to preserve the specifics values of the EU under the framework of the UN charter. The aim was to create some mechanisms which would improve coordination among member states when crisis occur.

Another perception is that the ECT is a gravedigger of Irish neutrality and then should be rejected. From its creation, the TEU was respecting specificities of member states by recognizing the right of being non-aligned. It was already including the so-called `Irish clause' which affirms that `The policy of the Union (…) shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States' (J.4.4). The CFSP was reinforced under the Amsterdam Treaty which integrates the so-called Petersberg tasks creating some soft security mechanisms such as humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping, the use of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.

The goal of the European Constitutional Treaty is to rationalize under a same umbrella the Byzantine set of acquis which are the thousands pages that constitute the successive Treaties. As a consequence, it is not a surprise to find the Irish clause re-appearing under the article I.42.2.

But there are also some novelties under the ECT (III 309): it reinforces the Petersberg tasks by extending its scope with adding to the peacekeeping tasks some conflict-preventions and fight against terrorism. 9/11 and the Madrid bombing were a reminder that international and European security cannot be taken for granted. To respond to a terrorist attack, the ECT integrates a clause of solidarity which gives the opportunity to the victim state to ask for assistance. However, it is not compulsory as there are no requirements of assistance. The state remains sovereign and so is Ireland who can choose on a case to case basis to participate or not.

It also does not create a European Army: Irish soldiers will not be ordered to fight under the blue banner if the Irish government does not want it as well as it will not create a European military service. It is the same opt-in procedure for the other mechanisms of the ECT. The creations of permanents and enhanced structured of cooperation are also not compulsory. For the states who wish to join, they need to fulfil some requirement in terms of troops but these requirements are just a fraction of the total of the national member states and do not involve nuclear weapons. The ECT is also creating a European Defence Agency to harmonize the development of the different national defence industry but again it is only open to the states who wish to join. Some might argue that the EU is becoming more and more militarized. However, it stayed at a very low based and with substantial limitations. We need to keep in minds that on two occasions, in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999, a fragile peace followed the military intervention and to maintain this balance; a large amount of peace-keepers were required. Ireland took its responsibilities in being part of the first EU led operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, operation which was under a UN Security Council mandate. Although, still fledgling, the CFSP is a great opportunity to led alternative actions outside NATO without the unilateralism of the USA to respond to terrorist crisis as well as natural disaster under the UN framework or mandate.


Reproduced with permission





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

4 March 2005

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Honourary White Man
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A Blanketman Still Fighting to be Heard
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The Dam Has Burst
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The Peace Process Has Been Saved
David Adams

World's Largest Men's Room
Brian Mór

Green Beer and Bad Singing
Fred A Wilcox

Ireland's Neutrality is Not Threatened
Thomas Lefevre

Sentences of Death: Mary Gordon's Pearl
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24 February 2005

The Socialist Objection and Alternative
Eamonn McCann

Taking the Peace
Jimmy Sands

Life Amongst the Proveau Riche
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A Far Cry from the Hunger Strikers' Sacrifices
Anthony McIntyre

Tragic Legacy
Mick Hall

Some Economic Results of the Civilizing Mission
M. Shahid Alam



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