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 Header Item White Paper on Defence (Continued)
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Overseas Missions

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] I am looking forward to engaging with my European colleagues on these issues, as well as being informed by them on issues of relevance to the formulation of our own White Paper. Obviously, we must ultimately make our own decisions about these matters. I am looking forward to Members participating in this process, as well as arranging several opportunities for people to express their views on the Green Paper including a conference in which it will be debated and discussed.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy May I remind both Ministers and Deputies that there is one minute for both a supplementary question and reply in fairness to all Members? Deputy Naughten now has 30 seconds left for his supplementary.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I echo what the Minister said regarding the handle I gave the individuals in question earlier. They are criminal terrorists. In light of the fact we have a different security environment on this island, and in the European Union as a whole, along with the increased terrorist activity and the increased trafficking of women and children across the Border, is the Minister just closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? The restructuring of the Defence Forces is already taking place in advance of the Green and White Papers.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Unfortunately, time has elapsed and we must move on to the next question.

European Council Meetings

 8. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will report on the recent meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council with Ministers of Defence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54769/12]

 16. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the agenda for the recent meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council with Ministers of Defence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54792/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 16 together.

  I attended both the formal Foreign Affairs Council in defence Minister format and the meeting of the European Defence Agency steering board which preceded it on 19 November. The agenda for the steering board consisted of the 2013 budget and work programme, the work plan for 2013 to 2015 and a voluntary code of conduct on defence pooling and sharing. The work programme for 2013 was agreed by the steering board. However, as the budget for 2013 could not be agreed, it was referred for decision to the follow-on Foreign Affairs Council meeting. The European Defence Agency steering board adopted the code of conduct on pooling and sharing which comprises a series of concrete actions to mainstream pooling and sharing in national decision-making processes and to be implemented on a national and voluntary basis.

  The steering board meeting was followed by the formal meeting of defence ministers. The first issue was the European Defence Agency budget for 2013. As unanimity could not be achieved, it was decided to accept a flat cash budget for 2013. This means that Ireland's contribution to the agency's budget of €30.5million for 2013 is approximately €284,000, the same as last year.

  The next point to be discussed was the military operations conducted by the European Union under the Common Security and Defence Policy. There are three such operations at the moment: Operation Atalanta, a naval counter-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa; the EU Training Mission Somalia, an operation to train the Somali defence forces; and Operation Althea, the military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The meeting warmly welcomed the successes in the Somali region. Piracy attacks are down to the lowest level in several years. To date, 3,000 members of the Somali defence forces have been trained and deployed to secure both the capital and other major towns in Somalia. This training mission is led by Colonel Michael Beary of our Defence Forces.

  The meeting was then addressed by the Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier, who outlined the urgent need to optimise our efforts in reinforcing the defence industrial base, which is a significant industry sector and provider of jobs in Europe. A communication from the Commission on defence, incorporating the work of the Commission defence task force, is due to issue in May 2013. There followed a joint lunch of foreign and defence ministers at which two items were discussed, the situation in Mali and the European Council on Defence in late 2013.

  It was noted Mali is a multidimensional crisis and the preparations for an EU operation were well advanced. The planned mission is similar to the training mission being conducted in Somalia and will not be a military mission per se.

  The final item discussed was preparations for the European Council debate on defence issues in late 2013. The importance of this planned debate was noted as was the occasion to engage EU Heads of Government on defence issues. All agreed that the opportunity should not be missed and that it was highly desirable to be practical as well as getting clear political orientations from the Council on critical choices facing Ministers in the context of defence generally and Common Security and Defence Policy.

  I also had several bilateral meetings around the meeting including with the chief executive of the European Defence Agency, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the Secretary General of NATO and the UK and Polish Ministers attending the Foreign Affairs Council, at which I briefed them on our informal meetings taking place in February in Dublin.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy As these two questions are being taken together, there will be a little more time for supplementary questions.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Does this mean we have double time?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter It means double the time and double the excitement.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Minister for his response. He has said before that the participation of the Defence Forces in EU battle groups increases their interoperability with forces from other EU member states. Does this whole area of interoperability form part of the discussions the Minister has had with his EU counterparts and those one would expect to have in the course of the year ahead?

Members of the Minister's party, when in opposition, had interesting views on Ireland's role in the Common Security and Defence Policy. Does the Minister believe the best way to secure the safety of our people at home and abroad, as well as fulfilling our responsibilities to our EU neighbours and friends, would be for Ireland to play an active role in common defence and security measures? Should we be designing security and defence architecture that suits our particular needs? Has the Minister any gems of wisdom to cast our way on this matter?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I appreciate the Deputy's continuing interest in my having possible gems of wisdom. All members of the Fine Gael Party always have interesting things to say on a broad range of issues.

Interoperability is like pooling and sharing, a relevant issue in the context of member states dealing with common security or defence issues or, as I said earlier, dealing with co-operation in EU-UN missions. It is important when engaging with partners in such missions that we complement each other and that people can properly communicate. Pooling and sharing also means member states can save resources in cases where there is a need for common resources for a particular mission by removing the unnecessary duplication of expenditure.

Many of the issues that come up at these meetings are security issues. How do we in Europe best deal with issues of international terrorism and cybersecurity? What threats does cybercrime pose to essential utilities in member states or important businesses on which the economic base of the country may be dependent? Cybersecurity is a cross-cutting issue because it can fall within both defence and policing issues.

Being in the unusual position of having both the defence and the justice briefs, I can see the need at a European level for greater connectivity in this area. It is an issue I have discussed with my colleagues. At Justice Council meetings one has justice ministers talking about cybercrime and cybersecurity while another group of ministers on the defence side is talking about the very same issues. There is a need for connectivity in how we approach these issues.

There are many interesting and important issues in the defence area that we are going to prioritise during the Irish EU Presidency. It will provide a forum for the exchange of ideas along with the opportunity to discuss current EU-related defence issues and their impact internationally, all of which inform ongoing developments in the area of Common Security and Defence Policy. A positive and active agenda under the Common Security and Defence Policy is planned for our Presidency which will demonstrate Ireland's full support for the EU role in crisis management, international peace and security and our positive re-engagement with the European Union generally.

Overseas Missions

 9. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the new United Nations missions he expects the Defence Forces to undertake in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54765/12]

 15. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the extent to which further deployment of Irish troops at various locations overseas is anticipated or has been requested; when he expects current deployments to end and or new assignments to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54796/12]

 32. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if the Defence Forces will participate in any new United Nations missions over the next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54790/12]

 176. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the total number of members of the Defence Forces that have served overseas over the years; the extent to which such service is planned for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55034/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 15, 32 and 176 together. I am frightened to ask how much time that gives us as a consequence.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Minister's initial reply should be six minutes.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I will try to be briefer than that.


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