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Snippet Contents:

I congratulate Deputy McEntee on her appointment as Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs. As a member of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, I look forward to working with her.
Obviously, the big issue of security and defence was discussed at the European Council meeting. The Council agreed to strengthen EU co-operation on external security and defence. It reaffirmed its commitment to the EU-NATO relationship. It reiterated the need to strengthen defence-related research capabilities and operations. Reports were presented on a European defence fund which could support the joint development of capability projects and contribute to greater European defence co-operation. It was also agreed that permanent structured co-operation is needed to strengthen Europe's security and defence. Where does Irish neutrality stand in all of this? The Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU has now been firmly re-established. That will have a dynamic of its own. I spoke earlier about the options that are available for the future development of Europe. One of the options is a multi-speed Europe with more enhanced co-operation. I presume security and defence is one of the areas in which a multi-speed Europe with more enhanced co-operation might apply. I assume that having regard to our traditional policy of military neutrality, Ireland does not have to participate fully in all of these initiatives.