Today Andy Storey of UCD takes a contrary view of Ireland’s neutrality status post Lisbon to that expressed in LE13, and argues that whatever other countries mean by ‘neutrality’ in Ireland for generations now it has meant, as outlined in Lisbon’s ‘legal guarantees’ “non-membership of a military defence alliance”. He also questions whether it really is in Ireland’s interest to contribute to “a more assertive union [EU military] role … will contribute to the vitality of a renewed [NATO].” And, finally, he argues there far more important things to be prioritising in the midst of a global economic crisis…
By Andy Storey
Will the Republic of Ireland still be a neutral country if the Lisbon Treaty is passed?
The assurances that the Irish government got from the other EU states regarding the Treaty include an insistence that Ireland’s “traditional policy of military neutrality” is unaffected.
For the Irish government, that policy means non-membership of a military defence alliance. The assurances also state that “It will be for Ireland… to determine the nature of aid or assistance to be provided to a Member State” that is under attack.
The reason such an assurance is seen as necessary is because Lisbon itself states that “If a member state is the victim of armed aggression…, the other member states shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power”.
The Treaty also says that “The Union shall mobilise all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States,” to counter a terrorist or other threat to any Member State.
There is a clear contradiction here: the Treaty says that states will be obliged to aid each other “by all means in their power”, including military means, but the assurance says that Ireland will “determine the nature of aid or assistance” to be extended to a Member State under attack.
But if Ireland chooses not to use its military resources to help out another Member State, is it not in violation of its Treaty obligations? That would seem to be the case, which would mean that the ‘traditional policy of military neutrality’ is well and truly dead.
The Treaty advances the militarisation of the EU in other ways, including introducing provision for ‘permanent structured cooperation’ (PSC). This means that sub-sets of EU countries can pursue their military agendas under the EU banner, on the basis of a qualified majority vote at the EU Council. Ireland may choose not to participate directly in such initiatives.
But by virtue of its ongoing participation in general EU military affairs (including financing thereof), Ireland will be laying the basis for other states to engage in such action, and these actions will be rightly seen as EU undertakings.
Under Lisbon, the range of tasks that EU forces may perform is extended. EU forces, post-Lisbon may be deployed on: “military advice and assistance tasks…, including… supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories”.
But claiming to be assisting a third country government to combat terrorism through the provision of military advice and assistance could mean autocratic rulers being facilitated to suppress opposition; French troops, for example, have routinely performed this function in Chad and other African countries.
The Treaty says that “a more assertive union [EU military] role … will contribute to the vitality of a renewed [NATO].” This is the same NATO that is bombing civilians in Afghanistan.
Do we really want to contribute to its renewed vitality? And it also says that “Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities”, which seems a curious thing to be prioritizing at a time of economic crisis.
The EU is becoming more militarized under the Lisbon Treaty: common defence commitments are initiated, increased military spending is encouraged, the roles to be performed by EU overseas operations are extended, EU operations may be undertaken by sub-groups of Member States with the support of all members, and NATO is to be boosted.
If this more militarized entity is not the kind of Europe we want, then the case for voting ‘no’ remains as a strong as before.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty