LIsbon Essay (16): Building of a militaristic trojan horse…

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.

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  • Wilde Rover

    “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.”

    This kind of doublespeak is particularly chilling.

  • Dublin Exile

    Personally I believe it is morally indefensible to be a member of any organisation or group that you benefit from and not be prepared to defend it from agression or threat, be that the basic social units of the family or your community or a large complex organisation like the EU.

    If Ireland were threatened by a foreign power would we not be hoping that our fellow EU members would stand up for us?

    ‘Neutrality’ was morally indefensible in the face of Nazism and Stalinism, it was a political stroke in ’39, and it still is. Even Dev knew it was indefensible and hence the ‘Donegal Corridor’ and other hush hush assistance to the Allies.

    Those who want to be members of the EU but who wouldn’t lift a finger to defend it are parasites in the truest sense of the word.

  • Dave

    Nobody benefits from membership of the EU except, perhaps, the 170,000 hacks directly or indirectly employed by it. Countries benefit from exporting to other countries, and that occured prior to the EU and will continue long after the EU has been confined to the dustbin of history. The EU is simply a parasite that imposes itself on states under threat of exclusion from free trade with oter states that are members of it, bleeding wealth from those states in order to fund the lifestyles of said 170,000 hacks.

  • Wilde Rover

    Dublin Exile,

    “I believe it is morally indefensible to be a member of any organisation or group that you benefit from and not be prepared to defend it from agression or threat”

    Let’s say, for argument’s sake, a British base is blown up in Afghanistan by the locals. Should Irish troops go out there to defend our ally? They are being threatened, are they not?

    “‘Neutrality’ was morally indefensible in the face of Nazism and Stalinism, it was a political stroke in ‘39, and it still is. Even Dev knew it was indefensible and hence the ‘Donegal Corridor’ and other hush hush assistance to the Allies.”

    In the face of Nazism and Stalinism? Both of them? Do you think Ireland should have declared war on both the Third Reich and USSR at the same time, thereby declaring war against practically everyone in the world? That’s keen.

    “If Ireland were threatened by a foreign power would we not be hoping that our fellow EU members would stand up for us?”

    Of course, in your hypothetical scenario where some random unidentified country decides it’s going to invade Ireland it would be nice to think some of our neighbours would help.

    That is an entirely different scenario from being obliged under a military treaty to provide military assistance to any member for practically any reason at all.

    “Those who want to be members of the EU but who wouldn’t lift a finger to defend it are parasites in the truest sense of the word.”

    Defend it from whom?

  • GEF

    How can Ireland say it has been military neutral when it Army has been involved in many militaristic peacekeeping duties in other countries at the request of the UN Security council since 1958 when the Irish government sent soldiers to the Lebanon?

    Ireland’s First Engagement in United Nations
    Peacekeeping Operations:an Assessment*
    http://www.ria.ie/cgi-bin/ria/papers/100567.pdf

  • Wilde Rover

    GEF,

    “How can Ireland say it has been military neutral when it Army has been involved in many militaristic peacekeeping duties in other countries at the request of the UN Security council since 1958 when the Irish government sent soldiers to the Lebanon?”

    Neutrality in Ireland has meant no military alliances, thereby allowing the Irish army to engage in peacekeeping in places like the Lebanon when others might not have been able due to military alliances.

  • Denis Cooper

    Even after Lisbon it’d still be a long time before the EU finally got the right to conscript its citizens:

    https://www.allianz.com/en/press/news/commitment_news/community/news_2007-01-15.html

    “In his closing remarks, Steinmeier noted there is much work to be done, conceding that visions for Europe are projects that will take up the next 20 to 30 years and citing a future European army as an example.”

    I presume here that if there was a single or common European, or more accurately EU, army then the EU would take charge of recruitment; and if at some point it ran out of enough volunteers then it would have to able to conscript from among its citizens; and I very much doubt that exemptions could or would be granted on grounds such as “I’m Irish”, or “I’m Swedish”, or “I’m Austrian”, etc.

    In fact it would be unreasonable to expect any such exemptions, because as Dublin Exile suggests above that really would be “morally indefensible”, as indefensible as somebody claiming exemption from USA military service on the grounds of being a Californian, or a Virginian.

    I’m not trying to scare-monger here – as I say, we’re still decades away from that possibility – but just to point out the logical long-term consequences of allowing the EU to turn itself from being an economic and political union, into a military union, which would certainly be a few steps closer post-Lisbon.

    Incidentally there’s another interesting statement from Steinmeier on that link, which might cast some light on why the Lisbon Treaty includes provisions which tend to sideline and disempower the smaller member states – it’s because “The era of small nation states has passed”.

    Personally I wouldn’t go along with that; but if the smaller EU member states are to have any chance of stopping it then they have to be prepared to work together and defend each others’ sovereignty against the larger states, not allow themselves to be used against each other.

  • Dave

    “The era of small nation states has passed”.

    The more interesting aspect of that statement is that these folks feel that they can disregard the cornerstone of international law as declared in the first article of the UN’s ICCPR by unilaterally declaring the right to self-determination of smaller nations such as Ireland to be null and void. As the first article of the UN’s ICCPR declares: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

    If Ireland retifies this treaty then it will, of course, have declared the same since it will have agreed to become a regime of a federal state wherein it is constitutionally subordinate. The only logical outworking of “ever closer union” is unity; and that prgression would not in any way be inconsistent with the objectives of this treaty.

  • Greenflag

    Dublin exile ,

    ‘Those who want to be members of the EU but who wouldn’t lift a finger to defend it are parasites in the truest sense of the word. ‘

    Well said fellow Dub 🙂

    Some people want to have their cake and eat it.

    Not only do we get to sit on our arses and let the Brits defend us but now we get countries like Lithuania and Denmark and Poland among 20 others to do the job 🙁

    Just as well we have the geographic location we have eh ? Now if Ireland were located between Austria and Hungary I wonder just how ‘neutral ‘ we’d be ? We should be part of NATO -end of story.

  • Wilde Rover

    Greenflag,

    “Some people want to have their cake and eat it.”

    So eventually Irish troops should be part of a Euro Army, available to fight future neo-con wars of conquest?

    As you said, you can’t have your cake and eat it.

    “Not only do we get to sit on our arses and let the Brits defend us”

    Defend us against whom?

  • Dave

    When the German Foreign Minister and europhile, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is declaring in his first major speech since Germany took over the EU Council presidency that small nations have no right to national self-determination, it is clear that the threat to Irish sovereignty resides with the EU and nowhere else.

    It is also clear that the EU holds international law (which enshrines the right to national self-determination) in comtempt, believing that this regime is above the international law and therefore has the right to declare it void.

    National self-determination for the larger state (such as Germany) is not declared to be void, however, so it is again clear that the larger states are to gain under Lisbon at the direct expense of the smaller states.

    If Ireland needed a reason to resist the EU, then here it is: “The era of small nation states has passed”.

  • Denis Cooper

    I read that Austria enshrined neutrality in its constitution as a way to end its occupation and forestall its permanent division:

    http://countrystudies.us/austria/47.htm

    but while the origins of Austrian neutrality were different from those of Irish neutrality very similar questions have arisen about the EU Constitution:

    http://www.eubusiness.com/Austria/031210143420.lb6tbtb4/

    But you have to look at the overall direction of travel of the EU, rather than just the next proposed steps; and it’s clear enough that the intended journey is still towards a European federation, just as much now as at the time of the Schuman Declaration:

    http://europa.eu/abc/symbols/9-may/decl_en.htm

    “The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe …”

    “… this proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation … ”

    And I don’t see how any component part of a federation can maintain its neutrality, unless of course the entire federation is neutral.

    I can’t immediately think of any case where a federation permits one of its states or provinces to decide for itself whether or not to participate in the federation’s wars.

    Nor can I think of any case where a component part of a federation retains the absolute right to refuse to allow federal forces to be based or garrisoned in its territory, or to be deployed within its territory in support of the local or federal civil power, or to suppress insurrection or rebellion or moves towards secession from the federation.

    Every existing and past federation I can think of is or was based on the opposite principles.

    Obviously if you don’t want to end up at the proposed destination, at some point you have to face up to that and decide that you’re not prepared to go any further.

  • Dublin Exile

    Wilde Rover –
    As far as I know, foreign troops are in Afghanistan on a UN mandate already.

    I would also argue that trying to stem the rise of the Taliban and other religious fundamentalists is most definitely in the interests of a small European democracy such as ours, and the larger Union which we are part of.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Article 43.1 of UN Charter

    All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.

    Quite simply, it is a well established principle of international law that a state under attack be extended support (including military support) to protect its sovereignty. Lisbon also includes this principle. That is not the same as being the member of a military alliance. The form of the assistance is still in the gift of the member states. The Irish Defense Forces still take their action orders from the Irish Government and no one else. Unless the Oireachtas orders them to, and unless there is a UN mandate it is illegal for them to deploy.

  • Neville Bagnall

    The era of small nation states has passed

    In terms of political self-determination, this is not true and (if anything) is less true now than 20 years ago. The trend here is for the disintegration of federations into nations.

    In terms of economic and political isolationism it is true; it arguably has always been true to some extent, but never more so.

    Small open economies are usually successful, small closed ones usually aren’t.

    Because of various economic scandals small economies such as the Isle of Man, Switzerland, etc are increasingly being forced to comply with the same rules as those in the big regional economic clubs. The difference is that they aren’t in the room when those rules are being written. Or, if they are in the room, for instance at the WTO or climate change rounds, they are just a side player in a game being played by the G20.

    For all its faults the EU is the one supra-national organisation with an identifiably democratic and parliamentary decision making structure. Parliaments of course are the worst form of democratic oversight, except for everything else that has been tried.

    At least in Parliaments the small voice can sway the majority with argument.

    I do not argue that we should be satisfied with the EU as it currently stands. There is a democratic deficit. However the only way to make the EU more democratic is to make the nation states less sovereign. Neither the national governments, nor the european peoples want that.

    Lisbon is not the end of the journey, merely the next step, nor does it predetermine the destination. The EU could evolve to either a Federation or a trade block. Either way it will take decades and many more referenda.

    While freedom of action is constrained by real politic, as it always has been, there is plenty of life in the nation state yet, both large and small.

  • Neville Bagnall

    I presume here that if there was a single or common European, or more accurately EU, army then the EU would take charge of recruitment; and if at some point it ran out of enough volunteers then it would have to able to conscript from among its citizens; and I very much doubt that exemptions could or would be granted on grounds such as “I’m Irish”, or “I’m Swedish”, or “I’m Austrian”, etc.

    I have to admit I find the conscription argument the most baffling of all.

    First, most states with anything like a realistic military strategy try to avoid conscription and have a professional army, simply because conscripts make bad soldiers. It is usually small isolationist nations that resort to conscription.

    Secondly, as has been repeated ad nauseum, Ireland has opt-outs and maintains an anti-alliance stance; the CSFP is decades and multiple referenda away from being a military alliance; etc, etc, etc.

    Lastly, at the height of the First World War, when the possibility of defeat was very real, the UK government introduced conscription throughout Britain – but not in Ireland, because they realised it would be resisted.

    Just baffling.

  • Neville Bagnall

    As I’ve said elsewhere, why don’t we use the EU structures to create an alliance for soft-power.

    An Enhanced Co-operation group within the EU of the neutral member states dedicated to the spread of the democratic and co-operative principles of the EU by means of example and the creation of International Law.

    Why must our neutrality (or more correctly anti-alliance posture) be passive?

  • Greenflag

    Neville Bagnall ,

    ‘the UK government introduced conscription throughout Britain – but not in Ireland, because they realised it would be resisted.

    Just baffling. ‘

    Not at all . It made perfect military and economic sense at the time . HMG was well aware of the country being already split into pro Home Rule and anti Home Rule factions paricularly since 1912 and were apprehensive of a major civil war breaking out in Ireland between North and South .Forcing conscription would have just driven those factions further apart and provoked a civil war at a time when that would not have been in British interests vis a vis Germany .

    Hundreds of thousands of Irish -North and South ‘volunteered ‘ anyway and iirc some 50,000 plus gave their lives for the survival of little Catholic Belgium , the hope of Home Rule for Ireland and the ‘glory” of the British Empire .

    The one hiccup was in the period 1917 to 1918 when the recruiting stations in Britain were turning away many potential recruits for being unhealthy , undersized etc particularly from the industrial areas and the supply numbers for the trench graves was becoming difficult to maintain. Ireland at the time had a large ‘well fed ‘ agricultural population which would have been recruited in much higher numbers than their urban cousins across the water . But because of the 1916 rebellion and it’s immediate aftermath Britain decided not to upset the hornets nest yet again and settled for ‘volunteers ‘ . They got enough .

    In WWII it was the same again . Despite the political change in 1922 and so called ‘neutrality’ 8 Irishmen won VC’s -7 from the Irish Free State (later Republic) and 1 from Northern Ireland ( a Fenian Catholic Taig no less )

    I sometimes think that Irish ‘neutrality’ is not so much based on high principled moralistic sounding principles but more on a desire not to be found at war’s end on the ‘losing ‘ side . We have a long memory of how that works out in practice with the ‘ould ‘ enemy . Not pleasant.

    If and when a federal EU comes to pass we will have no choice anyway than to row in with the other 28 ? nations /states .

  • Wilde Rover

    Dublin Exile,

    “As far as I know, foreign troops are in Afghanistan on a UN mandate already.”

    And yet Ireland is not obliged to send troops there.

    “I would also argue that trying to stem the rise of the Taliban and other religious fundamentalists is most definitely in the interests of a small European democracy such as ours, and the larger Union which we are part of.”

    The only discernible result of the ending of Taliban rule, as far as Europe is concerned, is the flooding of the continent with cheap heroin.

    So, from the point of view of a junkie it is in the interests of a small European democracy.