The time is right for a broad debate on Ireland's defence and security policy in light of new threats and challenges, according to the four Irish EPP Group MEPs Seán Kelly, Brian Hayes, Deirdre Clune and Mairead McGuinness.
In their discussion document 'Ireland and the EU: Defending our common European home', launched by Brian Hayes and Deirdre Clune in Dublin today (Friday, 9 March), the MEPs outline the complex threats facing Ireland and put forward 10 policy recommendations.
The paper calls for closer cooperation with the EU on defence matters where possible. Ireland should not only support the emerging European Defence Union, but also seek to shape it according to the country’s needs and traditions. “We want to make it clear that we do not support the creation of an EU army. However, Ireland can do so much more in collaboration with our EU partners in the area of security and defence.
“It’s in our interest that we meet the new challenges full on. These challenges are cyber security, international terrorism, people smuggling, energy security and organised crime. “We need an outcome to this debate that meets our national objectives, reflecting our traditions, building on our proud record of peacekeeping and humanitarian support and working with other EU member states in a new spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and openness,” the MEPs stated.
“In this discussion document, we are proposing a set of recommendations that will put our security and defence policy on a progressive path."
The recommendations include: Amending Ireland’s ‘Triple Lock’ system; Supporting the emerging EU Defence Union; Redefining neutrality; Developing a National Security Council; Creating a Central Intelligence Unit; Spending more on defence both current and capital; Developing Ireland’s defence industry; Assessing the implications of Brexit for our security and defence policy; Continuing our strong commitment to peacekeeping and crisis management operations; and Establishing a cohesive National Cyber Security Strategy.
“As Irish MEPs, we welcome the decision taken by the Dáil and the government to join PESCO. This document provides the blueprint for Ireland to go beyond PESCO, to take a new approach to the security of our country and to harness the immense benefits of cooperating more closely with our EU partners. As a small Member State, we must depend on the solidarity all Member States of the EU.
The Fine Gael MEPs also point out that Irish spending on defence is the lowest in the EU, at 0.3% of GDP, according to the World Bank. “Our Defence Forces deserve the best equipment, training and upgraded platforms. It is time to reflect upon the level of absolute and relative funding necessary to sustain Ireland’s engagements at home and abroad. The EU’s ability to provide joint planning and procurement, the pooling and sharing of equipment and joint maintenance programmes can be of significant benefit to our defence forces.
“EU action in security and defence is simply about working together where it is beneficial for individual Member States and the whole Union. There is no question of overriding our sovereign wishes.
“Rarely, if ever, is the value and significance of security and defence cooperation highlighted in our domestic political conversation. Yet our defence forces contribute in such a professional and enduring way in missions under the EU, as much as they do under the UN. It is time to discuss security and defence matters, to plan accordingly, and to consider how those plans might be advanced through further EU integration," they said.