Committee Reports::Report - Report on European Union Security and Defence::23 May, 1995::Appendix





Report on Security and Defence

(First draft for 12 April 1995)

Table of Contents





Values and Interests



Organising international security



Long-term policies for conflict prevention



Policies for responding to crises



Policy for Defence



The EU Intergovernmental Conference






1.1The collapse of the communist bloc in eastern Europe in 1989, and that of the Soviet Union itself two years later, were fundamental turning points in world politics. For more than forty years, up to that point, the Cold War had divided Europe and exerted a malign influence on a much broader scale. The ideological excess of east-west relations was complemented by an expensive and dangerous arms race in which security was seen primarily in terms of military threat.

1.2The new situation has been widely seen as an historic opportunity to reshape the international system. The previous emphasis on incompatible interests and a coercive diplomacy should be replaced by forms of international cooperation based on common interests and a readiness to prevent conflicts festering to the point where violent remedies are sought. Consent would be arrived at through multilateral institutions; mutual reassurance would replace mutual deterrence.

1.3This strategy of conflict prevention has been attempted since the end of the Cold War, but it is clear that the process of reshaping international security is neither automatic nor complete. A justifiable satisfaction with the end of the partition of Europe and the decline of the “balance of terror” must be tempered by the persistence of several major challenges.

1.4Inequalities and injustice continue to create political conflict in many parts of the world. A particularly striking feature has been the internal nature of most of the major armed conflicts of the post Cold-War era, where various forms of tribal and ethnic distrust have been manipulated by unscrupulous local leaders. The international community - the 184 sovereign states represented in the UN - often has neither the legal base nor the political will to intervene effectively to assist in the ending of these conflicts. The availability of arms is still a major problem, from the conventional weaponry used in internal wars to weapons of mass-destruction and their delivery systems, now within reach of many more regional powers.

1.5The new international system is inherently unstable. To the weakness of so many states within their own borders has been added a greater uncertainty in the behaviour of the major powers. The sudden removal of what had been their principle frame of reference - the rivalry between the Superpowers - has not yet been replaced by a focused strategy towards the more diverse range of challenges which face them. Even in Europe, where a concerted attempt is being made to adapt to the new security environment, governments often seek to limit their liability as much as to redirect their policies. The localised and varied extent of the risks they face can only too easily distract from the overall risk they face in common - the regression to an only too familiar Europe of narrow national rivalries.

2. Values and interests

2.1Ireland is a signatory of several statements of fundamental values with a bearing on international security: the principal such documents are the Charter of the United Nations; the Charter of Paris, signed in November 1990 by the governments of the CSCE member states; and the Treaty of European Union, signed in February 1992. They stress the general democratic principles of representation, the rule of law, and freedom of speech; the fundamental rights of the individual against the state, and of national minorities; and the principles of peaceful relations between states.

2.2These expressions of values which are a necessary underpinning of a secure international system are consistent with the national Constitution, which in Article 29 affirms Ireland’s “devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality”, and also goes on to affirm adherence to the pacific settlement of disputes and acceptance of the principle of international law.

2.3However, to agree on the identification of common values is one thing; to interpret them, and above all to implement them, is the never-ending but central purpose of any government’s foreign policy. In that context, the state and the international organisations through which it cooperates with other states are the agents which must provide for the security of its people.

2.4The interests which the state pursues in respect of security policy exist on four levels:

2.4.1General interests, focusing on the creation of an equitable global order. These include support for an effective United Nations, as the legitimate global authority at the apex of agreed international regimes to deal with outstanding issues in the fields of development policy and arms control and disarmament. In short, the pursuit of general interests achieves security through the creation of an international rule of law.

2.4.2Overall European interests, focusing on the need to promote stability in the former eastern bloc, now undergoing the strains of transformation to democratic politics and free market economies. Similarly, there is an evident interest in promoting stability in other regions close to Europe, such as the Middle East and North Africa.

2.4.3The European Union interest, both in relation to the Union’s central role in providing stability on its eastern and southern borders, and with regard to its own “internal” security. Here, over a period of some fifty years a “security community” - a group of states whose relations no longer include war as an instrument of policy - has been developed and sustained. For EU member states the solidarity of the Union has become an essential means of their own security.

2.4.4Finally, the state pursues its interest at the national level, where in extremis it is responsible for the security and defence of its citizens and their territory.

3. Issue A: Organising international security

3.1The basic values underlying Irish foreign policy, together with the state’s limited resources and capabilities by comparison with most of its neighbours make the creation of a “cooperative security system” a necessary overall goal. Such a system implies significant normative and institutional constraints on the formal sovereignty of all states within the system, and by the same token a willingness to frame policies according to common interests as well as national interests.

3.2Cooperative security also implies a broad view of what security entails. It involves not only the classical threats of deliberate aggression by another state but also the risks arising from economic interdependence, environmental degradation, transnational criminality and the negative consequences of conflicts outside the state, such as involuntary migration. Although it can be said that there is a security dimension to most areas of public policy - and this should be taken into account by the relevant agencies of government - at the same time there is a need to sustain a particular focus on the principle of mutual reassurance in relations between states. The way in which these relations are conducted, through multilateral institutions as well as in state-to-state bilateral diplomacy, is a central concern of security policy.

3.3We do not start from scratch in developing the necessary institutional structures, rules and procedures for a cooperative security system. In fact, the Cold War era coincided with an unprecedented growth in the organisation of multilateral diplomacy, covering the wider range of governmental activities arising out of modern interdependence. These institutions and processes have been supplemented by a similar growth of transnational, non-governmental groups, often bringing the citizens’ interests directly into play.

3.4However, there is a clear and pressing need to rationalise and adapt these institutions to the new circumstances of the last five years. Although a start has been made in this process, the inability of many international security organisations to perform their stated tasks has been revealed in the crises of the post-Cold War era.

3.5At the global level the central role of the United Nations Organisation has been severely tested, and often found wanting. The Joint Committees’ companion report on the UN and Peacekeeping covers this question in more detail, but some of the principal problems can be identified briefly here. The UN, with its near-universal membership, remains the most representative of all international organisations and the major source of legitimate political authority in a world of sovereign states. However, its central organ, the Security Council, often finds it difficult or impossible to express its authority in the form of a clear mandate, and its procedures remain arcane and remote. The Secretariat does not have adequate administrative capacity, and has a poor chain of command to its operations in the field. These latter are generally under-resourced, entirely dependent on contributions from member-states, and often lack an adequate direction. In spite of the fact that the demand for the UN to intervene in security crises has risen by a significant extent since the Security Council was freed from the inhibitions of Cold War politics, the UN’s member states have been slow to adapt the institution in a serious way.

3.6The Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), formally the CSCE, is now a regional organisation which, under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, can in theory absorb some of the burden of the world body. It is the most inclusive body at the European level, involving all states in Europe, the former Soviet Union, as well as the United States and Canada. It is thus an important forum for establishing new norms of behaviour at the European level, and for conducting effective “quiet diplomacy” in preventing the deterioration of minorities disputes. However, although it is becoming more institutionalised, the OSCE does not possess a strong legal base or capacity to deal with crisis management.

3.7The Council of Europe has also increased its membership, on the basis of stricter democratic criteria than the OSCE. It matches this role as a setter of standards for democratic politics with the important role as setter of standards with regard to human rights. In both respects it can thus contribute to a European states system which respects the values necessary for cooperative security.

3.8The remaining military alliances, NATO and the WEU, have also adapted their roles to some degree. NATO included its former adversaries in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) in 1991, as a forum for military cooperation and developed this type of inclusive cooperation in the Partnership for Peace programme in 1994. 25 states have now joined the 16 NATO states in this arrangement. The WEU has also become more inclusive, by incorporating potential EU member states as “Associate Partners”.

3.9The European Union itself, as by far the most significant concentration of economic influence in Europe, is also a major agency of multilateral security, through its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). However, its political potential has been circumscribed by the fragmentation of the European Union.

3.10The adaptation of international institutions, and their capacity to coordinate their various roles, can only proceed as far and as fast as their member states are willing to permit. A major obstacle to the creation of an effective system of cooperative security is the reluctance of states, and especially the larger states, to engage fully in this task, which is thus likely to be a lengthy and difficult process.

3.11A central element in the instability of the post-Cold War system arises from the recent change in the fortunes of the larger states. Russia faces unprecedented problems of transformation to a free-market democracy, amidst inevitable regrets for the former status of the Soviet superpower. The United States is seeking a more selective engagement in world politics, sometimes with unpredictable and negative consequences especially for the UN. China faces a difficult political succession.

3.12The larger states of the European Union are also constrained by new uncertainties. Germany has barely absorbed the immediate costs of unification, and is not wholly sure about how to meet the responsibilities of being the political as well as the economic centre of the EU. For the same reason, France is apprehensive about maintaining influence over Germany. The United Kingdom is paralysed by ideological debate over “Europe”.

3.13Given these characteristics of the political context, it is evident that the question of organising international security will proceed in a gradual and often patchy way, and reverses are to be expected. However, that does not absolve the responsibility of every state to engage in the creation of a cooperative security system. Indifference will only permit a regression to a system based on uninhibited national rivalries.

4. Issue B: Long-term policies for conflict prevention

4.1A sustained commitment to long-term preventive policies is the hallmark of any state’s participation in a cooperative security commitment. At the level of the state’s general interests, two broad types of policy are important - development cooperation and the reduction of armaments.

4.2Development cooperation is undertaken primarily for humanitarian reasons and to remedy the effects of inequalities in the global economy. However, it can also be seen as a central element of a long-term strategy to prevent conflicts arising as a result of said inequalities.

4.3General disarmament is the ultimate objective of policy, however remote the prospects of achieving it may often seem. Arms control and arms reduction measures, agreed in binding treaties and encompassing adequate procedures for verification, are realisable steps in this direction. For the last fifty years, the pace of progress in military technology has led to a focus in arms control policies on weapons of mass-destruction and the missiles for their delivery, This threat remains, but it has also become evident in the mainly internal wars of the post-Cold War era that there is an urgent need to control the traffic of all sorts of conventional weapons as well.

4.4At the level of the state’s interests in security in the European region - Ireland’s main security environment - the actual and potential role of the European Union is of critical importance. In is Report on Enlargement of September 1994, the Joint Committee has already endorsed the further enlargement of the EU, and stated that “the common objective must be to integrate the former communist states into a continental wide system that ensures stability and security” (Recommendation 10.2, p 67). For the Nine countries which have already signed Europe Agreements, the prospect of future membership establishes guidelines and disciplines for their political and economic strategies beyond the inevitable disruptions which will be experienced in the short or medium term. For those countries, like Russia or the north African states, which are unlikely to be members of the EU, the development of Partnership agreements will establish a long-term pattern for cooperative relations.

4.5The difficulties of democratic transition, combined with the re-emergence of historical ethnic rivalries in states where freedom of political expression has been suppressed for much of this century, make it especially important to establish procedures whereby minority rights and human rights are fully recognised and protected. The OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union, through joint actions like the Stability Pact, provide a range of mutually reinforcing measures to this end. Procedures whereby grievances can be raised and mediated, and non-compliance with agreed standards can be sanctioned, are essential if localised disputes are to be prevented from turning into major political conflicts.

4.6The preventive strategy in Europe is also being pursued in the field of military cooperation. The principle and practice of transparency in military activities, from the publication of defence doctrines and budgets to exercises, has been developed from the tentative confidence-building measures of the Cold War era. In addition, the post-communist states are being helped to establish the basis of democratic civilian authority over their military establishments. Given the reduction in military capabilities throughout most of Europe in the past five years, standing armies should no longer appear as inherently threatening as in the past.

4.7These arrangements for military cooperation are being agreed and implemented through OSCE measures, and in the framework of the NATO-based North Atlantic Council and the extended group of WEU affiliates. The most highly-developed framework is NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, whereby non-NATO States agree a pattern of cooperation on an individual basis. Typically, the individual programmes include cooperation on preparation and training for peacekeeping operations, support for the democratisation of military establishments and joint operations in disaster relief. The three other EU member states which maintain a policy of military neutrality - Austria, Finland and Sweden - have all joined the Partnership for Peace on this basis.

4.8Taken together, these long-term policies based on a preventive approach to security “project stability” into eastern Europe. In effect, most European states are cooperating in an attempt to achieve in all of Europe the “security community” created in western Europe during the Cold War period.

5. Issue C: Policies for responding to crises

5.1The development of a cooperative security system based on policies of conflict prevention is a necessary task for the long-term. However, immediate crises of international security must be faced by the international community with the policy instruments, institutional framework and resources to hand. The primary focus for international crisis management is the United Nations. The Joint Committee’s companion report on the UN and peacekeeping identifies several weaknesses in the way in which the UN deals with the increasing demands for its services, and particularly with respect to its current arrangements for peacekeeping.

5.2As we have seen (3.6 above), Chapter VIII of the UN Charter from the outset envisaged a role for regional institutions with regard to international security, though those bodies are themselves not yet fully adapted to fulfil this task. Ireland, like other member states of the European Union, participates in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) which attempts to formulate common positions and joint actions with regard to crises throughout the world, and especially in Europe and its immediate vicinity.

5.3The challenge posed by the unscrupulous use of force has exposed many weaknesses in the legal base, political authority and military capabilities of the international community at the regional as well as the global level. The OSCE has a limited capacity for crisis management, and like the UN is entirely dependent on the military capabilities of member states. NATO is still the most effective organisation as far as military capabilities are concerned. Its integrated command structure, intelligence systems and logistical capacity are essential assets for crisis management, but their deployment in particular cases requires the agreement of all 16 NATO member states. NATO is still adapting to the new demands of crisis management, for example through its emphasis in the recent Partnership for Peace programme on reviewing procedures for cooperation in peacekeeping. This is in addition to its traditional role of providing for collective defence against external threat, as provided for in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949.

5.4The Western European Union (WEU) also identified a new role in the field of international crisis management, in the Petersberg Declaration of June 19, 1992. As in the case of NATO, this is in addition to its collective defence commitment, contained in Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty of 1954. However, the WEU has no command structure or other military assets assigned to it by its member states, and is in effect dependent for those on arrangements which are still being developed with NATO.

5.5In practice, as has been evident in the various crises of the post-Cold War era, the international community has had the greatest difficulty in coordinating the diplomatic and military resources it possesses, even in the European region where these resources are more extensive than elsewhere. It is still the case that without agreement on the precise purpose of any particular attempt to mediate, mitigate or resolve a crisis, and without the significant commitment of national resources, any international intervention is unlikely to succeed. Thus the adaptation of institutions is in the hands of national governments. So too, in practice, is the decision to contribute to specific peacekeeping operations.

6. Issue D: Policy for defence

6.1Since the end of the Cold War the threat of a general world or European war has no longer been the dominant factor in the military policies of European states. However, they still maintain military establishments at least in part because of a felt need to insure against such a threat in the future, however remote.

6.2At its meeting on 21 September 1993, the Fianna Fail-Labour Party government replaced the previous description of the Defence Force’s primary role as defence “against external aggression” by the following: “to defend the State against armed aggression: this being a contingency, preparations for its implementation will depend on an ongoing Government assessment of threats”.

6.3Ireland remained outside military alliances during the Cold War, and this policy, officially described as “military neutrality”, is still a distinctive feature of Ireland’s overall security policy. In his evidence to the Joint Committee on 9 February 1994, Mr. Edward Barrington, then Political Director in the Department of Foreign Affairs, stated that “successive Governments have concluded that non-membership of military alliances was the best posture for Ireland in the international security situation which obtained, that non-membership was a view to remaining neutral in the event of a future war” (Parliamentary Debates, FA 3, No. 6, Col 199).

6.4In the “Programme for a Government of Renewal” the present government states that “Ireland is not a member of the Western European Union” and “will not become a member of NATO”. In the event of any change in this policy of military neutrality the endorsement of the people by referendum has been promised both by the present government and its predecessors.

6.5The defence of the State then, is encompassed by the policy of military neutrality. It remains exclusively in the national domain, and is viewed as being a matter which will only arise in a remote contingency.

7. Issue E: The EU Intergovernmental Conference

7.1The European Union is a major element in the development of a cooperative security system. Through its economic influence, it is the most significant contributor to global development assistance and the most important source of support for the transition of post-communist states in Europe. The further enlargement of the EU offers the best prospect for stability in the European region. Through its Common Foreign and Security Policy the EU’s member states have a framework for collective action with regard to both preventive policies and crisis management.

7.2The Treaty on European Union, which came into force in November 1993, stipulates that “the common foreign and security policy shall include all questions related to the security of the Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence” (TEU, Article J.4). The framing of a common defence policy is a specifically designated issue to be taken up by the member states at the Intergovernmental Conference which is due to start in 1996.

7.3The Intergovernmental Conference will also review the operation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy as a whole. It is likely that the mode of decision-making will be raised. The present reliance on intergovernmental consensus is modified only by the possibility of a qualified majority vote on matters of detail, though in fact to date this provision has never been used. The majority of member states seem at present to be reluctant to move to a system of majority voting but, in order to prevent paralysis due to blocking minorities, it has been suggested that provisions for some form of “positive abstention” may be examined. Member states which did not wish to participate in particular joint actions would thus stand aside, on condition that a majority prepared to act could do so.

7.4The capacity of the EU to act effectively is also hindered by the lack of common facilities for forward planning and policy analysis, making it difficult to define common interests beyond the most general level. The external representation of the Union, through the current method of rotating Presidencies, may be another issue for review in the Intergovernmental Conference.

7.5So far as the framing of a common defence policy is concerned, the Intergovernmental Conference will be faced with questions relating both to its form and to its content. With regard to the form such a policy will take, it is most unlikely that decision-making in this field will be anything other than intergovernmental, as already provided for in Article J.4.3 of the Treaty on European Union. Both NATO and the WEU operate in this manner, with the exception - not yet tested - of the extreme case where their mutual assistance guarantees are invoked.

7.6The relationship between the European Union and the WEU may be a more contentious issue at the Intergovernmental Conference. In the Treaty on European Union, the WEU is described as “an integral part of the development of the Union” (TEU, Article J.4.2), and by unanimity the European Council can “request” it “to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications”. There may be proposals ranging from the incorporation of the WEU into the EU treaty framework, perhaps as a “fourth pillar”, the refining of the existing relationship, the elaboration of a completely new structure, to maintenance of the status quo.

7.7These questions of the form of a common defence policy will of course largely depend on the views taken of the policy’s content. Here it is important to distinguish two broad types of military activity which such a common policy might entail - collective defence and international crisis management. It is also important to note that what is involved is not a “common policy” in the sense we associate with the centrally-directed Common Agricultural Policy; rather, it involves the coordination of national policies.

7.8Collective defence of the European Union would be based on a mutual assistance security guarantee, comparable to the “Article Five” guarantees in both the NATO and WEU treaties. Such a guarantee could become part of the Treaty on European Union; alternatively, subscribing to full membership of the WEU might suffice. Either way. such a commitment to provide military assistance to another member state in the event of aggression against it would be incompatible with the policy of military neutrality.

7.9Ireland, like the other neutral member states (Austria, Finland and Sweden), may be asked in the Intergovernmental Conference to consider making this sort of commitment as an extension of the principle and practice of solidarity. Solidarity between EU member states already exists in the fields of economic and social policy, particularly with regard to the principle of economic and social cohesion.

7.10A future common defence policy would also probably include provisions to coordinate the military aspects of international crisis management. Indeed, in the post-Cold War system these activities, as we have seen, represent by far the greater part of the security policies of member states and security institutions. Undertaking commitments to a common defence policy under this heading would not impinge on military neutrality, so long as national governments retain the final decision whether to contribute troops or military resources on a case by case basis. This condition is likely to be insisted on by the majority of member states, whether they are already members of a military alliance or not.

7.11Subsidiary issues are likely to be raised both with regard to collective defence and the military aspects of crisis management. A collective defence commitment would lead to questions about the military doctrine and burden-sharing involved in the future and the relationship with the largely overlapping NATO alliance. Crisis management commitments would lead to questions about the conditions under which member states which remain military neutrals are involved in common actions. However, the priority issue for a state like Ireland, which is at present a military neutral, is whether participation in a future EU common defence policy should involve a commitment to the collective defence of the Union.

8 Recommendations