152. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the implications of Ireland’s recent endorsement of PESCO with its binding commitment to yearly increases in defence spending for wider international work on disarmament; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2956/18 asked on 23 Jan 2018)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): The decision by Ireland to participate in Permanent Structured Cooperation, approved by the Government on 21 November 2017 and endorsed by the Dail on 7 December 2017, in full accordance with the Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, has absolutely no implications for Ireland’s wider international work on disarmament.Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is a mechanism provided for in the Treaty of the European Union (Articles 42.6, 46 and Protocol 10), to enable countries to come together and, on a project by project basis, jointly develop military crisis management capabilities for use in support of CSDP Operations. Ireland has been a consistent supporter and full participant in the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), in particular ensuring ongoing support for the UN and multilateralism and its capacity to contribute to international peace and security operations. As one of the main contributing countries to CSDP missions we have also been fully engaged in developing the PESCO concept. Ireland views the development of PESCO as a mechanism aimed at enhancing the EU’s capacity to engage in peacekeeping and crisis management operations, in line with our own values, and consequently complementing our work in disarmament. Disarmament and non-proliferation remains a high priority for my Department and continues to be a strong focus for our foreign policy. In 2017 we played a lead role in the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Ireland also currently holds the Chairmanship, with Iceland, of the Missile Technology Control Regime.

With regard to PESCO, it is important to reiterate that there is no requirement on Ireland or any other EU member State to achieve any specific target in relation to Defence expenditure, nor is there any agreement at EU level in this regard. The Deputy will be aware that the Lisbon Treaty explicitly provides that it is entirely a matter for Ireland, or any other Member State, to determine the nature and volume of its own defence and security expenditure, as well as the nature of its defence capabilities.