433. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on the nomination of the chief of staff of the Defence Forces to the position of chair of the European Union Military Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44596/17 asked on 24 Oct 2017)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Following last month’s approval by the Government, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces was formally nominated on behalf of the Irish Government for election to the position of Chair of the European Union Military Committee (C/EUMC). The position of Chair of the EUMC will become vacant in November 2018 and Ireland’s nominee, Vice Admiral Mellett will line up for election alongside candidates from a number of other EU countries. The European Union Military Committee (EUMC) is the highest military body within the EU and was established by Council Decision 2001/79/CFSP of 22 January 2001. It is composed of the Chiefs of Defence (CHODs) of the Member States who, on a day to day basis, are represented in Brussels by the Military Representatives from the Permanent Representations of the member States. Ireland has participated in the EU Military Committee since its establishment.

Pursuant to Article 3(1) of Council Decision 2001/79/CFSP, setting up the Military Committee of the European Union , the Chairman of the Military Committee of the European Union is appointed by the Council on the recommendation of the EU Military Committee meeting at the level of the Chiefs of Defence. Accordingly, the next Chair of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) will be selected by secret vote by the Chiefs of Defence of the EU Member States, at a meeting scheduled to take place next month in Brussels. On the basis of that vote, the Chair is then appointed by the European Council for a fixed period of three years.

The Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006, provides in section 3(1)(a) that, a contingent or member of the Permanent Defence Force may, with the prior approval of and on the authority of the Government, be despatched for service outside the State for the purposes of carrying out duties as a military representative or filling appointments or postings outside the State, including secondments to any international organisation. Pursuant to this provision, the Government, at its meeting of 19th September, 2017, decided to nominate Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, as Chair of the EU Military Committee, consistent with the provisions of the Defence Acts.

Following that approval, and on the authority of Government, Ireland’s nomination of Vice Admiral Mellett for election to the position of Chair of the European Union Military Committee was formally communicated when nominations opened. The nomination for appointment as Chair of the EU Military Committee further demonstrates Ireland’s ongoing commitment to remaining at the core of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Chairmanship of the EUMC has no implications for Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality. Ireland already participates fully in the work of the Committee through our Military Representative in Brussels and the biannual meetings of EU Chiefs of Defence. The Deputy may wish to note that both Finland (2001-2004) and Sweden (2009-2012) have already held the position of Chair of the EUMC as neutral countries.

Ireland is one of the strongest contributors to CSDP operations and remains committed to all aspects of CSDP and to the role CSDP can play in UN mandated peacekeeping operations. It is the case that the UN has continually stressed the important role the EU can and does play in support of International Peace and Security. Should Vice Admiral Mellett be successful, it would help to reinforce the existing strategic relationship between the EU and the UN.