15. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence his views on recent reports that Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called on European countries to step up efforts towards co-operation on defence matters. (Question 46641/13 asked on 06 Nov 2013)

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): I understand that Secretary General Rasmussen referenced the need for greater cooperation among EU member States when he addressed an Inter-parliamentary Conference hosted by the Lithuanian Presidency in Vilnius on the 6th September 2013. At the conference, he stated that if European countries are to have access to the full spectrum of capabilities and forces they require for crisis management operations, they must cooperate more closely. In this regard, he referenced the European Defence Agency’s initiative on “Pooling and Sharing”, which complements the “Smart Defence” initiative in NATO. The context of his speech was the significant cuts in the defence budgets of EU member States and the global security challenges faced by Member States against the backdrop of increased investment by countries outside of the EU. I can recall the NATO Secretary General made a similar call for greater cooperation at European level when he was in Dublin to attend the Informal Meeting of Defence Ministers during Ireland’s EU presidency. As such, this is nothing new and such cooperation is something which Ireland also supports. Cooperation in the development of defence capabilities is necessary to ensure that the reduced resources available for defence are spent effectively and that there is no duplication of effort either within the Union or between the Union and NATO. Through cooperative efforts we can achieve greater efficiencies in the delivery of military capabilities for crisis management operations. To this end, cooperation between the European Defence Agency and NATO is ongoing in areas such as Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED), Medical Support and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protection projects. The Agency is also actively engaged in enhancing cooperation with the European Commission in a number of EU policy areas which have civil and military dimensions including, Maritime Surveillance, Cyber, Single European Sky and Radio Spectrum. This enhanced cooperation will help minimise any duplication of effort or inefficient use of resources across the EU system as a whole.

Ireland has been a strong supporter of effective cooperation among member States and with NATO on the development and delivery of military capabilities for crisis management operations. Our participation in Partnership for Peace, has enhanced both the capability and the interoperability of the Defence Forces when engaged overseas in UN authorised peacekeeping and peace support operations.

During the course of our recent Presidency, a key priority was enhanced cooperation between the Commission and the European Defence Agency in relation to investment in maritime security and surveillance capabilities, cyber security and defence, and countering improvised explosive devices. Ireland as part of the EDA’s cooperative pooling and sharing initiative is also providing a lead role in reviewing Naval training with a view to greater cooperation and sharing of training resources across the Union.

All these projects have the potential to deliver more effective capabilities more economically and I welcome such initiatives and the statement of support from the NATO Secretary General for them.