86. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on the role of his Department and officials in PESCO; and if he will report on his discussions with his EU counterparts on PESCO. (Question 52884/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy was published in June 2016. The strategy sets the context and provides a guiding framework for the Union’s external action under the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The Strategy also identifies key security challenges facing the European Union within its neighbourhood and beyond, and commits to a global order based on international law with the United Nations at its centre. Within the provisions of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the strategy commits the Union to take greater responsibility for its own security and to enhance its capacity to contribute to international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations

Following its publication a comprehensive approach to implementation including in the area of security and defence is now being progressed. As part of that implementation process, in June 2017 the European Council agreed to launch an inclusive and ambitious PESCO and to draw up a common list of criteria and binding commitments, within three months. Participation in PESCO which is provided for in the Treaty of the European Union was introduced under the Lisbon Treaty.

Over the past several months, there has been significant engagement by all member States in the development of PESCO, including to ensure that it is fully inclusive, respecting the differing security and defence policies of the member States as reflected in the treaties and the treaty protocols. Ireland participated fully across all fora in shaping the development of PESCO and in drafting the ‘Notification’ to participate in PESCO, including the preamble, principles and commitments. This included participation by my officials in extensive discussions at the Political-Military Group, the Political and Security Committee and at meetings of Defence Policy Directors.

PESCO was also the subject of discussion at meetings of Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers.

Discussions centred on the EU’s comprehensive approach, encompassing foreign policy, trade, aid as well as security and addressed the need for PESCO projects to strengthen same and the requirement to also strengthen and reinforce civilian capabilities and crisis management tools. Regarding budgetary commitments, Ministers noted that commitments should not be seen nor presented as prejudging national parliaments’ prerogatives in this area. Ministers also discussed the governance structure whereby the decision-making process will remain in the hands of participating Member States and, also, the need for effective communication of PESCO to the wider public. The importance of inclusivity and the need for respecting the differing security and defence policies of the member States, as reflected in the treaties and the treaty protocols, was also discussed.