66. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of commitments if Ireland signs up to the PESCO agreement in view of that agreement’s requirement to regularly increase the defence budget in real terms and to increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defence, research and technology with a view to nearing the 2% of total defence spending collective benchmark; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52967/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Following the completion of national requirements, Ireland yesterday joined the other 24 EU partners in collectively launching PESCO at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels
In relation to the target of 2% of total defence spending on defence research and technology, this is a collective benchmark and applies to the combined expenditure of all PESCO participating member States. The benchmarks do not apply individually to Member States. The collective benchmarks were agreed by Ministerial Steering Board of the European Defence Agency back in November 2007. Their inclusion in the PESCO Notification is therefore a restatement of existing commitments.
In terms of the implications of this for Ireland, as we do not have a domestic defence industrial sector, it is unlikely that we will be a significant contributor in relation to defence research and technology investment. That said there is some R&T investment in research in the area of dual use capabilities and within the framework of the EDA.
In relation to the commitment to regularly, increasing defence expenditure in real terms: as the Deputy will be aware, the allocations for defence for the period 2018 to 2020 announced in the budget, means that Ireland’s Defence expenditure will increase in real terms over the coming three years. Beyond that we have given no commitment in actual expenditure terms.
Similar to most other member States the allocation of resources to different votes, is a matter for national parliaments. To that end, the notification clearly provides that the commitments will be implemented fully in accordance with the Treaty, its protocols and the constitutional provisions of the member states. This language was secured by Ireland, with the support of many other member States, to give appropriate recognition to the legal and constitutional requirements of the member States in allocating national resources and funding. The Notification also encompasses the Lisbon Treaty and its Protocols, including Ireland’s protocol, as providing the context and framework for the implementation of the commitments.
As such the budgetary process and role of the Oireachtas remains intact and untouched.