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19 April 2001 Edition

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The EU wants you

Reasons to Vote No 3 - No to a Euro army


850 Irish people have been committed to serving in an EU army by the Dublin Government but don't worry - we are not actually calling it an army and they won't be on their own. The EU's ``Rapid Reaction Force'' will have 80,000 combat ready troops and 250,000 personnel in total readiness to enforce EU foreign and security policies, not just within the EU or on its borders but up to 2,500 miles outside of the EU.

In the old days we used to call this imperialism or colonialism, but you have to admit that peacemaking has a nice conscience salving ring to it

The provisions setting up this force were included in the Amsterdam Treaty. The Nice Treaty is attempting to clean up some of the loose ends. However, it gives Irish people an ample opportunity to say No now and to insist on a renegotiation of the defence and military aspects of both these treaties to achieve a position where Irish neutrality is enshrined in Irish law and accepted by our EU partners.

Before you say that this isn't possible and we don't want to be involved in a two-speed EU, have a look at the real state of play in EU defence strategies. There are actually three strands to the current EU position on security and defence policy.

The first is the bland bits you can read about in the White Paper on the Nice Treaty and in the text of the Treaty itself. These provisions refer to the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which also has the possibility of formulating a common defence policy.

This will happen through the new Political and Security Committee, one of the EU's maze of committees. The job of the CFSP is to carry out what the EU calls the Petersberg Tasks. These are ``humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks, and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking''. Sounds OK, and not unlike what the UN is supposed to do until you get to the last line of ``peacemaking''.

One example of peace making in action was the NATO-led indiscriminate bombing of Kosovo and Serbia. In reality, peacemaking means the EU using its huge military power to enforce 'peace' wherever it decides peace is lacking. In the old days we used to call this imperialism or colonialism, but you have to admit that peacemaking has a nice conscience salving ring to it.

This is the centerpiece of the EU's security policy but there is a higher level of cooperation than this. There are the NATO members of the EU, and then there are the NATO members with nuclear weapons and armanent industries that need to be maintained.

The Nice Treaty actually makes reference to this upper tier of military cooperation and talks about allowing ``two or more member states'' develop their own military strategy in the context of NATO.

This seems a strange way to formulate a common defence policy. On the one hand, the EU lays out the framework for this cooperation and sets up another institution to administer it. Then we are told that if two states want to form a military alliance and take some form of joint action well that's OK too. In reality it is only the French, British and perhaps the Germans who would want to participate in such an arrangement. Can you see the Luxembourgian and Irish armies forming a peacemaking expedition?

Don't worry though. There is an escape route and it was dug by the Danes, who got a protocol inserted in the Amsterdam Treaty and recognised also in the Nice Treaty that not only will they not become peacemakers, but they will also not be liable for the costs of any carpetbagging expeditions where the NATO-led EU decides to intervene.

The Dublin Government could have got such a protocol inserted into either treaty but instead succumbed to international and domestic pressure not to. For years, the Dublin Government has been lobbied internationally to join NATO and have taken that first step by signing up for Partnership for Peace (PfP) despite promising never to do so without a referendum. Domestically there is a huge lobby among the elite of the 26-County army to be part of these military alliances. Not only do they get more career opportunities, they also get a say in the increased defence expenditure needed to fund these military alliances.

Is that how international policy is formulated in Ireland? Some boys and maybe girls want to play soldiers so the government foots the bill and joins us up to a military alliance where decisions are taken by qualified majority.

There is an alternative to the CFSP in its present form. Step one would be to get Ireland a protocol distancing ourselves from bogus military campaigns and maintaining our unparalleled role in UN peacekeeping expeditions. Step two would be to organise now with the more progressive European states, not just those in the EU, for a common security policy that has as its centerpiece an objective of nuclear disarmanent and the dismantling of the EU's war economy.

It is our responsibility as a wealthy European state to take the lead and articulate a positive neutrality. We don't need, after years of tackling colonialism and living with nearly a century of its aftereffects, to become the colonisers ourselves. Vote No to an EU army on 7 June.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1