Saturday 24 July 2010

Ireland proposes greater EU military action under the UN

Ireland has circulated proposals for greater EU military involvement under the UN in peacekeeping missions. Greater EU involvement in peacekeeping missions would lead to a higher level of co-ordination and coherence in national planning, and make the process cheaper.

“It would increase the standing, influence and visibility of the union as a whole within the UN, particularly in relation to peace-keeping/peace-building operations, as EU member states would not alone be promoters and financiers of missions, but also major mission contributors,” it says.

This would fit in neatly with plans to increase the EU's visibility and role in the General Assembly of the UN, can would add substance to the EU's drive for an international role. In some ways it might be surprising that Ireland is eager to start a debate on military co-operation; after all, Ireland is fiercely attached to its neutrality (and there is strong domestic support for neutrality). It may be an attempt to frame the debate on military co-operation before the Polish presidency of the Council in 2011 (defence co-operation is high on the Polish agenda). Military co-operation with the UN combines the efficiency and cost-saving of military integration with the multilateral, UN-centred foreign policy worldview of the Irish State. If the EU does start participating more in UN missions, Ireland won't be as isolated in the EU when it comes to military matters, while being able to stay outside any more conventional alliances and integration and being able to sell the missions to the domestic audience as being in keeping with Irish foreign policy tradition.

I think that these proposals sound good (it'll be a long time before we'll see how far they'll go). The EU and its member states have supported the ideals of a mutlilateral world which is largely based on law, and with a stronger role for the UN. Being more active in peacekeeping would be a good way to add substance to that - putting our money where our mouth is. It would also add relevance to the EU role on the world stage. Though not as glamorous as the more traditional diplomacy we usually think of, it is an area that the EU can add value to, and would be complementary to its other roles in development, etc.

There's an opinion piece in The Irish Times that gives a taste of how important UN peace-keeping and the developing world are to the Irish idea of foreign policy.

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