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Cullinane - powerful in EU are obsessed with becoming a military player on the global stage

16 April, 2004


Sinn Féin EU candidate for the South Constituency David Cullinane speaking in Tipperary this evening said that the powerful in the EU are obsessed with becoming a significant military player on the global stage. He said " Sinn Féin wants neutrality to be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation. We support a withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace. Irish troops should train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the UN, and only with prior Dáil approval."

He was speaking at a conference organised by the Tipperary Peace Convention 'Keeping the peace" - The role of the European Union as a global player" . Also speaking at the meeting are Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and and Junior Minister Dick Roche.

Mr. Cullinane said:

"The EU can play a positive role in a global context. The EU should lead by example in the protection of civil liberties and fundamental human rights of its citizens, in the economy, global justice, tackling poverty and many other issues. However, the current EU is far from this potential. The powerful in the EU are obsessed with becoming a significant military player on the global stage.

Successive EU treaties since the Single European Act in 1987 have corroded independent foreign policy. Despite all the denials, an EU Army is evolving incrementally, from the establishment of the European Security and Defence Policy and the Rapid Reaction Force to the creation of command and control structures, in which Ireland now participates. The draft Constitution provides a much greater scope for this evolving military super state.

Sinn Féin opposes a militarised EU, whether constituted as a bulwark to the United States, or in league with the United States. This is not the direction the EU should take.

Sinn Féin believes that the legitimacy and predominance of the United Nations as the only fully inclusive multinational body must be reasserted. But that's not all. We need to actively promote UN primacy, UN reform and capacity building to create a revitalised UN. Our policy of Positive Neutrality in action is very clear. Sinn Féin wants neutrality to be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation. We support a withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace. Irish troops should train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the UN, and only with prior Dáil approval. We believe that there should be no use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers. The situation, which currently exists at Shannon, is a fundamental attack on Irish neutrality, which must be defended vigorously."ENDS

Full text of speech

Can I begin by thanking the organisers of the Tipperary Peace Convention for inviting me to speak this evening, I am pleased to be here - Go raibh maith agat.

A debate on the role of the European Union as a global player is something that has become increasingly significant with the draft EU Constitution nearing completion. This Constitution represents another monumental step towards the development of the EU as a super-state with its own military power. The debate on the role of the EU in International Affairs is also influenced by many other events including the ongoing occupation of Iraq and the role of the US and Britain on the world stage, globalisation and the growing poverty gap between the West and the developing world.

For Sinn Féin any examination of the role of the EU as a global player must look not just inside European borders but also on the impact of its decisions in other countries across the globe, particularly the developing world, whether it is in relation to trade policies, migration, militarisation or political co-operation.

Tonight I want to briefly discuss these issues -- the positive role the EU can play on the global stage, EU militarization, the role of the UN, a global social and economic justice agenda and the position of Ireland in this crucial debate.

Global Justice

Sinn Féin has a consistent and positive view on social and economic justice, not just at home or for the European Union, but also across the globe. We are socialists and we are internationalists. Earlier this year we published a fifteen point plan calling on the Irish government to use its Presidency to initiate a Global Social Justice Agenda. It is disappointing that such a programme has not been delivered.

We believe that delivering a sustainable programme of social justice on a global scale remains the greatest challenge facing governments and citizens throughout the world.

The term 'weapons of mass destruction' has entered our collective vocabulary, in relation to the alleged weapons to be held by Iraq. But the real weapons were held and used in the past by NATO and other nuclear states. Let us be clear, the greatest weapons of mass destruction in our world today are poverty, hunger and disease. Within the EU alone, it has been estimated that 55 million people live in daily poverty -- worldwide that figure is almost unimaginable. AIDS continues to sweep through sub-Saharan Africa at an alarming rate, and in some areas of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the crisis has reached unmanageable levels. I point all of these issues out to highlight the fact that these are global problems, not simply EU problems, or sub-Saharan African ones. Poverty, disease and hunger do not recognise sovereign borders. But for all its rhetoric the EU military budget massively outstrips its Aid budget. This is wrong and has to change.

Positive Role of EU

While we don't agree with the EU superstate, Sinn Féin believes that the EU can play a positive role in a global context. The EU should lead by example in the protection of civil liberties and fundamental human rights of its citizens. We want an EU of equals. A globally responsible EU. An economically and socially just EU. We want to be part of an EU with institutions that promote national collective and individual rights. A Union that works towards full employment, housing, health and education for all its citizens. We want to build a Europe that leads the way in the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment and that welcomes and trades fairly with other regions. In all of these areas the EU could lead by tending to its own backyard.

Negative Role of the EU

However, the current EU is far from this potential. The powerful in the EU are obsessed with becoming a significant military player on the global stage. This is unacceptable. The EU has developed from a limited project of economic cooperation amongst member states, discussing issues of common concern, to an ever-evolving military and economic superpower.

The EU also is acting in an increasingly insular and selfish manner, closing its borders, slamming its doors shut, building its own army. Sinn Féin is alarmed at what the European Union has been transformed into. Fortress Europe in 2004 is very different to the EEC that Ireland joined in 1973. But the EU doesn't have to be this way. It only reflects the political agenda of the most powerful players in the EU - the big states, the Commission and big business. It reflects a lack of political will to change it. But it can be changed and should be changed.

Militarisation of the EU

Militarisation of the EU has been an on-going process. Successive EU treaties since the Single European Act in 1987 have corroded independent foreign policy. Despite all the denials, an EU Army is evolving incrementally, from the establishment of the European Security and Defence Policy and the Rapid Reaction Force to the creation of command and control structures, in which Ireland now participates.

The draft Constitution provides a much greater scope for this evolving military super state. Article 40 of the draft, provides for the framing of a Common Defence Policy, which can be the subject of "enhanced cooperation", or the subcontracting of defence to a smaller group of states. The draft Constitution also has provisions for the contribution of forces to the improvement of military capabilities and the establishment of an EU Armaments Agency, the blueprint for an EU military Industrial Complex. In addition, member states shall be required to defend other members in times of attack, and to cooperate with NATO in this, under the controversial mutual defence clause.

Constitution or no Constitution, many of these developments are already well underway. The EU Security Doctrine has been agreed, and includes initiatives to extend the EU Rapid Reaction Force's Petersburg Tasks well beyond humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, to include military intervention to assist other states both within and outside the EU in 'counter-terrorism' and 'counter-insurgency' operations.

Sinn Féin opposes a militarised EU, whether constituted as a bulwark to the United States, or in league with the United States. This is not the direction the EU should take. International peace and security is too important an issue to be left to the elites -- either in the United States or the EU. What is required is a fully inclusive multinational and multilateral approach.

Primacy of the UN

Sinn Féin believes that the legitimacy and predominance of the United Nations as the only fully inclusive multinational body must be reasserted. But that's not all. We need to actively promote UN primacy, UN reform and capacity building to create a revitalised UN. A UN which is capable of fulfilling the promise of the Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of upholding international law. Is the EU doing this? No. The EU is busy pursuing and paying for its own security agenda. The true effect of the development of EU defence capacity, according to the 2000 Report of the panel on United Nations Peace Operations (the Brahimi Report) has been the depletion, not enhancement, of UN peacekeeping capacity.

The UN has been in crisis since the 1980's and 1990's, when it was subjected to a sustained assault led by big business interests. It was systematically under funded and undermined for nearly two decades and then was castigated for its failure to respond effectively to Rwanda and Kosovo. The world's bigger states have shown a consistent and flagrant disregard for the decisions made by the UN. The invasion of Iraq is testament to this.

What we need is not more outsourcing of peacekeeping to regional bodies such as the EU. We need root and branch UN reform, so that it can re-emerge as a truly respected international and authoritative body capable of responding adequately to or preferably prevention international crisis and upholding International Law.

Ireland and Neutrality

I want to spend a minute or two looking at our own country North and South, and where we fit into this debate. In the South, at some level the issue of the EU has been debated in successive referenda - Amsterdam, Maastricht and Nice 1 and 11.

But in the North, people aren't even consulted on decisions that impact greatly on their lives. The logic for Ireland being dealt with as a single unit is undeniable.

Perhaps one of the most important debates at the moment with respect to both our present and our all Ireland future is around Irish neutrality.

Sinn Féin supports a policy of Positive Neutrality in action. There is a long tradition of republican support for military neutrality as a cornerstone of an independent foreign policy in an independent Ireland. The European project fundamentally threatens the principle of Irish sovereignty. Our vision of positive neutrality in action is not about pacifism or isolationism. Sinn Féin supports Ireland's proud tradition of participation in peace-keeping missions, and our involvement in providing humanitarian aid and relief to impoverished regions.

Our vision of Irish neutrality is fully in keeping with our anti-imperialism, our internationalism, and our commitment to demilitarisation and conflict resolution through dialogue. The mass mobilisations on our streets after the beginning of the Iraq war, and those who opposed the two Nice referendums, are indicators of the depth of public concern for the protection of Irish neutrality.

Our policy of Positive Neutrality in action is very clear. Sinn Féin wants neutrality to be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation. We support a withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace. Irish troops should train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the UN, and only with prior Dáil approval. We believe that there should be no use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers. We also want an end to Irish involvement in the arms trade and profit from war. The situation, which currently exists at Shannon, is a fundamental attack on Irish neutrality, which must be defended vigorously.

All Ireland position

As an all Ireland party, Sinn Féin believes that our approach to the EU can only be all-Ireland based. Our experiences as an all-Ireland party are invaluable for the debate on Europe. For example, our arguments against the militarisation of the EU, stem from our experience of the militarism that exists in many forms on the island. Citizens in the six counties continue to live under a military occupation. The British army, (a member of NATO) is complicit in the state sanctioned murder of citizens in the north of this country. So people on this island are well aware of the activities of members of NATO. The EU is presently dominated by the NATOo states, but must not become like that armed body and must also not continue to develop as a NATO surrogate. Sinn Fein is running an all-Ireland team in the upcoming EU elections, and we will be using the opportunities afforded to us in that campaign to clearly explain, why we don't want an EU that is a military or economic superpower.

Conclusion

When I began to prepare for this debate, I started to think about George Orwell's novel 1984, which envisaged the world divided up into 3 Cold-War-like blocs. I look at the world today and I can see an existing superpower and emerging superpowers, I can see the world divided into blocs based on culture, politics and economics. The EU is becoming one of the more dangerous blocs. At the moment it is looking at moving even closer to a Big Brother style state, with its plans for citizen data bases, through iris scans, and fingerprinting. Is that what you want the EU to become?

As I have already mentioned, a militarised EU is a self- serving tool of those who want the EU to be a two-speed, two-tier institution with a capacity for military intervention toimpose its will. The recent private and exclusive tri lateral summits attended by the British, French and Germans are concrete proof of this.

I believe that the EU could play a constructive role on the global stage. The EU could use its collective voice and influence to promote a positive global and social justice agenda involving a return to UN primacy. This is the Sinn Féin vision for what the EU should be.

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