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Ó Snodaigh - Government must seize opportunity to challenge EU Common Defence

23 October, 2003

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs and Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the confirmation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Dáil today that the Common Defence provisions of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty will be revised. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "Ireland must now seize this opportunity to show progressive leadership in the EU and to exercise its responsibility as a militarily neutral state, by seeking changes to draft Article I-40 on Common Defence, the provisions of which significantly further militarise the EU and undermine Irish military neutrality by association with and complicity in the European militarist project.

"Today I urged the Government once again to instruct the Irish negotiators to protect Irish independence in defence policy, and specifically the traditional policies of military neutrality and UN primacy, by at minimum securing a specific article explicitly recognising the rights and duties of neutral states within the Union and explicitly recognising the right of those states requiring a UN mandate for military operations.

"I also urged the Government in line with its policy on nuclear disarmament to take up Sinn Féin's challenge of Positive Neutrality in Action and use the opportunity of the IGC negotiations to argue for a new Treaty Article committing to the objective of a Nuclear Weapons-Free EU, as a concrete step towards making this world genuinely safer for all.

"We want Government commitment to activism on the issue of neutrality and demilitarisation, in the same way that they have actively campaigned for the retention of unanimity in decision-making on taxation. There is no reason why the Government shouldn't fight as hard to protect Irish neutrality as Spain and Poland have to protect their favourable voting weights in Council. And I don't accept the false choice offered by the Government-Fine Gael-Labour axis - that an EU Common Defence is inevitable, and the only option before us is to either fully commit by sending troops or else limit our participation to EU defence policy making. There is another way, and that is to actively campaign against an EU Common Defence and in favour of UN primacy and a demilitarised EU, and to also ensure that Ireland and other militarily neutral states are accorded equal status and explicit recognition in the Union." ENDS

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