[24/08/2005] Ireland paving way for EU Battlegroups

IRELAND PAVING THE WAY FOR EU BATTLE GROUPS

by Honor Mahony from EU OBSERVER, 15 August 2005

The Irish Government is taking concrete steps to preparing the way for its
army to take part in the EU's battle groups, according to the country's
defence minister.

In an interview with the daily newspaper, the Irish Examiner, Willie O'Dea
admitted that the biggest concern with the battle groups was how
participation fits with Ireland's policy of neutrality.

However, he said that the government would have proposals by the end of
September.

At the moment, a committee is looking at the constitutional difficulties
thrown up by participation.

New legislation is likely to be needed allowing Ireland to take part in the
battle groups, which will be deployed around the world.

According to Mr O'Dea, there are a number of scenarios, which would be
illegal under Irish law.

He pointed out that it would be illegal for foreign troops participating in
a battle group to go to Ireland "under their own command".

"That's illegal as the law stands at the moment", he said.

The defence minister also referred to Ireland's main issue with taking part
in the battle groups - the fact that Ireland's participation on any mission
undertaken by the battle group must go through the triple lock system:
approval by the UN, the government and Irish parliament.

This triple lock system was drawn up in the wake of Ireland's referendum
rejection of the EU's Nice Treaty, mainly due to fears about its neutrality
being compromised.

Asked whether it would be possible to reconcile the conflicting principles,
Mr O'Dea said: "What we are working out is how we can do that. We will have
the mechanics in place by the end of September".

The decision to set up the battle groups was taken late last year and
envisages groups of around 1,500 soldiers being sent to the world's hotspots
within ten days of a unanimous decision by member states

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