An article in the Irish Times over Christmas has reminded us of a series of interesting pieces that appeared in the paper in November from Dr Karen Devine, postdoctoral research fellow at Dublin City University.
The articles explore in detail the meaning, history and future of concepts of neutrality, and the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for Irish neutrality - concluding that:
Common defence can be interpreted as the EU term for collective defence. A neutral state cannot legally or politically sign up to this Article 28A(2) in the Lisbon Treaty because it confirms a definite, rather than a possible, intention to create a common/collective defence that involves going beyond military alliance commitments.
All four articles are worth a read (here, here, here), but the specific explanation of Lisbon's impact is as follows:
While the Government claimed military neutrality was not affected because of the clause in the Constitution prohibiting membership of a future EU military alliance, it is worth noting that academic analysts of the treaty, and the European Civil Society groups, concluded that the treaty's ESDP provisions would put an end to states' neutrality.
The primary "non-involvement in [other countries'] wars" element is compromised under article 28B, which places no limits on EU military missions. The concept of using force only in cases of self-defence is eliminated, as article 28B provides a capacity for pre-emptive action (as envisaged in the European Security Strategy).
Ireland may be associated with "high intensity" EU operations even if the state is not a participant.
"Non-aggression" and "peace promotion" values appear to be under threat, given that the neutrals' clauses proposed at the convention to limit the scope of EU military action and repudiate war were rejected.
The primacy of the UN and its peacekeeping is eliminated under article 28A(1), as EU missions do not require a UN mandate. The neutrals' proposals for EU missions to require a UN mandate were rejected.
The inter-related neutrality characteristics of "impartiality", "anti-big-power politics" and independent decision-making amid big-power pressure are compromised under articles 10 and 280E(2) that lift the ban on enhanced co-operation in the field of European Security and Defence Policy.
Article 28A(6) provides for permanent, structured co-operation in defence matters, and designates larger states to execute the "most demanding" military acts. Neutral state representatives argued that large state missions going ahead in the name of the EU in the face of objections from smaller states will have little credibility, as they would clearly show that there is no genuine common foreign policy.
These provisions, combined with article 15B/201a on Constructive Abstention, make unanimity as a decision-making rule a non sequitur, while articles 280B, 11(2-3) and 16b, also objected to by neutral states' representatives, eliminate abstaining states' independence in action.
The "anti-militarism" value is affected by article 28A(3) which commits member states to increased military spending and a common arms policy within the article 28D-supported European Defence Agency.
Finally, the military neutrality concept of non-membership of a military alliance is eliminated under the article 49c(7) mutual defence clause that effectively constitutes a new EU military alliance, and the article 188R solidarity clause.
Neutral states' representatives tried at first to eliminate these alliances, and thereafter, to make these clauses non-binding, but ultimately failed in both endeavours. The clause stating that the mutual defence guarantee will "not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States" is so vague as to be devoid of any legal effect; opt-out protocols are the only way to avoid these obligations.
The conditions under which Ireland would join the EC common defence, as laid out by politicians in Dáil Éireann over the years - ie once the EC had evolved into "a genuine federation or confederation, with a common foreign policy" (Garret FitzGerald, May 11th, 1982), or once there was "co-decision of the European Parliament with the Council" to exercise adequate democratic controls over ESDP (Proinsias De Rossa, November 29th, 1991) - have not been met.
While ESDP structures and capabilities are sketched in the Lisbon Treaty, the circumstances under which they will be used and against whom would be decided in the future by the European Council; in the absence of any democratic controls, ESDP is a leap too far into the unknown for many voters. Compared with the neutral traditions of Ireland, Austria, Sweden and Finland that go back decades or centuries, and are part of people's national identities, ESDP is a very recent policy conceived by a handful of elites in the absence of a European identity that is seen as necessary for its acceptance, legitimacy and success.
Henry Kissinger once observed: "No foreign policy - no matter how ingenious - has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none."
His insight illustrates the problems faced by advocates of the Lisbon Treaty's Common Security and Defence Policy that overrides, rather than accommodates, the foreign policies of neutral states.