Treaty of Amsterdam



Article in "Peacework" on the Treaty



Does the Amsterdam Treaty threaten Irish neutrality?

Irish CND has for a long time felt that the increasing political integration of Europe was a threat to Irish neutrality. As there is a great affection for Irish neutrality by the Irish people, it is well that everybody should think clearly on this issue before they decide to vote on this issue. At time of going to press, the referendum is expected to be on 22nd May.

Do we have any neutrality left to give away?

We still have some. We are not in a military alliance. We are not obliged to come to anybody's assistance in a military conflict. This gives us a certain independence in foreign policy. The EU co-ordination of foreign policy does not yet stretch very far, and is mostly informal.

What does neutrality mean nowadays?

When Dick Spring was Minister for Foreign Afairs he introduced a new definition of Irish neutrality, under which we are neutral as long as we have no commitment to come to the defence of other countries when they are attacked. By this definition, we could join NATO and still remain "neutral", since the NATO treaty only commits members to consult with each other if one is attacked. However, the more we are involved in joint foreign policy positions and joint military operations, the more everybody will expect us to be on one particular side in the event of a war. Neutrality means that we can take our own decision on the merits of each case.

What is the objection to NATO and the Western European Union?

They are both based on nuclear weapons. Members of the WEU are obliged to come to each others' defence if one is attacked. All members of NATO (except Iceland, which has no army) put part of their forces under joint command and plan for joint operations.

What does the Treaty of Amsterdam change?

Defence now comes within the sphere of EU joint foreign policy.

We commit ourselves to the "progressive" framing of the a common defence policy. The Maastricht treaty referred to the "eventual" framing; so we can now expect that work on the common defence policy will start quickly and is not in the dim distant future. The common defence policy will include "peace-making" (as in Somalia, for example) and has to be "in accordance" with the involvement of the WEU. While there is a phrase to suggest that our neutrality is not changed, how can you have a common defence policy and be neutral at the same time?

The European Council (i.e. the heads of government) can agree to integrate the WEU into the EU, and to establish a common defence. This presumably would be after a common defence policy had been established. The Taoiseach is therefore empowered to
__________________________ _____
"By the Government's definition of neutrality, we could join NATO and still
remain neutral"_________________

negotiate Irish entry into both WEU and a common defence. While this would have to come back for a referendum, it would be a bit late then to be saying that we didn't want it. By signing up to Amsterdam, the Irish people will be saying that they agree with the aim of replacing Irish neutrality by a common defence involving the WEU, and the only thing to be negotiated will be the terms.

Did the Irish government have to agree?


Denmark got a clause inserted to say it would not be involved in preparing and implementing EU decisions which had defence implications. The Irish government didn't ask for a similar clause for Ireland.





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