Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Update, March 2001: The final text of the Treaty is now available at

The one reference to the Western European Union remains, but it is of little signifcance.


Security aspects of the Nice Treaty - John Goodwillie


This is based on the provisional text available at
Most of this text can't be understood without referring to the up-to-date versions of the Amsterdam Treaty and the EC Treaty available at

Virtually all references to the Western European Union have been deleted: there is one remaining but in a very offhand way and maybe it will be deleted in the final text revised by the lawyers.

So, the WEU is no longer an "integral part of the development of the Union providing the Union with access to an operational capacity"; it no longer "supports the Union in framing the defence aspects of the common foreign and security policy". The EU no longer has to "foster closer institutional relations with the WEU" for the "progressive framing of a common defence policy", and it no longer avails itself of the WEU to implement decisions with defence implications. And the European Council no longer has an option to integrate the WEU into the EU.

The explanation for this is that the EU itself is now going to fulfil the functions previously allocated to the WEU. The European Council has largely, but piece-by-piece, exercised its option to integrate the WEU into the EU. The Rapid Reaction Force, which is not in any treaty but only in Council decisions, is the operational capacity which implements decisions with defence implications; the EU's own structure frames the defence aspects of the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy), that is, the common defence policy. The EU's Political Committee (renamed Political and Security Committee) will control crisis management under the responsibility of the Council.

The European security and defence policy is to become operational without waiting for ratification of the Nice Treaty - presumably this is possible because it has been set up by Council decisions under the Amsterdam Treaty.

The WEU is being wound down and may be abolished in a year or two: it is not correct to say, as certain news reports have, that the Nice Treaty integrates the WEU into the EU: in fact the winding down of the WEU has been decided at various WEU meetings and is not mentioned in the Nice Treaty. The winding-down essentially is performed by the EU taking on various WEU functions. The mutual defence commitment in the WEU treaty will be maintained for those that have already subscribed to it.

In concluding agreements with other states or international organisations to implement the CFSP, the Council no longer needs unanimity to open negotiations or to conclude agreements, except that unanimity is still necessary on subjects where it is required for internal decisions.

There are revised procedures for "enhanced cooperation", that is where not all member states participate. It can now operate on CFSP matters only where it is implementing a joint action or a common position (either of which can be adopted by a qualified majority) and only if there there are no military or defence implications: this appears to be a restriction of the possibilities.

The Treaty changes in the security area do not appear to represent a substantial shift of power to the European level and a referendum may not be legally necessitated - though it may well be legally necessitated for the changes in other areas. Politically a referendum must take place in order to ratify the Government's action in destroying our neutrality by joining an alliance in which our armed forces are subjected to a common policy and to a common command subject only to initial veto.

It seems that the Government are preparing for a referendum, and are unlikely to delay as advocated by Peter Sutherland, whose attitude may reflect a widespread feeling that the Treaty did not fulfil the hopes of the advocates of closer integration.

The referendum campaign must be used to raise the Government's entry into the Partnership for Peace without the promised referendum, and to question the abolition of neutrality that the Government are now engaged on. The re-definition of neutrality to cover only the absence of a mutual defence commitment must be challenged.


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