Submission to the Referendum Commission, April 1998 to be taken into account in writing their summary of the opposition case to be distributed nationally



This is a submission by the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament against
the proposed constitutional amendment on the Amsterdam treaty.

Before stating our reasons for opposing the amendment, we wish to say a couple of things about the way in which different contributions may be brought together by the Commission. We are anxious not to associate ourselves with some of the reasons which others may have for opposing the amendment. We are a peace organisation and as a body we would not have views on many of the arguments which might be put forward, irrespective of our views as individuals. We feel that if the Commission sets out, without further explanation, a series of reasons for opposition, it will be easily assumed that the opponents of the amendment endorse each and every one of these. We therefore ask that the Commission, in the publicity which it will be producing, make clear that the opponents of the
amendment are not a cohesive force and that many of the opponents will be
advocating only a limited number of reasons for opposition.

We do not know the Commission's intention regarding identifying the various authors of the reasons for opposition which it will be assembling, but for our part we would welcome any statement which the Commission might include identifying us as authors of what we are saying.

We note that one of the tasks of the Commission is to facilitate debate and we are quite prepared to supply speakers, etc. if the Commission is intending to organise any public activities.


Reasons for opposition to the Amsterdam treaty:

The increasing political integration of Europe is 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.

Neutrality, though weakened, still exists. 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.

We reject the argument that we remain 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.

Both NATO and the Western European Union are 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.

Under the Treaty of Amsterdam , defence now comes within the sphere of EU joint foreign policy.

Under the Treaty we commit ourselves to the "progressive" framing of 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 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.

The Irish government was not obliged to take this course. 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. end


Back to Irish CND page on neutrality