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Ireland - Foreign and Security Policy

Ireland, as a neutral country, focuses on humanitarian assistance, supporting peacekeeping efforts, and, where it can, encouraging nuclear non-proliferation. The Constitution of Ireland affirms Irelandís strong commitment to the ideal of peace and friendly cooperation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality. Irelandís foreign policy is based on this conviction.

Although Ireland maintains an official position of military neutrality, and is not a member of NATO, the Irish government joined NATOís Partnership for Peace (PFP) program in 1999. Ireland has also pledged to support the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that is mandated by the Maastricht Treaty on European Union. Ireland is a participant in the EUís European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), and has committed a battalion to the EUís Rapid Reaction Force. Ireland is prepared to undertake peacekeeping, humanitarian or crisis management operations with its EU partners, where there is a UN mandate. The Irish military has been a continuously active participant in UN peacekeeping operations since the mid-1950s.

As a small country in a changing world, Ireland remains firmly committed to collective approaches to international relations and security based on the primacy of the Charter of the United Nations. Key principles underlying this commitment are respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. Ireland seeks to pursue these core objectives in cooperation with regional and bilateral partners and through its membership of international organisations, in particular its membership of the United Nations and of the European Union.

Ireland joined the United Nations (UN) on 14 December 1955. Within the UN, Ireland has sought to promote effective international action on global issues such as disarmament, peace-keeping, human rights and development. Ireland's membership of the UN Security Council in 2001-2002 reinforced its commitment to working with the wider UN membership for international peace and security. This commitment is reflected in the continuous participation in UN peace keeping operations by Irish Defence and Police Forces since 1958. Irish personnel are currently serving in a number of UN peace support operations in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Our commitment to the UN is also reflected in the increasing contributions Ireland is making to UN Funds and Programmes. The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD was asked by the UN Secretary General to be one of his Envoys for UN reform in the lead up to the UN World Summit in September 2005, which reaffirmed the Millennium Development Goals and helped to ensure that the UN is better equipped to meet today's threats and challenges. Ireland is also a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, established by the international community through the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998.

Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1 January 1973 and has participated actively in the evolution of what is now the European Union (EU). EU membership is pivotal to Government policy. It is a central framework within which the Government pursues its foreign policy objectives. Irelandís membership of the European Union is rooted in an understanding that the Union is the cornerstone of political and economic stability in Europe.

Membership gives Irish exporters full access to the European single market, and this has contributed to Irelandís economic success. EU involvement enables Irelandís views and interests to be reflected in the policies of the Union which exercises considerable influence in world affairs. Irelandís participation in world affairs enhances its capacity to pursue its traditional policy of promoting a stable, peaceful and prosperous international environment with structures based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and representative government.

Irelandís voice in the world and the pursuit of Irelandís foreign policy is greatly enhanced through its participation in the formulation and implementation of the European Unionís common foreign and security policy (CFSP). As a community of shared values, the EU is uniquely placed to play a role in support of international peace and stability.

In todayís globalised and increasingly interdependent world, Ireland and its EU partners work together to promote international peace and security and co-operative and mutually beneficial relations with neighbouring states and regions. Core principles that have always inspired Irelandís foreign policy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, are also central to the pursuit of the CFSP. Another important element of the CFSP is the Unionís developing capabilities in the areas of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and crisis management under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter. Ireland has played an active role in the development of the ESDP and will continue to contribute constructively to this process in accordance with our own foreign policy priorities and traditions.

The EU has played a special role in support of peace, reconstruction and reconciliation in the Western Balkans and this is a continuing priority for Ireland and the Union as a whole. Following the 2004 enlargement, relations with Russia and with the Unionís new neighbours Ė Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova Ė have become more important for the European Union, which is also developing closer relations with the Caucasus and the countries of the southern Mediterranean. In tandem with these developments, Irelandís links to these areas are growing.

In its bilateral relations, Ireland has sought to build mutually beneficial relationships with a broad range of countries, reflecting the varied and deep connections which have been built up over many years with different parts of the world. These relationships have, in part, contributed to our recent economic progress. However, economic considerations are only one aspect of Irelandís relations with other countries.

A particular focus has been relations with the countries of Africa, reflecting a longstanding tradition and commitment to development cooperation and to the pursuit of peace and stability, good governance and respect for human rights in Africa. We seek to achieve these goals through working with African partners, and through membership of international organisations, particularly the EU and the UN. Ireland has also sought to deepen its relations with the countries of Asia and Latin America through the developing trade, business and cultural links, and through cooperation with regional organisations and at the UN.

Ireland enjoys close links with the United States based on ties of friendship and cooperation developed through a shared history of emigration and an increasingly strong economic relationship. In the context of the wider transatlantic relationship, Ireland is committed to improving cooperation between the EU and the US and between the EU and Canada with a focus on enhancing international peace and stability.

Irish Aid is the Government of Irelandís official programme of assistance to developing countries. The Irish Aid programme is administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ireland has had an official development assistance programme since 1974. It has grown steadily over the years from modest beginnings to an estimated budget of Ä914 million for total official development assistance (ODA) in 2008. The Government is committed to reaching the United Nations target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA in 2012. Irelandís development cooperation policy is an integral part of Irelandís wider foreign policy. The Irish Aid programme reflects our longstanding commitment to human rights and fairness in international relations.

Ireland came upon its neutrality as a result of not wanting to enter into an alliance with the United Kingdom. But Irelandís conflict with the United Kingdom is over. With Irelandís economic success and political success in the EU, it has the ability to play an important role in meeting global security challenges. But that role will be limited if being neutral gets confused with being pacifist. If neutral means Ireland canít take sides in legitimate conflicts or cannot support military engagement against its enemies or the enemies of its friends, Irelandís role in geopolitical developments will be much more limited than it otherwise could be.

The White Paper (2000) has provided the policy framework for defence for the following decade. The defence and security environment has changed appreciably over this period, particularly in the international domain, and this has required a flexible and responsive approach from the Defence Organisation. A key requirement of the policy function is to ensure that appropriate policy responses are formulated in response to changes in the defence and security environment. Defence policy, including policy responses to changes in the defence and security environment, is informed by military advice.

As part of the process of preparing a new White Paper on Defence, the Minister for Defence decided to prepare a Green Paper on Defence. The Green Paper will set out policy considerations and its publication will inform a broad consultative process which will contribute to the subsequent development of the new White Paper. Work on the Green Paper is ongoing and it was published in March 2012. This Strategy Statement set out the key strategies that will be pursued by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces over the period to 2015. The formulation and publication of a new White Paper on Defence is provided for in this Strategy Statement.

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