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 Neutrality and Lisbon

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PostSubject: Neutrality and Lisbon   Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:08 pm

The Irish Times is running three articles on Irish neutrality and the effect of the Lisbon treaty. Here is the first instalment: Neither friend nor foe: the Irish position

The author argues that neutrality has a long and colourful history, which is reflected in Ireland's current amibigous stance towards certain overseas conflicts.
Quote :

Thus, there appears to be a tension between profit and values in decisions over neutrality. Some opt for the former, arguing it is the government's job to define State interests in economic terms and to pursue them responsibly. Others opt for adherence to the law of neutrality and, in effect, the credibility of that foreign policy identity and its associated values.

Personally, I think that neutrality's past has very little to do with its contemporary meaning, certainly before the twentieth century. It is interesting that many ideas such as human rights and 'refugees' arose in the twentieth century.
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PostSubject: Re: Neutrality and Lisbon   Wed Nov 26, 2008 4:41 pm

Second instalment today, highlighting the divide between active neutrality (which is what most people think the concept means) and the much narrower military neutrality (which is what the government thinks it means). Military neutrality, which has been accepted by all parties bar SF and in many'neutral' European countries, just means non-membership of a military alliance, and allows for all sorts of passive complicity. Basically it allows for non-neutral behaviour while paying lip-service to a cherished public ideal.

The attitude of the state and the people is addressed, with the people being "extraordinarily ill'-informed", "confused" and "emotional" on neutrality issues. Rather, the report argues, the people have been quite consistent in their views of neutrality over the years, and link neutrality with ideas of national identity and independance, as well as anti-imperialism, sympathy with oppressed rgions and support for UN peacekeeping. Their core values have been sound for decades, it is the governments who have shifted their position and often decieved the public.

Interestingly, the author regards Ireland as the first neutral to shift to military neutrality, in order to balance EU commitments and public opinion. We were followed then by Austria and then Sweden. Where we once set precedents in things like the NPT, we know set precedents in fudge.

Edit: link - Tug of war between public and political elites
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PostSubject: Re: Neutrality and Lisbon   Wed Nov 26, 2008 5:11 pm

905 wrote:
Second instalment today, highlighting the divide between active neutrality (which is what most people think the concept means) and the much narrower military neutrality (which is what the government thinks it means). Military neutrality, which has been accepted by all parties bar SF and in many'neutral' European countries, just means non-membership of a military alliance, and allows for all sorts of passive complicity. Basically it allows for non-neutral behaviour while paying lip-service to a cherished public ideal.

The attitude of the state and the people is addressed, with the people being "extraordinarily ill'-informed", "confused" and "emotional" on neutrality issues. Rather, the report argues, the people have been quite consistent in their views of neutrality over the years, and link neutrality with ideas of national identity and independance, as well as anti-imperialism, sympathy with oppressed rgions and support for UN peacekeeping. Their core values have been sound for decades, it is the governments who have shifted their position and often decieved the public.

Interestingly, the author regards Ireland as the first neutral to shift to military neutrality, in order to balance EU commitments and public opinion. We were followed then by Austria and then Sweden. Where we once set precedents in things like the NPT, we know set precedents in fudge.

Edit: link - Tug of war between public and political elites

Interesting post. I did a lot of reading up of this in order to understand how we have troops in Chad and Afghanistan, and let Shannon be used for the Iraq war, and still be "neutral". Your post is a good summary of the answer.
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PostSubject: Re: Neutrality and Lisbon   Wed Nov 26, 2008 9:23 pm

I enjoyed the articles, and I have to say that the "active neutrality" Devine describes is close to my view. I don't doubt that it is the public viewpoint in Ireland.

However, that implies, and Devine explicitly says, that this concept of neutrality precludes joint decision making in foreign policy with the EU. I have to take issue with that, because the regular Eurobarometer surveys suggest the opposite:

AreaDecide Jointly w. EUIrish Govt OnlyDK
Fighting Terrorism74(-2)23(+6)3(-4)
Scientific & Technological research73(-1)21(+4)6(-3)
Support for the regions72(-2)23(+5)5(-3)
Protecting the Environment63(-2)34(+4)3(-2)
Energy62(-7)34(+9)4(-2)
Defence & Foreign Affairs60(-1)35(+6)5 (-5)
Competition58(-1)36(+5)6(-4)
Consumer Protection56(-4)39(+6)5(-2)
Immigration55(-5)42(+Cool3(-3)
Agriculture & Fisheries47(-7)48(+9)5(-2)
Fighting Inflation48(+2)48(+1)4(-3)
Transport46(-6)50(+9)4(-3)
Economy42(-2)54(+5)4(-3)
Fighting Crime41(-7)56(+10)3(-3)
Fighting Unemployment38(-3)59(+6)3(-3)
Pensions29(-1)66(+5)5(-4)
Tax26(-6)69(+9)5(-3)
Education23(-3)73(+5)4(-2)

One can reconcile the conflicting viewpoints (rather than ignore them, as I feel Devine does) by assuming, as she does, that the Irish public is not stupid, and sees the responsibility of the Irish government as being to pursue active neutrality within the EU - to be the advocate and spokesperson for that concept in the joint decision-making of Europe. Her own conclusion, that involvement in Europe and active neutrality are incompatible, I would reject as facile.
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