Defence Forces in discussions to join FINABEL - The European Army Interoperability Centre

Meetings have taken placed between a member of the Defence Forces and Finabel, the European Interoperability Centre, according to documents released to Luke Ming Flanagan MEP under Freedom of Information.

Founded in 1953, Finabel describes itself as “an informal international de facto association” initially focussing on cooperation between armament programmes, but now involved in “the harmonisation of army doctrines”. 22 member states of the EU are currently members of Finabel.

Emails released to the independent MEP from Midlands-Northwest outline preparations for a meeting on Monday 17th September 2018 at the office of the Irish Permanent Representative in Brussels, between Mr Mario Blokken, Finabel Permanent Secretariat, and the MILREP (Military Representative) of the Defence Forces. More documents show that on the 22nd November 2018, the Irish Military Representative attended the Finabel “Annual Address to the European Military Representatives”, where representatives from the 22 countries were also in attendance.

Speaking to Mr. Flanagan’s office by phone, Mr Mario Blokken confirmed that meetings had taken place with a member of the Irish Defence Forces. He went on to say the meeting went “well” and that he expected Defence Forces Ireland to apply first for observer status, and later for full membership of Finabel.

A separate Freedom of Information request revealed that Ireland is participating in ten PESCO projects and that the Department of Defence considers that Irish participation in EU military projects such as EU Battlegroups “contributes to our overall credibility in the Union”. Previously Ireland had only stated its involvement in two PESCO projects, and no further update had been given.

Reacting to the revelations contained in the freedom of information reply, Luke Ming Flanagan called on the government to explain this move towards further EU military integration.

“The Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar needs to tell us why it is in Ireland’s interest to turn away from our traditional position of military neutrality and voluntarily involve ourselves in this growing imperial project. Even our newly elected President, Michael D Higgins has said that the government has not done enough to explain this decision,” said Luke Ming Flanagan MEP.