Interview Murray Piggott

Published on January 8th, 2016 | by admin

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‘Multilateralism Is Key’

The 2015 White Paper on Defence states that; “Ireland advocates a strong EU contribution to UN peacekeeping and crisis management. Within the framework of multilateralism and collective security and in support of international peace and security, Ireland will continue to contribute to a range of cooperative and collaborative security arrangements within the EU , the UN , the OSCE and bilaterally with other states.” With this in mind, SIGNA L posed some questions to Brigadier General Murray Piggott, Military Representative at Ireland’s Permanent Mission to the EU.

Can you provide an insight into what the role of the Milrep to the Irish mission to the EU actually is?

Before explaining my role, it is necessary to explain two key political and military structures in the EU which came about after the treaty of Nice in 2000 and were designed to enable the Union to fully assume its responsibilities for crisis management.
These were the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the European Union Military Committee (EUMC).
The PSC meets at the ambassadorial level as a preparatory body for the Council of the EU. Its main functions are keeping track of the international situation, and helping to define policies within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It prepares a coherent EU response to crises and exercises its political control and strategic direction over military and civilian CSDP missions.
The EUMC is composed of the Chiefs of Defence (CHOD) of Member States (MS), represented by their military
representatives (Milreps). It may meet at CHOD or Milrep level. The EUMC is the forum for military consultation and cooperation between the EU Member States in the field of conflict prevention and crisis management. It provides the PSC with advice and recommendations on military matters. The role of the Military Representative within the EU is to represent the Chief of Staff (COS) in accordance with policies determined by the Minister and the Government, at the EUMC and within the other official bodies of the Union in which the Milrep or his staff participate. In the EUMC, the Milrep represents Ireland’s position in accordance with directions given by DFHQ having ensured that the position that is being represented has been properly ‘triangulated’ with the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Where issues of policy (including military operational issues which may impinge on national defence policy issues) arise or are flagged in the context of the EUMC
deliberations or deliberations by its support bodies, the Milrep brings such issues to the attention of DFHQ, the PSC
ambassador and the departmental representative in order to ensure that Ireland can determine its position and influence ongoing discussions.

The Milrep is also part of the PSC Delegation in the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU. The PSC delegation is
led by an Ambassador and consists of two other personnel from DFAT, four personnel from Dept. of Defence and three other Defence Force officers, in addition to the Milrep. The PSC to ensure that Ireland’s engagement in CSDP is consistent across all CSDP fora. Within the PSC delegation, the Milrep provides military advice to the PSC Ambassador, and with his staff, ensures that information pertaining to military matters within the EU are disseminated to the PSC delegation and to DFHQ.

In the light of Ireland’s policy of non-alignment/neutrality, what sort of advice does the MILREP provide and on what issues, normally?
Ireland is a committed supporter of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and its action element, the Common Security and Defence Policy. From a military perspective, my interaction generally involves CSDP issues and any advice given, comments made or points raised will be in line with any national standpoint or certainly any position that has been triangulated beforehand. The issues dealt with at the EUMC are varied and can
range from those pertaining to the initiation of operations to the development of work-plans for the EU Military Staff to the provision of military advice to the PSC on issues like the ‘Hybrid Threat’, such as that posed by cyber-attacks or non-state actors, for the EU’s Comprehensive Approach. The EUMC generally gives advice and recommendations on the overall concept of crisis management in its military aspects; military aspects relating to political control and to the strategic direction of operations; the risk assessment of potential crises; the military dimension and implications of a crisis situation; the elaboration, assessment and review of objectives and military relations
with applicant countries, third countries and international organisations. The nature of the EU means that decisions are normally made with the consensus of the 28 member states and this is true also of the EUMC.
A practical example of the work of the EUMC is the launching of Operation EUNAVFOR MED (Op Sophia) earlier this year.
Throughout May and June, the EUMC was considering proposed EU Naval operation in the Mediterranean, which was one component of the EU’s comprehensive approach to address the Migrant Crisis. Once the political guidance regarding the proposed CSDP operation was developed, the EUMCs first task was to provide military advice on this to the PSC. During the discussion that preceded the advice, all of the Member States (MS) had an opportunity to air their views or concerns regarding the feasibility of the operation and the risks involved and to shape the operation in an effort to ensure that it would achieve its objectives. The advice was then compiled, taking into consideration all of the views expressed, before being agreed by all 28 MS.
After the initial advice was accepted for this operation the EUMCs next task was to translate the political guidance into military direction. Again the views of all 28 MS were taken into consideration before the final document was given to the Operational Commander (Op Cdr). From that point onward he assumed responsibility for the planning process. While more advice was given to the PSC about other aspects of the operation the key aspects regarding the initiation and development of the operation had been accomplished.

How do DF missions such as this [Brussels] represent the organisation in terms of demonstrating capability?
This is a very different mission compared to most of the other missions where DF Officers have served. On a daily
basis officers in the Permanent Representation are working at the Political-Military Strategic level, they are not only working with Dept. of Defence and Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade colleagues but are also constantly interacting with civilian and military colleagues from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and from the other 27 member States on any number of different issues. These interactions are generally focused on the EUMC strategic priorities and supporting strategic actions. The essential capabilities to successfully work at this level are the ability to analyse strategic intent, to contribute to the strategic planning process and to contribute to the implementation of a comprehensive Approach in the EU. The key requirements from DF Officers are to provide military expertise with regard to all aspects of CSDP missions and operations, support long term capability development and support capability initiatives such as pooling and sharing. In any of the working groups in which we are involved, or any
of the meetings that we attend, where it is relevant, we will make contributions based on our knowledge of Ireland’s general policy approach to Defence issues and our diverse operational experience, at home or on missions abroad. Irish Defence Force capability is demonstrated directly through our contributions in these fora and our ability to work for the required consensus to bring the various issues to a successful conclusion.

eu

What level of interaction do you have with your colleagues/contemporaries from other countries, particularly EU and/or NATO countries, and how do these interactions inform your role?
In addition to EU, Ireland participates in NATO/PfP pursuant to a government decision which also authorised the deployment of a Military Representative to Ireland’s NATO/PfP Liaison Office.
The Military representative to the European Union is double hatted for the purposes of this role and therefore represents the Chief of Staff in relevant NATO bodies such as the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)1. In practical terms, this means that on almost a daily basis, I interact with other Milreps who are either affiliated to the EU or NATO or both and also with many Milreps of the other 21 partnership countries affiliated with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. While most of our business is conducted in formal sessions, much of the spade work to
reach consensus is carried out in informal sessions. Whether we are meeting formally/informally or in smaller groupings, having built personal relationships within the Milrep community is key to being able to gain support for positions being taken by Ireland on a particular issue given the requirement to achieve consensus to bring issues to a conclusion. Also, recognising that multilateralism is key to dealing with the complex security environment that Europe faces now and will continue to face in the future, maintaining close links with other MS at the level
of Milrep may be of assistance to the DF as it implements the Defence White Paper in the coming months and years.

In light of the current security situation, has there been an increase in the demands of your role, and how?
Recent events in the Ukraine, the Middle East and North Africa certainly have focussed attention onto security and defence issues, both within Europe and around the world. This in turn will feed into the High Representative’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, which is currently being developed and which will be published in June 2016. While each member state will provide input to the document it is probable that there will be a large body of work for the EUMC after its publication. In addition, many of the Military Concepts developed by the EUMC over the past number of years will now have to be dusted down and re-examined in the light of the new security reality in
which we find ourselves. Many member states are keen to have the military voice heard at the political level and to this end the EUMC is very likely to be tasked with providing more military advice to inform the political decision making process.




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