News BlogIsrael Palestine

The Mv Rachel Corrie en route to Gaza. First test of the solidarity clause?


(BRUSSELS2, analysis) A “strong” interception of the MV Rachel Corrie, this Irish ship which is heading towards the Palestinian and Israeli coasts to break the blockade surrounding the Gaza Strip (with a Nobel Peace Prize winner on board, Maired Corrigan -Maguire), could lead, in my opinion, to the implementation of the solidarity clause of the Lisbon Treaty. “ In the event of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States owe it aid and assistance by all means in their power., specifies article 42.

A test of the solidarity clause which is based on a request from Ireland

This clause mainly targets non-NATO member states… like Ireland. If the threat concerns the member states of NATO and the EU, it is, in fact, the Treaty of the Atlantic Alliance and its article 5 which applies as a priority, the Treaty has taken care to remember, several times. Which, in my opinion, is of great interest to the current affair which is taking place off the coast of Gaza and deserves sustained attention, in terms of political and legal precedents. The European Union is therefore on the front line.

Certainly not all the elements are present for its application, starting with a request from the Irish government and we can also discuss the notion of “territory” for a ship (1). “ No request to this effect has been made to the Member States » I was told by Catherine Ashton’s office…

The Irish government remains, in fact, quite cautious, demanding the passage of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the security of its fellow citizens, and refusing to negotiate in the NGO's place: “The persons on the Rachel Corrie represent independent NGOs. The department respects this and it is not our role to negotiate on their behalf” explains the latest statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published in the Irish press this morning. “The Government continues to call for safe passage for the  Rachel Corrie to Gaza. The Government's top priority is the safety and welfare of the Irish citizens concerned and all those aboard the vessel; to avoid any further bloodshed or violence; and to see the safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.”

What paradoxes of history...

When the 27 drafted this clause (first in the Constitutional Treaty then in the Lisbon Treaty), they probably did not have in mind that it could be implemented very quickly and that the threat could come from a “friendly” country, like Israel!

And when Ireland, subject to referendum pressure from these citizens (rejection of the Lisbon Treaty during the first passage) wary of a “militarization” of Europe, insisted, in 2009, to firmly frame this clause in an additional protocol to the Treaty (2), it did not think that it could be one of the first beneficiaries of this clause. This protocol also removes any automatic nature from the application of the clause by specifying that: “It will be up to Member States to determine the nature of the aid or assistance to be provided to a Member State which is the subject of a terrorist attack or is the subject of armed aggression on its territory.”

But we can only note that, barely six months after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, this seemingly innocuous solidarity clause could come into application, at least in a dissuasive way. EU member states still need to have the will...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Assuming that a ship flying its flag is considered to constitute an element of its territory capable of justifying international intervention. Which, in my opinion, can be justified. Because the law of the sea provides for the application of the law of the flag State on the high seas. But I will let others more competent than me discuss it.

(2) Read: The “Irish” Defense Protocol: a simple cut and paste… Really?

(photo credit: Free Gaza)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

2 thoughts on “The Mv Rachel Corrie en route to Gaza. First test of the solidarity clause?"

  • Stephane Lesnard


    A state ship or a military building benefits from immunities and privileges according to the United Nations International Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but for France, it is not necessarily a dismemberment or part of the territory. national. Thus, a person who takes refuge on board a warship in stopover in a foreign country could not ask for political asylum or to be considered as a refugee, because he is not on the national territory.

    In our case, the boarding of a private vessel flying the Irish flag is not likely to trigger the implementation of the solidarity clause because the territory of Ireland is not subject to a double threat.



  • It's a personal opinion but they certainly don't...

    When you see how little ambition they have for Europe… They're not going to risk this kind of game. And in my opinion the Irish government will not make any request in this direction. He has distanced himself from the people on board so as not to need them. Unless Israel decides to sink the ship at the exoct, none of them will lift a finger. Their little power games absorb them far too much for them to dare to wet anything other than a T-shirt during their weekly jog.

Comments closed.