If you are interested in the content of this blog then join us on Facebook and follow Radio Free Cornwall.


What future for Celtic cooperation?

An interesting press release from the Celtic League below which examines the future of cooperation between the Celtic nations: Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

An idealistic dream of many Celtic nationalists has always been a Celtic federation / con-federation of the 6 nations. What future is there in this vision? Has it a place within the European Union?

Among the current forms of cooperation between various governments from the Celtic nations I notice scant mention of Cornwall. A total lack of Cornish governmental interest is at the root of this malase.

You can follow the Celtic League via its Yahoo News Group or on Twitter.



One of the most substantial reports compiled by the Celtic League in recent years will be considered at the organizations AGM in Cornwall this weekend. It is the result of a remit given to the Celtic League General Secretary, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, (at the 2008 AGM in Dublin in 2008). It looks at possible models for `A CELTIC COUNCIL' so that the Celtic countries can work together in the future.

The draft is set out below (please note the appendices referred to are not included):

"A Celtic Council?

A Celtic League discussion document for the 2009 AGM on achieving the long term goals of the organisation



At the 2008 AGM in Éire, an item entitled `A Celtic Council?' had been put on the agenda.

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot (General Secretary) said that this item was inspired by a radio interview that had been held with Bernard Moffatt (League Director of Information) with Manx radio recently. The interviewer had asked Moffatt how the Celtic countries could formally work together in the future. BM had replied that this was something that should be discussed further by the League. The motivation of including this agenda item also stemmed from recent political developments in some of the Celtic countries and how a `formal association' specifically could be developed or worked towards in the future.

Tal-e-bot said that he was a little unclear himself as to how precisely the League was working towards this `formal association'. Tal-e-bot said that he felt this topic should be discussed in more detail among delegates as part of the AGM in order to pursue the aims of the League more fully.

Tal-e-bot said that he understood a `formal association' to be something like the British-Irish Council, without England and with the inclusion of Breizh. A brief discussion ensued (see Minutes of AGM of 2008).

The Convenor of the League, Cathal O Luain, asked the General Secretary, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, to write a report on this topic to be presented at the 2009 AGM in Kernow for the issues to be further debated.

The following discussion paper has been compiled following that request.


You have been forwarded this document as a Branch Secretary or Officer of the Celtic League to ask for your participation in the development this debate, partly because it is expected that not all of you will be able to attend the 2009 AGM. Your views are needed and your contributions expected.

Following the discussion at the 2009 AGM, we will hopefully have a better understanding of how we can perhaps achieve one of our long term aims and a clearer idea of what it may look like when it is achived. After the AGM, I will then write a short report on what we have agreed to (if we agree at all!)

To help you further the discussion, I would like to ask you to focus on the questions below when reading through the document:

1. What sort of model do you think the League could aim for of the four listed below and why?

2. Do you know of any other models that the League could usefully research to gain a better understanding of what a formal association of the Celtic countries would look like?

3. What competences should a Celtic formal association cover?

4. How could the League best work creating Celtic formal association?

5. Do you think a formal association should be initially lobbied for with the Celtic countries that have a greater degree of autonomy, or do you think that the formal association should begin with the Celtic countries that have less autonomy? Why?

6. What is your view of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU)?

7. Do you know of any other MoU that have been signed between the Celtic countries or territories?

8. How in your view could the League work more effectively in establishing a formal association?

9. Ideally how would you envisage a Celtic Council?

10. What other observations do you have on this topic?


Celtic League Constitution Article 1. of the Constitution of the Celtic League refers to what could be considered as the long term objectives of the organisation. Article 1 of the Constitution states:

1. The fundamental aim of the League is to support through peaceful means the struggle of the Celtic Nations, Alba, Breizh, Cymru, Eire, Kernow and Mannin to win or to secure the political, cultural, social and economic freedom they need for their survival and development as distinct communities.

This includes:

a. working towards the restoration of the Celtic languages, which are essential characteristics of nationality for each Celtic country, as ordinary means of communication b. developing the consciousness of the special relationship existing between the Celtic peoples c. fostering solidarity and cooperation between them d. making our national struggles and achievement better known abroad e. furthering the establishment of organised relations between the Celtic nations, based on their recognition as distinct nations, and with the long term aim of formal association between them

f. recognising that the Celtic peoples will be free only in a society that will give to all the means to participate actively in the national affairs, i.e. to control production, exchanges and services, and the exploitation of the national resources for the benefit of all.

1.0. Formal associaition: A Celtic Council?

The League works towards meeting its long term objectives on a daily basis, but there is no clear consensus as to how the Celtic countries could work together more formally. There are consequently a number of questions that could be (and should be perhaps) clarified. Two of the main obvious questions are:

• What shape should such a `formal association' take?

• How can we establish organised relations between the Celtic nations, with the long term aim of creating a formal association between them (as in Article 1e of the League's Constitution)?

The rest of this document has been provided with the aim of giving some information and raising some points for discussion, focusing specifically on the two main questions above.

1.1. Formal Association

It could be argued that the current activities of the League already work towards many of of its long term goals through its current activities, but how the `formal association'aspect would work is a little obscure.

In view of the fact that the establishment of this formal association is a little obscure, makes it difficult for us to know how it can be achieved. It is my intention then to set out some possible ways that this formal association could be achieved, which can then be further discussed. Once the `formal association' is achieved, then it would be much easier for organised relations to take place between the Celtic countries.

1.2. Some existing possibilities/models

The League wouldn't necessarily be responsible in setting up a Celtic Council, but could more realistically lobby for its establishment. Nevertheless, it would be worthwhile discussing how such a Celtic Council would function and operate.

Below are four models of political cooperation that could be of interest.

1.2.1. Nordic Council

a. Please see fact sheet on the Nordic Council (Appendix 1.)
b. Please see organisational structure of Nordic Council (Appendix 2.)

1.2.2. The Arab League

a. The main goal of the league is to "draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries."

b. The Arab League currently has 22 members (Arab states in Southwest Asia and North and Northeast Africa).

c. Through institutions such as the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO) and the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League's Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), the Arab League facilitates political, economic, cultural, scientific and social programs designed to promote the interests of the Arab world. It has served as a forum for the member states to coordinate their policy positions, to deliberate on matters of common concern, to settle some Arab disputes, and to limit conflicts. The League has served as a platform for the drafting and conclusion of many landmark documents promoting economic integration.

d. Each member state has one vote in the League Council, while decisions are binding only for those states that have voted for them. The aims of the league in 1945 were to strengthen and coordinate the political, cultural, economic, and social programs of its members, and to mediate disputes among them or between them and third parties. Furthermore, the signing of an agreement on Joint Defense and Economic Cooperation on April 13, 1950 committed the signatories to coordination of military defense measures.

e. The Arab league has played an important role in shaping school curricula, advancing the role of women in the Arab societies, promoting child welfare, encouraging youth and sports programs, preserving Arab cultural heritage, and fostering cultural exchanges between the member states. Literacy campaigns have been launched, intellectual works reproduced, and modern technical terminology is translated for the use within member states. The league encourages measures against crime and drug abuse, and deals with labor issues—particularly among the emigrant Arab workforce.

1.2.3. British Irish Council

a. Membership of the British-Irish Council comprises representatives of the Irish and British Governments and of the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, together with representatives of the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.

b. The British-Irish Council works as a forum within which Members consult and exchange information with a view to co-operating on issues of mutual interest within their respective competences. The BIC meets regularly in various formats to review areas of common interest and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation within the competence of the Member Administrations. However, the BIC does not have any legislative or regulatory remit in regard to these areas.

c. The British-Irish Council meets at summit-level at least once a year, and more frequently at Ministerial-level. The British-Irish Council meets regularly at official level across its nine current work sectors.

d. The British-Irish Council meets at summit-level at least once a year, and more frequently at Ministerial-level. The British-Irish Council meets regularly at official level across its nine current work sectors.

e. The Council holds meetings regularly in all Member Administrations.

f. Members of the British-Irish Council meet in different formats including Summit meetings at Head of Government or Administration level and in specific sector format at Ministerial and official level on a regular basis. The Council also holds seminars and conferences to consider cross-sector matters.

g. The British-Irish Council meets regularly across its nine priority work sectors with one or more members taking the lead in each sector. A Co-ordinator in each Member Administration takes overall responsibility for facilitating the development of networks and the exchange of information between Members. Sectoral groups meet regularly with discussions chaired by the Lead Administration. The Lead Administration in each sector takes responsibility for advancing work in their individual sectors.

h. There are currently nine agreed work sectors, with each administration taking the lead in advancing particular sectoral areas. The work sectors are: Misuse of Drugs (Ireland); Environment (United Kingdom); Social Inclusion (Scotland and Wales); Transport (Northern Ireland); Knowledge Economy (Jersey); Tourism (Guernsey); e-Health (the Isle of Man); Minority and Lesser-Used Languages (Wales), and Demography (Scotland).

i. The British-Irish Council is mandated to exchange information, discuss, consult and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the relevant Administrations.

j. The first Summit meeting in London in December 1999 agreed an initial list of priority areas of work within the Council and decided that individual administrations would take the lead in advancing particular sectoral areas. Additional areas of work were agreed at subsequent Summit meetings.

k. It remains open to the British-Irish Council to propose and agree new areas of work, within the competence of Member Administrations, to advance co-operation among them.

l. The BIC normally operates by consensus. In relation to decisions on common policies or common actions, including their means of implementation, it operates by agreement of all members participating in such policies or actions.

m. It remains open to the British-Irish Council to propose and agree new areas of work, within the competence of Member Administrations, to advance co-operation among them. The possibility of adopting new work areas remains under active consideration.

1.2.4 British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body (BIIPB)

a. The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body (BIIPB) (Comhlacht Idir-Pharlaiminteach na Breataine agus na hÉireann) (now called the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, BIPA) was established in 1990 to bring together 25 members of the United Kingdom and 25 members of theOireachtas (the Irish parliament) to develop understanding between elected representatives of the UK and Ireland.

b. The BIPA now includes five representatives from the Scottish Parliament, five from the National Assembly for Wales, five from the Northern Ireland Assembly, one from the States of Jersey, one from the States of Guernsey and one from the Isle of Man's Tynwald.

c. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly holds two plenary sessions a year. Its four committees (dealing with sovereign matters between the Irish and Westminster parliaments, European affairs, economic matters, the environment and social matters) meet several times a year. They produce reports which are submitted for comment to governments, and which are discussed in plenary. A steering committee organises the work of the plenary and deals with the Body's institutional matters.

d. At its 29th March 2009 meeting, Cornwall was to be considered as a future member.

1.3. General considerations

The above organisations are now well established, but shows what can be done if the will is there.

It must be pointed out though that all the above organisations came in to effect from the top down. The League is working from the bottom up.

It is necessary therefore for us to start small. This could possibly be achieved through lobbying initially for bilateral associations between the Celtic countries.

2.0. Bilateral associations

At the 2008 AGM, Cathal O Luain, (Celtic League Convenor), suggested that perhaps initially a more bilateral base should be pursued first. The basis of such bilateral associations currently exists.

2.1. Memorandums of Understanding

a. In January 2004, an agreement was signed between Wales and Brittany in the Welsh, French and English languages. Later in the year, the President of Brittany, Jean-Yves Le Drian, made a request that the memorandum be signed in Breton as well. On 12th October 2004, the agreement was re signed in Cardiff in the Breton language.

b. The Memorandum of Understanding is an agreement between Wales and Brittany which encourages co-operation in a range of areas including business, tourism and education.

c. The First Minister said at the signing:

d. "I would like to warmly welcome the newly elected President of Brittany, Monsieur Le Drian to Wales. We have so many things in common with Brittany. We are Celtic cousins on the Western Atlantic Coast of Europe; each with a population of around 3 million; and we both aim to modernise our industry, tourism, agriculture and continue our ongoing investment programme in broadband and telecomm infrastructure.

e. "I hope that through this Memorandum of Understanding, we will continue to work closely together in the future."

f. The Memorandum of Understanding sets out the following objectives:

• Economic co-operation with exchanges between businesses including tourism
• Co-operation on water sports and maritime activities
• Co-operation on education and training, especially exchanges between young people
• Develop agri-food through trade shows and consumer events
• Develop telecommunications, especially broadband internet access
• Cultural exchanges
• Promote best practice in language planning
• All areas of mutual interest

g. On 16th June 2006, the First minister of Wales (Rhodri Morgan) travelled to Brittany to set out an Action Plan to build on the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Wales and Brittany in 2004 and includes proposals for action in a number of areas including economic development, health, education, sustainable development, the environment, sports, tourism, agriculture and culture and language policy.

Morgan said to the Breton Regional Council:

"Strengthening and building on the close links between the two Celtic cousins will benefit us both because we in Wales have so much in common with Brittany. We form the western edge of large national entities – the UK and France. Our populations are similar in size and we both enjoy coastal and inland landscape and have industrial economies. Our best qualified young people have been traditionally been drawn to London and Paris as a magnet for their ambitions. Our staple agricultural and industrial economies will not provide the kinds of jobs we need to employ our peoples in the knowledge economy in a world of global competition. We are both at the periphery of Europe but play our full part.

"But it is the character and personality of the Bretons and the Welsh that binds us too. Pride, passion, honesty and integrity are hallmarks of our people. So is a willingness and ability to work with others on a bilateral and multilateral basis.

"Both countries are members of the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions and I welcome Brittany's recent decision to join the international Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development. In Wales we are giving priority to sustainable development, which is vital for future generations, and I'm pleased that Brittany takes a similar view.

"Our countries may be relatively small but what we can achieve has no boundaries. We share so much history and the Action Plan I have signed today means we will share a great deal in the future. We will work together on the issues that matter to us at home, in Europe and further afield."

h. On April 24th 2009 Welsh Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones met representatives of the Regional Council of Brittany, who were visiting Wales to look at best practice concerning the development of the Welsh language and to study the possibilities for Brittany to develop similar projects. The linguistic study group was lead by Jean Pierre Thomin, the President of the Regional Council's Commission for Culture, Heritage and Sport. The visit further strengthened the friendship that was formalised with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2004. The President of the Regional Council, Jean Yves Le Drian, and the Vice President, Christian Guyonvarc'h, also accompanied the study group on the initial part of their visit and met the First Minister, Rhodri Morgan whilst in Wales.

2.2.1. Other bilateral associations

Another possibility is to lobby for bilateral associations between local councils in the different Celtic countries. This has been done for example in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Highland Council, Alba and Nova Scotia, Canada in 2003. Appendix 3 shows the Action Plan devised.

2.2.2 'Iomairt Colmcille /The Colmcille initiative'

Colmcille was set up in 1997 with funding from the Governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with a remit to 'create a vibrant interactive community spanning Ireland and Scotland'.

They aim to do this in two ways:

1. Giving grant funding to projects that meet our strategic aims and
2. Organising our own projects that raise awareness of the shared heritage of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland

Their goals are to Promote the use of the Gaelic languages -Irish and Scottish Gaelic-in and between Ireland and Scotland and raise awareness of the shared Gaelic heritage -language and culture- of Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Their four strategicpriorities for 2006 - 9 are:

1. Review of grants policy to ensure Colmcille has robust policies, procedures and staffing in place to assist team to deliver on its new priority objectives

2. Implementation of new Communications Strategy focussing on differentiation or `stand out' and raising the profile of Colmcille and its work in all three jurisdictions both "on the ground" and at the highest levels of administration.

3. Focus on Flagship Projects and Winning Themes (a narrower range of activities with clear key themes) for all projects on which Colmcille can make an impact (i.e. grow stakeholder/membership base) and achieve `stand out' and achieve Colmcille's main goal.

4. Rationalisation of Financial, Legal and Administrative support to ensure Colmcille has robust systems and staffing structures in place to assist team to deliver on its new priority objectives and a roadmap for future sustainable development

2.2.3 Gaeilge-Gaidhlig poetry/music exchanges

These exchanges between Ireland and Scotland began in 1970 and are state funded from both sides. They are still going strong.

2.2.4 Irish Government Consulates in Edinburgh and Cardiff

In 1999 the Irish Government opened Consulates in Cardiff and Edinburgh, after the Welsh Assembly Government and Scottish Parliament were set up and as part of the Good Friday Agreement. In July 2009, the Irish Government took the decision to close the Consulate in Cardiff, due to budget cuts, but there are no plans to close the Edinbugh Consulate. The work undertaken by the Consulates is obviously at a lower level than ambassatorial.

2.3. Membership of international organisations

Another possibility is for the League to encourage the governmental administrations in the Celtic countries to join international organisations that work on joint projects together on different issues in areas that are of interest to the League e.g. Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions. Not all of the Celtic countries or regions in the Celtic countries are members of such organisations. By encouraging their membership of such organisations would enhance the opportunities for them to work more closely together.

3.0. Observations

It is expected that fulfilling our long term aims will require a lot of work. This can be made easier if we have a clear understanding of the direction we are going in and how we intend to get there.

League members, Secs and Officers need to know what sort of model the League has in mind in the creation of a `formal association', in order to persue this aim more effectively.

Formal and informal cooperation and associations on all sorts of levels go on between the Celtic countries without the involvement of the League. The League can and should take more of an active role in facilitating these cooperations/associations. For this to be done effectively members of the League need a clearer understanding of how the organisation is working towards the fulfillment of its long terms goals.

At the 2008 AGM Bernard Moffatt (League Director of Information) suggested that perhaps in the past the League had hitched its wagon too much to the Nationalist parties in the Celtic nations. Moffatt said that the shape of politics was changing and that the League should change with it. It certainly seems, from the Breton/Welsh Memorandum that Moffatt could be right, because neither Government was nationalist, but yet, what was achieved here, could shape the beginning of a `Celtic Council'.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Brittany and Wales also shows that cooperation between the Governments of the Celtic countries is potentially desired by political parties from across the spectrum.

The Breton/Welsh Memorandum fits in well with Article 1a, 1b, 1c and 1e of the Celtic League Constitution and could be used as a basis for further Memorandums between the other Celtic countries.

The lobbying of the Governments in the Celtic countries by the League to sign Memorandums of Understanding between each other is achievable. It may however be simpler to lobby for individual councils in the Celtic countries to do this between each other first – as in the case of Highland Council and Nova Scotia - before approaching the main governing administration. This would still require a lot of work.

When the closure of the Consulate in Wales was announced in May 2009, Minister Martin said that:

"he hoped that the relationship between the two countries could continue through the Irish Embassy in London and develop bilaterally through the British Irish Council and the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Minister Martin explained that he had already advised the Irish Ambassador in London to ensure that appropriate resources are deployed from the Irish Embassy in London to "prioritise" the future relationship between Wales and Ireland." (Celtic News 05/06/09)

The League has sent a letter to express its disappointment at the complete closure and has suggested that the Irish Government keep an Honoray Consil in Wales for the time being. However, it is interesting to note that the Minister has instructed the UK Ambassador to "prioritise" the relationship between Ireland and Wales. This could be suggested to the Irish Ministry in the case of the Irish Ambassador in France, regarding Breizh and also to the UK Minister regarding Kernow. Why isn't there a Consulate in the Mannin?


Appendix 1.: Fact Sheet for the Nordic Council
Appendix 2: Nordic Council organisational structure
Appendix 3: Highland Council and Nova Scotia Memorandum of Understanding Action Plan


Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions

Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (website not working)


Consulate General of Ireland in Scotland (website not working on 05/06/09)"

J B Moffatt
Director of Information
Celtic League


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK)01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at:

Celtic League
Celtic League Yahoo News Group

No comments: