Sunday

16th May 2021

Five EU countries call for new military 'structure'

  • EU co-operation on drones featured on the list of future projects (Photo: US Air Force)

Five leading EU countries, but not the UK, have said the Union needs a new military "structure" to manage overseas operations.

The foreign and defence ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain issued the call in a joint communique after a meeting in Paris on Thursday (15 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The paper says: "We are convinced that the EU must set up, within a framework yet to-be-defined, true civilian-military structures to plan and conduct missions and operations."

It adds: "We should show preparedness to hold available, train, deploy and sustain in theatre the necessary civilian and military means."

It lists a number of EU military priorities for the coming years: helping Somalia to fight Islamists and pirates; "a possible training mission to support the Malian armed forces" in reconquering north Mali; "assistance to support the new Libyan authorities" against Islamist militias; "normalisation" of the Western Balkans; "conflict resolution" in Georgia; and police training in Afghanistan.

The communique also calls for more "pooling and sharing" of EU defence hardware in the context of crisis-related budget cuts.

It identifies "space, ballistic-missile defence, drones, air-to-air refuelling, airlift capacities, medical support to operations [and] software defined radio" as pooling areas.

The reference to new "civilian-military structures" comes after the UK last year blocked the creation of a new operational headquarters (OHQ) in Brussels for EU military missions.

Britain's Telegraph newspaper earlier this week cited a "senior French source" as saying that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton supports the idea of an OHQ, which will become a "ripe fruit" in the "long-term" as EU military operations multiply.

Ashton officials denied the report.

Meanwhile, the UK's role in future EU defence co-operation was a big topic at the Paris meeting.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the UK can join the group-of-five at any time: "The text which we have developed is open to all of our colleagues, especially Great Britain."

French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the communique is designed to "create a movement" ahead of an EU summit on defence in 2013.

For his part, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski said: "If the EU wants to become a superpower, and Poland supports this, then we must have the capability to exert influence in our neighbourhood ... Sometimes we must use force to back our diplomacy."

He called for an "ambitious" EU budget for 2014 to 2020 to help with defence co-ordination.

Speaking in a separate interview in UK newspaper The Times also on Thursday, Sikorski blamed British "nostalgia" for past greatness as a reason why it is pulling back from EU integration and why it wants to cut the EU budget.

He touched on historic sensitivities by describing EU spending as a kind of "Marshall plan."

He said Poland and other former-Soviet-controlled EU countries missed out on the plan - a massive injection of US money to rebuild Europe after World War II - because UK and US leaders at a summit in Yalta in 1945 gave the Soviet Union control of eastern Europe.

"We fought Hitler alone, giving you [the UK] valuable time to prepare for fighting. But we did not enjoy freedom after World War II ... Because of Yalta, we could not benefit [from the Marshall plan]. European cohesion funds are our Marshall plan for catching up with Europe," he noted.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us