Monday

24th Sep 2018

EU military HQ to take charge of Africa missions

  • Von der Leyen: "We took a very important step toward a European security and defence union" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU states agreed to set up a new HQ for military training missions on Monday (6 March) in what some see as the nucleus of a future European army.

The HQ, to be called a Military Planning and Conduct Capability facility, will be housed in an EU building on Avenue Cortenbergh in Brussels which already hosts EU military experts, the EU Military Staff.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Mogherini: "It’s a more effective way of handling our military work" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

It will have about 30 personnel, most of whom will be pulled in from other EU departments, and will be led by a Finnish lieutenant-general, Esa Pulkkinen, who also heads the military experts bureau.

The HQ is to start work in April and to take charge of three existing EU training missions - in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Mali, and in Somalia - in the next few months.

A senior EU official said on Monday that the HQ would take care of the missions’ administrative and financial needs and would brief EU diplomats on what they were doing.

The official said that, under current arrangements, military commanders in the field in Mali or Somalia, for instance, had to go back and forth to Brussels to do the work.

“Now the field commander can concentrate on field issues”, the official said.

The official said the HQ would also help to coordinate the missions' logistical, medical, legal, and communications' needs.

The official added that the HQ might, following a review in 2018, take charge of military missions that have a combat element, such as Sophia, the EU naval operation designed to fight human smugglers in the Mediterranean Sea.

“It’s for member states to define how much more they want to do,” the official said.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign relations chief, said at a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday that the HQ was “not a European army - I know there is this label going around - but it’s a more effective way of handling our military work”.

She voiced “pride” in the “unanimous” decision, noting that the EU had in the past shown “divisiveness” on military cooperation.

France, Germany, and Italy have led the push for deeper EU military integration as a reaction to the UK’s decision to leave the bloc and due to increasing instability in Europe’s eastern and southern neighbourhood.

Italy, in a “vision” paper last September, called for the creation of a “powerful and usable European Force that can also be employed in support to Nato or UN operations”.

Other states, such as Finland, had called for more “pragmatic” cooperation, while the UK had said it opposed anything that would compete with Nato.

Speaking on Monday, Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister, called the new HQ “a first step”, adding that when it comes to “a European army, maybe later”.

Michael Ayrault, the French foreign minister, said: "It's necessary that we make progress [on defence] in a world of uncertainties".

He added that defence cooperation was "important" for Franco-German relations as well as for European security and that it showed that Europe was "advancing ... despite Brexit and despite the US elections", referring to US president Donald Trump's anti-EU comments.

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, said: “We took a very important step toward a European security and defence union, because we have become very concrete”.

She said that non-EU states, including post-Brexit UK, could “join in selectively with certain [military] projects or missions”.

“The Norwegians have great interest in this, the British have great interest in this,” she said.

The British defence minister, Michael Fallon, said the UK would “continue to cooperate with our European partners on defence and security”.

He noted that UK had a large component in Sophia and that it was sending troops to Estonia, Poland, and Romania as part of a Nato mission to deter Russian aggression.

He added that "sensible" EU countries, such as the Nordic states and the Netherlands, shared Britain's concerns that an EU army could undermine Nato, however.

He also downplayed the new "Military Planning and Conduct Capability" centre, saying: "There will be no new [military] headquarters, no new general officer. The current director of the EU military staff will be director of the military planning and conduct capability".

Opinion

EU defence plan is 'no game-changer'

Package agreed by EU leaders brings nothing new but "hints at promising developments" in future, say former EU foreign policy and Nato chief Javier Solana and EU expert Steven Blockmans.

EU wants continental free-trade deal with Africa

Earlier this week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his state of the union announced a new relationship with Africa. On Friday, his subordinates outlined the vision, promising jobs and growth by leveraging public funds for investments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us