20th Mar 2019

European Gendarmerie Force set up to police troubled spots

Defence ministers from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands signed an agreement on Friday (17 September) in the Dutch town of Noordwijk to form a joint paramilitary force.

The 3,000-strong European Gendarmerie Force (EGF) will be based in Vicenza in north-east Italy and is designed to help restore public order to regions emerging from conflict such as the Balkans and beyond.

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  • The 25 defence ministers of the European Union met at Noordwijk in the Netherlands (Photo: Dutch EU Presidency)

Michelle Alliot-Marie, the French defence minister, said the force was designed for "post-conflict" duties in regions emerging from civil war such as Bosnia, Kosovo and the Ivory Coast.

Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino explained the new force could be used for three different types of intervention.

"The force could be used to prevent a conflict, so before a military intervention, it could be used in support of military intervention, or it could be used after military intervention to make sure the post-conflict runs smoothly", he said.

The first commander will be French

The EGF will have a core of 800-900 members ready to deploy within 30 days and a pool of 2,300 reinforcements on standby. The first commander will be French.

Other EU members will be invited to participate in the force, but some countries with no national paramilitary forces ruled out any involvement.

"Germany will not take part", said German Defence Minister Peter Struck to Reuters, adding Germany wanted to maintain its strict separation between the police and army.

Britain welcomed the scheme but without its own tradition of a militarised police it has no plans to take part, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Resource meeting on 22 November

The agreement was signed in the frames of a meeting of the 25 defence ministers of the European Union. The informal meeting was chaired by the Dutch defence minister Henk Kamp.

The gendarmerie is only the latest in a series of new European cross-border military, paramilitary, and police bodies, including a Finnish-Swedish force to patrol the Arctic wastes and a Franco-Spanish anti-terrorist police corps.

The Finnish-Swedish joint force is likely to be comprised of about 1,000 Swedish soldiers and 200 Finns.

The EU defence ministers are to announce, during their so-called resource meeting on 22 November, how much each EU country will contribute to the combat units, and what countries will set up units together.

NATO will hand over command of a 7,000-strong peacekeeping force in Bosnia to the EU in December.

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