3rd Dec 2022

EU to push ahead with military 'battle groups'

Defence Ministers on Monday are expected to commit up to 16,500 troops to make up a series of EU 'battle groups' which can be deployed to the World's hot spots.

EU council diplomats said that they expected ministers to pledge enough troops to create 11 battle groups, with each group expected to number 1,000-1,500 troops, ready to be deployed for peacekeeping missions within 10 days, for a period of up to four months.

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The groups are set to be operational by 2007 and are expected to work under a UN mandate. The EU council of ministers would have to agree unanimously before any deployment takes place.

France, Italy, Spain and the UK are to set up their own groups which are likely to be ready before 2007 - possibly by 2005 according to EU military sources.

Another seven groups are expected to be formed:

- Germany the Netherlands and Finland;

- Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Germany;

- Italy, Hungary and Slovenia;

- Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal;

- Sweden, Finland and Norway

- The UK and the Netherlands

In addition a French Spokesperson said late on Friday that there would also be a French contingent in the 'Eurocorps' composed of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Based on the 'lead nation' model set up during the EU's peacekeeping mission in Bunia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, each group will have a lead country in command.

Military officials say that some of the contingents will be specialised forces. Finland is expected to commit troops trained to combat chemical and biological weapons, Lithuania will offer experts in water purification while Greece is pledging troops with maritime transport skills.

But not all EU countries are participating.

Domestic political problems mean that Austria is not likely to participate until 2009 - although the country has committed itself to 200 troops.

The Irish government has expressed its willingness to take part but will not be committing troops on Monday.

A spokesperson said on Friday that the Czech army, because of restructuring, would not be able to meet the criteria at this point, "It will be 2007 at the earliest" said the spokesperson.

There have also been questions raised over the legality of the participation of Norway - a non-EU country - with opponents of the plan saying it clashes with Oslo's constitution.

Due to a typing error an earlier version of this article said that the ‘battle groups’ involved up to 165,000 troops, it in fact involves up to 16,500 troops, our apologies


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