Thursday

6th Oct 2022

EU ready for more military operations, Solana says

Europe says it is ready for more military action under the EU flag in 2007 after its "success" in Congo last year, with the German EU presidency putting Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon and Afghanistan at the top of its defence agenda for the next six months.

"We begin 2007 ready to take up our responsibilities if needed - which I sincerely hope won't be the case - but we are in a position of readiness," EU top diplomat Javier Solana said in Brussels on Wednesday (17 January), after recalling that the EU's "battle group" structure reached "full operational capacity" on 1 January.

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 EU and the national (German) insignia on show in Congo last year (Photo: EUFOR RD Congo)

The EU now has two units that can be deployed for "crisis-management" anywhere in the world 10 days after member states take a unanimous vote, in a decision that would "as a rule" follow a UN security council resolution but that could also see the EU go it alone.

Each group brings together 1,500 soldiers from two or three member states, which hold joint training exercises and wear both national and EU insignia - a blue disk with 12 gold stars - on the model of EU police missions in Bosnia and Macedonia.

"Europe can assume very important peacekeeping and peacemaking functions in this world," German defence minister Franz Josef Jung said, while standing next to Mr Solana. "Europe is a great peace project and we will continue to make our contribution [to global stability]."

EU army by stealth?

No EU battle group has ever been tested in a real operation, but last year saw two major EU military projects: member states coordinated sending 9,000 European peacekeepers under a UN flag to Lebanon and dispatched 1,400 soldiers under an EU flag to Congo.

"Now we really have the beginning of a European army," French general Christian Damay said in Kinshasa in December, with France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland broadly supporting a gradual move toward a permanently standing EU force that could number several thousands of soldiers.

Other states, such as the UK and the Netherlands, are more worried about trespassing on NATO turf however, with no high-profile discussion of the concept taking place at EU level for now. "An EU 'army' is a very big word, but [any army] would be something very small," an EU official told EUobserver.

The notion of an EU army is a red rag to eurosceptic parties in Europe, but some pro-integration politicians such as British liberal MEP Graham Watson also believe the trend toward ever-closer practical defence co-operation should be subject to open discussion on political implications.

"I don't think governments can go on building a European army by stealth - we need a proper public debate," Mr Watson stated, adding that more and more policies are "being done in the council [the EU member states' secretariat] and reported after the fact."

Kosovo to dominate 2007 agenda

Apart from building-up battle group capacity, the German EU presidency will focus on managing the "EU-dominated" force in Lebanon and exploring ways for EU police to support NATO in Afghanistan.

A gradual pull-out of the EU police mission from Bosnia is also on the agenda - but a new EU police force will replace NATO soldiers in Kosovo after the region's final status is settled, Germany's Mr Jung said.

The EU is currently preparing what is expected to be the biggest-ever security operation in its history in Kosovo, involving policing but also institution-building, due to start this summer at the earliest.

Brussels is currently awaiting the result of Serbian elections on Sunday before UN envoy Marti Ahtisaari presents a proposal for the final status of the territory in February.

EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear

The European Commission will present its roadmap to reduce gas prices to member states during an informal summit in Prague. The plan includes a price cap on gas used to generate electricity, but experts point out a variety of risks.

Opinion

The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans

The fossil-fuel industry is using the carbon removal agenda to get yet more support for failed carbon capture, which is a key component of the pie-in-the-sky carbon removal technologies being promoted by the EU Commission.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden: Nord Stream probe points to 'gross sabotage'
  2. Orbán rails against Russia sanctions at Prague summit
  3. MEPs urge inquiry into Mahsa Amini killing and Iran sanctions
  4. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  5. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  6. Danish general election called for 1 November
  7. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  8. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. What actually happened at the 'most complicated election in the world'?
  2. Europe lays aside quarrels to isolate Putin
  3. Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers
  4. EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear
  5. Germany braces for criticism of national €200bn energy fund
  6. The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans
  7. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  8. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us