21st Jul 2019

EU should encompass homeland security, says EU military chief

"In my opinion, it is time for the European Union to focus also on the protection of its own citizens and to create something comparable to the homeland defense in Northern America," says general Gustav Hägglund, chairman of the EU’s Military Committee.

Speaking from the building of the European Union Military Staff, just a few minutes walk from the other EU institutions in centre of Brussels, General Hägglund underlines the fact that EU military bodies are so far only planning protection of civilians in possible crises taking place outside the EU. "Planning to secure citizens inside the Union only involves the use of civilian instruments," the general said in an interview with the EUobserver.

No longer any conventional threat

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  • GUSTAV HÄGGLUND - "In order to avoid a situation with two organisations, the EU and NATO, operating in the same field, the EU could constitute the European pillar of a renewed NATO." (Photo: Council UE)

"There is no longer any conventional threat against us as during the cold war. A massive attack on Europe is simply no longer imaginable, while terror has become the big threat. We rather face the risk of someone using a missile or chemical or biological weapons against us. Tools must be focussed on fighting this kind of threats in the future," the general said.

In the future, perhaps by the end of this decade, General Hägglund predicts that the European Union and NATO could have up to 30 European members, most of which if not all would belong to both organisations. "In order to avoid a situation with two organisations, the EU and NATO, operating in the same field, the EU could constitute the European pillar of a renewed NATO" he said.

NATO seems to focus on the out-of area operations, inter alia with the new concept of a NATO Response Force under development. The logic is striking that EU defence policy should also encompass homeland security.

The general without a single soldier in his command

The former Finnish Chief of Defence has been the highest military official in the European Union for almost two years. As chairman of the Military Committee he presides over the meetings of the Military Representatives from the 15 member states every Wednesday in Brussels. Today, General Hägglund is, however, the general without a single soldier in his command. His task is to prepare the necessary strategic and military information and advice for the Political and Security Committee for the right decisions to be taken. In the case of an operation led by the EU, the Military Committee would, however, have the direction of all military activities.

Much has happened since General Hägglund arrived in Brussels to become the first chairman of the Military Committee. From a small newly established body, with less than 30 officers and hardly any desks or computers, he today resides in the prominent building in Avenue de Cortenbergh in Brussels, which is now staffed with over 140 persons. New structures have been built, and 15 different concepts elaborated such as the use of force, strategic transport and military rapid response.

Strategic intelligence assets needed

The building-up of European Defence has taken place step-by-step since the Cologne European Council in June 1999. In December the same year, the Helsinki European Council decided to be able, by 2003, to deploy rapidly (within 60 days) and sustain (for at least one year) military forces of up to 15 brigades or 50,000 to 60,000 persons.

Member states later decided to set up a European Capabilities Action Plan, (ECAP) to examine significant shortcoming to turn the plan into reality. This Saturday 19 panels evaluating the situation are to hand in their reports.

Half of these reports are already known and they identify a wide range of solutions to bridge capability gaps. Particularly important, according to General Hägglund, is the need for the European Union to be able to move forces around and to improve European strategic intelligence assets.

The Airbus A 400M project is set up to strengthen transport capabilities, but the first aircraft will not be ready until 2008 and the last probably not before 2015. In the meantime, the European Union will rely upon existing national aircraft or leased material.

Taking over operation Allied Harmony

During General Hägglund’s two years in office, the first EU crisis management exercise also took place and the second is planned to take place by the end of this year. The general will be moving around his forces on "paper" as the exercise will only focus on the decisional phases of an operation. The main objective will be to test and enhance the coordination between all EU actors involved in crisis management as well as with NATO, since the exercise will be joint.

In the latter part of March, the first 300 troops will however move from paper to real field, when the EU officially takes over operation Allied Harmony in FYROM from NATO. From then on the responsibility, the direction and the payment of this mission will lie with the EU.

But NATO will contribute some capabilities to the EU for this operation. German Admiral Rainer Feist, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Commander Europe, has been appointed as operation commander for the EU-led crisis management units. The NATO headquarters in Mons, south of Brussels, will host the EU operation Headquarters, and the French General Pierre Maral has been appointed as force commander. Most of the costs will be borne by the participating nations paying for their own soldiers. Only some common costs, estimated by General Hägglund to be 5 million euro for 6 months of operations, are to be paid in common by the EU.

The engagement in FYROM is rather small. General Hägglund believes it will only last 6 months, ending in the autumn 2003. Then the next and much larger operation might have to be planned, if the EU is to take over the 13 000 strong SFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, many new tasks could arise.

Successor to be appointed in May

General Hägglund’s successor will be selected in May this year as his three-year mandate as chairman of the Military Committee runs out in April 2004. The next chairman is also likely to be chosen from among the former national chiefs of defence.

Mr Hägglund himself will then be heading for Helsinki - ending a 47 year long military carrier - and looking forward to much more wild life in the Finnish forests on the hunt for moose and bears.


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