Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Opinion

The EU needs to make itself battle-ready

A week before Christmas, EU heads of state and government are set to discuss security and defence at their regular European Council meeting in Brussels. It may not be a typical pre-holiday topic, but its urgency makes us focus on it even in the time of family gatherings and last-minute Christmas shopping.

After all, this should be a time of peace, which is exactly the objective of the upcoming discussion.

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

The European Union is by all accounts the strongest global player in the soft power arena. The level of our development aid and the economic ties with the least developed countries set a good example for the rest of the world. Soft power itself, though, cannot solve all the challenges we now face.

If we are to engage in crises and conflicts in our neighbourhood and support the resilience of third countries we must increase our efforts in hard power policies as well. Now is the time to do so and we should not miss the opportunity to move forward.

With this in mind, the Czech Republic believes the EU should – within the framework of the current Treaties – make full use of all relevant provisions and instruments available, maximise the synergies of civilian and military assets and enhance its cooperation with Nato as much as possible.

Today’s challenges require us to reinforce our own European strategic autonomy.

This highlights an increasing need for the ability to rapidly plan operations and deploy forces, including the so-called EU Battlegroups (EUBGs). Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of their full operational capability. However, since the EUBGs have never been deployed there will be little to celebrate.

Having been part of the Visegrad 4 EUBG on standby from January till June 2016 and benefiting from the experience of other Member States, we have decided to share our thoughts on the matter. Our recent national non-paper on the EUBGs sets out four main tangible issues to be tackled.

First, there is the structure of the EUBG itself. The current system contributes to certain unpredictability and we should strive towards more standardised EUBGs. Second, there needs to be a common element in the certification process. Third, the preparation and certification would benefit from greater use of live exercises. And fourth, we must expand the scope for common financing. Financial constraints are limiting the very willingness to contribute to the EUBGs and, subsequently, to deploy them.

The proposed issues may sound technical but they represent concrete steps that would help us revive this already existing instrument and boost our ability to react to sudden crises and conflicts in our neighbourhood.

We must make sure that these military units are ready to go into action if necessary not only on paper but also in reality. This is important for many reasons – not least because the EUBGs must prove they can serve their purpose when the taxpayers ask where their money goes.

Tomas Prouza is state secretary for European affairs of the Czech Republic.

EU to propose joint defence fund

New fund for military procurement and research, to be worth tens of billions of euros a year, is part of wider plans for an EU defence union.

EU: The next 60 years

The 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome is an opportunity to celebrate past achievements and to think about the current challenges the EU is facing.

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  2. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength
  3. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  4. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  5. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  6. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  7. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  8. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us