Monday

16th May 2022

EU military HQ to take charge of Africa missions

  • Von der Leyen: "We took a very important step toward a European security and defence union" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU states agreed to set up a new HQ for military training missions on Monday (6 March) in what some see as the nucleus of a future European army.

The HQ, to be called a Military Planning and Conduct Capability facility, will be housed in an EU building on Avenue Cortenbergh in Brussels which already hosts EU military experts, the EU Military Staff.

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

  • Mogherini: "It’s a more effective way of handling our military work" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

It will have about 30 personnel, most of whom will be pulled in from other EU departments, and will be led by a Finnish lieutenant-general, Esa Pulkkinen, who also heads the military experts bureau.

The HQ is to start work in April and to take charge of three existing EU training missions - in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Mali, and in Somalia - in the next few months.

A senior EU official said on Monday that the HQ would take care of the missions’ administrative and financial needs and would brief EU diplomats on what they were doing.

The official said that, under current arrangements, military commanders in the field in Mali or Somalia, for instance, had to go back and forth to Brussels to do the work.

“Now the field commander can concentrate on field issues”, the official said.

The official said the HQ would also help to coordinate the missions' logistical, medical, legal, and communications' needs.

The official added that the HQ might, following a review in 2018, take charge of military missions that have a combat element, such as Sophia, the EU naval operation designed to fight human smugglers in the Mediterranean Sea.

“It’s for member states to define how much more they want to do,” the official said.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign relations chief, said at a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday that the HQ was “not a European army - I know there is this label going around - but it’s a more effective way of handling our military work”.

She voiced “pride” in the “unanimous” decision, noting that the EU had in the past shown “divisiveness” on military cooperation.

France, Germany, and Italy have led the push for deeper EU military integration as a reaction to the UK’s decision to leave the bloc and due to increasing instability in Europe’s eastern and southern neighbourhood.

Italy, in a “vision” paper last September, called for the creation of a “powerful and usable European Force that can also be employed in support to Nato or UN operations”.

Other states, such as Finland, had called for more “pragmatic” cooperation, while the UK had said it opposed anything that would compete with Nato.

Speaking on Monday, Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister, called the new HQ “a first step”, adding that when it comes to “a European army, maybe later”.

Michael Ayrault, the French foreign minister, said: "It's necessary that we make progress [on defence] in a world of uncertainties".

He added that defence cooperation was "important" for Franco-German relations as well as for European security and that it showed that Europe was "advancing ... despite Brexit and despite the US elections", referring to US president Donald Trump's anti-EU comments.

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, said: “We took a very important step toward a European security and defence union, because we have become very concrete”.

She said that non-EU states, including post-Brexit UK, could “join in selectively with certain [military] projects or missions”.

“The Norwegians have great interest in this, the British have great interest in this,” she said.

The British defence minister, Michael Fallon, said the UK would “continue to cooperate with our European partners on defence and security”.

He noted that UK had a large component in Sophia and that it was sending troops to Estonia, Poland, and Romania as part of a Nato mission to deter Russian aggression.

He added that "sensible" EU countries, such as the Nordic states and the Netherlands, shared Britain's concerns that an EU army could undermine Nato, however.

He also downplayed the new "Military Planning and Conduct Capability" centre, saying: "There will be no new [military] headquarters, no new general officer. The current director of the EU military staff will be director of the military planning and conduct capability".

Opinion

EU defence plan is 'no game-changer'

Package agreed by EU leaders brings nothing new but "hints at promising developments" in future, say former EU foreign policy and Nato chief Javier Solana and EU expert Steven Blockmans.

UK says 'no choice but to act' over post-Brexit trade rules

British foreign secretary Liz Truss said the UK has "no choice but to act" on the Northern Ireland protocol governing post-Brexit trade during a call with EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič — who warned unilateral action was "simply not acceptable".

UK threatens to scrap post-Brexit trade deal

The UK rejected proposals by the EU to tweak the protocol governing trade in Northern Ireland, and has threatened to suspend the rules as loyalists lost their majority in the Northern Ireland elections.

Opinion

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

Opinion

Is EU 'Horizon' science funding going towards Pegasus spyware?

MEPs have raised questions about the involvement of the EU — through its funding — in the development of the Israeli NSO Pegasus software, directly or indirectly, which has been used to target activists and journalists in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. McDonald's to sell up and exit Russia
  2. Nordic nations to help Sweden and Finland if attacked
  3. Germany to reject EU green label for nuclear
  4. Afghans and Syrians using Western Balkans to enter EU
  5. Putin: Russia will respond if Nato bolsters Sweden and Finland
  6. British PM urges Northern Irish parties to work together
  7. EU-US pledge to counter Russian propaganda in Ukraine
  8. EU greenhouse-gas emissions rebound to pre-pandemic levels 

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Latest News

  1. EU countries rush to expand gas import capacity
  2. MEPs call to speed up curbs on toxic 'forever chemicals'
  3. Russia's war stifles EU pandemic recovery
  4. Sweden and Finland Nato decision is right for Baltic
  5. Sweden to join Finland in applying for Nato
  6. Russia sanctions and energy dominate Next WEEK
  7. Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?
  8. EU reaches deal on flagship cybersecurity law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us