Saturday

28th May 2022

EU piles on pressure for new military units

  • EU wants to create a force of some 5,000 troops to help secure its strategic interests abroad (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)
Listen to article

The EU wants the ability to rapidly deploy several thousand troops as part of a larger strategic plan to be discussed and possibly adopted in November.

The issue was debated among 25 EU ministers of defence in Slovenia on Thursday (2 September).

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

"We need to increase our capacity to be able to act autonomously, when and where necessary," the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told reporters following the ministerial meeting.

He said up to 5,000 troops under the aegis of the European Union would be ideal and could be used for specific missions. The EU had previously floated the idea of some 50,000 troops by 2003 following the Yugoslav wars. The goal was never reached.

French president Emmanuel Macron made similar overtures in 2018 when he spoke about the need to create a "real European army" to face off Russian aggression.

Now the pressure follows the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan last month. Europeans, dependent on US might and coordination, were also forced to leave as Taliban forces rapidly took over the country.

Borrell has been pressing for military solutions for years, telling reporters in early 2020 that Africa 'needs guns' for stability.

In an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week, he described Afghanistan as a "wake up call" and proposed the creation of a European "initial entry force".

He made similar comments again on Thursday, hoping to assuage concerns that such a force would create tensions with the US alliance or with Nato.

Slovenia's defence minister Matej Tonin, also speaking on behalf of the rotating EU presidency, aligned with Borrell.

"This debacle in Afghanistan, also showed that, unfortunately, the EU doesn't have the necessary capability for operations in extreme circumstances," Tonin said.

He then mentioned European battlegroups, small forces of some 1,500 troops. But their deployment requires consensus among all 27 member states, he said.

"Maybe the solution is that we invent a mechanism where the classical majority will be enough and those who are willing will be able to go," he had said, earlier in the day.

Asked who would command such troops, he said "the institutions of the European Union."

The debate feeds into the EU's so-called strategic Strategic Compass, a plan that sets to define its ambitions for security and defence for the next five to 10 years.

The Strategic Compass will be debated and possibly adopted on 16 November, said Borrell.

The EU muscling up on the military also comes on the heels of a new European Peace Facility adopted earlier this year.

The facility is a €5bn fund used to finance EU-led military and defence operations abroad. It includes providing weapons and training to foreign armies.

Borrell: Africa 'needs guns' for stability

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU will help provide Africa with more guns to fight terrorism. "We need guns, we need arms, we need military capacities," he said in Addis Ababa.

Exclusive

EU lags behind on 'military ambition'

Indecision on what kind of EU military forces would fight in what kind of conflicts is holding back EU ambition on "strategic autonomy", according to an internal document.

EU 'will engage but not recognise' Taliban, it says

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said they want to send a "joint European presence" to Kabul in order to help evacuate Europeans and other Afghan nationals to willing member states.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. 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
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us