Monday

28th Nov 2022

Exclusive

EU lags behind on 'military ambition'

  • Will European soldiers ever fight together under an EU flag? (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)
Listen to article

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.

"The EU military level of ambition (Mil LoA) is not achievable for the moment" and there were "no new ... products" in terms of the EU's "headline" military goals in the past year, according to a 'Progress Report on the Development of EU Military Capabilities', seen by EUobserver.

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 potential for jeopardising the achievement of the EU ... Mil LoA remains high," it added.

Covid had slowed progress, the report, drafted by military attachés in the EU foreign service and dated 14 October, said.

But lack of clarity on fundamental issues was also holding things back, the report indicated.

These included what kind of assets member states might use to create an EU "full spectrum force package".

The military attachés suggested "those MS [member states] which are also Nato members consider declaring the same pool of capabilities potentially available in both frameworks".

Commitment to real "operations" was "the centrepiece" of a joint EU capability, and states who wanted to take part should be "making their strategically deployable formations available in the same way they are doing for Nato", the report said.

Another question was what a joint EU force would do.

Looking ahead to the 'Strategic Compass (SC)', an EU policy paper to be adopted next year, the report said: "It is of paramount importance to have a clear identification of the number and types of IS [illustrative scenarios] the EU is willing to face".

"The overarching achievement of the SC ... is to clarify which aspects and in which kind of scenarios the military is expected to contribute," the report added.

Other questions concerned who would foot the bill.

The EU needed a "definition of the 'fair share' principle, regarding ... contributions to the respective operational aspects" of future military missions, the report also said.

It spoke of multiple talks between the EU and Nato on the subject, indicating a high level of cooperation.

Meanwhile, a separate report, dated 12 October, and also seen by this website, took stock of an EU military exercise called EU Integrated Resolve 2020 from last year.

This war-gamed "how to manage a crisis affecting EU assets abroad, such as a military operation and a civilian mission deployed in a fictitious country".

And the 12 October report noted that EU officials did a good job of commanding fictional assets.

It noted that, "for the first time" an EU HQ, the EU foreign service's 'Military Planning and Conduct Capability' in Brussels, "was exercised not only in planning but also in conducting of [the] ... operation".

But it said "future exercises should also include a more prominent role for the [EU] political decision-making level, more specifically PSC," referring to the Political and Security Committee in the EU Council, where EU states' ambassadors meet.

En vogue

The idea of EU autonomy became newly fashionable after the US and UK recently turned their back on Europe in a landmark naval deal with Australia.

Some staunch US allies in Europe, such as Poland, are wary of relying more on France and Germany than on America to keep them safe from Russia.

But for one commentator, Jamie Shea, a former senior Nato official, there was little to worry about.

"All EU states agree Nato is the organisation to guarantee collective defence vis-à-vis Russia because of the vital US contribution. So what we're talking about here is the development of an EU capacity to act in regional crises where the US isn't engaged or where EU states have specific interests of their own to defend," he told EUobserver.

EU countries had already fought together in "coalitions of the willing" in Iraq and the Sahel, he noted, while an EU anti-piracy naval mission in the Gulf of Aden had been "highly successful," Shea, who now works for UK think-tank Chatham House, added.

The EU's main challenges were to get Germany to "significantly modernise its armed forces and be more willing ... to deploy larger numbers of them outside Europe, especially in Africa" and for France to "persuade EU states in eastern Europe" that it had their back.

For its part, Russia and its EU envoy, Vladimir Chizhov, have also voiced backing for EU military independence from the US, according to EU diplomats.

"The Russian ambassador, who has been in Brussels long enough to know the EU very well, is clearly hoping that European strategic autonomy will be weak enough to stop the EU from becoming a significant military power on the global stage, but strong enough to alienate the US," Shea said.

"This is precisely the situation that Europeans have every interest in avoiding," he added.

The Russian EU embassy declined to comment.

EU piles on pressure for new military units

The EU wants a force of some 5,000 troops that won't need the unanimous support of all 27 member states. The ideas were discussed at a defence ministerial and will feed into a bigger strategic plan in November.

Opinion

How coronavirus might hit EU defence spending

Among the casualties of coronavirus - worldwide and in the EU - is the defence sector. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has not made the world a less dangerous place and there is no alternative to having a functioning defence system.

Exclusive

EU firms up plans for Libya military mission

The EU is firming up plans for a military mission to Libya in order to compete with foreign powers there, according to a leaked paper seen by EUobserver.

Socialists opposed parliament taking Qatar rights stand

The socialists in the European Parliament are leading compromise talks on human rights in Qatar despite voting against putting the issue to a plenary vote. The move comes after the Left demanded that the European Parliament take a stand.

No top EU officials going to Qatar World Cup

None of the four top EU officials are going to the Qatar World Cup amid a stink on human rights, but some are more brave than others in criticising the gas-rich emirate.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  2. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  3. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  4. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  5. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  6. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  7. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  8. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us