EU moves closer to rapid reaction force
Nine Member States back the plan spearheaded by Macron
Defence ministers from nine EU countries, including the UK, signed last Monday in Luxembourg a letter of intent to form a joint European military intervention force, an initiative which has won the backing of the UK as it seeks to maintain defence ties with the EU after Brexit.
Defence ministers from nine EU countries, including the UK, signed last Monday in Luxembourg a letter of intent to form a joint European military intervention force, an initiative which has won the backing of the UK as it seeks to maintain defence ties with the EU after Brexit. The European Intervention Initiative, proposed last year by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of plans for an autonomous European defence force, is designed to deploy and coordinate forces rapidly to deal with “crisis scenarios that could potentially threaten European security”. Such scenarios may include natural disasters, intervention in a crisis or evacuation of nationals.
The joint defence force plan was backed by Germany, Belgium, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal. The new government in Rome has said it “is also considering the possibility of joining” but has not made a final decision yet. The group will work “as close as possible with the European Defence Union because we know that our troops are engaged either in NATO or the EU, but also in UN missions or counter-terrorism coalitions,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg.
“The goal: that our armed forces learn, get to know each other and act together,” French Defence Minister Florence Parly wrote in a tweet last week, adding that exchanges between staff and joint exercises will help EU's readiness to respond quickly and effectively to different crises. Speaking to Le Figaro newspaper the day before the meeting in Luxembourg, Parly also said: “European defence needs a common strategic culture.” “The UK has been very keen because it wants to maintain cooperation with Europe beyond bilateral ties,” she added.
The initiative will be distinct from the European defence pact known as PESCO, which includes all Member States except Britain, Malta and Denmark, enabling the UK to continue to participate after it leaves the bloc next year. It would also help London to secure a security treaty with the EU by 2019 that would continue to grant it access to continental databases, weapons contracts and intelligence sharing.
As part of discussions on the rules of PESCO, EU defence ministers also agreed to set out the general conditions for “third state participation” in PESCO projects in November, rules that would also apply to the UK once it leaves the bloc. The EU has created four multinational military “battlegroups” since 2007, but troops have never been deployed.