Defence ministers discuss how EU can launch its missions more quickly

The idea of an initial entry force has been widely debated

Photo: EU EU defence ministers met on 6 May in Brussels.

The Strategic Compass, and in particular its crisis management component, was the central topic of the in-person meeting in Brussels of EU defence ministers on Thursday, the first since last August. 

The main dish of our meeting was the Strategic Compass and it was the most important item in our agenda, Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy commented after the discussions.

He said that the EU needs to be more effective, to take decisions faster and to react quicker.

We discussed notably how to launch our missions and operations more quickly, as well as how we could create more incentives to improve the number of personnel, staff and assets deployed under our Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations, HR Borrell explained.

He also pointed out that the EU needs more flexibility to better adapt its civilian and military missions to the needs of each crisis, as “each crisis is different from the others”.

Borrell also accented on the necessity of more coordination and cooperation with other military operations conducted in ad hoc coalitions by some Member States or other partners.

“In the Sahel, for example, there are the European Union missions and then there are coalitions ad hoc led by some Member States. We have to converge these European Union activities with the Member States’ activities.”

Ministers discussed as well the idea of creation of an initial entry force of about 5,000 staff that could be deployed as a “first responder” in case the EU faces an urgent crisis.

This is just one example of the proposals that could be considered by Member States as part of the ongoing reflections on the Strategic Compass that I hope will be finished by next March, the HR opined.

He described that for the time being "nothing is cast in stone, there is no agreement on any specific issue, it is a battle of ideas, a collective reflection".

EU foreign policy chief stressed that there is strong agreement on some issues, the debate is ongoing on others, but this idea of an initial entry force has been widely debated during the meeting.

“For Member States’ forces to be ready for future crises and conflicts, we also need to plan and exercise together, by using scenarios not only to determine what we need, but also to train together and improve our planning and conduct structures.” The HR said he looks at it in a more ambitious way as “if we want to have the capabilities to deploy on the field, we must have the Headquarters planning, conduct and structures that for the time being we do not have”.

Capabilities, emerging and disruptive technologies, partnerships and resilience, which are also components of the Compass will be discussed soon. With NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who was invited for an informal lunch, ministers discussed areas of common interest, from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan.

Our partnership with NATO is something that I take for granted, it will be everywhere, but it has a specific part when we talk about partnerships, Borrell underscored adding that “our partnership with NATO is the most important one that we have”. 

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