European Union

European Union to create joint military intervention force

Bureaucracy is holding back European armed forces from reacting to crises and natural disasters, officials say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 5:48pm

Nine EU member states are set to sign off on the establishment of a joint European military intervention force, an initiative which has won the backing of the UK as it seeks to maintain defence ties after Brexit.

Spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, the European force will be designed to deploy and coordinate forces rapidly to deal with crises around the world.

Defence ministers from France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal are expected to sign a letter of intent in Luxembourg on Monday.

Since the election of its new government, Italy has backtracked on its initial support, but Rome has not ruled out the country’s future involvement.

Macron outlined his vision of strategic autonomy for European defence in a keynote Sorbonne speech last September.

It is a development that has caused some anxiety within Nato, where officials are concerned about any duplication of roles and distancing from the US.

Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, is in Luxembourg to take part in discussions on European security and defence, ahead of a summit of the military alliance in Brussels next month.

France’s defence minister, Florence Parly, told the newspaper Le Figaro on Sunday: “Defence Europe requires a common strategic culture … The deadlines and decisions in the EU are still much too long compared to the urgency that can arise of a critical situation in a country where Europeans would consider that there is a strong stake for their security.”

The European Intervention Initiative is outside the EU’s structures, and so it will allow for full UK involvement after Brexit.

“This is clearly an initiative that allows some non-EU states to associate,” said Parly. “The UK has been very good because it wants to maintain cooperation with Europe beyond bilateral ties.”

Britain has traditionally been wary of efforts to build a European defence force that could challenge Nato structures, but has become a champion of such initiatives since the Brexit referendum.

A French government source said the involvement of the UK was key, as the two military powers shared similar cultures and analysis approaches to how to tackle a crisis. “That culture is not shared between every EU member state,” the source said.

The initiative is expected to aid joint planning on events such as natural disasters, crisis intervention or the evacuation of citizens from hotspots.

Since 2007, the EU has had four multinational military “battle groups” but the troops have never been deployed.