It must become easier to put the EU’s battlegroups into action in crises. In addition, better cooperation between civilian and military actors is needed, to contribute to improved maritime surveillance and more effective peace support operations. This is what the Swedish Presidency emphasised at Monday’s meeting of EU defence ministers in Göteborg.
The battlegroups, which were discussed on Monday afternoon at the meeting, have been in place since 2007. The idea is that by always having two such rapid reaction forces available, the EU will be able to intervene to quell conflicts and crises outside the Union. As yet, the forces have never been used, but expectations are growing. This raises the issue of whether the EU should have a more flexible view of when the battlegroups should be put into action.
“We had a very good and open discussion on how the battlegroups should be used, which was welcomed and seen as an important step to further strengthening the EU’s crisis management role. There was also strong support for further improvement of the cooperation between the different battlegroups that the EU has available”, says Sweden’s Minister for Defence Sten Tolgfors, who is chairing the meeting.
Mr Tolgfors also pointed out during the day that the work on the EU’s rapid reaction forces had contributed to the reform of the armed forces in European countries. Nevertheless, as holder of the EU Presidency, Sweden considers that increased flexibility in the use of the battlegroups would increase the credibility of the EU’s crisis management.
“The point is that the tools themselves are there and we must be prepared to use them. When the EU approved a military operation in Chad last year, it was difficult to put together units that were ready to travel; at the same time as we had two fully prepared battlegroups available. Perhaps in that sort of situation, it might be possible to ‘borrow’ a battlegroup,” says Sten Tolgfors. (EUFOR RD Congo)