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On the program of the Council of Ministers of Defense: the Arctic Sea, so so…well, almost!

(BRUSSELS2) The informal meeting of Defense Ministers in Gothenburg on September 28 and 29 will be interesting in more than one way. But already the letter that Sten Tolgfors, the Swedish Minister of Defense, has just sent to his European counterparts can raise a smile in the capitals of the 27 member states. At least for the first aspect he mentions…. The first day, September 28, will in fact be devoted to two workshops: one on maritime surveillance, the other on battlegroups. The second working day, September 29 to current operations, industrial cooperation and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Maritime surveillance (but not the Arctic sea!) The Swedes planned their first workshop around the “maritime surveillance“. This involves examining the “modes of cooperation between the different actors” in this area, whether “civil or military”, in order to benefit both from the maritime domain itself which is more within the competence of the European Commission (transport security, fishing, fight against migration, etc.) and to the ESDP, which is more within the competence of the Member States and the European Union. The Swedes, who must not lack humor, have planned to “stimulate discussions by illustrating this by showing civil and military cooperation in maritime surveillance in the Baltic Sea”. The ministers should therefore visit a maritime surveillance cell. … It is unclear whether the subject of the Arctic Sea. But I think that the Swedish Minister, just like his Finnish counterpart, will be keen to explain how we manage to “lose” a boat attacked by “pirates” a few cables from the Swedish coast. The discussion is likely to be lively.
And the stimulation may not have the expected effects! More seriously, the presidency wants to promote a discussion that will make it possible to strengthen cooperation between civil and military resources, and to make full use of the “unique” potential of the EU in terms of crisis management and conflict prevention.

The future of Battlegroups? The second workshop will be devoted to the use and flexibility of EU Battlegroups, as I announced (read a concept is good, using them is better). Minister Tolgfors announced it before the start of the Swedish presidency: it is a priority. “I“There needs to be a political discussion on how to make full use of the potential of battlegroups as a tool in the service of the ESDP”.

Continuation in Somalia and withdrawal in Bosnia ? The third working session will take place on September 29 and will be devoted to operations, especially Somalia and Bosnia. The commander of Operation Atalanta against piracy, Rear Admiral Hudson will be there to report on the latest developments and especially the continuation of the operation (a second force generation meeting will take place in Brussels on October 8 to refine all the details). It will also be an opportunity for Ministers to discuss the possibilities of broader engagement in Somalia (training of Somali security forces as the French and Americans have started). A proposal that does not really enchant all member states. The Commander of Althea, General John McColl of NATO (Althea is carried out under the “Berlin+” system with NATO command resources), will also be there to examine possible developments, in particular the future small mission “ non-executive” which will succeed the military force.

More resources for the European Defense Agency and more cooperation projects. The fourth working session will focus on the development of military capacity and possible cooperation. A very industrial session. The challenge is how to increase “transparency and harmonization” in these markets. The directive on defense public procurement has only just entered into force, it is difficult to draw conclusions. On the other hand, the director of the European Defense Agency will be there, with his budget proposal on the table. It will then be time to see if the spirit of cooperation is real and if words are followed by actions.

European commitment in AfPak, delicate! Last but not least, as a dessert guide, the Swedish presidency reserved the most difficult subject for the closed-door working lunch – reserved for Ministers – on European engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Objective: find better coordination between all Europeans and European structures in the region. Which is not a synecure! The two special envoys from the EU and the UN, Ettore Sequi and Kai Eide will be present, as well as members of the European Commission.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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