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(Slightly) more flexible Battlegroups

(BRUSSELS2) Defense ministers should agree, Tuesday, November 17, on a slightly more flexible and more effective use of Battle groups – the EU's light rapid reaction force (2 groups of at least 1500 deployable men up to 6000 km from Brussels are permanently on call). The result obtained is very close to the initial Swedish proposal based on voluntarism (read: The Swedish idea of ​​modulating battlegroups), by combining flexibility and employability (I prefer the word efficiency). He avoids,
on the other hand, the whole financial discussion, postponed until later. Analysis "depth” must be carried out on the financing methods as well as the possibilities for sharing the financial burden.

Flexibility. The general concept is not reviewed (1). What is simply changed is that it is now stated in black and white that battle groups can be used in the “initial stage” of the deployment of EU military operations. This provision must be considered in “exceptional” circumstances, on a “voluntary” basis and decided on a “case by case” basis. The tactical groups “must not become the instrument for filling (a priori) the gaps in force generation”, recalls a soldier. Two conditions therefore surround this provision, outside the framework: 1) the agreement of the contributors of the battle group, 2) the approval of the Council. In practice, States willing to make this type of more “flexible” contribution will announce it in advance (in order to facilitate the planning of battle groups).

Employability/Effectiveness. The other provision concerns the “employability” of battlegroups, to facilitate cooperation between Member States: the coordination of the use of certain key strategic capabilities (aircraft, etc.), the pooling of resources or the sharing of commercial contracts . This is to amortize the cost for countries where the army has a limited size or calls on volunteers (like the Swedish army). But in no case, underlines an expert in the file of “compromise the ability to react”: the EU will retain the possibility of triggering two rapid reaction operations at the same time, or of leaving two operations “almost” simultaneously (everything is in the “almost”…). Last element: facilitate the exchange of information and feedback between the different battlegroups, as well as early planning. It is about everyone being able to know the “zones” in which ESDP operations can take place and adapt to them. It is obvious that carrying out an operation in the Bosnian or Georgian mountains requires (slightly) different means and training than an intervention in the African desert or the Great Lakes region...

(1) Remember that the Battle Groups aim not only to have a rapid intervention capacity – and are therefore an instrument of credibility and dissuasion for European foreign policy – ​​but also a factor of interoperability for European armies because it encourages joint training.


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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