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Battlegroups, a beautiful tool left fallow

Croatian Nordic Battlegroup helicopter (credit: Swedish Ministry of Defence)

A true rapid reaction force of the European Union, the battlegroups (in English) or tactical groups (in French) were set up in 2007.

Each semester, two battlegroups are on call according to a schedule defined several years in advance by the Member States by mutual agreement (1). They are made up of one or more countries, which combine freely, to form a force of around 2000 soldiers. Third countries can participate (Croatia, Norway or Türkiye). Today there is a permanent battlegroup led by Spain (with France and Portugal) and another led by Italy (with Romania and Turkey) (2), they will be relayed in January by the Nordic Battlegroup (led by Sweden) (3) and the “Saxon” battlegroup led by the Netherlands (with Germany, Finland, Austria, and Lithuania) (4).

A Franco-British idea appropriated by the other Member States

The battlegroups were born from a Franco-British initiative. In March 2004, a discussion paper was presented to the Council of Ministers of the 15. The basic concept was then developed by the general staff of the European Union (EU) and approved at the Military Committee on 14 June 2004. It will be followed by additional concepts (C2 command and control, logistical transport, medical support, training, reserves, feedback) and synthesized in a single document in October 2006.

The first battlegroup was set up in January 2005 and became operational two years later, on January 1, 2007. It has never been used since despite certain needs and opportunities (such as in Congo). But certain member states like the Nordics are determined to use it as soon as possible (5). The concept was also made more flexible in November 2009 (6). And the Hungarian presidency has not ruled out working again on this subject, as its Defense Minister, Csaba Hende, recently confided to Brussels2 (7).

rapid reaction force

The battlegroup is defined as “ the minimum force package to be militarily effective, credible, coherent and capable of autonomous actions or to conduct the initial phase of a larger operation".

It can be deployed quickly, at the latest, 15 days after the decision to intervene. But its mission is quite short between 1 month (initial duration) up to 4 months (extension). It can be employed stand-alone or as an initial entry force in the event the crisis requires greater commitment.

Intervention planning (credit: Council of the EU)

A battlegroup is capable of fulfilling all EU missions, that is to say the so-called Petersberg missions (peacekeeping, interposition, security of humanitarian convoys, etc.) as defined by the Lisbon Treaty. Most often it requires a resolution from the United Nations Security Council but for certain operations such a resolution is not necessary (for example for the evacuation of European citizens).


The BG1500 or GT1500 for specialists is the size of a battalion of around 1500 soldiers, associated with a headquarters and intrinsic projection means. In total it generally consists of 2 to 2500 people.

  • a core combatant (Core BG) made up of an infantry battalion generally augmented by one or more complementary combat units, depending on the mission (armored vehicles, mechanized infantry, etc.),
  • a key core which includes at least a command post system (C2), a combat unit and its support (light fire, reconnaissance),
  • tactical support (Combat support), used at the scene of action,
  • tactical and strategic logistical capabilities supporting the mission.

To be considered an EU battle group, a group of forces must meet
precise standards in terms of military capabilities, defined by mutual agreement, undergo a fairly long training and certification process (12 to 24 months in advance).

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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).

2 thoughts on “Battlegroups, a beautiful tool left fallow"

  • The battlegroup concept is not flexible enough despite appearances and that is why it is not used. It is too much copied from an army type military model. However, the crises are diverse and do not necessarily require the use of land military forces. What is important to intervene:
    – a permanent civil-military crisis planning and management cell; this cell can be a nucleus of about twenty people capable of cold planning, of reacting in the first echelon and of being immediately reinforced by ad hoc modules. This cell must be able to plan and launch the first deployment orders in the military and civilian fields: modes of action and catalog of standard means, means of command, control and communication (C3), logistical means of transport and support. in this case, battlegroups would only be one of the standard means; could also be in the catalog; civil protection forces (fires, natural disasters), air transport command in Eidhoven, maritime projection, support and area control forces, French and British Awacs, C3s labeled within the framework of NATO, etc. ..We see that the implementation of this reaction capacity goes well beyond battle groups while being realistic and not very expensive. Indeed, the catalog of forces is available at the Agency, the planning and conduct skills are available in the countries that have held the NRF (Nato Reaction Forces) on-call duty.

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