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Defense ministers meet on February 24 and 25 in Budapest

Walter, the chief inspector..., will be in charge of going around the owner before the arrival of the Ministers of Defense to avoid any intruders and explosive objects (credit: Hungarian presidency)

The Ministers of Defense meet on February 24 in Budapest then on February 25 at the royal castle of Gödöllö, about thirty km from the Hungarian capital.

The dinner on Thursday evening (in 1+1 format: the Minister and an advisor) will be devoted to military operations with the three commanders of current operations (Atalanta, Eutm Somalia and Eufor Bosnia). The discussion should also make it possible to discuss the integration of the strategy of each operation into the EU's regional approach (in the Horn of Africa and the Balkans).

The Hungarian presidency took care to specify that this dinner will be translated into six languages ​​(English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Hungarian); which is rare enough to be reported.

The future of ongoing operations on the table

On the anti-piracy mission (Eunavfor Atalanta), ministers should address the question of the judicial treatment of pirates and the possible extension of the operation to strengthen maritime capacities in the region. Concerning the Somali security forces training mission (EUTM Somalia), ministers are expected to discuss the extension and possible follow-up to the mission. As for Althea Bosnia, the discussion will focus on the future of the operation (and its reduction). Even if the agenda does not specify it, the question of security in Africa (notably in the Sahel) and European commitment could also be addressed (this subject will be mainly discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council on February 21 as well as between development ministers who meet on February 22).

An expected political discussion

The next morning, two working sessions will take place (sessions lasting an hour and a half, which is quite short). The first will be devoted to capabilities. Several ministers (French, Polish, etc.) expect this meeting to have a brainstorming, a real political discussion particularly around the European Defense strategy and the various “pooling and sharing” projects.

Battlegroups, Abilities, and Chain of Command

The question of the “WisePen” group of Wise Men should also be brought up again (constitution of a group of which the High Representative does not, however, seem fiercely convinced). On the French side, the Minister of Defense, Alain Juppé should discuss the reflection initiated by the Weimar group (with Germany and Poland). Three seminars could thus be announced: on battlegroups (led by Poland), on capabilities (led by France), on the chain of command (led by Germany). It should also be an opportunity to present (and discuss) the work priorities of the European Defense Agency.

The ministers will also have to resolve the problem posed in the planning of the battlegroups: 1 “hole” in the first half of 1 as well as in 2012 (only one battlegroup present out of the two required, in both semesters of 2013).

Finding a pragmatic partnership with NATO and Turkey

The second working session will be devoted to partnerships (NATO, UN, etc.). NATO Secretary General AF Rasmussen will be there. The objective is to find practical arrangements in the theaters of operation where the two organizations are present (Afghanistan, Kosovo, etc.), as well as concrete modalities of cooperation outside. Without offending anyone and avoiding major political questions. Concrete solutions could be developed to involve Turkey in defense policy (COPS + 9, exchange of views between the General Staffs of the two organizations, etc.).

Final Round for Diplomatic Service Appointments ?

The High Representative should close this meeting with an inventory of crisis management structures within the diplomatic service (EEAS). This could also be the moment when Ministers will give their opinion on the latest appointments to come (CPCC, CMPD, etc.).

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).