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Big news! The European army exists. The Daily Mail met her

The 2nd York maneuvers on Salisbury Plain to prepare for the European battlegroup (credit: 2nd York)
The 2nd York maneuvers on Salisbury Plain to prepare for the European battlegroup (credit: 2nd York)

(BRUSSELS2) You wonder if the European army really exists, if it is not a pipe dream, a fantasy or a c..., a dream or a virtual nightmare. Make no mistake, the European army does exist. THE Daily mail met her. Supporting photos, the British daily, more famous for its gossip than its sense of investigation, even says that it has gone into the operational phase on British territory: " Invasion of the EU army! (1) Worried Eurotanks may park on our lawn, Minister? Too late...they're already here ».

Let's take a close look at what is being said! And let's bring back the reality that really seems to be the least of the concerns of this article...

A 1,500-strong force of EU troops was on maneuvers in Britain last week

Let's recognize the European troops: "Invading" the United Kingdom, with only 1500 men — something no country had so far achieved, even Napoleon with his Grande Armée or Hitler and his V2 — it's still a success 😉

More seriously, in this battlegroup, there are essentially... British people, under the command of a British general. With some Swedes, Finns, Irish (from the South), Latvians and Lithuanians, and even Ukrainians normally! Not enough to whip the Queen of England.

And the Daily Mail is a few years behind. It was in Saint-Malo, in 1998, on a Franco-British initiative that the idea was born of having a European rapid reaction force available to carry out light interposition operations, or the evacuation of nationals. It was the British who also inaugurated in 2005 - with the French - this tour de role. What is called in France the 1500 Battlegroups (because they are made up of about 1500 men, generally much more) is translated by the English "EU Battlegroup" (EUBG) which is more easily understandable. That denomination won out.

They were taking part in what is thought to be the biggest EU military exercise in the UK. And in a move that might cause further concern for Brexiteer Ms Mordaunt, the joint war games played out by an 'EU Battle Group' represent a stepping up of plans to mount a European force capable of rapid deployment to foreign shores.

In reality "additional steps" and "plans" to set up a European force capable of deploying abroad, it is just nothing more or less than the classic training of the European Union's rapid reaction force . The penalty is taken in rotation every six months by one or more Member States. This for 10 years! This is not a first in itself. The British will be on call from July 2016. Which is nothing new either. The British have already taken their turn on call 4 times: in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2013. This is therefore the fifth time in 10 years that the European army has "invaded" the United Kingdom

These famous maneuvers are in fact the qualification exercise of the battlegroup which were prepared a long time in advance. It lasted about ten days until May 20. Exercises which are not in themselves very different from NATO exercises, for the rapid reaction force (NRF), being designed on similar models. The important thing in these exercises is to improve interoperability between the different forces (air, armour, helicopter, medical, command, forward forces, etc.) such as the different participating nations.

Exclusive photographs show 'Euro army' tanks and vehicles in Britain

The super exclusive photos of the Daily Mail, even blurred, B2 has a few dozen, and even of British soldiers or British ships bearing the European emblem. The HMS Enterprise which is off in the Mediterranean under Italian command carries the European pennant. Which is not illogical. Until further notice, the United Kingdom is part of the European Union. And no one has ever forced the British to raise this flag or participate in these operations. All the military operations of the European Union, as of NATO for that matter, are based on voluntary service. Each State remains totally sovereign to engage its own troops, their duration. There are even high-ranking officers who wore the dual British and European badge, and commanded (or still command) this "so-called European army.

While a British Brigadier is in charge of the force during the UK's period of command, he takes his orders from Brussels, not from the UK's operational headquarters.

It's a bit wrong. If this battlegroup were to be engaged, the British general in command would be under direct orders ... from the British operational headquarters, the one located north of London at Northwood. Because Northwood is the designated HQ for the on-call period and not Brussels. Certainly, he will carry out a plan conceived and put in place by the Europeans. But only with the endorsement, the agreement and the authorization of the British. Moreover, and this is a rule in all its operations, there is a double hierarchy. A British general also reports to his hierarchy, even in a multinational operation.

Tactical decisions, such as the rules of engagement for the EU Battle Group, are decided by the Foreign Affairs and Security Council of the European Union.

Decisions are not taken by the Council of Foreign Ministers as such but by the 28 Member States (27 in military matters - except Denmark) meeting in the Council. It is not a detail of language. Because all decisions are taken unanimously.

Having followed several decision-making circuits, I can testify how much the British representatives (and they are not the only ones) are very finicky on these subjects. In other words, as long as the United Kingdom is a member of the union, it can issue a right of veto, formal or informal, and thus prevent any decision, such as the deployment of a battlegroup. A right that London has not been deprived of using in the past, to delay or limit the effects of an operation.

In addition, any State which decides to participate in the operation (it is optional), can indicate "caveouts", exceptions to the rules of engagement. There is always a senior officer per State - called "red flag" - responsible for enforcing the "red lines" set by a State in its participation. In any case, a British soldier could never go against the limits or the wishes of his Member State.

It should also be noted that the '28' ministers mainly decide on strategic options: decision to send a battlegroup, framework for the use of the decision, etc. The rules of engagement are generally discussed and decided at an infra-political level by the military or specialist diplomats (the Council only giving its imprimatur). But always according to the same principle of unanimity. There is no qualified majority in matters of defence.

Three 1,500-troop rapid reaction forces, directed by the EU's Council of Ministers, and designed to respond to security crises.

There are not three but two duty battlegroups normally together. But indeed, the "EU Battlegroups" are designated to respond to security crises (1). At least in theory. Because, in reality, they have never been deployed... The fault in particular of the British! (Read : The GT 1500 or battlegroups. A great idea never put into practice)

Austrian Lieutenant General Wolfgang Wosolsobe is in command

My British colleagues are, again, a step behind. General Wosolsobe has just left office at the end of his mandate. And a Finn is replacing him (read: A Finn succeeds an Austrian at the head of the General Staff). But this general directs "only" the General Staff of the European Union. However, contrary to its terminology, this staff does not directly command the battlegroup... London has always vetoed, a "red line" had specified Cameron, that the European Union be provided with a real headquarters . And that is what is at stake today.

The EU has three Battle Groups and the one deployed to the UK is a 'light force' – using armored patrol vehicles such as Humvees and the RG-32M 'Scout'.

The European Union doesn't really have permanent battlegroups. But just two, designated by rotation between the Member States. All are a "light force" of 1500 to 2500 men. The States contribute to it in a "voluntary" way to have troops on duty, an on-call duty rotating every six months.

In conclusion, great nonsense of which only the British press is capable with great talent (it must be recognized). In the end, it is a true masterpiece of disinformation, coupled with a very ignorance, filth, both of the functioning of the British army and of defense (2). Besides, the best propaganda specialist of the Soviet school seems an honest little telegrapher. When a British newspaper whips up what is just a simple exercise in preparing for a very (possible) peacekeeping intervention - which is very likely never to come - to make it an "invasion "of the European army", it is no longer information, it is of the order of miraculous pathology...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


(1) Probably the only exact passage of this article.

(2) A bit shy all the same. The British daily, a little better informed, a little more concerned with pushing the direction of the investigation (;-), could have pushed the cork a little further. Two - three suggestions.

  1. An invasion of Irish terrorists backed by ex-Crimean soldiers. Explanation: in this battlegroup there are also Southern Irish and some Ukrainians (previously stationed in Crimea).
  2. British Operations HQ invaded by Europeans. Explanation: The British Operations HQ in Northwood hosts the European HQ of EUNAVFOR Atalanta and the European flag is displayed (only during official ceremonies)

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).

One thought on “Big news! The European army exists. The Daily Mail met her"

  • What about the Franco-British maneuvers in Perfidious Albion then? 🙂 Big sigh.

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