| 20 May 2024, Monday |

EU should enable military coalitions to tackle crises, Germany says

On Thursday, Germany urged the European Union to allow willing coalitions inside the union to quickly deploy armed forces in a crisis as members addressed the lessons gained from the tumultuous exit from Afghanistan.

Despite the creation in 2007 of a system of battlegroups with 1,500 troops, the EU’s efforts to create a rapid response force have been stalled for more than a decade due to funding disagreements and a reluctance to deploy, efforts to create a rapid response force have been paralyzed for more than a decade.

But the exit of U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan has brought the subject back into the spotlight, with the EU alone potentially unable to evacuate personnel from countries where it is training foreign troops, such as in Mali.

“Sometimes there are events that catalyse history, that create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in Slovenia, adding that he hoped for a plan in October or November.

Borrell urged the bloc to create a rapidly deployable “first entry force” of 5,000 troops to reduce dependence on the United States. He said President Joe Biden was the third consecutive U.S. leader to warn the Europeans that his country was pulling back from interventions abroad in Europe’s backyard.

“It represents a warning for the Europeans they need to wake (up) and to take their own responsibilities,” he said after chairing a meeting of EU defence ministers in Slovenia.


Diplomats in the meeting told Reuters there was no decision on the way ahead, with the EU unable to agree on how it would quickly decide to authorize a mission without involving all 27 states, their national parliaments and those wanting United Nations approval.

The proposal from Germany, one of the strongest military powers in the EU but historically reluctant to send its forces into combat, would rely on a joint decision by the bloc but not necessarily all members deploying their forces.

“In the EU, coalitions of the willing could act after a joint decision of all,” German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a tweet in Slovenia.

A rapid reaction force is seen as more likely now that Britain has exited the bloc. Britain, one of Europe’s main military powers alongside France, had been sceptical of collective defence policy.

EU diplomats say they want a final deal on design and funding by March, when France takes over its six-month presidency in January.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the key question was not whether the EU would establish a new military unit, and the discussion must not stop there.

“The military capabilities in EU member countries do exist,” she said. “The key question for the future of the European security and defence police is how we finally use our military capabilities together.”

Slovenia Defence Minister Matej Tonin meanwhile suggested that a rapid reaction force could comprise 5,000 to 20,000 troops but deployment should not depend on a unanimous decision by the EU’s 27 states.

“If we are talking about the European battlegroups, the problem is that, because of the consensus, they are almost never activated,” Matej, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters.

“Maybe the solution is that we invent a mechanism where the classic majority will be enough and those who are willing will be able to go (ahead).”

  • Reuters