European Union defense ministers are set to dust off an old proposal to create a 5,000-strong joint military force capable of deploying rapidly to crisis zones, a senior EU official said.
The plan is backed by at least 14 of the bloc’s 27 member states, including France and Germany. It aims at bolstering the EU’s military capabilities as part of a review of its overall strategy to be agreed upon in 2022.
The defense ministers will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the EU should create a brigade of 5,000 soldiers, possibly with ships and aircraft, to help democratic foreign governments needing urgent help, the official said.
A rapid response EU military force was first proposed in 1999.
The meeting will be chaired by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who has berated the EU for its failure to act in several instances, particularly in failing states such as Libya.
Recently, Ukraine asked for Western assistance when Russia massed 100,000 troops on its border.
Many Members States Favor the Proposal
The 14 members of the EU states supporting this proposal thus far are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.
“Borrell has always said the EU needs to learn the language of power,” the EU official said to Reuters, referring in part to military force. Borrell is also expected to push for an EU training mission to be sent to help the Mozambican army, the official added.
The Mozambique mission could be deployed in the second half of this year. Equipment could also be given to the embattled country as it battles jihadists in the north, the EU official added.
With its economic clout, the EU has been able to use “soft power” and spread its influence through trade and humanitarian aid.
Yet, the EU has limited military power. Instead, it has relied traditionally on NATO for its security concerns.
Britain’s exit from the bloc further weakened the EU’s military strength. Yet, Brexit could have a silver lining in this regard, as London had been against an EU military force fearing it would weaken national identity.
NATO Is Against an EU Military, Yet the U.S. Urges the Bloc to Assume a Larger Part of its Defense
The United States has been asking the EU to assume more responsibility for its defense, especially on its borders. Under former President Trump, that talk from Washington grew more contentious. President Biden has said the United States will recommit to NATO.
The EU set up a combat-ready system of 1,500-man battle groups in 2007 to respond to crises. But these battle groups have never been used.
Now, the plan is for these battle groups to possibly form the basis of a so-called First Entry Force, part of increased EU defense capabilities.
In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a shared defense budget, common military strategy, and the setting up of an armed “rapid response force” to defend the EU. Macron also separately sought a joint EU civil defense force that could respond to natural disasters.
Nevertheless, NATO military leaders have been against the creation of an EU military force stating that it would duplicate or replicate the strengths of an already existing strong alliance.
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