EU needs to create a rapidly deployable military force to intervene around the world, two senior officials said on Thursday cited by new agencies. According to Gen. Claudio Graziano, chairman of the EU military committee, and EU foreign policy head Josep Borrell the Afghanistan crisis could provide the needed catalyst to end years of inaction.
“The situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the Sahel show that now is the time to act, starting with the creation of a European rapid reaction force, able to show the will of the Union to act as a global strategic partner,” Gen. Graziano said. “Sometimes there are events that catalyze history, that create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases,” Borrell pointed out.
Both insisted the Union must be able to react to conflicts beyond its borders and the creation of a “first entry force” of 5,000 troops was the way forward, reducing dependence on the US and NATO. The EU‘s efforts to create such a force have been paralyzed for more than a decade, despite the creation in 2007 of a system of EU battlegroups of 1,500 troops that have never been used due to disputes over funding and reluctance to deploy.
“When if not now?” Borrell told reporters as EU defence ministers gathered for a meeting in Slovenia to discuss the fallout of the chaotic withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan. He said that the EU needed to establish units that were “more operational” than the battlegroups. “The need for more, stronger European defense is more evident that ever,” he pointed out, adding that he hoped for a plan in October or November.
A long-proposed EU rapid reaction force is seen as more likely now that Britain has exited the bloc as it had been skeptical of collective defense policy. EU diplomats say they want a final deal on design and funding by March. Slovenia’s Defence Minister Matej Tonin said a rapid reaction force could comprise 5,000 to 20,000 troops and should not depend on a unanimous decision by the 27 nations of the bloc to be deployed.
“If we are talking about the European battlegroups, the problem is that, because of the consensus, they are almost never activated,” he said, “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).” Lithuania’s Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said all plans would come to nothing if there was a lack of political will to deploy troops, singling out Germany, which has a large military but a historical reluctance to use it in combat.