BRUSSELS — European Union defense ministers will be weighing options on how to deploy EU battlegroups when they meet April 23 in Luxembourg. This is one strand, titled “Effectiveness of the [EU’s] Common Security and Defence Policy,” of three in an EU report due out in September ahead of the all-important summit of EU leaders on defense issues in December.
The two other strands relate to developing EU military and civilian capabilities and strengthening the EU’s defense industry.
The EU battlegroup concept is to have about 1,500 troops from different EU countries on standby for relatively small, stand-alone operations or initial phases of larger operations. The battlegroups have yet to be used in an operation.
“Are we going to use them or not? It’s about time to ask the question,” said a senior EU official ahead of the EU defense ministers’ meeting. “Why not use elements of battlegroups, say some EU member states,” added the official, referring to different components of them such as air support, medical and logistics.
“The main problem [in terms of deploying the battlegroups] is the will of EU member states to deploy battlegroups,” said the official, who added that there have been few opportunities to use them. One opportunity he cited was a mission to Chad in 2008, where the size of the mission and the rules of engagement corresponded to a battlegroup.
From July, Germany, Poland and France will form an EU battlegroup for six months and then, from January, it will fall to the U.K., Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands and Sweden to do so.
“They contribute to increasing interoperability and bring cohesion between member states at the political level, among ministries of defense and on the field,” said the official. EU defense ministers will be discussing gaps in the battlegroup roster for 2015.
The EU’s counterpiracy operation, Atalanta, currently has 10 warships, three maritime patrol aircraft and 1,600 personnel providing humanitarian aid to Somalia. While Portugal has been in charge of the operation there have been seven attacks, in two of which the pirates fled; in the other five, the pirates were captured, convicted and prosecuted. The operation is due to end in December 2014. EU defense ministers are expected to discuss what to do after that date.