BRUSSELS — In the second half of 2013 EU countries plan to consider whether or not to extend the EU NAVFOR anti-piracy mission off Somalia and look into its use of battlegroups, said Patrick de Rousiers, President of the EU Military Committee, at a press briefing here June 26. In addition, de Rousiers said, EU countries and institutions are preparing for the EU summit of heads of state and government on defense matters in December.
As things stand, the EU anti-piracy mission will end at the end of 2014. De Rousiers said piracy activity was currently “at a low level” because of operations in the area and monsoons.
The EU’s External Action Service is due to issue a document on the EU’s rapid response to crises for discussion at the EU’s Political and Security Committee. This will include possible new ways of using the EU’s battlegroups, which are made up of forces from different EU countries on a rotating basis. One option being looked at is a “modular approach,” although de Rousiers was unable to give more details. Another option being considered is the ability to use a battlegroup as a reserve force for ongoing engagements.
De Rousiers also explained the mechanics behind the December meeting of EU heads of state and government. Here, both the European Commission and the EU’s External Action Service are producing documents that will feed into a document produced by the President of the European Council for discussion by EU member states in the run-up to the meeting.
De Rousiers said he wants the meeting to “highlight to us again and clearly what are the focuses that heads of state and government want us to address.” For pooling and sharing, “we need a clear idea of what heads of state and government want us to do collectively,” he added. As one example, he said EU heads of state and government might want focus on the EU’s immediate neighborhood, such as . the Balkans, and that this might mean evolutions in the battlegroups. As another example, he said EU heads of state and government might want to focus on surveillance and protection of maritime borders and economic zones.
“This would trigger evolutions in the way civil and military entities interact and have an impact on capabilities’ development,” he said.
As for an idea of a European program for MALE drones, he said there needed to be a debate on issues such as if EU countries are ready to exploit data in common and to operate drones together and for what purpose they would be used (e.g. for border surveillance and/or for areas of operation). He also stressed the need to address legal aspects such as what to do with the data obtained and the rules for deploying such drones while also addressing the potential acquisition of drones.