Slovenia and four other EU countries have drawn up a proposal to transform the EU’s existing battle groups into a rapid reaction force in an initiative prompted by the experience of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan where the EU had to rely on the US, the Germany press agency DPA has reported.
The report says the concept proposed by Slovenia, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal is to create effective forces capable of responding to crises at short notice. Along with special forces and air transport, they would also include space and cyber capabilities.
“Recent events in Afghanistan have shown once more that the EU has to be in a position … to act robustly and rapidly,” reads the document compiled by the five countries and obtained by the DPA.
To provide greater flexibility, the five countries propose invoking Article 44 of the EU Treaty, which talks of intervention by a “coalition of the willing” and which has never been activated. The countries also propose using regional cooperation arrangements already in place to greater effect.
While not specifying what size the reaction force should be, the document says the land-based forces should be of brigade strength, which means around 5,000 troops.
The current battle group concept provides for two 1,500-strong units to be on standby but currently, only one such unit is available and the force has never been in fact deployed.
The five countries hope to have the document included in the Strategic Compass – a key European defence and security process aimed at enhancing the EU’s strategic autonomy.
Answering a query from the STA, the Defence Ministry of Slovenia confirmed that Slovenian had participated in drawing up the proposal from the field of crisis management.
“It is just another segment in the mosaic of thought papers and discussions with which EU members make efforts for the Strategic Compass to give concrete political guidelines for further development of the common security and defence policy in the coming five to ten years,” it said in a written statement.
EU members’ efforts are directed towards using and upgrading the existing EU structures and elements to make them more operational, the ministry said, adding the proposal received broad support at the discussion of EU defence ministers in Brussels with more countries announcing to join it.