The European Commission adopted on Friday (10 November) a roadmap aimed at removing barriers for the smooth transport of military troops and gear inside the bloc, as part of efforts to create the European defence union.
“The swift movement of military personnel and equipment is hindered by physical, legal and regulatory barriers. This creates inefficiencies in public spending, delays, disruptions, and above all a greater vulnerability. It is high time we maximise civil and military synergies also through our transport network,” said Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.
She told a news conference that the roadmap will be followed by a concrete action plan next March, which will then have to be approved by the member states.
The EU’s foreign and security policy chief Federica Mogherini said there was “a growing demand for our member states to coordinate and work together on defence.”
“So while we are moving forward with the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to make our defence more effective, we have also decided to further strengthen military mobility among EU member states and in cooperation with NATO,” Mogherini said in a press statement.
Addressing reporters, Bulc stressed that the military must use civilian transport routes on occasion, but “defence activities should in no way disrupt the civilian use of infrastructure or create unnecessary inconveniences”.
The Commission and member states will have to assess which routes could be fit for purpose, as many cannot accommodate the weight or height of military equipment. They will also need to look into different standards and regulatory issues across the bloc to ensure the military has legal access to the infrastructure and that data is regularly exchanged between the civilian and the military sectors.
After years of cutbacks on defence spending in Europe and a heavy reliance on the US through NATO, France and Germany hope that most member states will sign a new defence pact on 13 November in Brussels, which should tie nations into tighter defence collaboration covering troops and weapons.