European defence and the Eurocorps model

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Soldiers carrying the EU flag for the first plenary session of the European Parliament's 2014-2019 term. June 30, 2014. [European Parliament / Flickr]

Today it is clear that a robust European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is a must, and the time to enhance it has come, writes Lieutenant General Alfredo Ramirez.

LTG Alfredo Ramirez is Commanding General of Eurocorps, an intergovernmental military corps of approximately 1,000 soldiers stationed in Strasbourg, France.

The European integration project, which has been built over the last decades, is at risk. In addition to internal difficulties, profound geopolitical changes, various armed conflicts in Europe’s neighborhood, a new wave of jihadist terrorism and, above all, massive immigration waves are good examples of the scale and complexity of the security context.

Those challenges affect every European country without distinction. And no country, however powerful it may be, can afford to face the dangers that emanate from a world in deep transformation. This fact implies that multinational cooperation is mandatory.

If we sum up the requirements for multinational cooperation and a multi-dimensional approach to crisis management, the result is the European Union. Not only Europe, but also the world as a whole needs a stronger EU.

Today it is clear that a robust European Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) is a must, and the time to enhance it has come.

A boosted CSDP would promote an integrated framework for EU cooperation in the field of defense, but without undermining NATO. As the NATO-EU Joint Declaration signed in Warsaw in July 2016 states, “a stronger NATO and a stronger EU are mutually reinforcing. Together they can better provide security in Europe and beyond.

The question that arises from this statement is this: How can we improve European military instruments? The Eurocorps´ model can provide some good ideas about how to achieve this.

Founded in 1992 as a genuine tool for the European defense, Eurocorps maintains today both its political and military dimensions.

Currently, the five Eurocorps framework nations – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain, which share the same prerogatives, responsibilities, and duties – make all decisions by consensus. In addition, soldiers of Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Turkey have joined Eurocorps with the status of “Associated Nation”.

With ten countries committed to our HQ, Eurocorps has demonstrated that it is possible to carry effectively out multinational cooperation in the field of defense. This unique attribute provides Eurocorps with the necessary international legitimacy, which is key to the success of most of today’s operations. The door is always open to any EU member state that would like to join this initiative.

Eurocorps is a highly experienced headquarters. It has accomplished several missions under either NATO or EU banner. It was deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, twice to Afghanistan and more recently to Mali and the Central African Republic, where it is currently deployed.

As its record certifies, Eurocorps is able to command and control the entire spectrum of crisis management missions in support of the CSDP: from Train and/or Equip missions, such as EU Training Missions, to a Force Headquarters.

Facts are Eurocorps is currently highly involved in EU operations. By the end of 2017 and for more than one and a half years, it will have contributed three contingents to EUTM RCA and two contingents to EU Battle Group rotations.

From strategic and operational perspectives, this is a very positive situation for the CSDP, for several reasons. Among others, the force generation process is easier as personnel requirements are less urgent. And by the same token, with a core team used to working together, planning activities are simpler. Finally, the mission commander takes advantage of the permanent Eurocorps – EU Military Staff cooperation.

Under no circumstances, though, this balanced approach towards the CSDP has ever been or will ever be detrimental to NATO.

In short, the current political development of the European defense leads us to consider that Eurocorps can play an avant-garde role in military cooperation processes. Because of its characteristics, experience and operational capabilities, Eurocorps is an unequalled position to act to the benefit of the EU. But the bottom line is that Eurocorps is able to do so without losing its NATO standards and responsibilities.

Consequently, Eurocorps is the perfect tool for EU military ambitions, but at the same time, it keeps its NATO patterns and duties. This duality confers this exceptional status to Eurocorps, and this is why it has often been identified as a potential model for the progressive integration of European military forces.

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