EU recognises the need to speed up its defence plans

The foreign and defence ministers of the 15 EU Member States recognised the need to speed up their common defence policy in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks. The EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana urged the Member States to put more resources into the planned rapid reaction force, to be set up by 2003.

Mr Solana said that while a lot has been achieved over the last year, some shortcomings still have to be addressed, such as command and control structures, and reconnaissance capabilities.

The Member States have so far committed 100,000 troops, 400 planes and 100 ships for the rapid reaction force. But they still suffer serious strategic shortcomings, such as lack of naval transport and airlift, guided missiles to destroy enemy’s air defences, electronic warfare capabilities and secure communications.

The EU is counting on NATO to provide its strategic capabilities to resolve potential European crises. However, the deal between the two organisations is blocked by Turkey, a NATO but not an EU member, who wants to participate in the EU’s decision-making on defence issues.

In a separate meeting, EU foreign and interior ministers agreed to create a 5,000-strong joint police force by 2003. The police force will play a role in international crisis management operations, such as the one in Kosovo.

 

A recent study by the London-basedInternational Institute for Strategic Studies, dealing with the post-September-11 threat, expressed doubt that the EU would be capable of setting up its rapid reaction force by 2003. The IISS study, "The Military Balance 2001-2002", questions the EU Member States' capability to finance the RRF as the overall trend of European defence spending is downward and there are capability gaps, particularly in the areas of sealift and airlift.

 

European leaders agreed on a common defence strategy at the Cologne Summit on 3 June 1999. The 15 Member States of the EU formally decided to create a rapid reaction force (RRF) of 60,000 men at the Nice European Council in December 2000. Some progress has been made in creating a military structure within the Council of Ministers in 2001. The RRF should be operational from 2003 on, concentrating on humanitarian relief, peace-keeping and crisis-management tasks independently of NATO.

 

The ministers said that the EU leaders would declare the common security and defence policy operational at their summit in Laeken on 14-15 December.

The EU foreign, defence and interior ministers are meeting their counterparts from the candidate countries and NATO members on 20 November to present them the action plan on European rapid reaction and police forces.

 

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