UK secretary of Defence Geoffrey Hoon: “Battlegroups have been designed specifically, but not exclusively, to be used in response to a request from the United Nations to undertake rapid intervention in a hostile environment. This might include acting to prevent atrocities or helping with the provision of urgent humanitarian aid. This type of scenario is particularly applicable in failing or failed states. Recent examples in Africa (such as the UK's operational experience in Sierra Leone, the French in Cote d'Ivoire, and the EU's operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have not only illustrated the need for such a capability, but demonstrated how a relatively small number of forces can have a significant effect in a short period of time, provided they can be deployed rapidly with the appropriate support.”
French Minister of Defence, Michèle Alliot-Marie (September 2004): "The strategic environment has changed dramatically in recent years and has fuelled a new need for light forces that can be rapidly deployed to manage crises. Under a UK-German initiative, these Battlegroups will enable up to 1 500 EU soldiers to be deployed within two weeks up to 5 000 kilometres away. The creation of such a co-ordinated pool of troops should lead to transparent management of multinational deployments. Several countries have already expressed their willingness to participate. France, of course, will be very active in this area."
Luxembourg’s Luc Frieden, Minister for Defence, on the progress made on the battlegroups by 18 March 2005: “All of the member states must make their contribution, and today we were able to confirm that all of the member states remain determined to work together to achieve this objective: to be capable of rapid intervention inside and outside Europe in order to prevent or put an end to crises in the interest of stability and security. Certain ministers made quite concrete proposals for filling in the existing gaps. In accordance with the schedule agreed on in November 2004, we have decided to put into place the majority of the battlegroups in the next three years. “
Judy Dempsey, former diplomatic correspondent of the Financial Times, writes in the Institute for Security Studies paper on ‘European Security and Defence Policy: The first five years’: “The Battlegroup concept shows how far London and Paris have moved away from the top-heavy 60,000 troops idea in which the EU placed so much store during 2001 and 2002. That idea has quietly been dropped as Javier Solana, influenced by the new thinking emerging from London and Paris, focuses on smaller units and capabilities”.
General Klaus Naumann, former chairman of NATO's Military Committee and a former chief of staff of the German Armed Forces: “New EU Battlegroups should be strengthened through regular training and certification, preferably using NATO standards, and the EU Military Committee should hold regular battlegroup conferences to solicit country contributions to future formations. For the EU to do its part, larger budgets appear unavoidable. Battlegroups should be expanded to include naval and air components for missions such as maritime interdiction and close support for ground troops.“
The research report by the Department of Strategic and Defence Studies in Helsinki: “EU Battlegroups: Theory and Development in the light of the Finnish Swedish Co-operation” delivers a critical analysis:
“Theoretically speaking the EU Battlegroups could participate in the following mission profiles:
- Expeditionary force. Either an autonomous or a joint operation (with NATO) to solve a limited size crisis.
- Entry force. An initial mission by paving the way to a larger operational size peace-enforcement or peacekeeping follow-on force.
- Emergency force. Supporting an existing (peacekeeping) mission by offering a robust capability to solve a local and limited size crisis.
"The scale of the Battlegroups concept, thirteen - 1500 troops units strong mean that they as such are no core of any European Army. Such ambitions or development could be identified if so wanted from the general ESDP development, and not from the Battlegroup concept. The Battlegroups have war-fighting capabilities but no capacity to fight wars!”
“What does it tell about the political ambitions and the military reach of this economic giant of ours if we are deploying expeditionary forces here and there for minor duties and for a relatively short period of time? “
New Defence Agenda Director Giles Merritt, says: “In EU policy making terms it is moving very fast. But we still do not know much about what the circumstances of deployment will be or who has the finger on the panic button”.
Center for Strategic and International Studies has produced the report “European Defense Integration: Bridging the Gap between Strategy and Capabilities” and point to several problems: “While many in and outside of Europe are hopeful that the Battlegroups will spur EU members to develop the expeditionary capability they lack, doubts have been raised about the viability of the overall concept:
- First, it is unclear whether EU member states will acquire the strategic lift needed to deploy the Battlegroups in a timely fashion.
- Second, questions remain about the Battlegroups’ relationship with the NATO Response Force and the extent to which their development might distract from the EU’s 2010 Headline Goals.
- Third, there are competing views on how and when the Battlegroups will be used, with some countries envisioning a full spectrum of future missions and others suggesting that the Battlegroups only be used for low-intensity missions.
- Finally, details on how the Battlegroups might work with or under UN authority have yet to be sketched out. Would the Battlegroups maintain operational autonomy? Would they be willing to operate alongside often poorly equipped UN troops?”