EU New battlegroups, more performances: EU defense now in transition, HS unveils key projects

Some EU NATO countries are not enthusiastic about the EU Defense Alliance. Finland is basically there, but we want concrete content.

European the Union lacks military strength, but even more so it lacks political will.

This was summed up by the President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyenin message when he spoke about EU defense at the annual in his keynote speech in September.

“We need a European Defense Alliance,” von der Leyen said.

Therefore, the Commission is now putting wind, von der Leyen promised.

France has been a driver of defense cooperation, which will not go unnoticed next year when the French Presidency of the EU begins. Von der Leyen said he would convene a defense-focused summit then with the French president Emmanuel Macronin with.

French President Emmanuel Macron will inspect the army forces in September 2021 in Paris. The event was held in honor of the fallen French soldier in Mali.

Extra points The development of EU military cooperation came in late summer when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan.

One reason for updating defense cooperation is also that Britain left the Union. The country is a military power, so its departure weakened the EU as a military actor. On the other hand, Britain had never been enthusiastic about EU defense co-operation, so at the same time the very impediment to co-operation was removed.

Of the current 27 EU member states, the majority, ie 21 countries, also belong to the Defense Alliance NATO, which, for example, the Baltic countries consider to be the primary guarantor of their security. France is also a NATO country, but it has always had difficulty in dealing with transatlantic cooperation.

In 2019 Macron characterized NATO is in danger of becoming a “brain dead”. At the time, the fear was that the president Donald Trump turns its back on NATO cooperation, but it remained a startle.

Leading the idea has been that the EU’s military capabilities should not compete or overlap with NATO.

Some EU NATO countries, especially in Eastern Europe, are still skeptical about a common European defense policy. They fear it will harm NATO’s relationship and say, however, that EU defense would not become as credible as NATO’s.

Due to differences of opinion, EU defense reforms may remain cautious.

“When the 27 member states negotiate, the lowest common denominator is forcibly reached,” says the researcher. Heljä Ossa From the National Defense College.

Finland Decision-makers have always been positive about the EU’s defense co-operation, but Finland has also been asked about its goals and results.

In Finland, the delimitation according to which EU co-operation focuses on external security, such as crisis management operations, and not on so-called hard military security, ie common defense, has also been considered problematic.

Various cooperation networks have been built piece by piece in Finland to ensure the security situation. The most important thing for Finland too has been NATO and the partnership for peace with it.

In addition, Finland is involved in Nordic co-operation, the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) group initiated by the United Kingdom, bilateral agreements with Sweden and the United States, and various other formations.

Defense Ministers Peter Hultqvist (left), Michael Fallon and Jussi Niinistö shook hands with Sweden and Finland after signing the JEF co-operation agreement with Britain in 2017.

“Alongside cooperation, the key is our own national defense capability. Cooperation is an important addition, but not everything can be counted on, ”says Ossa.

EU defense will be strongly raised at the end of the year and next year, but in a guaranteed EU style, it will be surrounded by a jungle of concepts that will not make the debate easy.

The HS opens up some key concepts that are often heard in the EU defense debate.

Strategic autonomy or strategic independence

Strategic the concept of autonomy dates back to 2016, when the EU made its previous security strategy. Preferably, France talks about strategic autonomy.

Founder of Suomenlinna Augustin Ehrensvärd once beaten the King’s Gate to a marble plaque, “Stand here on your own feet and do not trust a stranger’s help.”

It is also crystallized in the content of strategic autonomy. This means that in certain key areas, the EU should be independent. In defense and security, it can mean more joint military capabilities.

“The basic idea is that the EU would be able to operate independently without the capabilities of NATO or non-EU countries,” says the military envoy. Mikko Heiskanen From the Finnish Mission to the EU in Brussels.

The concept has expanded to other areas of life, and sometimes it seems that every speaker interprets how to flatter. In the economy, strategic autonomy may mean, for example, that EU industry would be less dependent on Chinese semiconductor production.

Concerns have also been raised that almost a few Member States will invoke strategic autonomy when protecting their own companies or sowing state aid to them.

Strategic compass

EU countries in June 2020, at the initiative of Germany, defense ministers agreed that member states would draw up a new security plan. It was called the “strategic compass”.

Germany was proactive in this, although otherwise it has preferably given a leading role to France.

The draft compass will be published in mid-November and is expected to be adopted by member states during the French presidency.

The compass seeks to specify what EU countries are pursuing through their defense cooperation and how these goals will be achieved in practice – what type of military capabilities, for example, EU countries need more.

The strategic compass is divided into four parts: crisis management, crisis resilience, military performance and partnerships.

Finland emphasizes resilience, as it is most directly related to the national security of the member state.

Article 42.7, ie the EU safeguard clause

European Union has agreed in its Treaty that if a Member State is the target of an armed attack on its territory, the other Member States will be obliged to provide it with all available means.

President Sauli Niinistö has repeatedly asked what the safeguard clause means in practice. For example, what would the EU do if Russia used armed force against an EU country – if not Finland now, then some former Eastern bloc country?

The article has been used only once, since the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, when France asked for help from other member states.

Parisians brought flowers and candles to the scene of the terrorist attacks in November 2015.

In the strategic compass, the safeguard clause is likely to emerge. Finland would like it to be clearer. This may not be as important for the EU’s NATO countries.

Read more: France asked for military help from other EU countries – Professor: Finland may find itself in a difficult situation

Combat forces or rapid reaction forces

In EU countries since 2007, there has been a battlegroup of 1,500 troops, made up of troops on the turn of several member states.

The Battlegroup, also known as the Rapid Reaction Force, has never been used in real-world crisis management operations. Member countries have no burning enthusiasm for using them.

It is not just about political will, it is also about money. The costs of the mission would fall on those countries that are in turn, not on all member states.

New Combat Forces, First Entry Force

To combat forces Due to the problems associated with They should be mobilized faster than current forces with a standby time of 10 days.

The working name is “First Entry Force”.

EU External Relations Officer Josep Borrell has said that the troops will become an integral part of the EU’s new security plan. Whether such forces will eventually emerge is a matter for the member states.

“It would seem that they would be based on the current battle group, not to be made from scratch. The former combat troops would be buried as a failed concept, ”says Mikko Heiskanen, Military Representative.

Permanent structural cooperation

European Union decided in 2017 to launch so-called permanent structured co-operation, in which various projects will be implemented to strengthen the defense of EU countries.

Among other things, Finland is involved in a project that seeks to improve military mobility, ie to ensure that, for example, bridges and roads in Europe enable the movement of troops.

Closely linked to this is the Commission’s tool, launched this year, the European Defense Fund (EDF), which can provide funding for cooperative and cross-border defense development between Member States.

“This can provide opportunities for a country like Finland, for example, to acquire performances that it would not be able to afford on its own,” says Mikko Heiskanen.


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