EU BATTLEGROUPS: Theory and Development in the Light of Finnish-Swedish Co-operation

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Strategian laitos - Department of Strategic and Defence Studies

The European Union member states declared in June 1999 that the EU shall play its full role on the international stage. To that end, they decided to create necessary means and capabilities to assume its responsibilities, including the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces. Since then, in some five years, the ESDP has become, not only a success story, but also a real option for political leaders to use it when deemed appropriate. This option contains, among others, a 60.000-strong force, the institutional structure and procedures to facilitate political and military decision-making, as well as planning and command and control mechanisms. The European Defence Agency has been established for further development of necessary capabilities. Moreover, the EU has been involved in several military and police operations in the Balkans and Africa gaining valuable collective experience on the field, and several hundreds of military personnel are working on a daily basis in the EU structures for the fulfilment of the European Security Strategy.

Pertaining to the topic of this publication, the European Union Battlegroups, in 2003 several initiatives regarding more substantial cooperation was agreed upon in order to deepen military relations between the member states. Building on the success of operations Concordia, Proxima and, as a turning point, Operation Artemis together with needs stemming from the European Security Strategy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom introduced the so-called Battlegroup concept in order to create a capacity for rapid reaction. In this context, the availability of rapidly deployable military units entered to discussion. Of course, a capacity for rapid reaction had previously been recognized as an essential tool for a wide range of crisis management operations, but at this stage there was enough common will to go forward, too.

Since then we have been in the middle of a lively discussion related to the European Union Battlegroups. Consequently, the rationale for this publication, in addition to the traditional role of the Department to provide information and aspects, is a common need to promote analysis of the EU Battlegroup concept as an important tool for future crisis management. In order to reach these goals, some argumentation based on facts and figures as well as some 'food for though' is offered for the reader. Due to the fact that a profound conversation facilitates and promotes deeper understanding, the publication of this study is coordinated with the conference on 'Developing European Crisis-Management Capabilities' co-organised by the Atlantic Council of Finland and the European Security Forum, on 28th April 2005 in Helsinki.

The content of the study dealing with two national projects is an excellent example of the fruitful cooperation with our Swedish counterparts. On behalf of the authors and the Department, I would like to express our gratitude to all the experts in Brussels, Stockholm and Helsinki who provided the authors with valuable information, good advice and critical comments.

Helsinki, 28th April 2005
Lieutenant Colonel, Lic.Pol.Sci. Juha Pyykönen Director of the Department of Strategic and Defence Studies National Defence College

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