Defence forces of the European Union

This articles outlines the defence forces of the European Union (EU), which implement the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in CSDP missions. There are two categories of EU multinational forces: ones that have been established intergovernmentally and made available to the CSDP through article 42.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), such as the Eurocorps; and the EU Battlegroups, established at the EU level.

EU military or crisis operations

The military operations of the EU are typically named with a prefix that is either European Union Force (EUFOR) or European Union Naval Force (NAVFOR), depending on whether the operation is terrestrial or at sea. The suffix is typically the area in which the operation took place, e.g. European Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED). The operations therefore have unique names, although the force may also consist of permanent multinational forces such as the European Corps.

Pre-organised forces

Irish Army personnel from the Nordic Battle Group at an exercise in 2010

The Helsinki Headline Goal Catalogue is a listing of rapid reaction forces composed of 60,000 troops managed by the European Union, but under control of the countries who deliver troops for it.[citation needed]

Forces introduced at Union level include:

  • The battle groups (BG) adhere to the CSDP, and are based on contributions from a coalition of member states. Each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements.[1][2] The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union. The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of November 2018, they have yet to see any military action.[3] Based on existing ad hoc missions which the European Union (EU) has undertaken, they have been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe.[2]

The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.[4]

  • The Medical Corps (EMC) is an incident response team that was launched on 15 February 2016 by the European Union to provide an emergency response force to deal with outbreaks of epidemic disease anywhere in the world.[5] The EMC was formed after the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa when the WHO was criticized for a slow and insufficient response in the early stages of the Ebola outbreak.[6] The EMC is part of the emergency response capacity of European countries.[7] Teams from nine EU member states—Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden — are available for deployment in an emergency. The EMC consist of medical teams, public health teams, mobile biosafety laboratories, medical evacuation capacities, experts in public health and medical assessment and coordination, and technical and logistics support.[8] Any country in need of assistance can make a request to Emergency Response Coordination Centre, part of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department.[9] The first deployment of the EMC was announced by the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection on 12 May 2016, a response to the outbreak of yellow fever in Angola in 2016.[10] An earlier concept of an emergency medical response team was Task Force Scorpio formed by the United Nations during the first Gulf War.
  • The Medical Command (EMC) is a planned medical command centre in support of EU missions, formed as part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).[11] The EMC will provide the EU with a permanent medical capability to support operations abroad, including medical resources and a rapidly deployable medical task force. The EMC will also provide medical evacuation facilities, triage and resuscitation, treatment and holding of patients until they can be returned to duty, and emergency dental treatment. It will also contribute to harmonising medical standards, certification and legal (civil) framework conditions.[12]
  • The Force Crisis Response Operation Core (EUFOR CROC) is a flagship defence project under development as part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) facility. EURFOR CROC will contribute to the creation of a "full spectrum force package" to speed up provision of military forces and the EU's crisis management capabilities.[13] Rather than creating a standing force, the project involves creating a concrete catalogue of military force elements that would speed up the establishment of a force when the EU decides to launch an operation. It is land-focused and aims to generate a force of 60,000 troops from the contributing states alone. While it does not establish any form of "European army", it foresees an deployable, interoperable force under a single command.[14] Germany is the lead country for the project, but the French are heavily involved and it is tied to President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to create a standing intervention force. The French see it as an example of what PESCO is about.[15]

Provided through the Treaty of European Union

Personnel of the European Corps in Strasbourg, France, during a change of command ceremony in 2013
Location of headquarters of a selection of intergovernmental defence organisations that are established outside the EU framework, but may support the CSDP in accordance with Article 42.3 of the Treaty on European Union

This section presents an incomplete list of forces and bodies established intergovernmentally amongst subsets of Member states of the European Union.

These multinational organizations may also be deployed either in a NATO environment, through the EU, acting upon the mandate of the participating countries, or acting upon the mandate of other international organisations, such as United Nations, or the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Land forces:

Air forces:

Naval forces:


  • The Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), is a Franco-British military force. It draws upon both the British Armed Forces and the French Armed Forces to field a deployable force with land, air and maritime components together with command and control and supporting logistics. It is distinct from the similarly named UK Joint Expeditionary Force. The Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (or CJEF) is envisaged as a deployable, combined Franco-British military force for use in a wide range of crisis scenarios, up to and including high intensity combat operations. As a joint force it involves all three armed Services: a land component composed of formations at national brigade level, maritime and air components with their associated Headquarters, together with logistics and support functions. The CJEF is not conceived as a standing force but rather as available at notice for UK-French bilateral, NATO, European Union, United Nations or other operations. Combined air and land exercises commenced during 2011 with a view towards developing a full capability. The CJEF is also seen as a potential stimulus towards greater interoperability and coherence in military doctrine, training and equipment requirements.
Overview and EU member states' participation
Finabel European Corps European Gendarmerie Force European Air Transport Command European Air Group European Maritime Force Movement Coordination Centre Europe[lower-alpha 1] Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation
Branch Terrestrial Aerial Naval Multi-component
Description Organisation promoting interoperability Corps Gendarmerie Command for refueling and transport capabilities Organisation promoting interoperability Non-standing force Control centre for movement
Founded 1953 1992 2006 2010 1995 1995 2007 1996
Seat Brussels Strasbourg Vicenza Eindhoven Buckinghamshire N/A Eindhoven
Capacity N/A 60 000 troops 2 300 troops 220 aircraft N/A N/A N/A
Response time N/A 30 days 30 days N/A N/A 5 days N/A
Motto Reflexion serving military action None Lex paciferat Integrated, innovative, efficient Improved capability through interoperability At sea for peace None
Working language English English Un­known English Un­known Un­known Un­known
Membership (year of accession)
 Austria No No N/A No No N/A 2010 No
 Belgium 1953 1993 N/A 2010 1997 No 2007 2003
 Bulgaria No No No No No No 2017 No
 Cyprus 2008 No N/A No No No No No
 Croatia 2017 No N/A No No No 2011 No
 Czech Republic 2012 No N/A No No N/A 2010 No
 Denmark No No N/A No No No 2007 No
 Estonia No No N/A No No No 2007 No
 Finland 2008 No N/A No No No 2007 No
 France 1953 1992 2006 2010 1995 1995 2007 1996
 Germany 1956 1992 N/A 2010 1997 No 2007 1996
 Greece 1996 No N/A No No No No No
 Hungary 2015 No No No No N/A 2007 No
 Ireland No No N/A No No No No No
 Italy 1953 No 2006 2015 1997 1995 2007 1996
 Latvia 2016 No N/A No No No 2007 No
 Lithuania No No Partner No No No 2015 No
 Luxembourg 1953 1996 N/A 2012 No N/A 2007 No
 Malta 2010 No N/A No No No No No
 Netherlands 1953 No 2006 2010 1997 No 2007 No
 Poland 2006 No 2011 No No No 2008 No
 Portugal 1996 No 2006 No No 1995 2010 No
 Romania 2008 No 2009 No No No 2008 No
 Slovakia 2006 No N/A No No N/A 2015 No
 Slovenia 2016 No N/A No No No 2007 No
 Spain 1990 1994 2006 2014 1997 1995 2007 2005
 Sweden 2015 No N/A No No No 2007 No

See also


  1. The membership of Movement Coordination Centre Europe also includes some countries outside the union.


  1. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-28. Retrieved 2018-05-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. New force behind EU foreign policy BBC News – 15 March 2007
  3. Vincent, Michael (2018-11-20). "EU Battlegroups: The European 'army' that politicians can't agree how to use". ABC News.
  4. Value of EU 'Battlegroup' plan stressed by Annan Archived 2009-02-13 at the Wayback Machine 15 October 2004
  5. "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - EU launches new European Medical Corps to respond faster to emergencies". Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  6. Moon, Suerie; et al. (28 November 2015). "Will Ebola change the game? Ten essential reforms before the next pandemic. The report of the Harvard-LSHTM Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola". The Lancet. 386 (10009): 2204–2221. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00946-0. PMC 7137174. PMID 26615326.
  7. "European Emergency Response Capacity - Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection - European Commission". Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  8. "European Medical Corps part of the European Emergency Response Capacity" (PDF). Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. "Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) - Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection - European Commission". Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  10. "EU sends new medical corps team to Angola yellow fever outbreak". 12 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  11. "In Defence of Europe - EPSC - European Commission". EPSC.
  12. "PESCO-Overview-of-First-Collaborative-of-projects-for-press" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-10-07.
  13. "Project outlines" (PDF).
  14. "European Defence: What's in the CARDs for PESCO?" (PDF).
  15. Barigazzi, Jacopo (10 December 2017). "EU unveils military pact projects". Politico. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  16. "Eurocorps' official website / History". Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  17. Arcudi, Giovanni; Smith, Michael E. (2013). "The European Gendarmerie Force: A solution in search of problems?". European Security. 22: 1–20. doi:10.1080/09662839.2012.747511. S2CID 153388488.
  18. Eindhoven regelt internationale militaire luchtvaart (in Dutch)
  19. "Claude-France Arnould Visits EATC Headquarters". Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  20. EUROMARFOR – At Sea for Peace pamphlet[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  21. Biscop, Sven (2003). Euro-Mediterranean security: a search for partnership. Ashgate Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7546-3487-4.
  22. EUROMARFOR Retrospective – Portuguese Command[permanent dead link], page 12. Retrieved 11 March 2012.