An EU Battlegroup (EU BG) is a military unit adhering to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union (EU). Often based on contributions from a coalition of member states, each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force reinforced with combat support elements (1,500 troops). Two of the battlegroups were declared to be capable of being assembled for operational deployment at any one time.
|Type||Framework for creating deployable forces|
|Part of||Council of the European Union|
The Battlegroup initiative reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, but, as of August 2019[update], they have yet to see operational service. They were developed from existing ad hoc missions that the European Union (EU) had undertaken. The troops and equipment are drawn from the Member States of the European Union under the direction of 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.
The initial idea to create EU multinational roughly battalion-sized combined arms units was first publicly raised at the European Council summit on 10–11 December 1999 in Helsinki. The Council produced the Headline Goal 2003 and specified the need for a rapid response capability that members should provide in small forces at high readiness. The idea was reiterated at a Franco-British summit on 4 February 2003 in Le Touquet which highlighted as a priority the need to improve rapid response capabilities, "including initial deployment of land, sea and air forces within 5–10 days." This was again described as essential in the "Headline Goal 2010".
Operation Artemis in 2003 showed an EU rapid reaction and deployment of forces in a short time scale – with the EU going from Crisis Management Concept to operation launch in just three weeks, then taking a further 20 days for substantial deployment. Its success provided a template for the future rapid response deployments allowing the idea to be considered more practically. The following Franco-British summit in November of that year stated that, building on the experience of the operation, the EU should be able and willing to deploy forces within 15 days in response to a UN request. It called specifically for "Battlegroup sized forces of around 1500 land forces, personnel, offered by a single nation or through a multinational or framework nation force package.
On 10 February 2004, France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a paper outlining the "Battlegroup concept". The document proposed a number of groups based on Artemis that would be autonomous, consisting of about 1500 personnel and deployable within 15 days. These would be principally in response to UN requests at short notice and can be rapidly tailored to specific missions. They would concentrate on bridging operations, preparing the group before a larger force relieved them, for example UN or regional peacekeepers under UN mandate. The plan was approved by all groups in 2004 and in November that year the first thirteen Battlegroups were pledged with associated niche capabilities.
Early development (2005–2015)
From 1 January 2005 the Battlegroups reached initial operational capacity; full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007. Although EU member states were initially highly motivated to volunteer to fill up the roster, the fact that participating member states have to cover their own costs, which especially burdened the smaller states, has made them more reluctant. Besides, many EU member states had simultaneous obligations to fulfill for ISAF and the NATO Response Force, amongst others. This combined with the fact that EU Battlegroups have never been deployed (due to slow political decision-making), despite several occasions in which they according to various experts could or should have been (most notably DR Congo in 2006 and 2008 and Libya in 2011), has led to increasing gaps in the standby roster. Joint funding and actual usage may resolve these issues.
Further development (2016–present)
On 23 June 2016, the Brexit Referendum resulted in a vote in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Since the UK and France were the largest military powers within the EU, this would mean a serious reduction in forces available for common European defence. On 28 June, High Representative Federica Mogherini presented a new plan, the Global EU Strategy on Security and Foreign Policy, for rigorous further European military integration between the EU member states. These included more cooperation when planning missions, training and exercising soldiers, and the development of a European defence industry. For the EU Battlegroups specifically, the plan aims to remove the obstacles preventing their rapid deployment, such as the lack of a European military headquarters. Although stressing that NATO will remain the most important defence organisation for many EU countries, Mogherini stated that the Union should be able to operate 'autonomously if necessary' on security matters. Referring to the EU's diplomacy and development record, she said that 'Soft power is not enough', and that in a less secure world, especially after Brexit, common action was needed more than ever.
On 14 November 2016, the 56 European Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence agreed to the Global EU Strategy on Security and Foreign Policy. This included new possibilities for the rapid deployment of EU Battlegroups with aerial support for civil and military operations in conflict zones outside Europe, for example, before a UN peacekeeping force can arrive. Although Mogherini said the Strategy was 'not a European army' or a 'NATO duplicate', the recent U.S. presidential election of Donald Trump, who had previously implicitly threatened to abandon NATO if its European member states continued to fail in meeting their funding obligations, influenced the European Ministers' decision as well. Besides Brexit and the election of Trump, Russia's military expansionism and the European migrant crisis motivated them as well, making them agree relatively easily, which analysts regarded as a breakthrough.
On 6 March 2017, the foreign and defence ministers agreed to establish a small European command centre in Brussels for military training missions abroad, which could grow out to become a European military 'headquarters' in the future. This Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) was confirmed and established by the Council of the European Union on 8 June 2017. This came one day after the European Commission launched the European Defence Fund (EDF), comprising €5.5 billion per year, to 'coordinate, supplement and amplify national investments in defence research, in the development of prototypes and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology'. Until then, the lack of a common military fund had been the main obstacle to the effective operational deployment of the EU Battlegroups. An agreement on Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence (PESCO) was reached at the 22–23 June EU summit in Brussels. A June 2017 Eurobarometer opinion poll showed that 75% of Europeans supported a common European security and defence policy, and 55% even favoured a European army. Political leaders such as Dutch PM Mark Rutte commented that a 'European army' was not in the making, however.
The Battlegroups are designed to deal with those tasks faced by the Common Security and Defence Policy, namely the Petersberg tasks (military tasks of a humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature).
Planners claim the Battlegroups have enough range to deal with all those tasks, although such tasks ought to be limited in "size and intensity" due to the small nature of the groups. Such missions may include conflict prevention, evacuation, aid deliverance or initial stabilisation. In general these would fall into three categories; brief support of existing troops, rapid deployment preparing the ground for larger forces or small-scale rapid response missions.
A Battlegroup is considered to be the smallest self-sufficient military unit that can be deployed and sustained in a theatre of operation. EU Battlegroups are composed of approximately 1500 troops; plus command and support services.
There is no fixed structure, a 'standard' group would include a headquarters company, three infantry companies and corresponding support personnel. Specific units might include mechanised infantry, support groups (e.g. fire or medical support), the combination of which allows independent action by the group on a variety of tasks. The main forces, extra support and "force headquarters" (front line command) are contained within the Battlegroup "package", in addition there is the operation headquarters, located in Europe.
Larger member states will generally contribute their own Battlegroups, while smaller members are expected to create common groups. Each group will have a 'lead nation' or 'framework nation' which will take operational command, based on the model set up during the EU's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Operation Artemis). Each group will also be associated with a headquarters. Three non-EU NATO countries, Norway, Turkey, and North Macedonia, participate in a group each, as well as one non-EU non-NATO country, Ukraine. Denmark has an opt-out clause in the Treaty of Maastricht and is not obliged to participate in the Common Security and Defence Policy. Also Malta currently does not participate in any Battlegroup.
- Participating EU NATO member states
- Participating EU non-NATO member states
- Participating non-EU NATO member states
- Participating non-EU non-NATO member states
- Non-participating EU member states
From 1 January 2005 the Battlegroups reached initial operational capacity: at least one Battlegroup was on standby every 6 months. The United Kingdom and France each had an operational Battlegroup for the first half of 2005, and Italy for the second half. In the first half of 2006, a Franco-German Battlegroup operated, and the Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup. In the second half of that year just one Battlegroup operated composed of France, Germany and Belgium.
Full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007, meaning the Union could undertake two Battlegroup sized operations concurrently, or deploy them simultaneously into the same field. The Battlegroups rotate every 6 months, the roster from 2007 onwards is as follows;
|Period||Battlegroup||Framework Nation||Other participants*||Force HQ (FHQ)||Size|
|British Battlegroup||United Kingdom||–||London|
|Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup||Italy||Spain, Greece and Portugal||Rome||1500|
|II||French–German–Belgian Battlegroup||France||Germany and Belgium||Paris|
|Battlegroup 107||Germany||The Netherlands and Finland||Potsdam||1720|
|II||Multinational Land Force||Italy||Hungary and Slovenia||Udine||1500|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus||Larissa||1500|
|2008||I||Nordic Battlegroup (NBG08)||Sweden||Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Ireland and Norway||Enköping||1500|
|Spanish-led Battlegroup||Spain||Germany, France and Portugal||Unknown||Unknown|
|British Battlegroup||United Kingdom||–||London|
|2009||I||Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup||Italy||Spain, Greece and Portugal||Rome||1500|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus||Unknown||1500|
|II||Czech–Slovak Battlegroup||Czech Republic||Slovakia||2500|
|Belgian-led Battlegroup||Belgium||Luxembourg and France||Unknown||???|
|2010||I||Battlegroup I-2010||Poland||Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania||Międzyrzecz|
|UK–Dutch Battlegroup||United Kingdom||The Netherlands||London||1500|
|II||Italian-Romanian-Turkish Battlegroup||Italy||Romania and Turkey||Rome|
|Spain, France, Portugal||Unknown||Unknown|
|2011||I||Battlegroup 107 (EUBG 2011/1)||Netherlands||Germany, Finland, Austria and Lithuania||Unknown||c. 2350|
|Nordic Battlegroup (NBG11)||Sweden||Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Croatia||Enköping||1500|
|II||Eurofor (Eurofor EUBG 2011-2)||Portugal||Spain, Italy, France||Florence|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine||Larissa||1500|
|2012||I||French–Belgian–Luxembourgish Battlegroup||France||Belgium and Luxembourg||Mont-Valérien|
|II||Multinational Land Force||Italy||Hungary and Slovenia.||Udine|
|German–Czech–Austrian Battlegroup||Germany||Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, North Macedonia, Ireland||Ulm|
|2013||I||Weimar Battlegroup (EU BG I/2013)||Poland||Germany and France||Międzyrzecz|
|Belgium, Luxembourg, France (unconfirmed)||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown|
|II||Battlegroup 42||United Kingdom||Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands||London|
|2014||I||Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine|
|Sweden, Finland (unconfirmed)||Sweden|
|II||EUBG 2014 II||Belgium||Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and North Macedonia||2500–3700|
|Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup||Spain||Italy|
|2015||I||Nordic Battlegroup (NBG15)||Sweden||Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ireland||France|
|2016||I||Visegrád Battlegroup||Poland||Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine||Kraków||3700|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine|
|II||German–Czech–Austrian Battlegroup||Germany||Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands||1500–2500|
|British-led Battlegroup||United Kingdom||Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Ukraine|
|2017||I||Multinational Land Force||Italy||Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia|
|II||Spanish-led Battlegroup||Spain||Italy, Portugal||Bétera||2500|
|Multinational Land Force||Italy||Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia|
|2018||I||Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine|
|Benelux Battlegroup||Netherlands||Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg|
|II||Benelux Battlegroup||Netherlands||Austria, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg||2500–3700|
|2019||I||Spanish-led Battlegroup||Spain||Italy, Portugal|
|French–Belgian Battlegroup||France||Belgium||Mont Valérien|
|II||Visegrád Battlegroup||Poland||Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia and Croatia||Kraków||2250|
|French-led Battlegroup||France||Mont Valérien|
|2020||I||Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ukraine and Serbia|
|II||German-Czech-Austrian Battlegroup||Germany||Austria, Czechia, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Netherlands and Sweden||Ulm||4100|
|Italian-led Battlegroup||Italy||Greece, Spain|
There are plans to extend the concept to air and naval forces, although not to the extent of having a single standing force on standby, but scattered forces which could be rapidly assembled.
- Nordic Battlegroup
- Balkan Battlegroup
- Visegrád Battlegroup
- Multinational Land Force
- Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup
- Cyprus (medical group)
- Lithuania (a water purification unit)
- Greece (the Athens Sealift Co-ordination Centre)
- France (structure of a multinational and deployable Force Headquarters)
Further details on specific contributions
- Sweden and Finland announced the creation of a joint Nordic Battlegroup. To make up the required 1500 number, they also urged Norway to contribute to the Battlegroup despite that country not being part of the EU. Recently, the number has been raised to 2400 troops with Sweden providing 2000 of these. According to Swedish newspapers the price for the 6 months in 2008 was 1.2 billion Swedish kronor (app. 150,000,000 euros) and the Battlegroup was not used.
- Finland is expected to commit troops trained to combat chemical and biological weapons, among other units such as a mortar company.
- Lithuania is expected to offer experts in water purification.
- Greece is pledging troops with maritime transport skills.
- Ireland has offered bomb disposal experts among its contribution.
The Battlegroups project is not to be confused with the projected Helsinki Headline Goal force, which concerns up to 60,000 soldiers, deployable for at least a year, and take one to two months to deploy. The Battlegroups are instead meant for more rapid and shorter deployment in international crises, probably preparing the ground for a larger and more traditional force to replace them in due time.
Western Balkans Battlegroup proposal
In 2010, a group of experts from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy proposed the establishment of a Western Balkans Battlegroup by 2020. In a policy vision titled "Towards a Western Balkans Battlegroup: A vision of Serbia's Defence Integration into the EU 2010-2020", they argued that the creation of such a Battlegroup would not only be an accelerating factor in the accession of the former Yugoslav republics into the EU, but also a strong symbolic message of reconciliation and security community reconstruction after the devastating wars of the 1990s. Furthermore, the authors of the study argued that such a Western Balkan Battlegroup, notwithstanding all the political challenges, would have a very high linguistic, cultural and military interoperability. Although decision makers initially showed a weak interest in the Western Balkans Battlegroup, the idea has recently reappeared in the parliamentary discussions in Serbia.
In 2008, the EU Battlegroup conducted wargames to protect the first-ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys. In June 2014, EUBG 2014 II with 3,000 troops from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, the Netherlands and Spain conducted a training exercise in the Ardennes, codenamed 'Quick Lion', to prevent ethnic violence between the "Greys" and the "Whites" in the imaginary country of "Blueland".
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