Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Memorandum from Major General Graham Messervy-Whiting CBE (Rtd) (Fellow of RUSI)


  1.1  The aim of this brief submission is to flesh out some of the gaps in the answers given by colleagues, in oral evidence on 20 November 2007, to the following three of the nine questions they were asked to address:

    —  EU Battlegroups

    —  ESDP operations

    —  NATO-EU relations


2.1  What are EU BGs for?

  The EU BGs were designed to meet the requirement[130] for an element of the catalogue of military forces made available by the Member States to be capable of very rapid military reaction, in response to crises within the field of CFSP, particularly requests for urgent action from the UN to the EU. BGs are designed to be in place and able to begin implementing their mission within 15 days of an initial green light and no later than 10 days after a formal EU Ministerial-level decision to launch an operation.

2.2  Are they intended to generate deployable European forces or are they intended to be a mechanism for promoting military transformation?

  The EU's intention, initially articulated by the UK, France and Germany, was to arm the EU with a small but potent and rapidly deployable land force, backed by such enabling maritime and air capabilities as might be needed, "case by case". A secondary aspiration was that, by setting up such a BG roster with all that this would imply (education, training, force generation, validation, deployability, capability development etc) military transformation within Member States would, over time, be fostered[131].

2.3  Should BGs be the principal form of EU force generation?

  No! The EU needs to retain the capacity to generate the military (maritime, land, air) and non-military capability packages required, case by case and from the catalogues of military and non-military capabilities made available by Member States, to respond to a particular need identified, at unanimity, in the field of CFSP.

2.4  What scope is there for using BGs- where, when and in what circumstances?

  BGs were initially conceived as forces capable of being the "first in, first out" for the more rapid-reaction "Petersberg" Tasks, such as disaster relief, evacuation of EU nationals and humanitarian assistance. They were also seen as potentially "first in" for other European Security Strategy roles such as stabilisation. Their missions would be tightly defined in terms of geography (small area), time (short duration), tasks (limited) and exit strategy. The EU operation at the back of the minds of the architects of BGs was ARTEMIS, where the EU deployed a scratch rapid-reaction force, some 2,000 strong, to Bunia, in the Ituri region of the DRC, within 10 days of the Ministerial decision to launch an operation. Its mission was local stabilisation until the deployment of a UN force, to which it handed over within around 10 weeks, then withdrew. BGs are not a war-winning tool. But some foreseen BG scenarios go well beyond the "soft" end of military utility. These types of mission envisage combat operations that, while not "top- end" warfighting, could involve intense combat. BGs have been configured with such tasks in mind, being reinforced both with combat support (eg close support artillery, air defence and engineers) and combat service support (eg medical, transport and repair). With the addition of "enabling" maritime and air power, the total number of personnel in some of the BG packages may now reach some 3,000. The EU term "BG" should not therefore be read across automatically in the UK as equating to a smaller British Army BG (nor indeed to a larger RN BG). [132]

2.5  What impact have BGs had on the military capabilities of ESDP?

  Such impacts are mid- to long-term in nature and more easily gauged retrospectively. With the BGs having only come fully on-stream in January 2007 and none having as yet been deployed operationally, their impact on capabilities is too early to assess.


3.1  What impact have operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Congo and Afghanistan had on EU capabilities, inter-operability and force generation?

  A total of 17 ESDP missions have so far been mounted over the five years since the first, the EU Police Mission in Bosnia, started up in January 2003. The majority (12) have been mainly non-military in flavour; the minority (five) mainly military. In 2006 alone, ten ESDP missions were being conducted with over 10,000 men and women deployed to three continents[133]. Of the five mainly military operations, two Macedonia- completed and Bosnia- ongoing) were launched with recourse to NATO assets and capabilities under the Berlin Plus arrangements; three (ARTEMIS- completed, military assistance to the African Union Missions in Sudan and Somalia- ongoing, and the completed short-term back-up to the UN during elections in Kinshasa) were launched without recourse to NATO. Additionally, Ministers have decided: to establish[134] an EU Planning Team for a possible international civil mission in Kosovo; and to conduct[135] a deliberate (ie non rapid-reaction) bridging military operation in Eastern Chad and North-Eastern Central African Republic, following the adoption of UNSCR 1778. All these operations have undoubtedly added to the EU's knowledge base at all levels, sharpened up force generation procedures and highlighted some particular priorities for capability and interoperability improvement.

3.2  Are there lessons for NATO from the EU's holistic approach to civil-military cooperation?

  Probably yes; but it might be politically and legally difficult if not impossible for NATO to amend its Treaty basis in such a way to enable it to do so.


4.1  Do ESDP's attempts to increase European military capabilities enhance or detract from the effort to improve NATO capabilities?

  They can only enhance them: there is now a large core of 28 European countries that are members or candidates/partners for both the EU and NATO. Only two EU countries (Cyprus and Malta) and two European NATO countries (Iceland and Norway) are now outside this core group[136].

4.2  What scope is there for coordinating the development of NATO and ESDP military capabilities?

  Informal EU-NATO coordinating mechanisms have been in place since mid 2000; formal ones, such as the EU-NATO Capability Group[137] since March 2003. In practice, both political and bureaucratic issues often intervene to frustrate closer practical NATO-EU cooperation; but the ultimate safeguards against any tendency towards an unnecessary duplication of military capability are the NATO nations/EU Member States, each with their "one set of forces" and stressed defence budgets.

4.3  Is there a case for a separate ESDP military headquarters or does this risk duplicating the work of SHAPE?

  The EU has three options open for an Operation HQ (OHQ) from which command of an ESDP operation can be exercised: SHAPE Mons; one of the five national OHQs on offer (such as the UK's PJHQ Northwood); and, from June 2007, the small EU Ops Centre in Brussels. Each provides a small framework of staff and facilities (offices, communications etc) on which the designated EU Operation Commander (Op Comd) and reinforcing staff, mainly from Member States, descend in the run-up to an ESDP operation.

    —  The EU OHQ at SHAPE Mons, with DSACEUR as the EU Op Comd, would undoubtedly be chosen for any ESDP operation with recourse to NATO assets and capabilities. Admiral Feist (Germany, DSACEUR) was appointed as the Op Comd for CONCORDIA in Macedonia and General McColl (UK, DSACEUR) is currently for ALTHEA in Bosnia.

    —  One of the national OHQs would undoubtedly be chosen be for any ESDP operation without recourse to NATO assets and capabilities which was heavily military in nature. For example, Major General Neveux (France, operating from the EU OHQ in Paris) was appointed Op Comd for ARTEMIS in Bunia, DRC; Lieutenant General Viereck (Germany, operating from the EU OHQ Potsdam) was appointed for the operation during elections in Kinshasa; and senior officer operating from PJHQ Northwood would be appointed should the Nordic BG need to be deployed during its standby period (January-June 2008).

    —  The EU Ops Centre in Brussels would probably be chosen for any future ESDP operation which was largely non-military in nature or military but small and at the lower end of the conflict spectrum (eg a disaster relief mission).

  In all cases, the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC) exercises political control and strategic direction of the operation. The Director General of the EU Military Staff, currently Lieutenant General Leakey (UK) is not in the command chain but acts as the senior military staff officer in the Council General Secretariat (an analogous role to that of a senior officer in MODUK).

4.4  How have the Berlin Plus arrangements worked in practice?

  All reports from the two EU operations with recourse to NATO assets and capabilities indicate the Berlin Plus has worked remarkably well. CONCORDIA, on the ground in March 2003 just a few working weeks after the EU-NATO agreements were signed in December 2002 and successfully completed in December 2003, was a steep learning curve for all concerned, not least DSACEUR as an EU Operation Commander[138]. ALTHEA, up and running now since December 2004, has been the proof of the pudding; initial force levels were around 7,000 and were able to be reduced during 2007 to some 2,500. Indeed, some current NATO/EU practitioners are of the view that the detailed and now somewhat dated texts of Berlin Plus tend to act as a bureaucratic brake on enhanced cooperation.

12 December 2007

130   The text of the Helsinki Headline Goal includes (author's emphasis) . . ." To develop European capabilities, Member States have set themselves the headline goal: by the year 2003, cooperating together voluntarily, they will be able to deploy rapidly and then sustain forces capable of the full range of Petersberg tasks as set out in the Amsterdam Treaty, including the most demanding, in operations up to corps level (up to 15 brigades or 50,000-60,000 persons). These forces should be militarily self-sustaining with the necessary command, control and intelligence capabilities, logistics, other combat support services and additionally, as appropriate, air and naval elements. Member States should be able to deploy in full at this level within 60 days, and within this to provide smaller rapid response elements available and deployable at very high readiness. They must be able to sustain such a deployment for at least one year. This will require an additional pool of deployable units (and supporting elements) at lower readiness to provide replacements for the initial forces . . . ..". Back

131   For a recent study of many of these and other issues, see RUSI Occasional Paper "Launching EU Battlegroups", co-authored by Graham Messervy-Whiting and Tim Williams and scheduled for publication by RUSI in December 2007. Back

132   For a first-rate factual account of the development of BGs, see Gustav Lindstrom's "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (ISS Chaillot Paper No 97, February 2007). Back

133   For an analysis of the first 15 ESDP operations, see "ESDP Deployments and the European Security Strategy" ("Securing Europe?", published by Centre for Security Studies, Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, August 2006). Back

134   Joint Actions adopted by GAERC 10 April and 14 September 2006; see 7771/06 and 12159/06; Open sources reported (June 2007) that US personnel have been offered for this potential operation. Back

135   GAERC 16 October 2007 (13729/07 (Presse 237)). Back

136   However, the relevant EU Council committees, such as PSC and EUMC, regularly meet in a 27+ format to include the current EU applicant countries as well as Iceland and Norway; and Norway contributes forces to the EU Nordic BG. Back

137   The EU-NATO Capability Group acts to ensure the transparent and coherent development of capabilities across EU and NATO (EU Council doc 6805/03 dated 26 February 2003). Back

138   Some 400 military personnel were contributed from a total of 27 EU (13) and non-EU (14) countries. Back

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