Letter from Rt Hon Geoffrey Hoon MP, Secretary
of State, Ministry of Defence to the Chairman
I understand from my Rt Hon Friend the Minister
for Europe that you would be interested in more information on
the EU Battlegroups initiative. I therefore attach some information
about the EU Battlegroup concept, one of the key initiatives in
ESDP. The UK is playing a leading role in its development. I hope
that this will help to outline the policy and importance of this
new initiative and answer any questions you may have over its
history and development.
The key stages in the development of the concept
have been captured in the Explanatory Memoranda submitted by the
FCO on 17 June 2004 and 23 December 2004 on the ESDP Presidency
Reports. Nevertheless, I appreciate your interest in this flagship
European initiative which has already demonstrated its value as
an instrument for improving Europe's high readiness capability.
I hope that this letter provides further detail which you find
19 February 2005
The EU Battlegroup concept was conceived primarily
as a means of encouraging continued improvements in deployable
European capabilities, thus widening the scope for burden sharing
with our European partners. This will in turn broaden the pool
of European high readiness capabilities available not only to
the EU but also to NATO and, specifically, the NATO Response Force.
In addition, this kind of high readiness capability meets the
UN's requirement for forces who are able to respond very rapidly
to an emerging crisis under a Chapter VII mandate, and thereby
demonstrates European willingness to meet a crucial global capability
gap in support of the United Nations.
The concept was proposed as a UK, French and
German initiative, following on from our bilateral discussions
with the French on furthering conflict prevention, peacekeeping
and peace enforcement operations in close co-operation with the
United Nations, and the Declaration made at the Anglo-French Summit
on 24 November 2003.
Battlegroups have been designed specifically,
but not exclusively, to be used in response to a request from
the United Nations to undertake rapid intervention in a hostile
environment. This might include acting to prevent atrocities or
helping with the provision of urgent humanitarian aid. This type
of scenario is particularly applicable in failing or failed states.
Recent examples in Africa (such as the UK's operational experience
in Sierra Leone, the French in Co(r)te d'Ivoire, and the EU's
operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have not only
illustrated the need for such a capability, but demonstrated how
a relatively small number of forces can have a significant effect
in a short period of time, provided they can be deployed rapidly
with the appropriate support.
The Battlegroup initiative sets a new level
of ambition for the EU, alongside the existing 1999 Helsinki Headline
Goal. It will form a part of the new 2010 Headline Goal which
adds to the original aims a clearer focus on the quality of the
capability, such as the ability to deploy forces rapidly, sustain
them at distance and operate multi nationally. The Battlegroup
initiative concentrates on smaller, higher readiness forces, more
rapidly deployable, more mobile and more self-sustainable.
The key elements of the initiative are:
Stand-alone Battlegroup-sized forces
(around 1,500 strong, including Combat Support and Combat Service
deployable within 15 days;
sustainable for 30 days (but extendable
up to 120 days);
designed for compatibility with typical
UN Chapter VII mandates to restore international peace and security;
composed of contributions from one
or more Member States, and open to participation by third parties.
Rapid response forces need not necessarily be
large but they do need to be militarily effective, credible, coherent
and capable of stand-alone operations. EU Battlegroups are composed
of the generally accepted minimum force elements necessary to
meet such requirements. They are a specific form of rapid response
and constitute part of the wider strands of work that collectively
make up the EU's efforts to improve its ability in this area.
In discussions between the EU and NATO, there
has been broad agreement that the Battlegroup initiative will
be mutually reinforcing with the larger NATO Response Force (NRF),
each providing a positive impetus for military capability improvement.
Wherever possible and applicable, standards, practical methods
and procedures for Battlegroups are analogous to those defined
within the NRF. Correctly managed, there is considerable potential
for synergy between the two initiatives.
The types of mission for which the NRF and Battlegroups
are designed are complementary, rather than being duplicative.
The NRF is designed to participate in the full range of Alliance
missions, up to and including high intensity war-fighting. This
may include a show of force, stand-alone use for crisis response
operations, or initial entry for a larger operation. On the other
hand, EU Battlegroups will in most cases be deployed in response
to a UN request and will be capable of robust peace enforcement
on a limited scale. Likely missions include local suppression
of hostilities, separation of parties and prevention of atrocities.
Nevertheless, we believe that the EU Battlegroups
have the potential to act as a useful stepping-stone" for
countries who want to contribute to the NRF, by developing their
high readiness forces to the required standard and integrating
small countries' contributions into multinational units. The key
will be to ensure transparency in the development of these initiatives
so that we avoid duplication and enable those Member States contributing
to both to harmonise their commitments.
This initiative has attracted a high level of
political support throughout Europe, not least as it is closely
linked to the protocol for structured co-operation" in the
new European Constitutional Treaty. Structured co-operation is
a treaty mechanism to allow some Member States to make more binding
commitments to each other in defence matters. The UK ensured that
the Treaty set out participation in battlegroups as the principal
entry criterion for membership of structured co-operation.
This has two welcome effects: first, it prevents structured co-operation
becoming a closed or exclusive club (any Member State who chooses
to meet this criterion can join); second, it has provided a strong
political incentive for all Member States to make real investment
in deployable, high readiness forces, so that they can contribute
to a battlegroup and hence be included in structured co-operation.
The Military Capability Commitments Conference
on 22 November 2004 drew commitments from 22 different EU Member
States, along with Norway, resulting in a total of 13 Battlegroups,
and a number of supporting niche capabilities, to be available
by 2007. A summary of the commitments made last November is provided
at Appendix 1. This is testament to the success of the Battlegroup
initiative in driving the development of high-quality crisis management
forces by our European partners. With so many countries participating,
each will have its turn in the spotlight.
By 2007, Full Operational Capability will be
reached, with the Union able to undertake two concurrent single
Battlegroup-size rapid response operations. In the meantime, during
the Initial Operational Capability period, the EU will be able
to provide at least one coherent Battlegroup package, to undertake
one Battlegroup-size operation.
The United Kingdom has committed one national
and one multinational Battlegroup, in partnership with the Netherlands,
based on long-standing cooperation in the UK/Dutch Amphibious
Force. We expect to hold one of these Battlegroups on standby
for six months in any two-year period. The national Battlegroup
is currently on standby for this first six-month rotation (January-June
2005), during which time France has also committed a national
Battlegroup. The UK/Dutch multinational Battlegroup will be available
after 2007. To meet these commitments, UK troops will be drawn
from the Joint Rapid Reaction Force as appropriate at the time.
However, we have made clear that reinforcement of existing operations
may restrict the UK's ability to deploy on behalf of the EU in
2005. The UK has also made available facilities at the Permanent
Joint Headquarters, Northwood, as a multi-national Operation HQ
for any future potential Swedish-led EU Battlegroup operation.
Funding for ESDP operations involving Battlegroups
would follow the agreed format for all military ESDP operations,
i.e., funding for common costs" (eg Headquarters) divided
between Member States on a Gross National Product key, and all
other costs paid for by the sending Member State.
Therefore, as has been the case with EU military
operations to date, in the Demographic Republic of Congo and Bosnia,
the majority of the costs of any EU military operation involving
a Battlegroup will fall to the Member State, or States, which
provide the forces deployed. Given that Member States are providing
their Battlegroups contributions on a voluntary rotational basis
this approach should ensure an equitable division of financial
burden between participating Member States.
The EU Battlegroup proposal was welcomed by
the European Council in March 2004. In his report on EU military
rapid response in April 2004, the Secretary General Javier Solana
proposed a methodology for developing the capabilities required
for rapid response. This proposal was approved by the Council
of Ministers in May 2004 and integrated into the Headline Goal
2010 to provide the political guidance for the development of
the concept. The Council also concluded that work on the Battlegroup
Concept should be completed by the end of the Irish Presidency
in June 2004. The European Council on 14 June welcomed the agreement
of the Battlegroups Concept by the EUMC. Finally, and as noted
above, Ministers of Defence reaffirmed their commitment to the
concept at the Military Capability Commitment Conference on 22
A roadmap leading up to the Full Operational
Capability period has recently been agreed and the next steps
will involve developing the operating standards, rotation principles
and training requirements for the Battlegroups. Work is also underway
between the EU and NATO on harmonising the Battlegroup and NRF
concepts to ensure they continue to develop on a complementary
and mutually reinforcing basis. The UK is fully engaged in this
process and is supporting EU Member States with advice on how
best to develop the critical enabling capabilities required to
deploy and sustain an EU Battlegroup.
The means by which to co-ordinate Member States'
contributions from 2007 onwards has yet to be finalised. However,
it is likely to involve a form of rotational plan based on a six-month
cycle. The system would be flexible to accommodate the different
ways in which Member States organise their contributions: some
will wish to draw on existing high readiness forces (either continuously
or periodically) to meet a Battlegroup commitment, whereas others
will prefer to generate specific formations for explicit periods
of stand-by. The most important factor is that it must be for
Member States to produce complete Battlegroup packages, either
nationally or in small multinational groups. That means small
countries providing niche contributions must ensure they are integrated
into full Battlegroups, and not simply placed on the table. The
UK is therefore opposed to any heavily centralised force generation
process which would allow countries to offer small, incoherent
contributions, relying on the EU Military Staff to bind them into
groups, and reducing the incentive of this initiative to drive
national capability improvement.
An EU Battlegroup Co-ordination Conference will
take place in May 2005 when Members States who have made commitments
will organise the rotational plan between 2007 and 2010.
EU BATTLEGROUP COMMITMENTS
So far, Member States have committed 13 EU Battlegroups,
formed as follows:
France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg
and potentially Spain
Germany, the Netherlands and Finland
Germany, Austria and Czech Republic
Italy, Hungary and Slovenia
Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal
Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia
Sweden, Finland and including Norway
as a third State
United Kingdom and the Netherlands
far, the following Member States have offered niche capabilities
in support of the EU Battlegroups:
Lithuania (a water purification unit)
Greece (the Athens Sealift Co-ordination
France (structure of a multinational
and deployable Force Headquarters)
47 Protocol on permanent structured co-operation,
established by Articles 1-40(6) and 111-213 of the Constitution
for Europe, states that: The permanent structured cooperation
. . . shall be open to any Member State which undertakes . . .
to . . . (inter alia) have the capacity to supply by 2007
at the latest, either at national level or as a component of multinational
force groups, targeted combat units for the missions planned,
structured at a tactical level as combat formations, with support
elements including transport and logistics, capable of carrying
out the tasks referred in Article 111-210, within a period of
5-30 days, in particular in response to requests from the UN Organisation,
and which can be sustained for an initial period of 30 days and
be extended up to at least 120 days." Back