EU Defence Ministers to Agree Date for First Joint Military Exercises
Castle, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)
EUROPE WILL take a symbolic step towards its defence and security ambitions today when it agrees to the first timetable for EU military exercises - including some without Nato, if necessary.
A meeting of defence ministers in Brussels will rubber-stamp proposals designed to help the EU declare by December that its rapid reaction force is operational.
EU leaders have agreed to set up a 60,000-strong rapid reaction unit capable of doing peace-keeping and crisis intervention tasks and staying in the field for up to a year. While that number of troops will not be available until 2003, the 15 EU member states believe they are on course to produce a force that can do some peace- keeping duties by the end of the year.
The policy paper and timetable for exercises, due to be agreed today, are designed to test command and control procedures, rather than deploying troops, aircraft or ships on military manoeuvres. Three different scenarios are being catered for: those involving just EU forces and using national operations centres, more serious situations that would require Nato support and those where the EU would work with international bodies such as the United Nations.
That means Europe can go ahead with exercises under the first of those categories without clinching an agreement to gain guaranteed access to Nato's military planning. …