EU defense ministers have agreed to create 13 "battle groups" by 2007 to be deployed to the world’s hotspots.
Meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU defense ministers agreed to create a series of groups which can be used in peacekeeping operations up to 6,000 kilometers (over 3,700 miles) away. The 1,000-1,500 strong forces are expected to be able to be rapidly deployable -- 10 days after a unanimous decision from EU member states has been taken and a battle plan created. In a statement, the Dutch EU presidency said that the creation of the groups would help the EU to "deal better with threats and global challenges." Diplomats say that the force is expected to be used under UN-mandated operations, preparing the ground for large UN operations that take longer to deploy. They will also be able to take on smaller missions independently. The first groups, it is hoped, will be ready in 2005-2006. France, Italy, Spain and the UK will form their own groups, in addition to nine other "battle groups," each consisting of troops from three or four member states. Ireland has said that it will look into the possibility of participating, but did not pledge troops on Monday, while Estonia has said it will take part and will continue consultations. Austria and the Czech Republic both pledged troops. Each group will be associated with a force headquarters and will be headed by a ‘lead nation,’ which will take up operational command. (EUobserver.com)