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EU outlines plans for 'military Schengen zone'

Chase Winter
March 28, 2018

The EU wants to streamline military movements across the bloc and make infrastructure more suitable for military use. The plan has been dubbed a "military Schengen," a reference to Europe's passport-free travel zone.

US Army tanks move through the Netherlands on their way to Germany for the NATO quick reaction force
Image: Getty Images/AFP/R. van Lonkhuijsen

The European Union unveiled plans on Wednesday to lower barriers for moving military equipment and troops across Europe amid rising concern of Russian aggression.

The 28-member bloc has sought to better integrate defense capabilities and capacities with a vision towards creating a European Defense Union by 2025 and meeting NATO priorities for swift military movements. 

Read more: PESCO: EU army one step closer after defense pact agreement

NATO in Europe needs 'military Schengen' to rival Russian mobility

The European Commission proposal calls for identifying rail and road routes suitable for military transport and upgrading existing infrastructure, for example by ensuring the height or the weight capacity of bridges can handle tanks and heavy military equipment.

Another part of the EU executive's plan wants to evaluate options to streamline border checks to speed up the transport of military hardware, dangerous goods and personnel across borders.

"By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said the objective is to make sure military needs are taken into consideration when developing infrastructure projects.

"This means a more efficient use of public money and a better-equipped transport network, ensuring a quick and seamless mobility across the continent. This is a matter of collective security," she said.

Read more: NATO General Pavel: we are increasing 'readiness' to meet world challenges

The European Commission plan must now be approved by EU governments and reviewed by the European Parliament. The first part of the action plan is expected to be carried out in the coming months and a first progress report delivered in summer 2019.

A confidential NATO report last year questioned the alliance's ability to defend against a Russian attack, citing a smaller command structure since the end of the Cold War and logistical difficulties on the alliance's eastern flank.

Read moreNATO report casts doubt on ability to defend against Russian attack on eastern flank

NATO is planning to establish a new logistics command to move troops and equipment more quickly across Europe in any possible conflict. A second command is planned to be set up to ensure mobility in North Atlantic shipping lanes. The European Commission said the action plan compliments rather than competes with NATO.

Read moreGermany proposes Ulm as NATO logistics hub against Russia

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