"We are not dealing with Nato matters, we are dealing with European defence." Thus spoke former Bundeswehr Brigadegeneral Reimar Scherz, chairing the two-day Congress of European Defence which opened in Berlin yesterday.
Conveyed only (so far) by Deutsche Welle Scherz goes on to say, "For us it is very important to have a status report on where we are and where we're going". He continues:
The decisions are taken in Brussels as far as European defence and security policies are concerned… and we have installed a European armament agency. The western alliance Nato is the number one security force in Europe, but the European Union is building its own defence force to strengthen its own defence capabilities and deal in crisis situations where Nato is not engaged.And it is that EU "defence capability" that was on the agenda at the Congress, to which over 2000 delegates attended, including Germany's Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung and his French counterpart Michele Alliot-Marie, plus the ubiquitous EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Says Deutsche Welle, the EU's ultimate aim, according to the 1999 Helsinki agreement and the 2004 Headline Goal is to create by 2010 a European military force of 50 to 60 thousand soldiers who can be deployed within 60 days and sustained in the field for at least one year.
One of the EU priorities in defence matters is to make sure that its planned mobile battle groups are properly equipped and ready to report for duty early next year. "We have made decisions as far EU battle groups are concerned," Scherz said. "There will be 13 battle groups early next year... 1,500 soldiers each, and Germany is participating in four battle groups. Those decisions have been taken, but the question is how these decisions will be implemented."
And, as we know from Claude-France Arnould, Director of Politico-Military Affairs at the European Council, who so helpfully informed us last July, the EU Battle Groups are more a tool for political integration than to attain military objectives. Furthermore, we also know from Karl Von Wogau MEP that, through these battle groups, "We are on our way to a European Army".
Von Wogau, chairman of the European Union parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence, has declared that these groups, assembled under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), will equip the European Union in its own name to act as an autonomous military power, all in the context of threats defined by the European Security Strategy.
This is the same European Union which, incidentally, is quite happy to have US and Canadian troops in Afghanistan under a Nato banner protecting European interests, but which could not find a mere 2,000 troops for the Nato force in the region. Somebody in Nato needs to wake up and smell the coffee.