|Type||Rapid reaction force|
18 battalions, including:|
*14 battalions with ~1,500 soldiers
*4 battalions with ~2,500 soldiers
(two of which are ready for deployment at all times)
|Part of||European Union Military Staff|
An EU Battlegroup (EU BG) is a military unit adhering to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union (EU). Often based on contributions from a coalition of member states, each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements. The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union.
The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of July 2015 they are yet to see any military action. They are based on existing ad hoc missions that the European Union (EU) has undertaken and have been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe. The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.
Battlegroups as a combined arms military unit, based around an infantry battalion or armoured regiment, are not a new concept. However, the initial ideas for specific EU Battlegroups began at the European Council summit on 10–11 December 1999 in Helsinki. The Council produced the Headline Goal 2003 and specified the need for a rapid response capability that members should provide in small forces at high readiness. The idea was reiterated at a Franco-British summit on 4 February 2003 in Le Touquet which highlighted as a priority the need to improve rapid response capabilities, "including initial deployment of land, sea and air forces within 5–10 days." This was again described as essential in the "Headline Goal 2010".
Operation Artemis in 2003 showed an EU rapid reaction and deployment of forces in a short time scale – with the EU going from Crisis Management Concept to operation launch in just three weeks, then taking a further 20 days for substantial deployment. Its success provided a template for the future rapid response deployments allowing the idea to be considered more practically. The following Franco-British summit in November of that year stated that, building on the experience of the operation, the EU should be able and willing to deploy forces within 15 days in response to a UN request. It called specifically for "Battlegroup sized forces of around 1500 land forces, personnel, offered by a single nation or through a multinational or framework nation force package.
On 10 February 2004, France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a paper outlining the "Battlegroup concept". The document proposed a number of groups based on Artemis that would be autonomous, consisting of about 1500 personnel and deployable within 15 days. These would be principally in response to UN requests at short notice and can be rapidly tailored to specific missions. They would concentrate on bridging operations, preparing the group before a larger force relieved them, for example UN or regional peacekeepers under UN mandate. The plan was approved by all groups in 2004 and in November that year the first thirteen Battlegroups were pledged with associated niche capabilities.
The Battlegroups are designed to deal with those tasks faced by the Common Security and Defence Policy, namely the Petersberg tasks (military tasks of a humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature).
Planners claim the Battlegroups have enough range to deal with all those tasks, although such tasks ought to be limited in "size and intensity" due to the small nature of the groups. Such missions may include conflict prevention, evacuation, aid deliverance or initial stabilisation. In general these would fall into three categories; brief support of existing troops, rapid deployment preparing the ground for larger forces or small-scale rapid response missions.
A Battlegroup is considered to be the smallest self-sufficient military unit that can be deployed and sustained in a theatre of operation. EU Battlegroups are composed of approximately 1500 troops; plus command and support services.
There is no fixed structure, a 'standard' group would include a headquarters company, three infantry companies and corresponding support personnel. Specific units might include mechanised infantry, support groups (e.g. fire or medical support), the combination of which allows independent action by the group on a variety of tasks. The main forces, extra support and "force headquarters" (front line command) are contained within the Battlegroup "package", in addition there is the operation headquarters, located in Europe.
Larger member states will generally contribute their own Battlegroups, while smaller members are expected to create common groups. Each group will have a 'lead nation' or 'framework nation' which will take operational command, based on the model set up during the EU's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Operation Artemis). Each group will also be associated with a headquarters. Two non-EU NATO countries, Norway and Turkey, participate in a group each, as well as two non-EU non-NATO countries, Macedonia and Ukraine. Denmark has an opt-out clause in its accession treaty and is not obliged to participate in the Common Security and Defence Policy. Also Malta currently does not participate in any Battlegroup.
- Participating EU member states
- Participating non-EU NATO member states
- Participating non-EU non-NATO member states
- Non-participating EU member states
From 1 January 2005 the Battlegroups reached initial operational capacity: at least one Battlegroup was on standby every 6 months. The United Kingdom and France each had an operational Battlegroup for the first half of 2005, and Italy for the second half. In the first half of 2006, a Franco-German Battlegroup operated, and the Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup. In the second half of that year just one Battlegroup operated composed of France, Germany and Belgium.
Although EU member states were initially highly motivated to volunteer to fill up the roster, the fact that participating member states have to cover their own costs, which especially burdened the smaller states, has made them more reluctant. Besides, many EU member states had simultaneous obligations to fulfill for ISAF and the NATO Response Force, amongst others. This combined with the fact that EU Battlegroups have never been deployed (due to slow political decision-making), despite several occasions in which they according to various experts could or should have been (most notably DR Congo in 2006 and 2008 and Libya in 2011), has led to increasing gaps in the standby roster. Joint funding and actual usage may resolve these issues.
Full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007, meaning the Union could undertake two Battlegroup sized operations concurrently, or deploy them simultaneously into the same field. The Battlegroups rotate every 6 months, the roster from 2007 onwards is as follows;
|Period||Battlegroup||Framework Nation||Other participants*||Force HQ (FHQ)||Size|
|British Battlegroup||United Kingdom||–||London|
|Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup||Italy||Spain, Greece and Portugal||Rome||1500|
|Jul–Dec||French–German–Belgian Battlegroup||France||Germany and Belgium||Paris|
|Battlegroup 107||Germany||The Netherlands and Finland||Potsdam||1720|
|Jul–Dec||Multinational Land Force||Italy||Hungary and Slovenia||Udine||1500|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus||Larissa||1500|
|2008||Jan–Jun||Nordic Battlegroup (NBG08)||Sweden||Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Norway||Enköping||1500|
|Spanish-led Battlegroup||Spain||Germany, France and Portugal||???||???|
|British Battlegroup||United Kingdom||–||London|
|2009||Jan–Jun||Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup||Italy||Spain, Greece and Portugal||Rome||1500|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus||tbd||1500|
|Jul–Dec||Czech–Slovak Battlegroup||Czech Republic||Slovakia||2500|
|Belgian-led Battlegroup||Belgium||Luxembourg and France||tbd||???|
|2010||Jan–Jun||Battlegroup I-2010||Poland||Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania||Międzyrzecz|
|UK–Dutch Battlegroup||United Kingdom||The Netherlands||London||1500|
|Jul–Dec||Italian-Romanian-Turkish Battlegroup||Italy||Romania and Turkey||Rome|
|Spain, France, Portugal||tbd||tbd|
|2011||Jan–Jun||Battlegroup 107 (EUBG 2011/1)||Netherlands||Germany, Finland, Austria and Lithuania||tbd||c. 2350|
|Nordic Battlegroup (NBG11)||Sweden||Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Croatia||Enköping||1500|
|Jul–Dec||Eurofor (Eurofor EUBG 2011-2)||Portugal||Spain, Italy, France||Florence|
|Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine||Larissa||1500|
|2012||Jan–Jun||French–Belgian–Luxembourgish Battlegroup||France||Belgium and Luxembourg||Mont-Valérien|
|Jul–Dec||Multinational Land Force||Italy||Hungary and Slovenia.||Udine|
|German–Czech–Austrian Battlegroup||Germany||Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, Ireland||Ulm|
|2013||Jan–Jun||Weimar Battlegroup (EU BG I/2013)||Poland||Germany and France||Międzyrzecz|
|Belgium, Luxembourg, France (unconfirmed)||tbd||tbd||tbd||tbd|
|Jul–Dec||Battlegroup 42||United Kingdom||Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands||London|
|2014||Jan–Jun||Balkan Battlegroup||Greece||Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine|
|Sweden, Finland (unconfirmed)||Sweden|
|Jul–Dec||EUBG 2014 II||Belgium||Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and Macedonia||2500–3700|
|Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup||Spain||Italy|
|2015||Jan–Jun||Nordic Battlegroup (NBG15)||Sweden||Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ireland||France|
|Jul–Dec||France, Belgium (unconfirmed)||France|
|2016||Jan–Jun||Visegrád Battlegroup||Poland||Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine|
|Jul–Dec||German–Czech–Austrian Battlegroup||Austria?||Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg and Croatia||1500–2500|
|2019||Jul–Dec||Visegrád Battlegroup||Poland||Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia (and Ukraine?)|
- Cyprus (medical group)
- Lithuania (a water purification unit)
- Greece (the Athens Sealift Co-ordination Centre)
- France (structure of a multinational and deployable Force Headquarters)
Further details on specific contributions
- Sweden and Finland announced the creation of a joint Nordic Battlegroup. To make up the required 1500 number, they also urged Norway to contribute in the Battlegroup despite the country not being part of the EU. Recently, the number has been raised to 2400 troops with Sweden providing 2000 of these. According to Swedish newspapers the price for the 6 months in 2008 was 1.2 billion Swedish kronor (app. 150,000,000 euros) and the Battlegroup was not used.
- Finland is expected to commit troops trained to combat chemical and biological weapons, among other units such as a mortar company.
- Lithuania is expected to offer experts in water purification.
- Greece is pledging troops with maritime transport skills.
- Ireland has offered bomb disposal experts among its contribution.
The Battlegroups project is not to be confused with the projected Helsinki Headline Goal force, which concerns up to 60,000 soldiers, deployable for at least a year, and take one to two months to deploy. The Battlegroups are instead meant for more rapid and shorter deployment in international crises, probably preparing the ground for a larger and more traditional force to replace them in due time.
Western Balkans Battlegroup proposal
In 2010, a group of experts from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy proposed the establishment of a Western Balkans Battlegroup by 2020. In a policy vision titled "Towards a Western Balkans Battlegroup: A vision of Serbia's Defence Integration into the EU 2010-2020", they argued that the creation of such a Battlegroup would not only be an accelerating factor in the accession of the former Yugoslav republics into the EU, but also a strong symbolic message of reconciliation and security community reconstruction after the devastating wars of the 1990s. Furthermore, the authors of the study argued that such a Western Balkan Battlegroup, notwithstanding all the political challenges, would have a very high linguistic, cultural and military interoperability. Although decision makers initially showed a weak interest in the Western Balkans Battlegroup, the idea has recently reappeared in the parliamentary discussions in Serbia.
In 2008, the EU Battlegroup conducted wargames to protect the first-ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys. In June 2014, EUBG 2014 II with 3,000 troops from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Netherlands and Spain conducted a training exercise in the Ardennes, codenamed 'Quick Lion', to prevent ethnic violence between the "Greys" and the "Whites" in the imaginary country of "Blueland".
- Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF)
- European Gendarmerie Force
- European Maritime Force
- European Union Military Staff
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- Also known as the Italian–Hungarian–Slovenian Battlegroup.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battlegroups of the European Union.|
- "Factsheet on EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Consilium.europa.eu. Council of the European Union. April 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- Factsheet on Battlegroups – European Parliament
- Charles Heyman (2011), The Armed Forces of the European Union, 2012-2013. Casemate Publishers.
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