European Union battlegroups

European Union battlegroups

European Union battlegroups (EU BGs) are military forces under the direct control of the European Council, each consisting of at least 1500 combat soldiers. Fifteen battlegroups have been established, most of which consist of multi-national countributions. The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times.

The battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007. They are based on existing "ad hoc" missions that the European Union (EU) has undertaken and has been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe. [ New force behind EU foreign policy] BBC News - 15 March 2007] The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots. [ [ Value of EU 'battlegroup' plan stressed by Annan] 15/10/04]


The initial ideas for the Battle Groups 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 the 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 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. [(all Background) [ Enter the EU Battlegroups] ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007; p.9-12]


The groups are intended to be deployed on the ground within 5-10 days of approval from the Council. It must be sustainable for at least 30 days, which could be extended to 120 days, if resupplied. [ [ EU Battlegroups factsheet] November 2006]

The Battlegroups are designed to deal with a those tasks faced by the ESDP, namely the Petersberg tasks and the tasks from the European Security Strategy: Humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking (the Petersberg tasks), joint disarmament operations, support for 3rd countries in combating terrorism, security sector reform operations as part of broader institution building (the European Security Strategy tasks).

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. [(all Tasks) [ Enter the EU Battlegroups] ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007; p.17-19]


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. [(all Structure) [ Enter the EU Battlegroups] ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007]


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.

The initial thirteen battlegroups [ [ EU Battlegroups factsheet] November 2006] were proposed on 22 November 2005, further groups have joined them. The declared groups are as follows:

:* Usually, not always permanent, depends on deployment.

The Visegrád Group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) are considering a joint battlegroup as of April 2007 [ [ Joint Communiqué of the Ministers of Defence of the Visegrad Group Countries, Bratislava, 12 April 2007] 12/04/07] . There are plans to extend the concept to air and naval forces, although not to the extent of having a single standing force on standby, but scattered forces which could be rapidly assembled. [ [ EU To Include Air, Naval Forces in Battlegroup Concept] 19/03/07]

Denmark has an opt-out clause in its accession treaty and is not obliged to participate in the common defence policy. Also Malta currently does not participate in any battlegroup.

Niche capabilities

The following Member States have also offered niche capabilities in support of the EU Battlegroups [cite web|url= |title=EU Battlegroups - Annex A: Battlegroup Concept |accessdate=2006-08-26 |accessmonthday= |accessyear= |author= |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2005-02-19 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=United Kingdom Parliament |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate=] :

* 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 Battle Group. 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. [ along with 80 bomb disposal and communication specialists from Ireland and 45 from Estonia [2] ).cite web|url= |title=Inauguration of the Nordic Battle Group Headquarters |accessdate=2006-08-26 |accessmonthday= |accessyear= |author=Ulf K. Rask |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2006-05-29 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=Försvarsmakten |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate=]

* 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.

tandby roster

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. [ [ The EU Battlegroups: p8]]

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 [ [ Enter the EU Battlegroups] ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007, p.88] ;


The EU battlegroup recently conducted wargames to protect the first ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys. [ [ Enter In defence of Europe] BBC News 5th June 2008]


External links

* [ Article: EU Battle Groups 2007 – where next]
* [ Article: EU-Battlegroups - Stand und Probleme der Umsetzung in Deutschland und für die EU]
* [ EU factsheet on Battlegroups]
* [ EU Battlegroups]
* [ Inauguration of the Nordic Battle Group Headquarters] HQ NBG
* [ The presentation of the Eurocorps-Foreign Legion concept + EU battle groups at the European parliament in June 2003]

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