Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) -Plans for a European Intervention Initiative outside EU structures are moving ahead, as ten EU member states are expected to sign a letter of intent on future cooperation in June. The initiative is led by France but is understood to also include the UK as well as Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark and Estonia. The plan was originally proposed by President Macron in his Sorbonne speech in September 2017.
According to Politico, the project’s aim is to ensure that European forces are ready to act together in emergencies, with an unnamed French official adding, “It is about scoping out and jointly analyzing the sort of problems that can arise and knowing how to manage them together as effectively as possible if they materialize… It is about feeling out our partners’ priorities and knowing in advance how and how much they could contribute if a specific crisis arises.”
While Berlin reportedly is skeptical about the project, fearing it would undermine the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework, French officials are confident that their initiative allows continued uncomplicated cooperation with the UK, arguing, “It is really important to have the British on board, not just because they have the most capable, rapidly deployable armed forces along with our own, but also because we share the same strategic culture and history of projecting force outside Europe.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May endorsed the initiative at a Franco-British summit at the Sandhurst Military Academy in January but did not publicize the step to avoid antagonizing hard-line NATO oriented members of her Conservative Party, to whom any idea of an “EU army” is anathema. She also announced a practical move to help the French in the Sahel region, making available three heavy-lift Chinook helicopters to support operations in Mali. This is more important than it might sound because currently the greatest military weakness of the European nations is in air logistics.
Whilst the Germans are extremely reluctant to get involved too deeply in military interventions for financial as well as obvious historical they have 1,000 soldiers in Mali supporting the French counterterrorism campaign by serving in a U.N. peacekeeping force and participating in an EU military training mission.