From next year, the European Union will have four battle groups ready to tackle crisis spots around the world and another nine in 2007.
The rapid-reaction battalions will be made up of around 1,500 troops each. The Dutch minister of defence Henk Kamp was anxious to stress they would work in tandem with NATO’s own rapid response force: “The EU battle groups concept is complementary and mutually reinforcing with the NATO response force. The EU-NATO capability group will ensure coherence and transparent development of the capability requirements common to both organisations.” Europe’s defence ministers agreed earlier that the first wave of battle groups would come from Britain, France, Spain and Italy. The others will made up of contributions from two or more countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. The idea is that from 2007 two groups will be on standby at any one time for deployment in far-flung trouble zones within five to 10 days. Just as a French-led forces did in eastern Congo last year, the groups’ most likely use would be to restore order or stabilise a crisis zone and fill a crucial gap of up to three months until the arrival of a peacekeeping force.