Seven countries have committed more troops to European Union “battle groups”.
At a signing ceremony in Brussels with Spanish and German counterparts French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called it “a big step forward in being able to react fast in crisis zones”.
A second multinational force is made up of Swedish, Finnish, and Estonian troops, with a contingent from non-EU Norway.
The 1,500-strong battle groups are supposed to be deployable within five days of a formal decision to launch a mission.
One of their uses would be to stabilise a region in trouble until longer-term peacekeepers arrive.
A French-led EU force did this in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2003.
Defence ministers meeting in Brussels were also discussing how the EU can optimise its military resources and realise its ambitions to act prominently in world crises.
Defence spending in the EU as a whole is less than half that of the United States.