Management of Defence - European Union - m23 -Armed Forces


The position of the UK Government (early 2011) is that NATO is the cornerstone of UK national defence, but that the EU can accomplish many tasks that are complementary to NATO.

The European Union (EU) consists of:

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Cyprus (Greek part)

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark

  • Estonia

  • Finland

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Ireland

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Lithuania

  • Luxembourg

  • Malta

  • Netherlands

  • Poland

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • United Kingdom

European Defence Agency

The European Defence Agency (EDA) was established on 12 July 2004 following a unanimous decision by European Heads of State and Government. It was established under the Council Joint Action 2004/5 51/CFSP on the basis of Article 14 of the treaty on the European Union (Maastricht).

The purpose of the European Defence Agency is to support the Member States and the Council of Europe in order to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management, and to sustain and develop the European Security and Defence Policy.

The EDA has the following tasks:

  • To improve the EU's defence capabilities in the field of crisis management.

  • To promote European armaments cooperation.

  • To strengthen the European defence industrial and technological base and create a competitive European defence equipment market, in consultation with the Commission.

  • To promote research, in liaison with Community research activities, with a view to strengthening Europe's industrial and technological potential in the defence field.


In the longer term the EDA will achieve its goals by:

  • Encouraging EU governments to spend defence budgets on meeting tomorrow's challenges, not yesterday's threats.

  • Helping them to identify common needs and promoting collaboration to provide common solutions.

  • The EDA is an agency of the European Union and therefore under the direction and authority of the Council, which issues guidelines to and receives reports from the High Representative as Head of the Agency. Detailed control and guidance, however, is the responsibility of the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee, the principal decision-making body of the Agency is made up of Defence Ministers from participating Member States (all EU members except Denmark) and a member of the European Commission. In addition to ministerial meetings at least twice a year, the Steering Committee also meets at the level of national armaments directors, national research directors, national capability planners and policy directors.

The EDA's Chief Executive is Claude-France Arnould who was appointed in January 2011. She has more than 20 years’ experience in External Relations, Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Common Security and Defence Policy.

The EDA Headquarters is in Brussels (Belgium) and there is approximately 100 staff.

The Agency had a budget of €31 million (US$£38 million) in 2010.

European Union Institute for Strategic Studies (EU-ISS)

The EU-ISS is based in Paris and was established in 2002 and is an independent think tank that researches issues relevant to EU defence and security. Much of the work is published and the EU-ISS organises conferences and seminars on all aspects of EU related defence and security.

EU Helsinki Headline Goal 2010

The European Union (EU) has adopted the following illustrative scenarios which form the basis for force planning to meet the EU Helsinki Headline Goal 2010:

  • Stabilisation, reconstruction and military advice to third countries

  • Conflict Prevention

  • Evacuation Operation in a non-permissive environment

  • Separation of Parties by Force

  • Assistance to Humanitarian Operations

UK Commitment to the European Helsinki Goal 2010

In early 2005 the UK MoD confirmed a declaration of up to 12,500 troops towards the Helsinki Headline Goal on a voluntary case-by-case basis. Of this figure about 35% are infantry troops.

The UK currently offers three brigades which allows the UK to provide either an Armoured Brigade (based on Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles and Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks), a Mechanised Brigade (based on Saxon Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks) or an Air Assault Brigade consisting of lightly equipped infantry in the Air Manoeuvre role. An Amphibious Brigade (3 Commando Brigade) from the Royal Navy may also be available. Up to 18 UK warships and 72 UK combat aircraft are also available for EU operations.

However, these national forces are made available for EU operations on a voluntary, case-by-case basis, as for NATO or UN operations. UK contributions to such operations are provided from within existing forces.

As yet (early 2009) there is no standing European Rapid Reaction Force nor any EU agreement to create one. What has sometimes been referred to as a ‘European Rapid Reaction Force’ is, in fact, a catalogue of forces which member states could make available to the EU should they choose to participate in a particular EU-led operation. Any contribution to a particular EU-led operation would depend on the operation's requirements, the availability of forces at the time and the willingness of EU members to participate.

EU military plans

In the immediate future, the EU plans to be able to provide at least one coherent Battlegroup package at any one time (usually two), to undertake Battlegroup-sized operations in support of the EU Helsinki Headline Goals.

Full Operational Capability (FOC) was reached at the end of 2007 when all Battlegroups became available. The EU now has the capacity to undertake at least two concurrent single Battlegroup-size rapid response operations, including the ability to launch both such operations nearly simultaneously.

EU Member States have indicated that they will commit to Battle Groups, formed as follows:

1 United Kingdom
2 France and Belgium
3 Italy
4 Spain
5 France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg and Spain
6 Germany, The Netherlands and Finland
7 Germany, Austria and The Czech Republic
8 Italy, Hungary and Slovenia
9 Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal
10 Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania
11 Sweden, Finland and Norway
12 United Kingdom and The Netherlands

UK Battlegroup Involvement

From July to December 2008 the UK provided a Battlegroup force package ready and trained to respond to emerging contingencies following a unanimous decision of the European Council of Ministers, With Britain having a veto, any decision to deploy the Battlegroup would have remained with the UK. The UK Battle Group was at readiness alongside a German-led Battlegroup with a Headquarters provided by the UK’s Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ).

The UK Battlegroup would have been be able to deploy within 5-10 days and sustained initially for 30, but possibly up to 120 days while operating up to 6,000km from Brussels.

EU Military Structures

The following table sets out the main multilateral military structures outside NATO which include European Union members. A number of these also include non-EU countries. In addition, there are many other bilateral military agreements between individual EU member states.

The UK is a party to military agreements in respect of four of the structures listed in the following table. Military agreements between other EU members are a matter for those member states' governments.

Structure EU Participants
EAG - European Air Group Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK
European Airlift Centre Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK
Sealift Coordination Centre
Netherlands, UK
European Amphibious Initiative (including the UK/Netherlands Amphibious Force) France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK
SHIRBRIG—Stand-by High
Readiness Brigade
Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden. (Observers: Czech Republic, Hungary)
SEEBRIG—South-Eastern Europe Brigade Greece, Italy, Slovenia
NORDCAPS—Nordic Coordinated Arrangement for Military
Peace Support
Finland, Sweden, Denmark
EUROCORPS Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Luxembourg
EUROFOR France, Italy, Portugal, Spain
EUROMARFOR France, Italy, Portugal, Spain


The Eurocorps was created in 1992 and comprises military contributions from its five framework nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain. The Headquarters is located in Strasbourg (France). Austria, Canada, Greece, Italy, Poland and Turkey have military liaison staff co-located at Eurocorps HQ.

The Commander Eurocorps (COMEC) is a Lieutenant General (3 stars). The Deputy Commander (DCOM) is a Major General (2 stars). The staff is directed by the Chief of Staff (COS), also a Major General and he is supported by two Deputy Chiefs of Staff (DCOS) for Operations and Support, both of whom are Brigadier Generals (1 star).

The posts of Commanding General, DCOM and the other general officers as well as some key functions are filled by EC framework nations on a rotational basis. COMEC, DCOM and COS are always of different nationalities. Their tour of duty generally lasts for two years.

The Eurocorps consists of formations under direct operational control and formations earmarked for assignment during an emergency:

Under direct operational control:

  • Franco German Brigade (GE-FR Bde)

  • Multinational Command Support Brigade (MNCS Bde)

Formations earmarked for assignment during an emergency:

French Contribution

Etat-Major de Force numéro 3 (EMF3) in Marseille (equivalent to a divisional HQ) composed of:

  • 1 x Armoured Brigade

  • 1 x Mechanised Infantry Brigade

  • Specialised support units

German Contribution

The 10th Armoured Division, with its HQ in Sigmaringen, composed of:

  • 2 x Brigades as required

  • Specialised support units

Belgian Contribution

Belgian Operational Command Land, with its HQ in Evere, composed of:

  • 1st Mechanised Brigade in Leopoldsburg

  • 7th Mechanised Brigade in Marche-en-Fammene

  • Support units

Spanish Contribution

1st Mechanised Division with its HQ in Burgos, composed of:

  • 10th Mechanised Brigade in Cordoba

  • 11th Mechanised Brigade in Badajoz

  • 12th Armoured Brigade in Madrid

Luxembourg Contribution

Luxembourg assigns a reconnaissance company composed of about 180 personnel. During operations this unit would be integrated into the Belgian contingent..

During the past decade the Eurocorps has been involved in operations as follows:

  • SFOR (Bosnia) 1999-2000

  • KFOR III (Kosovo) 2000

  • ISAF IV (Afghanistan) 2004-2005

Note: If all earmarked national contributions were committed to operations, the Eurocorps would number approximately 60,000 personnel.


Franco - German Brigade (FGB)

This is a joint formation which consists of both French and German units and under the direct command of the Eurocorps.


Franco - German Brigade outline structure

Approximately 5,200 personnel

(1) 3e Regiment de Hussars
(2) Jagerbataillon 292
(3) 110e Regiment d’Infanterie
(4) Panzerartilleriebataillon 295
(5) Panzerpionierkompanie 500
(6) Logistic Battalion with: Supply Company; Maintenance Company; Transport Company; Administration & Support Company; HQ & Suport Company.

The Eurocorps was inaugurated in January 1989 and declared operational in October 1991.
The FGB is essentially a wheeled mechanised Brigade. It is the core entry group for Eurocorps operations and in concert with the EU Battlegroups the immediate EU reserve formation.