Defence forces of the European Union

Coat of arms of European Union military staff

This article outlines the defence forces of the European Union (EU), which implement the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in CSDP missions. There are two categories of EU multinational forces: ones that have been established intergovernmentally and made available to the CSDP through article 42.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), such as the Eurocorps; and the EU Battlegroups, established at the EU level.

EU military or crisis operations

The military operations of the EU are typically named with a prefix that is either European Union Force (EUFOR) or European Union Naval Force (NAVFOR), depending on whether the operation is terrestrial or at sea. The suffix is typically the area in which the operation took place, e.g. European Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED). The operations therefore have unique names, although the force may also consist of permanent multinational forces such as the European Corps.

Pre-organised forces

Irish Army personnel from the Nordic Battle Group at an exercise in 2010

The Helsinki Headline Goal Catalogue is a listing of rapid reaction forces composed of 60,000 troops managed by the European Union, but under control of the countries who deliver troops for it.[citation needed] The Headline Goal 2010 was its successor.

Forces introduced at Union level include:

EU Battlegroups

The EU Battlegroups (BG) adhere to the CSDP, and are based on contributions from a coalition of member states. Each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements.[1][2] The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union. The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of November 2018, they have yet to see any military action.[3] Based on existing ad hoc missions which the European Union (EU) has undertaken, they have been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe.[2]

The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.[4]

European Medical Corps

The European Medical Corps (EMC) is an incident response team that was launched on 15 February 2016 by the European Union to provide an emergency response force to deal with outbreaks of epidemic disease anywhere in the world.[5] The EMC was formed after the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa when the WHO was criticized for a slow and insufficient response in the early stages of the Ebola outbreak.[6] The EMC is part of the emergency response capacity of European countries.[7] Teams from nine EU member states—Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden — are available for deployment in an emergency. The EMC consist of medical teams, public health teams, mobile biosafety laboratories, medical evacuation capacities, experts in public health and medical assessment and coordination, and technical and logistics support.[8] Any country in need of assistance can make a request to Emergency Response Coordination Centre, part of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department.[9] The first deployment of the EMC was announced by the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection on 12 May 2016, a response to the outbreak of yellow fever in Angola in 2016.[10] An earlier concept of an emergency medical response team was Task Force Scorpio formed by the United Nations during the first Gulf War.

European Medical Command

The European Medical Command (EMC) is a planned medical command centre in support of EU missions, formed as part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).[11] The EMC will provide the EU with a permanent medical capability to support operations abroad, including medical resources and a rapidly deployable medical task force. The EMC will also provide medical evacuation facilities, triage and resuscitation, treatment and holding of patients until they can be returned to duty, and emergency dental treatment. It will also contribute to harmonising medical standards, certification and legal (civil) framework conditions.[12]

Crisis Response Operation Core

EUFOR Crisis Response Operation Core (EUFOR CROC) is a flagship defence project under development as part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) facility. EURFOR CROC will contribute to the creation of a "full spectrum force package" to speed up provision of military forces and the EU's crisis management capabilities.[13] Rather than creating a standing force, the project involves creating a concrete catalogue of military force elements that would speed up the establishment of a force when the EU decides to launch an operation. It is land-focused and aims to generate a force of 60,000 troops from the contributing states alone. While it does not establish any form of "European army", it foresees an deployable, interoperable force under a single command.[14] Germany is the lead country for the project, but the French are heavily involved and it is tied to President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to create a standing intervention force. The French see it as an example of what PESCO is about.[15]

Rapid Deployment Capacity

A permanent European Union Rapid Deployment Capacity (EU RDC) consisting of up to 5,000 troops (the size of a brigade) is to be operational by 2025.[16] During the German EU presidency in the second half of 2020, the EU Common Security and Defence Policy began development of the Strategic Compass for Security and Defence,[17] as of November 2021 envisioning a large intervention force described as 'substantially modified EU battlegroups' of 5,000 soldiers by 2025.[18]

Provided through the Treaty of European Union

Personnel of the European Corps in Strasbourg, France, during a change of command ceremony in 2013
Location of headquarters of a selection of intergovernmental defence organisations that are established outside the EU framework, but may support the CSDP in accordance with Article 42.3 of the Treaty on European Union

This section presents an incomplete list of forces and bodies established intergovernmentally amongst subsets of Member states of the European Union.

These multinational organizations may also be deployed either in a NATO environment, through the EU, acting upon the mandate of the participating countries, or acting upon the mandate of other international organisations, such as United Nations, or the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Land forces:

Air forces:

  • The European Air Transport Command (EATC) is the command centre that exercises the operational control of the majority of the aerial refueling capabilities and military transport fleets of the seven participating nations. Located at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands, the command also bears a limited responsibility for exercises, aircrew training and the harmonisation of relevant national air transport regulations.[21][22] The command was established in 2010 with a view to provide a more efficient management of the participating nations' assets and resources in this field.
  • Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG), a tri-lateral agreement to operate NATO, EU and UN tasks.

Naval forces:


  • The Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), is a Franco-British military force. It draws upon both the British Armed Forces and the French Armed Forces to field a deployable force with land, air and maritime components together with command and control and supporting logistics. It is distinct from the similarly named UK Joint Expeditionary Force. The Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (or CJEF) is envisaged as a deployable, combined Franco-British military force for use in a wide range of crisis scenarios, up to and including high intensity combat operations. As a joint force it involves all three armed Services: a land component composed of formations at national brigade level, maritime and air components with their associated Headquarters, together with logistics and support functions. The CJEF is not conceived as a standing force but rather as available at notice for UK-French bilateral, NATO, European Union, United Nations or other operations. Combined air and land exercises commenced during 2011 with a view towards developing a full capability. The CJEF is also seen as a potential stimulus towards greater interoperability and coherence in military doctrine, training and equipment requirements.

Member state participation in various force-related organisations

Overview and EU member states' participation
Finabel European Corps[26][27] European Gendarmerie Force European Air Transport Command European Air Group European Maritime Force European Rapid Operational Force Movement Coordination Centre Europe[a] Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation
Arms Finabel European Corps European Gendarmerie Force European Air Transport Command European Air Group European Maritime Force European Rapid Operational Force Movement Coordination Centre Europe OCCAR logo.jpg
Branch Terrestrial Aerial Naval Multi-component
Description Organisation promoting interoperability Corps Gendarmerie Command for refueling and transport capabilities Organisation promoting interoperability Non-standing force Rapid reaction force Control centre for movement Control centre for armament
Founded 1953 1992 2006 2010 1995 1995 (1995-2012) 2007 1996
Seat Brussels Strasbourg Vicenza Eindhoven RAF High Wycombe Florence Eindhoven Brussels
Capacity 60 000 troops 2 300 troops 220 aircraft 12 000 troops
Response time 30 days 30 days 5 days 5 days
Motto Reflexion serving military action None Lex paciferat Integrated, innovative, efficient Improved capability through interoperability At sea for peace None None None
Working language English English Un­known English Un­known Un­known Un­known Un­known Un­known
Membership (year of accession)
Austria No No No No No 2010 No
Belgium 1953 1993 2010 1997 No No 2007 2003
Bulgaria No No No No No No No 2017 No
Cyprus 2008 No No No No No No No
Croatia 2017 No No No No No 2011 No
Czech Republic 2012 No No No No 2010 No
Denmark No No No No No No 2007 No
Estonia No No No No No No 2007 No
Finland 2008 No No No No No 2007 No
France 1953 1992 2006 2010 1995 1995 1995 2007 1996
Germany 1956 1992 2010 1997 No No 2007 1996
Greece 1996 No No No No No No No
Hungary 2015 No No No No No 2007 No
Ireland No No No No No No No No
Italy 1953 No 2006 2015 1997 1995 1995 2007 1996
Latvia 2016 No No No No No 2007 No
Lithuania No No Partner No No No No 2015 No
Luxembourg 1953 1996 2012 No No 2007 No
Malta 2010 No No No No No No No
Netherlands 1953 No 2006 2010 1997 No No 2007 No
Poland 2006 2022 2011 No No No No 2008 No
Portugal 1996 No 2006 No No 1995 1995 2010 No
Romania 2008 No 2009 No No No No 2008 No
Slovakia 2006 No No No No 2015 No
Slovenia 2016 No No No No No 2007 No
Spain 1990 1994 2006 2014 1997 1995 1995 2007 2005
Sweden 2015 No No No No No 2007 No

See also

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  1. ^ The membership of Movement Coordination Centre Europe also includes some countries outside the union


  1. ^ "Choose a language - Consilium" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-28. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  2. ^ a b New force behind EU foreign policy BBC News – 15 March 2007
  3. ^ Vincent, Michael (2018-11-20). "EU Battlegroups: The European 'army' that politicians can't agree how to use". ABC News.
  4. ^ Value of EU 'Battlegroup' plan stressed by Annan Archived 2009-02-13 at the Wayback Machine 15 October 2004
  5. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - EU launches new European Medical Corps to respond faster to emergencies". Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  6. ^ Moon, Suerie; et al. (28 November 2015). "Will Ebola change the game? Ten essential reforms before the next pandemic. The report of the Harvard-LSHTM Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola". The Lancet. 386 (10009): 2204–2221. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00946-0. PMC 7137174. PMID 26615326.
  7. ^ "European Emergency Response Capacity - Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection - European Commission". Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  8. ^ "European Medical Corps part of the European Emergency Response Capacity" (PDF). Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) - Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection - European Commission". Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  10. ^ "EU sends new medical corps team to Angola yellow fever outbreak". 12 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  11. ^ "In Defence of Europe - EPSC - European Commission". EPSC.
  12. ^ "PESCO-Overview-of-First-Collaborative-of-projects-for-press" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-10-07.
  13. ^ "Project outlines" (PDF).
  14. ^ "European Defence: What's in the CARDs for PESCO?" (PDF).
  15. ^ Barigazzi, Jacopo (10 December 2017). "EU unveils military pact projects". Politico. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  16. ^ "EU Rapid Deployment Capacity | EEAS Website".
  17. ^ Claudia Rodel (16 November 2020). "Krisenmanagement, Resilienz und Fähigkeiten Europas unter der Lupe". Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  18. ^ kle/bru (dpa, afp) (10 November 2021). "EU-Außenbeauftragter präsentiert Konzept für EU-Eingreiftruppe". Deutsche Welle (in German). Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  19. ^ "Eurocorps' official website / History". Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  20. ^ Arcudi, Giovanni; Smith, Michael E. (2013). "The European Gendarmerie Force: A solution in search of problems?". European Security. 22: 1–20. doi:10.1080/09662839.2012.747511. S2CID 153388488.
  21. ^ Eindhoven regelt internationale militaire luchtvaart (in Dutch)
  22. ^ "Claude-France Arnould Visits EATC Headquarters". Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  23. ^ EUROMARFOR – At Sea for Peace pamphlet[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  24. ^ Biscop, Sven (2003). Euro-Mediterranean security: a search for partnership. Ashgate Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7546-3487-4.
  25. ^ EUROMARFOR Retrospective – Portuguese Command[permanent dead link], page 12. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  26. ^ "Contributing nations". Eurocorps (in French). Retrieved 2022-05-03.
  27. ^ "The Eurocorps - Historical events in the European integration process (1945–2014) - CVCE Website". Retrieved 2022-05-03.

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