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‘Europe is in danger’: top diplomat proposes EU military doctrine

Published: Updated:

The European Union’s foreign policy chief warned the bloc on Wednesday that it must agree an ambitious doctrine as the basis for joint military action abroad, including with a deployable crisis force.

Josep Borrell told reporters his first draft of the “Strategic Compass” - the closest thing the EU could have to a military doctrine and akin to NATO’s “Strategic Concept” that sets out alliance goals - was crucial to security.

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“Europe is in danger,” Borrell said in the foreword of the full strategy document that has been sent to the EU’s 27 states for debate. “We need to have rapid deployment capabilities,” he also told reporters.

One idea is to have a 5,000-strong EU crisis force, Borrell said, stressing though that the US-led NATO alliance remains primarily responsible for Europe’s collective defense.

EU foreign and defense ministers will take up the issue on Monday, aiming to agree a political document in March.

While European countries have highly-trained soldiers and cyber, naval and air power, resources are duplicated across 27 militaries and EU train-and-assist missions are modest in size.

Member states also lack the logistics and command and control capabilities of the United States and cannot match its intelligence-gathering.

A separate threat assessment is confidential, but diplomats cite the failing states on Europe’s frontiers as areas where the EU might need to send peacekeepers or evacuate citizens.

With the blessing of US President Joe Biden in a communique with French President Emmanuel Macron last month, the EU argues it can be a more useful ally to the United States if it develops standalone military capacities.

Britain’s exit from the EU, while depriving the bloc of a military power, has given Paris an opportunity to push ambitions for a bigger EU role in defense, with Berlin.

“We have a strategic responsibility. Citizens want to be protected. Soft power is not enough,” Borrell said of the economically powerful EU, the world’s largest trade bloc.

But despite progress on building a common defense fund to develop weapons together since late 2017, the EU has yet to deploy its battalion-sized battlegroups in a crisis.

“All the threats we face are intensifying and the capacity of individual member states to cope is insufficient and declining,” Borrell said in the foreword to the draft.

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