Observatory on European defence, May 2009
May 5, 2009
Appointment of the new Director General of the EU Military Staff
EU Chiefs of Staff met under the presidency of the Chairman of the EU Military Committee, Henri Bentégeat. The Chiefs appointed General Ton Van Osch (Netherlands) as next Director General of the EU Military Staff. Van Osch is going to replace the current Director General, David Leakey (United Kingdom), in spring 2010.
Moreover, the Chiefs of Staff examined the performance of the ongoing European military missions, with a special focus on the Atalanta naval counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden and on the handover from the European EUFOR Tchad/Rca mission to the UN MINURCAT mission. The Commander of operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, John McColl (UK), reported on the situation on the ground and put forward his assessment on a possible evolution of the mission (see below).
Finally, the Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, Alexander Weis, briefed the Chiefs of Staff on the capabilities development initiatives performed in the framework of the agency's Capability Development Plan.
May 6-7, 2009
NATO Military Committee spring session
The Chiefs of Staff of more than 40 countries took part in different debate sessions. The Chief of the EU Military Staff, Henri Bentégeat, his Afghan counterpart, General Mohammadi, and the Afghan Vice-minister of the Interior, General Mangal, also participated in the work.
NATO operations and the modernization of the NATO Reaction Force were at the core of the discussion. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General John Craddock, informed the Committee on the progress in the revision and modernization of the NATO Reaction Force, the rapidly deployable force which can intervene for collective defence or crisis-response operations also outside the perimeter of the Alliance. The different options to review the force will be discussed during the next NATO defence ministers meeting, scheduled for June 2009.
Regarding Afghanistan, it was emphasized that there is now better coordination between the NATO ISAF mission and the EUPOL police mission in Afghanistan. The enhanced independence and capabilities of the Afghan security forces were also stressed. Afghan forces are currently responsible for the security of Kabul and able to participate in approximately 80% of ISAF operations, taking the lead in about half of them.
Furthermore, the Chiefs of Staff discussed the planning of a NATO long-term counter-piracy intervention in Somalia and examined the KFOR mission in Kosovo, on which they will submit a report to the next defence ministers meeting.
May 12, 2009
Turnover in top NATO military posts in Europe and Afghanistan
The NATO Defence Planning Committee welcomed the request made by US President Obama to relieve the current Supreme Allied Commander Europe General John Craddock of his command and appoint Admiral James Stavridis in his place.
Admiral Stavridis has served as commander of the United States Southern Command, responsible for planning, operations and security cooperation in South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The same day it also confirmed the replacement of General David McKiernan, commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, with General Stan McChrystal. General McKiernan took office less than one year ago.
May 18-19, 2009
No relevant news from the "Jumbo" Council of Foreign, Defence and International Cooperation Ministers
The "Jumbo" Council dealt with issues related to defence and development cooperation, as well as the usual issues of general affairs and external relations. The Ministers met both separately and in full session. No relevant news emerged.
The Ministers reached a preliminary agreement on the need to extend the mandate of the Atalanta mission beyond December 2009 and the possibility of extending the mission geographically as well in response to the request made by the government of the Seychelles Islands. Various factors will affect the decision (available resources, conclusion of an agreement on the rules of engagement with the Seychelles, level of coordination with the countries of the region).
Different countries have announced their willingness to participate in Atalanta: Greece, Cyprus and Belgium have made some units available, while Slovenia and Poland will second personnel to the mission Headquarters in Northwood (United Kingdom).
Atalanta was launched in December 2008. A total of 13 ships from 6 European countries (Spain, Germany, France, Greece, Sweden, Italy) have escorted 28 cargo ships working for the United Nations World Food Programme, plus 142 commercial vessels in transit through the corridor safeguarded by Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden. Furthermore, European ships have protected the passage of transport ships aimed at maintaining the African Union AMISOM mission in Somalia.
The Ministers also adopted a new operational concept for the military operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In an undefined future, Althea may be transformed into a non-executive training mission (that is, the personnel will not be involved in any action supporting local forces). The operation, with a current staff of 2200, would also be downscaled in terms of staff. Yet the adoption of the new operational concept does not mean that a decision on Althea's future has already been reached: it will depend on political considerations and developments in the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At the moment, Althea soldiers support the action of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and are also engaged in different kinds of activities (mainly monitoring, surveillance and intelligence).
Some countries, among which the United Kingdom, do not support Althea's transformation and consequent staff reduction. According to diplomatic sources, the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, also opposes downscaling the mission.
On capabilities, the Council noted the progress made in force generation for ESPD civil missions (particularly with regard to human and financial resources and equipment supply), and reaffirmed the need to further strengthen them.
On military capabilities, the Council took note of the 2009 catalogue of forces which includes the revised contributions of the Member States.
Moreover, the ministers assessed as positive the cooperation between the Military Committee and the European Defence Agency on the first twelve priority actions of the Capability Development Plan. The European planning capability was also judged as growing.
The Council of Foreign Ministers decided upon a 6-month extension of the EU SSR Guinea Bissau operation, which supports security sector reform in Guinea. Thus the mission will conclude at the end of November 2009.
The Council expressed satisfaction with the extension of the mandate of the civil operation in Iraq EUJUST LEX until June 2010 (as decided by the Political and Security Committee at the end of March 2009), as well as with the preparation of the first pilot activities to take place in Iraqi territory.
Finally, the Defence Ministers listened to the report by Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency Alexander Weis on the programmes and initiatives conducted by the Agency in the field of military capabilities, research and development, armaments, industry and market.
The report emphasized the progress made in different priority areas such as helicopters and air transport (in particular through the project establishing a European fleet for strategic air transport), logistics, space surveillance and maritime security. Moreover, Weis stressed the Agency's efforts to improve cooperation with the European Commission and NATO and to formalize a continuous cooperative relationship with the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR).
May 29, 2009
Approval of the financial framework for the initial phase of GMES/Kopernicus
Ministers responsible for space activities and representatives of the European Space Agency met at the end of the month for the sixth "Space" Council.
The Ministers called for more effective action to strengthen mechanisms supporting innovation, in particular those aiming at reinforcing cooperation between the space sector and other research fields.
The Council underlined the contribution offered European development by the space sector in times of economic crisis. Moreover, the Ministers approved the European Commission proposal for a regulation establishing the legal framework and the financing of the initial operative phase of GMES/Kopernicus, a program aimed at collecting information on the environment and security from space.