“On the military side, I would like to draw your attention to the use of battle groups — a potentially very useful tool to the support of international peace and security,” said Sweden’s ambassador in Paris, Gunnar Lund, at a meeting of the Western European Union (WEU) in the French capital.
An EU battle group consists of 1,500 multi-national soldiers who are meant to be rapidly deployed within 10 days in an emergency event outside the EU borders, while waiting for the arrival of other troops.
Two EU battle groups of 3,000 soldiers do a tour of duty every six months.
“However, as you are well aware, the battle groups have not yet been used,” said Lund, speaking on behalf of Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt.
“During the Swedish presidency, we would like to initiate an open discussion about the usability and flexibility of battle groups — without changing the battle group concept,” he told the WEU, which is concerned with European defence.
Stockholm, which has supported the five-nation Nordic battle group, regretted that the EU did not give the green light to sending it to Chad and the Central African Republic last year.
Instead, the EU took months to disengage its forces, including 200 Swedish troops, and the necessary equipment of the EUFOR operation in the two African nations dealing with rebel attacks. EUFOR finally wrapped up in April after one year.
The Nordic battle group cost Sweden more than €100 million ($140 million) in the first half of last year.
The EU battle groups have not been deployed so far because the contributing countries cannot agree on participating in a specific EU operation, or because of different opinions on how to use the units.