|Author (Person)||Taylor, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.7, 22.2.01, p6|
EFFORTS to establish an EU rapid-reaction military force suffered a setback after member states said they will need another six months to make up glaring shortfalls in manpower and equipment.
Swedish diplomats confirmed this week that a conference of defence ministers designed to fill the gaps in pledged military hardware and personnel would not take place until October, under the Belgian presidency.
Military experts had hoped to hold the meeting sooner so that governments could identify the shortfalls and decide how to obtain the missing technology.
Diplomats say work during the Swedish presidency will focus on how to close the gaps highlighted by last November's pledging conference, with discussions expected to produce results by the autumn.
French President Jacques Chirac said last week at an Anglo-French summit meeting in Cahors that he was prepared to host a second capabilities conference. At the first meeting, under his country's presidency, defence ministers pledged to provide more than the target figure of 60,000 troops and much of the required hardware, including Challenger II tanks armed with shells tipped with depleted uranium.
But while that conference was hailed as a great success by French Defence Minister Alain Richard, it was clear that the EU force lacked major transport, intelligence and command equipment. The conference specifically identified gaps in sea and air transport, combat search and rescue, anti-air defence weapons and precision-guided munitions.
But making up these short-falls could be very expensive for member states and governments are expected to pool resources or find alternative solutions, such as leasing transport planes or satellite technology, to address the problem.
The issue has taken on extra urgency with the arrival of the new Bush administration in Washington. Although US Secretary of State Colin Powell has welcomed efforts by the EU to shoulder more responsibility for international peacekeeping operations, he and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have stressed that the new force should not undermine NATO by developing along a separate track from the alliance.
US diplomats say that Washington is keen to ensure that EU governments spend enough money to obtain the essential hardware for making a success of the reaction force. Their worst-case scenario is that the Union is unable to carry out the new crisis management responsibilities it is planning to take on.
Powell will attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (27 February) to discuss a range of transatlantic security issues, including European defence policy, US plans for the 'Son of Star Wars' missile defence system, the Balkans and relations with Russia.
Efforts to establish an EU rapid-reaction military force suffered a setback after member states said they will need another six months to make up glaring shortfalls in manpower and equipment.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|