|Vol.7, No.22, 31.5.01, p7
THE Swedish presidency is close to clinching a deal which will ensure that the Union's planned rapid reaction force can be overhauled to face changing tasks.
Officials say the developing agreement would see member states using NATO's rule book to ensure that the force's hardware is compatible with the alliance's needs and does not rival it or duplicate its capabilities.
Senior US defence figures and NATO leaders have stressed they will only support the EU's initiative provided it does not compete with or undermine the alliance.
EU diplomats point out that even France, which is usually opposed to adopting NATO's procedures, is happy to use the alliance's review mechanism.
Under the agreement prepared by the Swedish presidency in close cooperation with the UK, EU governments will agree to regular reviews of the headline goals for the reaction force, set by the Helsinki summit in 1999, at 60,000 troops ready to be deployed by 2003.
Although governments have not yet pledged enough soldiers and equipment to fulfil those goals they agree that they need a mechanism to ensure that the force's needs can be adapted in the light of changing security requirements.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said recently that the question of capabilities was the key issue in setting up the reaction force.
Diplomats say that the deal, which is expected to be finalised in time for the Göteborg summit on 15-16 June, would represent a second coup for the Swedes in getting agreement on other essential issues for the reaction force.
This week Turkey agreed to give the EU automatic access to NATO hardware for Union-led operations after a deal was struck pledging to consult Ankara more fully in the run-up to missions by the force.
The Swedish presidency is close to clinching a deal which will ensure that the Union's planned rapid reaction force can be overhauled to face changing tasks.
|Security and Defence