Agreement on EU battle group signed in Brussels

The Defence Ministers from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia signed an agreement on 23 May, on the establishment of a so-called Battle Group to be placed at the disposal of the EU.

15/02/2006 :: The agreement ensures that a decision to deploy the Battle Group will be taken nationally, that the force will be under national control, and that participation is conditional on there being a clear mandate under international law.

“Norwegian participation in this force represents a continuation of our support for the common European security and defence policy. We are, at the same time, strengthening the UN’s crisis management capability and in no way are we weakening NATO,” said Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold.

The agreement – in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – sets out the overall framework and principles for this collaboration on the establishment of a Battle Group capable of being deployed in EU operations. Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Norway will contribute military personnel and the United Kingdom has offered to provide military headquarters support for the Nordic-Estonian force.

The Norwegian contribution to the battle Group will consist of up to 150 soldiers. According to the plan, the force will be ready and on standby for the EU for a period of 6 months from 1 January, and it will participate in rotating  6-monthly standby periods with the other Battle Groups. When the force contribution is not on standby for the EU, it can be used in other operations as appropriate and in carrying out tasks to meet our own national requirements.

The force will form one of the EU’s 13 Battle Groups, each consisting of about 1500 military personnel. The EU’s aim is to establish flexible rapid reaction forces capable of deploying at short notice to take part in operations to maintain or re-establish peace and security.

It has been made clear throughout that the preconditions for Norwegian participation are that any decision to deploy must be taken nationally, that the force must be under national control and that a clear mandate has been established under international law.

“Agreement has been reached on these principles and this agreement means that, in each and every instance, we are free to consider participation on an independent basis. I should also like to stress that the agreement also provides for comprehensive consultative arrangements. Consultation will take place on several levels and will be intensified prior to and throughout the period during which the force is to be at standby. We should remember, too, that we shall be working with our neighbour countries with whom we have cooperated in NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan,” said Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold.

The Defence Minister also points out that Norwegian participation in a Nordic battlegroup represents a continuation of the Government’s support for the EU’s European Security and Defence Policy.

“The EU is in the process of developing and strengthening its peacekeeping and crisis management capability. This process is taking place in consultation with NATO and in cooperation with the UN. The concept has been developed in close cooperation with the UN and the forces in question are intended to strengthen the UN’s own crisis management capability.”

Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold will make a statement in the Storting about the agreement on 2 June. 

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Defence Ministers from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia signed the MoU on 23 May in Brussels.Photo: Anne Grethe Nilsen, EU-del.