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EU Military Mobility: An Obstacle Race To Turn Long-Standing Pledges Into A Defence Policy Flagship

Written by Jacopo Maria Bosica

Edited by Michele Puggia

Supervised by Cansu Macit Karaduman

In the unstable world we live in, military mobility becomes a paramount condition for states to maintain domestic, regional and international security. In the European Union’s case, it enables Member States’ armed forces to respond to crises breaking out at the external borders or beyond; bolsters transport infrastructure’s efficiency; avoids delays in cross-border military transits (displacement of personnel, materiel and assets) in and outside the EU territory; and ensures the alignment of efforts with partners like NATO by increasing inter-state policy synergies (EEAS, 2022a, p 1). After lying dormant during the first decade of the EU’s existence, military mobility has experienced a steady increase in relevance and evolved into a flagship of bilateral cooperation with NATO. Nevertheless, due to intermittent political consensus and precarious military capabilities, EU Member States are still far from building a fully-fledged Common Security and Defence Policy and have stepped up their efforts only in response to large-scale events like Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

This Info Flash aims at drawing a timeline of the main legislative and regulatory steps taken by the EU to build a more solid and autonomous common defence policy in reaction to the main shifts in the European geopolitical and military landscape before Russia launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 (section I). It then tries to unpack the two action plans on military mobility put forward by the European Commission in 2018 and 2022, in order to find elements of change and continuity between their objectives and the legislative achievements they could stimulate (section II). The Info Flash delves into the loopholes in the implementation of such action plans by pointing out the main factors undermining inter-state cooperation (section III), as well as opportunities to overcome such difficulties, notably the enhancement of EU-NATO cooperation on the matter and the strengthening of multilateral efforts to face the prolonged Russo-Ukrainian war of attrition (section IV). The conclusion highlights the key takeaways from the analysis and lists some recommendations for EU institutions to reinforce the existing legislative frameworks or adopt more ambitious ones.