European Military Mobility: A step forward

European Military Mobility: A step forward

On Tuesday 14th May 2019, 22 EU Member States signed a new programme on “Optimizing cross border movement permission in Europe”. The new agreement is the first concrete outcome of the ‘Action Plan on military mobility’, which was adopted in March 2018 by the European Commission. The document set guidelines to facilitate the movement of military personnel, assets, and transportation within the Schengen area.  

Military Mobility projects represent a crucial area through which the EU would like to implement a European military deployment mechanism. “Defence forces depend on the ability to move quickly,” said Jorge Domecq, European Defence Agency (EDA) Chief Executive in 2017. Due to the mobility field being perceived as a step forward in view of “promoting civil/military synergies”, EDA’s attentiveness toward such coordination has progressively risen.

Source : European Defence Agency, “EDA provides expert input for action plan on military mobility”, November 2017.
https://www.eda.europa.eu/info-hub/press-centre/latest-news/2017/11/10/eda-provides-expert-input-for-action-plan-on-military-mobility

This project is not the first step in regard to improving the Military Mobility coordination. In 2014 the Member States demanded to better coordinate military movements. Accordingly, the EDA opened a work-session about an EU Multimodal Transport Hub. Furthermore, the EDA has been concerned with implementing exchanges among the Member States and to “harmonize procedures for overflights and landings of EU nations’ military registered or operated transport aircraft”. Consequently, the Diplomatic Clearances Technical Arrangement was launched.

Despite the positive results coming from the coordination projects, the turning point arrived in 2017 when EU efforts in that realm finally intensified. The EDA’s concern has led to the creation of an Ad Hoc Expert Group, principally addressed to enhance capabilities and coordination, and also to develop an Action Plan about Military Mobility. The great advantage of this format was to gather both national experts and stakeholders, thereby including every significant actor involved in this sector. The second main principle which headed the debates was avoiding duplications. Indeed, the Expert Group represented a number of key players in the Military Mobility field. The final result has been the creation of a comprehensive document which is able to meet European needs.

The Action Plan identifies three main areas in which EU institutions and the Member States will be in charge of developing initiatives to improve Military Mobility within the EU: Military Requirements, Transport infrastructure and Regulatory and procedural issues. Thanks to its network, the close cooperation with 22 Member States and its interest in the question, as reviewed in our Food for Thought “On the way towards a true military mobility” (FINABEL, “On the way toward a true military mobility”, Food for Thought Paper (FFT) 2018(2)).from 2018, Finabel was involved in the drafting procedure on Military Requirements. Working alongside the European External Action Service representatives as well as the EU Military Staff, Finabel was able to participate in the writing of the final document that has been submitted to the European institutions. The Regulatory and procedural issues, on the other hand, were delegated to the European Defence Agency, working alongside the Commission and the Member States, in order to develop cross-border harmonisation.

Moreover, under the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council in the first Semester of 2018, relevant updates took place. After the presentation of the EU’s Action Plan on Military Mobility by HR/VP Federica Mogherini and the European Commission on 28 March 2018, a Roadmap on Cross-Border Military Transportation was built in close cooperation and coordination with all relevant actors, including NATO.  The conference on “Military Mobility – Key to European Security” also revealed how both the EDA and EU Council Presidency were concerned on that. Mr Krasimir Karakachanov, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence, emphasised how “improving military mobility is key to the EU’s ability to effectively carry out its Common Security and Defense Policy’s operations. Assuring fast and efficient movement of military contingents and material, within and outside EU territory, will enable our Union to effectively react to the challenges of the contemporary highly dynamic strategic environment”.

Source: European Defence Agency, “EDA and Bulgarian EU Presidency highlight importance of military mobility”, June 2018.
https://www.eda.europa.eu/info-hub/press-centre/latest-news/2018/06/07/eda-and-bulgarian-eu-presidency-highlight-importance-of-military-mobility

Signed on the 14th of May 2019, the new programme gathers Member States such as Belgium, Sweden and Malta, and has been adopted within the framework of the EDA on military mobility. The programme details new measures within three fields of action, which have been defined as priorities within the programme: the Cross Border Movement Permission, the harmonization of custom regulations, and the harmonization of legal and administrative regulations/procedures. The enhancement of harmonization of procedures and regulations is indeed the most important challenge in order to facilitate military transportation within the Schengen area. Affecting both legal regimes (as the legal protection of personnel for instance) and administrative regulations (permission to cross borders), as well as the customary regulations, the maintenance of specific nationalprocedures still impacts in a significant way the efficiency of movement, both for CSDP missions as well as for Member States’ military exercises. In order to complete the programme, two Technical Agreements will be adopted in the following months: to elaborate a standard framework for common administrative procedures; to develop a diplomatic clearance procedure.

The improvement of Military Mobility within the EU Member States has always been considered an important goal for the European institutions, as demonstrated in the 2017 Joint Communication of the European Parliament and EU Council concerning the improvement of military mobility in the EU. Jean-Claude Juncker, currently holding the Commission’s presidency, also highlighted in 2017 the objective to achieve the building of a full European Defence Union by 2025, implying the finalization of a full free of movement zone.

Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission’s Chairman
Source: European Security Journal, ”Juncker pushes for Defence Union and Joint Intelligence Service”, 14/09/2017 
https://www.esjnews.com/juncker-defence-union-eu

To conclude, it seems like the newly adopted programme marks an important evolution towards the implementation of the EDA and EU institutions’ Action Plan, facilitating the realization of an effective European Defence Union.

Written by Solène Baudouin & Lorenzo Giuglietti, European Researchers at Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre.

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