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Speeding Up The Operationalisation of The Rapid Deployment Capacity: The EU Gets Ready For The MILEX 23 Crisis Management Exercise

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Written by Jacopo Maria Bosica

Edited by Miguel Andres Reyes Castro

Supervised by Cansu Macit Karaduman

The European Union is preparing itself to hold its first live crisis management exercise as part of the incremental operationalisation of its Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC) by 2025, aiming to enhance the designated EU Headquarters’ ability to plan, execute and oversee a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) military operation by incorporating a live Battle Group-sized element (EEAS, 2023). In the long haul, the RDC should allow the deployment of a 5,000-troop modular force at different stages of an operation (entry, reinforcement or as reserve force) in a non-permissive environment (Cyber Risk, n.d.). To reflect such modus operandi, MILEX 23 foresees two phases: first, from 18 September to 6 October, it will test the EU’s military planning process at the strategic and operational levels and, secondly, implement the resulting Operational Plan in a simulated crisis scenario in the province of Cadiz (Spain) from 16 to 22 October (EEAS, 2023).

On 14 March 2023, while increasing the European Peace Facility’s financial ceiling for the first time, the Council decided to earmark €5 million to bear the common costs of EU MILEX 23 (PubAffairs Bruxelles, 2023b). On such a financial basis, under the supervision of the EU Military Staff’s Director General, the exercise will address three training audiences: an Operations Headquarters (OHQ) provided by the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) in Brussels, a Force Headquarters (FHQ) and a Battlegroup-sized force, the latter two equipped by the Spanish Armed Forces and supported by augmentees from other able and willing Member States (EEAS, 2023). Alongside Spain’s leading role in its ongoing Council presidency, such diverse participation provides a unique opportunity to assess the EU’s crisis management structures and the human interface driving them (EUROMIL, 2023; EEAS, 2021).

More broadly speaking, EU MILEX 23 marks a direct response to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee’s early March call for scheduling regular joint exercises in line with NATO standards to foster readiness and interoperability (PubAffairs Bruxelles, 2023a). This call was also meant to reiterate the objectives outlined by the EU Strategic Compass, which enshrines EU member states’ pledge to undertake the full spectrum of crisis management tasks under the CSDP framework (Art. 43 TEU) while swiftly adapting to new security challenges through more robust and flexible missions and operations led by a coalition of willing and able member states (Art. 44 TEU) (Cyber Risk, n.d.). At the same time, the EU is about to undertake a paradigm shift since it will set aside a framework where Command Post Exercises alone guarantee limited opportunities to test its capacity to react to external conflicts or crises (EEAS, 2023). As a result, member states’ armed forces will come out of this year’s live exercise with a refined crisis response toolbox to satisfy the contemporary security landscape’s demands for readiness, adaptability and versatility (EEAS, 2023). This development should turn the EU into a capable and credible crisis management actor, reinforcing the European pillar within NATO (EUROMIL, 2023).


Cyber Risk. (n.d.). Pillar 1: Act – The Strategic Compass of the European Union. Cyber Risk.

EEAS. (2021, July 1). EU MILITARY EXERCISE – MILEX 21. European External Action Service.

EEAS. (2023, August 31). Pioneering EU’s First ‘Live Exercise’ and Shaping Rapid Deployment Capacity in 2023, European External Action Service.,in%20the%20incremental%20operationalization%20of.

EUROMIL. (2023). European Armed Forces: State of Play 2023. European Organisation of military Associations and Trade Unions.

PubAffairs Bruxelles. (2023a, 9 March). Strategic Compass: Rapid deployment capacity to protect EU citizens, interests and values. PubAffairs Bruxelles.

PubAffairs Bruxelles. (2023b, 14 March). European Peace Facility: Council increases the financial ceiling to nearly €7.98 billion until 2027. PubAffairs Bruxelles.