Written By: Asia Corsano
Edited by Piotr Kosik
Supervised by Ginevra Bertamini
“Today we are creating a new page for European defence”, declared Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the first-ever EU live military exercises (MILEX) that are taking place in the Rota Naval base in Southern Spain this week (Euronews, 2023).
Around 2,800 military personnel from nine Member States – Austria, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Romania and host country Spain – plus 25 aircraft, six ships and cyber assets are taking part in the exercises, which simulate an intervention in a third country that has requested EU assistance. They will include a landing on a beach to secure a port in the fictitious country and deploying land forces to rescue trapped civilians (The Brussels Times, 2023).
The aim of the exercises is to test the capability and preparedness of the bloc’s future 5,000-strong Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC), established by the EU’s Strategic Compass, the first military strategy endorsed by member states in March 2022 (Euractiv, 2023). The RDC re-shapes the existing EU battlegroups, a rotating on-call unit composed of member states’ armed forces. However, the lack of political will resulted in member states never deploying the unit during a crisis, instead preferring to rely on NATO or ad hoc coalitions (Euractiv, 2023).
Ultimately, the goal for the EU is to have a fully-fledged military deployment force by 2025. The ensuing exercises will occur in the second half of 2024, most likely in Germany (Politico, 2023).
According to Lieutenant General Michel Van der Laan, the Director General of the European Union Military Staff (DG EUMS), the results of this joint operation will be the key to identify the gaps and improve the operational processes of the EU RDC, as well as a crucial point to enhance the interoperability of the latter (EEAS, 2023).
European External Action Service (2023, September 18). MILEX 23- EU Crisis Management Military Exercise 2023. European External Action Service. Available at https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/milex-23-%E2%80%93-eu-crisis-management-military-exercise-2023_en
Kayali, L. (2023, October 18). EU troops storm the beaches as bloc aims to be military player. Politico. Available at https://www.politico.eu/article/european-union-army-war-training-france-spain-nato/
Pugnet, A. (2023, October 17). EU tests its crisis response force, for the first time. Euractiv. Available at https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/eu-tests-its-crisis-response-force-for-the-first-time/
Tidey, A. (2023, October 17). A new page in EU defence: First-ever live EU military exercise kicks off. Euronews. Available at https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2023/10/17/a-new-page-in-eu-defence-first-ever-live-eu-military-exercise-kicks-off
The Brussels Times (2023, October 17). EU conducts the first live military exercise in Spain. The Brussels Times. Available at https://www.brusselstimes.com/749172/eu-conducts-first-live-military-exercise-in-spain