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EU Works to Improve Rapid Reaction Force


The European Union is working to have rapid reaction force ready to deploy to trouble spots around the world within five days notice.

The EU wants to improve its world-wide ability to intervene in trouble spots but has been held back by a severe lack of resources. Last year it drew up plans for 13 battle groups to be ready for action within 10 days. But now the EU is working on ways to cut that time in half.

The battle groups will serve on a rotating basis, and not all will be active at the same time. Luxembourg Defense Minister Luc Frieden, whose country holds the EU presidency, outlined the plan at a meeting of EU defense ministers.

"We want to achieve at the beginning that we have four battle groups per year ready to intervene immediately. We divided the year in two (in half) so that we are sure in rotation, that during those six months these battle groups can be sent immediately to a certain place. We can't have all the battle groups all the time ready to be sent within five days," he said.

Britain, France, Italy and Spain have offered to set up battle groups of 1,500 troops each. The EU hopes to double that capacity starting in 2007.

Minister Frieden says the EU must also function quickly on the political level for rapid deployment to work. "We need quick decisions at the European leave, quick decisions at the national level. Some countries will have to change their laws to be able to take the political decision quickly. And then the military must follow immediately," he said.

The United Nations has asked the EU to do more in international trouble spots, such as restoring order in crisis areas until local or other international troops arrive. But EU planners say the 25-nation organization still lacks transport aircraft and also has shortfalls in its ability to sustain troops on the ground.