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UK Closer to Joining EU’s Military Mobility Scheme




Alexandra Brzozowski

October 27, 2022.


EU ambassadors on Wednesday (19 October) unanimously approved the UK’s application to join the EU’s project on military mobility, which aims at improving the rapidity of troops and equipment movement across Europe, should the need arise.


With Wednesday’s green light from the EU’s Political and Security Committee (PSC), a draft text will be submitted Council experts (Relex) to be ratified by EU ambassadors

.

The expectation is that the decision will be formalised, without debate, in mid-November when EU foreign and defence ministers will meet in Brussels for their regular autumn session.

The positive response to the application is also to be seen within a certain logic within the considerations of reinforced military support towards Ukraine and assurances to Europe’s eastern member states.


“There are informal consultations, and there is an interest in working with the UK, especially in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine,” an EU official said.


After Canada, the US and Norway joined the Dutch-led project last year, the UK, a key NATO ally that after Brexit had been left out of the EU’s security frameworks, would be the fourth non-EU country to participate in the scheme.


Back then it was the first time that the EU allowed third countries to join its so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework of military projects. The project on military mobility does not amount to a joint military force, but aims at easing bureaucratic procedures that slow troop deployments considerably, whether by land, sea or air.


It is also meant to improve the exchange of information between EU countries and cut red tape at borders, including harmonising customs rules to allow for swift deployments and easier transport of military equipment, diplomats say.


London currently heads one of NATO’s so-called battle groups in Estonia as a framework nation and has recently doubled the number of personnel in the country, sending additional equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.


With the approval in November, some EU diplomats expect the step not to be a stand-alone decision of closer security cooperation between London and Brussels.


The EU’s new military assistance mission (EUMAM) for Ukraine is likely to be opened for third-country participation, considering both the UK and the US are already training Ukrainian forces on EU soil at the country’s borders.


Under the deal, brokered by the German EU presidency in 2020, a third country can only apply if it meets a stringent set of political, legal, and “substantive” conditions.


The political conditions for third countries limit their participation to cases where they provide “substantial added value” to the military project and share “the values on which the EU is founded”, meaning that they do not contravene its security and defence interests.


So far, many EU diplomats had agreed that the set of political conditions effectively excludes Turkey, which as EURACTIVE reported last year had applied to join the scheme, but whose request has been met with apprehension.




© Alexandra Brzozowski / Euractiv News

Image - A convoy of British armoured vehicles of the Royal Welsh Battlegroup on the way to Estonia driving through Liepupe, Latvia, 25 February 2022.

EPA-EFE/VALDA KALNINA via Euractive News






There is little doubt that the most fervent proponents of anti-EU sentiment with the United Kingdom will seize upon this news as further evidence of a stealthy move to propel the UK back into membership of the European Union.


However, it makes no sense for the EU or the UK not to co-operate in numerous areas, defence and security being one.


Whatever the justifications, merits or otherwise of the UK's involvement in Ukraine, both Europe as a continent, as well as it's allies, face the same dangers. The United Kingdom has the most professional and well-trained armed forces in the world.


Only a fool would exclude the UK from any strategic military operations.