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A European Union battlegroup (EUBG) is a military force consisting of at least 1500 combat soldiers.[1] Fifteen battlegroups have been established, most of which consisting of multi-national contributions. The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of a unanimous European Council (heads of state, or often heads of government of countries where the head of state is largely a symbolic position, of member states) of the European Union (EU).

The battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007. They are based on existing ad hoc missions that the European Union (EU) has undertaken and has been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe.[1] The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.[2]



The initial ideas for the Battle Groups began at the European Council summit on 10-11 December 1999 in Helsinki. The Council produced the Headline Goal 2003 and specified the need for a rapid response capability that members should provide in small forces at high readiness. The idea was reiterated at a Franco-British summit on 4 February 2003 in Le Touquet which highlighted as a priority the need to improve rapid response capabilities, "including the initial deployment of land, sea and air forces within 5-10 days." This was again described as essential in the "Headline Goal 2010".

Operation Artemis in 2003 showed an EU rapid reaction and deployment of forces in a short time scale - with the EU going from Crisis Management Concept to operation launch in just three weeks, then taking a further 20 days for substantial deployment. Its success provided a template for the future rapid response deployments allowing the idea to be considered more practically. The following Franco-British summit in November of that year stated that, building on the experience of the operation, the EU should be able and willing to deploy forces within 15 days in response to a UN request. It called specifically for "battlegroup sized forces of around 1500 land forces, personnel, offered by a single nation or through a multinational or framework nation force package.

On 10 February 2004, France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a paper outlining the "Battlegroup Concept". The document proposed a number of groups based on Artemis that would be autonomous, consisting of 1500 personnel and deployable within 15 days. These would be principally in response to UN requests at short notice and can be rapidly tailored to specific missions. They would concentrate on bridging operations, preparing the group before a larger force relieved them, for example UN or regional peacekeepers under UN mandate. The plan was approved by all groups in 2004 and in November that year the first thirteen battlegroups were pledged with associated niche capabilities.[3]


The groups are intended to be deployed on the ground within 5-10 days of approval from the Council. It must be sustainable for at least 30 days, which could be extended to 120 days, if resupplied.[4]

The Battlegroups are designed to deal with a those tasks faced by the CSDP, namely the Petersberg tasks and the tasks from the European Security Strategy: Humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking (the Petersberg tasks), joint disarmament operations, support for 3rd countries in combating terrorism, security sector reform operations as part of broader institution building (the European Security Strategy tasks).

Planners claim the battlegroups have enough range to deal with all those tasks, although such tasks ought to be limited in "size and intensity" due to the small nature of the groups. Such missions may include conflict prevention, evacuation, aid deliverance or initial stabilisation. In general these would fall into three categories; brief support of existing troops, rapid deployment preparing the ground for larger forces or small scale rapid response missions.[5]


A battlegroup is considered to be the smallest self-sufficient military unit that can be deployed and sustained in a theatre of operation. EU Battlegroups are composed of approximately 1500 troops; plus command and support services.

There is no fixed structure, a 'standard' group would include a headquarters company, three infantry companies and corresponding support personnel. Specific units might include mechanised infantry, support groups (e.g. fire or medical support), the combination of which allows independent action by the group on a variety of tasks. The main forces, extra support and "force headquarters" (front line command) are contained within the battlegroup "package", in addition there is the operation headquarters, located in Europe.[6]


Larger member states will generally contribute their own battlegroups, while smaller members are expected to create common groups. Each group will have a 'lead nation' or 'framework nation' which will take operational command, based on the model set up during the EU's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Operation Artemis). Each group will also be associated with a headquarters. Two non-EU NATO countries, Norway and Turkey, participate in a group each.

The initial thirteen battlegroups[4] were proposed on 22 November 2005, further groups have joined them. The declared groups are as follows:

Battlegroup Participants (Leading Nation*) Size
French Battlegroup France  ???
Italian Battlegroup Italy  ???
Spanish Battlegroup Spain  ???
British Battlegroup United Kingdom  ???
French-German Battlegroup France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain  ???
French-Belgian Battlegroup France, Belgium  ???
Battlegroup 107[7] Germany, Netherlands and Finland 1500
German-Czech-Austrian Battlegroup Germany, Czech Republic and Austria  ???
Italian-Hungarian-Slovenian Battlegroup Italy, Hungary, Slovenia  ???
Spanish-Italian Amphibious Battlegroup Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal 1500
Polish-led Battlegroup Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania  ???
Nordic Battlegroup Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Ireland and Norway[8][9] 2200
UK-Dutch Battlegroup United Kingdom, Netherlands  ???
Balkan Battlegroup Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Slovenia[10] 1500
Czech-Slovak Battlegroup Czech Republic, Slovakia[11] 2500
Spanish-led Battlegroup[12 ] Spain, Germany, France and Portugal  ???
Italian-Romanian-Turkish Battlegroup[12 ] Italy, Romania and Turkey  ???
* Usually, not always permanent, depends on deployment.

The Visegrád Group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) are considering a joint battlegroup as of April 2007[13]. There are plans to extend the concept to air and naval forces, although not to the extent of having a single standing force on standby, but scattered forces which could be rapidly assembled.[14]

Denmark has an opt-out clause in its accession treaty and is not obliged to participate in the common defence policy. Also Malta currently does not participate in any battlegroup.


Niche capabilities

The following Member States have also offered niche capabilities in support of the EU Battlegroups[15]:

  • Cyprus (medical group)
  • Lithuania (a water purification unit)
  • Greece (the Athens Sealift Co-ordination Centre)
  • France (structure of a multinational and deployable Force Headquarters)

Further details on specific contributions

  • Sweden and Finland announced the creation of a joint Nordic Battle Group. To make up the required 1500 number, they also urged Norway to contribute in the battlegroup despite the country not being part of the EU. Recently, the number has been raised to 2400 troops with Sweden providing 2000 of these. According to Swedish newspapers the price for the 6 months in 2008 was 1,2 billion Swedish kronor (app. 150,000,000 EURO) and the battle group was not used.[16]
  • Lithuania is expected to offer experts in water purification.
  • Greece is pledging troops with maritime transport skills.
  • Ireland has offered bomb disposal experts among its contribution.

The battlegroups project is not to be confused with the projected Helsinki Headline Goal force, which concerns up to 60,000 soldiers, deployable for at least a year, and take one to two months to deploy. The battlegroups are instead meant for more rapid and shorter deployment in international crises, probably preparing the ground for a larger and more traditional force to replace them in due time.

Standby roster

From 1 January 2005 the battlegroups reached initial operational capacity: at least one battlegroup was on standby every 6 months. The United Kingdom and France each had an operational battlegroup for the first half of 2005, and Italy for the second half. In the first half of 2006, a Franco-German battlegroup operated, and the Spanish Italian Amphibious Battlegroup. In the second half of that year just one battlegroup operated composed of France, Germany and Belgium.[17]

Full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007, meaning the Union could undertake two battlegroup sized operations concurrently, or deploy them simultaneously into the same field. The battlegroups rotate every 6 months, the roster from 2007 onwards is as follows[18];

Period Battlegroup Lead Nation Operational HQ
2007 Jan-Jun French - Belgian Battlegroup France Paris
Battlegroup 107 Germany Potsdam
Jun-Dec Italian - Hungarian - Slovenian Battlegroup Italy Rome
Balkan Battlegroup Greece Larissa
2008 Jan-Jun Nordic Battlegroup Sweden London
Spanish-led Battlegroup Spain
Jun-Dec French - German based Battlegroup Germany Paris
British Battlegroup United Kingdom London
2009 Jan-Jun Spanish Italian Amphibious Battlegroup Italy
[Battlegroup Greece] [Greece] tbd
Jun-Dec French Battlegroup France tbd
[Battlegroup Belgium] [Belgium] tbd
2010 Jan-Jun Polish-led Battlegroup Poland
UK - Dutch Battlegroup United Kingdom tbd
Jun-Dec Italian - Romanian - Turkish Battlegroup Italy tbd
tbd tbd tbd
2011 Jun-Dec Battlegroup 107 Netherlands tbd
Nordic Battlegroup Sweden tbd
Jan-Jun tbd tbd tbd
tbd tbd tbd


The EU battlegroup recently conducted wargames to protect the first ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys.[19]


  1. ^ a b New force behind EU foreign policy BBC News - 15 March 2007
  2. ^ Value of EU 'battlegroup' plan stressed by Annan 15/10/04
  3. ^ (all Background) Enter the EU Battlegroups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007; p.9-12
  4. ^ a b EU Battlegroups factsheet November 2006
  5. ^ (all Tasks) Enter the EU Battlegroups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007; p.17-19
  6. ^ (all Structure) Enter the EU Battlegroups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007
  7. ^ Finns taking part in exercise for tri-nation EU battle group in Germany 04/06/07
  8. ^ "Nordic Battle Group - svenskledd styrka till EU:s snabbinsatsförmåga" (in Swedish). Försvarsmakten. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  9. ^ The EU Battlegroup Concept and the Nordic Battlegroup Government office of Sweden
  10. ^ "Greece prepares military exercise with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania". EUbusiness. 2005-11-22. Retrieved 2007-07-01.  
  11. ^ "Czechs, Slovaks start preparing joint military unit". Czech Republic: The Official Website of the Czech Republic. 2006-07-20.,-Slovaks-start-preparing-joint-military-unit-. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  12. ^ a b Enter the EU Battlegroups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007, p.88
  13. ^ Joint Communiqué of the Ministers of Defence of the Visegrad Group Countries, Bratislava, 12 April 2007 12/04/07
  14. ^ EU To Include Air, Naval Forces in Battlegroup Concept 19/03/07
  15. ^ "EU Battlegroups - Annex A: Battlegroup Concept". United Kingdom Parliament. 2005-02-19. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  16. ^ along with 80 bomb disposal and communication specialists from Ireland and 45 from Estonia[2]).Ulf K. Rask (2006-05-29). "Inauguration of the Nordic Battle Group Headquarters". Försvarsmakten. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  17. ^ The EU Battlegroups: p8
  18. ^ Enter the EU Battlegroups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007, p.88
  19. ^ Enter In defence of Europe BBC News 5th June 2008

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