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European Union battlegroups

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European Union battlegroups

EU Battlegroup
Active 2007–present
Country European Union
Branch Army
Type Rapid reaction force
Size 18 battalions, including:
*14 battalions with ~1,500 soldiers
*4 battalions with ~2,500 soldiers
(two of which are ready for deployment at all times)
Part of European Union Military Staff

An EU Battlegroup (EUBG) is a military unit adhering to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union (EU). Often based on contributions from a coalition of member states, each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements.[1][2] The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union.

The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of January 2013 they are yet to see any military action.[3] 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.[2] The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.[4]


Battlegroups or battle groups as a combined arms military unit, based around an infantry battalion or armoured regiment, are not a new concept. However, the initial ideas for specific EU Battlegroups 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 initial deployment of land, sea and air forces within 5–10 days."[5] 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 Battle Groups were pledged with associated niche capabilities.[6]


A Belgian soldier on exercise with the EU Battlegroup in Germany, 2014

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.[7]

The Battle Groups are designed to deal with those tasks faced by the Common Security and Defence Policy, namely the Petersberg tasks (military tasks of a humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature).

Planners claim the Battle Groups 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.[8]


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.[9]


Larger member states will generally contribute their own Battle Groups, 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 Battle Groups[10] were proposed on 22 November 2005. Further groups have joined them since then. The declared groups are as follows:

Battle group Framework nation Other participants* Size
French Battle Group France none ???
Italian Battle Group Italy none ???
Spanish Battle Group Spain none ???
British Battle Group United Kingdom Sweden (CBRN/RADAR) 2013, Netherlands AATV Troop 2013, Latvia Coy 2013, Lituania Coy 2013 ???
French-German Battle Group France Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain ???
French-Belgian Battle Group France Belgium ???
[11] Germany Netherlands and Finland 1500
German-Czech-Austrian Battle Group Germany Czech Republic, Croatia, Ireland and Austria ???
Italian-Hungarian-Slovenian Battle Group Italy Hungary and Slovenia ???
Hispano–Italian Amphibious Battle Group Italy Spain, Greece and Portugal 1500
Battle Group I-2010 Poland Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania 2500
Nordic Battle Group Sweden 2008, 2011, (2015) Finland, Estonia,[12] Latvia,[12] Lithuania[12] Ireland and Norway[13][14] 2200
UK-Dutch Battle Group United Kingdom Netherlands ???
Balkan Battle Group Greece Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania[15] 1500
Czech-Slovak Battle Group Czech Republic Slovak Republic[16] 2500
[17] Spain Germany, France and Portugal ???
[17] Italy Romania and Turkey ???
[18] Poland Germany and France 2200
Planned battle groups Framework nation Other participants* Size Year operational
[19] Poland Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia 3000 2016
Former battle groups Framework nation Other participants* Size Decommissioning
[20] Portugal Spain, Italy, France ??? 2012
* EU Battlegroups are not permanent, they are created on an ad hoc basis to fill the roster. Formations are not strict either and can be disbanded or reformulated

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.[21]

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 Battle Group.

Niche capabilities

The following Member States have also offered niche capabilities in support of the EU Battle Groups:[22]

  • 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 Battle Group 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 euros) and the Battle Group was not used.[23]
  • 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 Battle Groups 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 Battle Groups 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 Battle Groups reached initial operational capacity: at least one Battle Group was on standby every 6 months. The United Kingdom and France each had an operational Battle Group for the first half of 2005, and Italy for the second half. In the first half of 2006, a Franco-German Battle Group operated, and the Hispano–Italian Amphibious Battle Group. In the second half of that year just one Battle Group operated composed of France, Germany and Belgium.[24]

Full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007, meaning the Union could undertake two Battle Group sized operations concurrently, or deploy them simultaneously into the same field. The Battle Groups rotate every 6 months, the roster from 2007 onwards is as follows;[25][26]

Period Battle Group Lead Nation Force HQ (FHQ)
2007 Jan–Jun French - Belgian Battle Group France Paris
Battle Group 107 Germany Potsdam
Jul–Dec Italian - Hungarian - Slovenian Battle Group Italy Rome
Balkan Battle Group Greece Larissa
2008 Jan–Jun Nordic Battle Group Sweden Enköping
Spanish-led Battle Group Spain
Jul–Dec French - German based Battle Group Germany Paris
British Battle Group United Kingdom London
2009 Jan–Jun Hispano–Italian Amphibious Battle Group Italy
Battle Group Greece Greece tbd
Jul–Dec French Battle Group France tbd
Battle Group Belgium Belgium tbd
2010 Jan–Jun Battle Group I-2010 Poland Międzyrzecz
UK – Dutch Battle Group United Kingdom tbd
Jul–Dec Italian - Romanian - Turkish Battle Group Italy Rome
Spain, France, Portugal tbd tbd
2011 Jan–Jun Battle Group 107 Netherlands tbd
Nordic Battle Group Sweden Enköping
Jul–Dec Eurofor[20][27] Portugal Mont-Valérien
Balkan Battle Group[20] Greece Larissa
2012 Jan–Jun France, Belgium, Luxembourg France Mont-Valérien
tbd tbd tbd
Jul–Dec Multinational Land Force Italy Rome
Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, Ireland Germany Ulm
2013 Jan–Jun Weimar Battle Group Poland Międzyrzecz
Jul–Dec 42 Battle Group United Kingdom
2014 Jan–Jun Balkan Battle Group
Jul–Dec Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain
Spain, Netherlands, Macedonia
2015 Jan–Jun Nordic Battle Group Sweden France[28]
Jul–Dec Belgium, France


In 2008, the EU Battle Group conducted wargames to protect the first-ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys.[29]

Western Balkans Battle Group

In 2010 a group of experts from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy proposed the establishment of a Western Balkans Battle Group by 2020. In a policy vision titled "Towards a Western Balkans Battle Group: A vision of Serbia's Defence Integration into the EU 2010-2020" [30] they argued that the creation of such a Battle Group would not only be an accelerating factor in the accession of the former Yugoslav republics into the EU but also a strong symbolic message of reconciliation and security community reconstruction after the devastating wars of the 1990s. Furthermore, the authors of the study argued that such a Western Balkan Battle Group, notwithstanding all the political challenges, would have a very high linguistic, cultural and military interoperability. Although decision makers initially showed a weak interest in the Western Balkans Battle Group, the idea has recently reappeared in the parliamentary discussions in Serbia [31]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b New force behind EU foreign policy BBC News – 15 March 2007
  3. ^ Charlemagne: Europe in a foreign field
  4. ^ Value of EU 'Battlegroup' plan stressed by Annan 15 October 2004
  5. ^
  6. ^ (all Background) Enter the EU Battle Groups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007; p.9-12
  7. ^ EU Battlegroups factsheet November 2006
  8. ^ (all Tasks) Enter the EU Battlegroups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007; p.17-19
  9. ^ (all Structure) Enter the EU Battle Groups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007
  10. ^ EU Battle Groups factsheet November 2006
  11. ^ Finns taking part in exercise for tri-nation EU Battle Group in Germany 4 June 2007
  12. ^ a b c "Each Baltic State to Contribute at Least 50 Troops to Nordic Battle Group". Retrieved 2013-02-06. 
  13. ^ "Nordic Battle Group – svenskledd styrka till EU:s snabbinsatsförmåga" (in Swedish). Försvarsmakten. Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  14. ^ The EU Battle Group Concept and the Nordic Battle Group Government office of Sweden
  15. ^ "Greece prepares military exercise with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania". EUbusiness. 22 November 2005. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-01. 
  16. ^ "Czechs, Slovaks start preparing joint military unit". Czech Republic: The Official Website of the Czech Republic. 20 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  17. ^ a b Enter the EU Battle Groups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007, p.88
  18. ^ Technical Agreement of EU Weimar Battle Group signed.
  19. ^ "Nowa Wyszehradzka Grupa Bojowa: Polska na czele" (in Polish). 7 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  20. ^ a b c Machado, Miguel (19 October 2010). "Eurofor European Union Battle Group 2011-2". Operacional (in Portuguese and English). Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  21. ^ EU To Include Air, Naval Forces in Battle Group Concept 19 March 2007
  22. ^ "EU Battle Groups – Annex A: Battle Group Concept". United Kingdom Parliament. 19 February 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  23. ^ along with 80 bomb disposal and communication specialists from Ireland and 45 from Estonia. Ulf K. Rask (29 May 2006). "Inauguration of the Nordic Battle Group Headquarters". Försvarsmakten. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  24. ^ Groups_/091006euBattle Groups_en.pdf The EU Battle Groups: p8
  25. ^ Enter the EU Battle Groups ISS; Chaillot Paper no.97; Feb 2007, p.88
  26. ^ "EU Battlegroup". Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  27. ^ "Change of Command". Eurofor. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ Enter In defence of Europe BBC News 5 June 2008
  30. ^ [2]
  31. ^

External links

  • Factsheet on Battlegroups – Council of the European Union
  • Factsheet on Battlegroups – European Parliament
  • Enter the EU Battlegroups, Chaillot Paper No. 97, February 2007, European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • "Headline Goal 2010" (PDF). European Union. 18 June 2004. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
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