Tuesday 13 September 2011

EU permanent structured cooperation: operational military headquarters OHQ

After the UK veto against a permanent military headquarters for the European Union, is a new EU core taking shape through the establishment of permanent structured cooperation in the context of the common security and defence policy (CSDP)?

The British veto resulted in a letter from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain to the EU high representative Catherine Ashton to explore ways to make progress.

Group of five

Bruxelles2 noted that the foreign ministers of Italy and Spain publicly confirmed that they adhere to the proposal by France, Germany and Poland to establish a military HQ for Europe. Following the UK veto, the new letter demands action from the high representative Catherine Ashton. According to Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, everyone knows that the counter-argument about duplicating NATO structures is rubbish: Le club des 5. Espagne et Italie rejoignent le trio de Weimar sur le QG européen (3 September 2011).

Interestingly, the Polish press release about the informal (Gymnich) meeting of the foreign ministers does nothing to enlighten us about the development of defence policy or the initiative by the group of five countries: Informal meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU Member States (undated).

On EUobserver, Andrew Rettman reported on the call for action: Group of five calls for EU military headquarters (9 September 2011)

The Spanish Europa451 website published an article with some details about the letter from the five countries – France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain – to the high representative Catherine Ashton: España y cuatro países piden crear un ejército europeo (9 September 2011).

Public Service Europe

Yesterday on Public Service Europe, Hylke Dijkstra argued that Europe needs permanent military capabilities to respond quickly to international events, while creating efficiencies for member states; in the blog post: Why the EU needs a military headquarters (12 September 2011).


The ideas about an operational HQ have been around before the letter from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Sven Biscop and Jo Coelmont (Editors): Europe deploys towards a civil-military strategy for CSDP (Egmont paper 49, June 2011) suggested:

The EU could be the first to create a permanent civilian-military Operational Headquarters (OHQ), in Brussels, which could plan for and conduct both civilian and military operations and, allowing for close interaction with all relevant EU actors, could implement a truly comprehensive approach to crisis management.


Here is a description (in German) of permanent structured cooperation in the Treaty of Lisbon.

Christian Mölling described the only concrete security and defence policy reform of the Lisbon Treaty, in: Ständige Strukturierte Zusammenarbeit in der EU-Sicherheitspolitik (SWP-Aktuell 2010/A 13, Februar 2010, 4 Seiten).

Need for European action

With or without the help of the EU institutions and the national governments, there is the need for a truly European debate about the strategic defence choices concerning all citizens. Here are a few of my blog posts about the issues and the need for action.

Grahnlaw: EU military headquarters – CSDP permanent structured cooperation (9 September 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: Finland and non-aligned in EU: With UK or Europe on defence? (9 September 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: EU common defence: Military HQ first choice (10 September 2011)

Grahnlaw: Common European defence: some questions (10 September 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: Rejoice! EU CSDP transparency & European Year of Citizens (11 September 2011)

Grahnblawg (in Swedish): EU: JA eller NEJ till permanent strukturerat militärt samarbete? (12 September 2011)

Ralf Grahn

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