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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
No celebration for 'EU army'
By Chris Morris
BBC Europe correspondent

British jeep in Skopje
Macedonia was the EU's first military mission
European Union defence ministers have been warned that a lot remains to be done before the EU's fledgling Rapid Reaction Force can be an effective military tool.

A draft statement at a meeting in Brussels says the 60,000-strong rapid reaction force is now ready for a full range of peacekeeping tasks.

But it acknowledges that Europe lacks many important military capabilities.

There is therefore no sense of celebration.

"It is hardly the time to rest on our laurels," said the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

"A lot remains to be done. It needs to be done as a matter of urgency," he added.

Defence ministers acknowledge that gaps in the EU's military capabilities will limit and constrain the rapid reaction force.

It will have trouble deploying quickly, trouble defending itself if a conflict suddenly intensifies, and trouble taking part in more than one major operation at any one time.

Strategic differences

The EU has already launched its first military mission - a small peacekeeping operation in Macedonia.

It also hopes to take over the much larger mission in Bosnia next year.

So everyone agrees that military capabilities must be improved, but there are differences of opinion within the EU about future strategy.

Four member-states, led by France, announced plans last month to set up a European military headquarters independent of Nato.

Other countries, Britain especially, are strongly opposed to that idea.


SEE ALSO:
EU gets its military fist
13 Dec 02  |  Europe
The EU's military ambitions
31 Dec 01  |  Review of 2001
Blair hails defence deal
09 Dec 00  |  Politics
Rapid reaction force
30 Apr 01  |  Euro-glossary


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