The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) oppose proposals from the European Union's military committee to boost its headquarters, according to a report on ETV current affairs show "Välisilm" Monday night.
EU military leaders say this is needed given member states can no longer agree on utilizing NATO HQ, made more pressing by the coronavirus wave, and that EU missions in Mali and other African nations in particular may suffer if the transition is not made.
Head of the EDF Maj. Gen. Martin Herem told "Välisilm" that this should not happen at the expense of current, largely successful EU military missions, however.
"During the spring coronavirus wave, they (the current headquarters – ed.) led the EU mission in Mali (a separate endeavor from the French-led Operation Barkhane, which Estonian contributes an infantry platoon to – ed.) very effectively, coordinating all activities.
"It might be said that they did well. But now the [EU] member states have expressed the view that this headquarters should be increased. Estonia does not support the move at the moment. We see no reason for the increase, and we will not contribute to it until 2022 with a single officer," Maj. Gen. Herem continued.
Maj. Gen. Herem: EU foreign missions going well
Germany and France in particular have been behind the drive, Maj. Gen. Herem said.
"At the same time, it must be acknowledged that countries have different understandings of what has to be done in any location. For example, with the training mission in Mali – it has been debated at length whether this should be more decisive. The EU is at present training the Malian army, in certain units – a French idea which Estonia supports it, where we would go to train those units where they are in their home bases," Herem went on.
Chair of the EU's military committee, Gen. Claudio Graziano, told "Välisilm", that the HQ, under his leadership, should be boosted from the current 60 seats, to 75.
Gen. Graziano told "Välisilm": "We need a headquarters. If you remember, we once had the Berlin Plus agreement (a 2002 agreement aimed at pooling EU and NATO military resources for peacekeeping purposes - ed.), which meant that an EU mission could use NATO headquarters. Today, this is no longer possible because the member states are not in agreement on it. Thus we need a headquarters, to keep the mission running. The name of the General Staff is the Military Planning and Conduct Capability, in Brussels," referring to the EU's permanent military HQ and part of the union's Common Security and Defence Policy.
Gen Graziano said: "The HQ must meet the minimum requirements of operating and controlling the three missions in Mali, the Central African Republic and Somalia. Without these, we will not be in control, for example with COVID-19, a major crisis, a major pandemic affecting Europe and the world … Coordination, command and control are very important. One HQ can decide more rapidly, especially if the 27 members have the capacity to manage, coordinate, help and support so that our people have a better mission."
EU General: Politics holding things up
Gen. Graziano also criticized politicians who support the idea, but do not guarantee its implementation, saying he wanted unanimity.
Maj. Gen. Herem of the EDF added that there were indeed shortages and issues on decision making, highlighting planes, helicopters and other strategic transport areas, adding unanimity would help.
"I think the result (of the politicking – ed.) is that some countries parade with small amounts of rather odd equipment, or don't have enough ammunition and other items of equipment in stock," he said.
Berlin Plus was a comprehensive package of agreements made between NATO and the EU in December 2002 in the wake of the 1999 Washington summit. It allowed the EU to draw on some of NATO's military assets for its own peacekeeping operations.
The European Union has undertaken many overseas operations, using civilian and military instruments in several countries in three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia), as part of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), including EUCAP Sahel (Niger), EUTM (Somalia) and EUAM (Ukraine).
Operation Sophia formally known as EU NAVFOR MED, was a Rome-based EU military operation set up in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis, aimed at neutralizing established refugee smuggling routes across the Mediterranean. Operation Irini is its successor operation, from March this year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte