The defence ministers of nine European countries, Estonia's Jüri Luik (Pro Patria) among them, signed the European Intervention Initiative in France on Monday, which aims to set up a military coalition to react to crises and threats to European security.
Luik took part in a meeting of the European Union's defence and foreign ministers on Monday. Along with his counterparts from France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal, Luik also signed a letter of intent towards the European Intervention Initiative, spokespeople for the Ministry of Defence said.
French President Emmanuel Macron first floated the idea in a speech at the Sorbonne on European integration made in last September. Macron called for a common European intervention force, defence budget, and doctrine for action in contingencies where the United States and NATO may not want to get involved.
Luik: Necessary to keep an eye on potential threats in the South as well
France wants to recruit allies ready to share the military burden of its missions especially in Africa, where the country intervened alone in Mali in 2012 to prevent Islamist militants from seizing control of an already weak state.
"The goal of the initiative is to cooperate more to track threats that might threaten the security of Europe, and to develop the capability together to quickly react to crises," Luik said. The minister added that it is important to keep an eye on security threats in the South as well as in the East.
In France Luik also met with his French counterpart, Florence Parly. The ministers signed a bilateral technical agreement on the practical cooperation of the Estonian and French militaries as well as on logistical and technical help offered by France for Estonia's contribution to French antiterror operation Barkhane in Mali.
"The cooperation of Estonia and France in Mali and Estonia within the framework of the increased allied presence shows that we see today's security challenges in a similar way, and that there is trust between our countries," Luik said.
The two ministers also discussed preparations for the upcoming NATO summit.
Luik also added that Estonia, along with Finland and Latvia, is planning to submit an autonomous land systems' project as part of the second wave of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).
Third-country participation in PESCO, cybersecurity rapid response teams also discussed
The meeting of EU defence ministers on the same discussed and confirmed the rules for PESCO's defence cooperation projects. The ministers also took up the issue of the potential participation of third countries in the project, a particularly important aspect seeing as the United Kingdom is leaving the EU. A first wave of projects within PESCO was confirmed in March, with the second wave to be fixed as early as November this year.
Also as part of PESCO, a letter of intent was signed for the creation of a project on rapid response as well as mutual assistance between member states in case of a cybersecurity crisis.
According to Luik, the task of the cybersecurity rapid response teams to be created will be to help EU as well as third-country institutions that have come under attack.
French defence minister: Initiative allows non-EU countries to participate
French Minister of Defence Florence Parly explained to paper Le Figaro that beyond the signatories of the initiative as well as future EU member states that might join it, the participation of third countries is a distinct possibility.
The initiative seeks to facilitate joint planning for crisis situations that may threaten European security. This could include countries as well that are not EU members: "This is clearly an initiative that allows the participation of countries outside the EU as well," Parly said.
According to Parly, the U.K. has been enthusiastic about the possibility of cooperation with EU members also outside a future bilateral agreement with the union.
The European Union has had 18 international battlegroups since 2007. They are set up as a rapid reaction force and include 14 battalions with around 1,500 personnel each, and another four larger battalions with around 2,500 troops each.
Though the battlegroups have been fully operational since 2007 and regularly run exercises across the EU, as of 2018 they are yet to see military action. With its new initiative, France is hoping to create a more decisive military coalition that other EU states may join later on. Italy has expressed interest.
Editor: Dario Cavegn
Source: ERR, BNS