The EU's Strategic Compass (II)

Berlin promotes focusing EU military policy and expanding consolidation of European military forces within the NATO framework.

BERLIN (Own report) - With a clearer focus of EU military policy and the expansion of cooperation among European military forces within the NATO framework, the German government seeks to strengthen Europe's military clout. During the German EU Council Presidency, the EU should develop a "Strategic Compass" to bundle the, at times, highly divergent geostrategic interests within the Union, based on a common threat analysis, currently in preparation by intelligence services of EU member countries. At the same time, Berlin is promoting cooperation within NATO's Framework Nations Concept (FNC) aimed at bringing together troops from various countries for joint operations and, in particular, placing units of smaller member nations under the command of larger NATO countries, including under German command. In addition to expanding the continental military cooperation, Berlin is focusing on the "E3" i.e. an informal alliance with France and Great Britain, intended to maintain the availability of the post-Brexit British military potential for the EU.

Common Threat Analysis

The "Strategic Compass" is a major objective in Germany's plans to advance the EU's militarization, on which Berlin would like to win the EU's agreement by 2022. Berlin aims to integrate all relevant EU projects - from the Battlegroups to PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) - into a single framework, thus strengthening the EU's military clout. A common threat analysis is planned as an initial step - a novelty for the EU. By the end of September, intelligence services of the member states will compile information and subsequently analyze the findings. "We must go beyond just listing threats," German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer declared.[1] The EU member states should reach a final agreement on the threat analysis - the core of the "Strategic Compass" - in November, at the end of Germany's EU Council Presidency.[2]

The "360-Degree Panorama"

Bundling the EU member states' highly divergent geostrategic interests in a sustainable concept is seen as particularly difficult. The eastern and northeastern EU member states have "a very traditional perception of threat," according to Torben Schütz, an expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). They have clearly turned against Russia,[3] whereas, the southern EU states are "focusing rather on the instability" in the Mediterranean region, North Africa and the Middle East. "It is not easy to reconcile both of these," Schütz notes. Varying threat scenarios have an influence on how "capacities are planned," how "armed forces are structured ... and the like." The German defense ministry proposes a "360-degree panorama" as a tentative compromise formula.[4] However, what that is supposed to mean exactly, is unclear. The contradictions became evident at the recent foreign ministers' meeting, when Greece and Cyprus threatened to prevent the planned sanctions against Belarus, if the EU rejects their demands on the policy toward Turkey.

"Merger of Troop Contingents"

At the same time, the German government is pressing ahead with the European NATO member countries' cooperation. The Framework Nations Concept (FNC), initiated by Germany in 2013, forms the cadre. As the German defense ministry writes, it provides for "current national army troop units and capabilities to be gradually merged," with the objective of "creating larger operational and interoperable contingents."[5] Alongside Great Britain and Italy, Germany will be one of the "framework nations." Twenty-one nations have become members of the German FNC group, among them, sixteen countries - Germany included - which are members both of NATO and the EU, plus NATO member Norway, the officially militarily-neutral EU members Austria, Finland and Sweden, as well as Switzerland with its officially complete neutrality. In fact, one of the FNC objectives is to place contingents of smaller European NATO countries under the command of larger member countries, thereby, according to the German Defense Ministry, integrating "large elements, for example, of the Czech Republic and Romanian army troops into the German ground forces."

European Consolidation

The FNC also serves to bundle similar NATO and EU capacities in the European realm, thereby increasing efficiency. Linking up the EU's European Medical Command (EMC) to NATO's Multinational Medical Coordination Center (MMCC) is one example. With the EMC, a PESCO project initiated by Berlin, a uniform coordination element is being set up for the medical service of the ten participating states. The MMCC, on the other hand, a project within the Germany-led FNC group, provides similar services within NATO's European framework.[6] In September 2019, EMC and MMCC were successfully consolidated, having the new task of the "coordination of the medical capacities of 18 participating countries." The new MMCC/EMC has announced a tabletop military exercise (Resilient Response 2020) to be held at the end of November. The participating countries will practice a joint reaction to a pandemic - while simultaneously facing "other threats," such as attacks on the infrastructure. "Observations and experience from the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic" will be integrated into the exercise.[7]

The E3 Format

Besides using the "strategic compass" to focus the EU and to bundle the European armed forces within NATO's framework, Berlin is additionally working toward consolidating foreign and military political cooperation with Great Britain. Considering the global influence and the military clout of the United Kingdom, this is considered indispensable, if, in spite of Brexit, a credible European pillar of global policy is to be established. The "E3 Format," a casual alliance of Germany, France and Great Britain provides the framework for cooperation. The "E3" have undertaken joint initiatives, since its inception in 2003, for the purpose of creating a second western pillar alongside the United States, during the negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear program. August 20 and 21, Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer received her counterparts from France, Florence Parly, and Great Britain, Ben Wallace, for the first formal meeting of the E3 defense ministers. The cooperation is to be maintained: "For Germany and France," declared Kramp-Karrenbauer "the cooperation with Great Britain is still very important in security policy, in spite of Brexit."[8]


[1] Donata Riedel: Treffen der Verteidigungsminister: Diese Probleme hat Europa mit einer eigenen Militärstrategie. 26.08.2020.

[2] See also The EU's Strategic Compass.

[3] Unterschiedliche Bedrohungswahrnehmungen. 27.08.2020.

[4] EU-Verteidigungsminister in Berlin: Das Treffen im Resümee. 27.08.2020.

[5], [6] Framework Nations Concept: Militärkooperation in Europa weiter stä 28.08.2020.

[7] MMCC/EMC weiter auf Erfolgskurs.

[8] E3-Verteidigungsminister treffen sich im Saarland. 24.08.2020.