U.K. Rejects Idea of EU Operations HQ

The U.K. has strongly rejected the idea of a European Union operations headquarters for planning and carrying out EU military and civil missions abroad.

The proposal was put forward by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy, and is being discussed at a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers along with other proposals on the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

“The U.K. will block any such move now and in the future,” said Foreign Affairs Minister William Hague, describing the proposal as a “red line.”

He conceded that most EU member states were in favor of it, but said the decision would have to be taken by unanimity.

“What we really need is an improvement in defense capacities in Europe and the political will to use them, whether it is in stabilization missions in the Balkans that we’d like to see reinforced, or operations off Libya or any other tasks the EU is undertaking,” Hague said.

He said the U.K. felt that such a headquarters “would duplicate NATO structures and permanently disassociate EU planning with NATO planning,” and “would likely be a much more costly solution than existing structures.”

Among the alternatives that the U.K. is putting forward are to involve an operational commander early on in planning, building strategic linkages between member state national operational HQs and EU institutions, and integrating civil and military planners into the CSDP.

Earlier, French Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppe stressed the importance of improving the EU’s common capacities for planning and carrying out operations.

“Do we need an EU HQ? We know that our British friends are not in favor of such a formula,” he said. “We are very open to working on different possible formulas.” He also said progress on CSDP is “absolutely essential.”

“The latest developments in Libya especially have shown that there are circumstances where the U.S. does not want to commit and, there, Europe needs to have the capacity to do it,” he said. He described Ashton’s proposals in her report as “interesting,” especially with regard to pooling and sharing, EU-NATO relations and the need to improve the conduct and planning of EU operations.


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