A major European Union military exercise underway in southern Spain is a crucial step in developing the bloc’s rapid reaction force, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday.
Around 2,800 military personnel from nine EU member states, along with 25 aircraft and six ships, began a week-long training exercise in southern Spain on Monday.
It simulates an intervention in another country that has asked for help form the bloc.
Dubbed “LIVEX”, the exercise based in the Rota naval base near the southern city of Cadiz is the “first EU level military exercise with a live exercise component”, according to the EU’s diplomatic service.
It will involve a simulated landing on Spanish beaches to secure a harbour of a fictitious country.
“Today we are writing a new chapter in European Union defence,” Borrell said during a visit to the exercise on Tuesday.
“(It) is very important to advance towards the creation of our rapid deployment capacity,” he added.
The EU in 2022 approved a new defence strategy designed to increase the bloc’s capacity to act.
This included setting up a rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 troops by 2025 that could be sent into hostile environments.
The push for the force gained momentum during the West’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, when Europe found itself reliant on the United States for evacuations.
“We need to be ready to act as required to protect our citizens and to contribute to global stability.
“And for that we need to exercise together,” added Borrell, a former Spanish foreign minister.
“This will help us to be better prepared to play a role as a defence actor and a global security provider,” he added.
US-led military alliance NATO has for decades provided the bedrock for European defence.
The war in Ukraine has reinforced the instinct among many EU members to keep Washington close.
But there has also been a push led by France for the 27-nation bloc to bolster its own capacity to act.