EU Battlegroup

For other uses, see Battle group (disambiguation).
EU Battlegroup
Active 2005–present
Country  European Union
Branch Army
Type Rapid reaction force
Size 18 battalions, including:
*14 battalions with ~1,500 soldiers
*4 battalions with ~2,500 soldiers
(two of which are ready for deployment at all times)
Part of European Union Military Staff

An EU Battlegroup (EU BG)[1] is a military unit adhering to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union (EU). Often based on contributions from a coalition of member states, each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements.[2][3] The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union.

The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of July 2015 they are yet to see any military action.[4] They are based on existing ad hoc missions that the European Union (EU) has undertaken and have been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe.[3] The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.[5]


Battlegroups as a combined arms military unit, based around an infantry battalion or armoured regiment, are not a new concept. However, the initial ideas for specific EU Battlegroups began at the European Council summit on 10–11 December 1999 in Helsinki. The Council produced the Headline Goal 2003 and specified the need for a rapid response capability that members should provide in small forces at high readiness. The idea was reiterated at a Franco-British summit on 4 February 2003 in Le Touquet which highlighted as a priority the need to improve rapid response capabilities, "including initial deployment of land, sea and air forces within 5–10 days."[6] This was again described as essential in the "Headline Goal 2010".

Operation Artemis in 2003 showed an EU rapid reaction and deployment of forces in a short time scale – with the EU going from Crisis Management Concept to operation launch in just three weeks, then taking a further 20 days for substantial deployment. Its success provided a template for the future rapid response deployments allowing the idea to be considered more practically. The following Franco-British summit in November of that year stated that, building on the experience of the operation, the EU should be able and willing to deploy forces within 15 days in response to a UN request. It called specifically for "Battlegroup sized forces of around 1500 land forces, personnel, offered by a single nation or through a multinational or framework nation force package.

On 10 February 2004, France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a paper outlining the "Battlegroup concept". The document proposed a number of groups based on Artemis that would be autonomous, consisting of about 1500 personnel and deployable within 15 days. These would be principally in response to UN requests at short notice and can be rapidly tailored to specific missions. They would concentrate on bridging operations, preparing the group before a larger force relieved them, for example UN or regional peacekeepers under UN mandate. The plan was approved by all groups in 2004 and in November that year the first thirteen Battlegroups were pledged with associated niche capabilities.[7]


A Belgian soldier on exercise with the EU Battlegroup in Germany, 2014

The groups are intended to be deployed on the ground within 5–10 days of approval from the Council. It must be sustainable for at least 30 days, which could be extended to 120 days, if resupplied.[8]

The Battlegroups are designed to deal with those tasks faced by the Common Security and Defence Policy, namely the Petersberg tasks (military tasks of a humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature).[9]

Planners claim the Battlegroups have enough range to deal with all those tasks, although such tasks ought to be limited in "size and intensity" due to the small nature of the groups. Such missions may include conflict prevention, evacuation, aid deliverance or initial stabilisation. In general these would fall into three categories; brief support of existing troops, rapid deployment preparing the ground for larger forces or small-scale rapid response missions.[10]


A Battlegroup is considered to be the smallest self-sufficient military unit that can be deployed and sustained in a theatre of operation. EU Battlegroups are composed of approximately 1500 troops; plus command and support services.

There is no fixed structure, a 'standard' group would include a headquarters company, three infantry companies and corresponding support personnel. Specific units might include mechanised infantry, support groups (e.g. fire or medical support), the combination of which allows independent action by the group on a variety of tasks. The main forces, extra support and "force headquarters" (front line command) are contained within the Battlegroup "package", in addition there is the operation headquarters, located in Europe.[11]


The initial thirteen Battlegroups[8] were proposed on 22 November 2004. Further battlegroups have joined them since then.


Larger member states will generally contribute their own Battlegroups, while smaller members are expected to create common groups. Each group will have a 'lead nation' or 'framework nation' which will take operational command, based on the model set up during the EU's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Operation Artemis). Each group will also be associated with a headquarters. Two non-EU NATO countries, Norway and Turkey, participate in a group each, as well as two non-EU non-NATO countries, Macedonia[12] and Ukraine.[13][14] Denmark has an opt-out clause in its accession treaty and is not obliged to participate in the Common Security and Defence Policy. Also Malta currently does not participate in any Battlegroup.

EU and NATO membership overlap
Participating EU member states
Participating non-EU NATO member states
Participating non-EU non-NATO member states
Non-participating EU member states

Standby roster

From 1 January 2005 the Battlegroups reached initial operational capacity: at least one Battlegroup was on standby every 6 months. The United Kingdom[15] and France each had an operational Battlegroup for the first half of 2005, and Italy for the second half. In the first half of 2006, a Franco-German Battlegroup operated, and the Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup. In the second half of that year just one Battlegroup operated composed of France, Germany and Belgium.[16]

Although EU member states were initially highly motivated to volunteer to fill up the roster, the fact that participating member states have to cover their own costs, which especially burdened the smaller states, has made them more reluctant. Besides, many EU member states had simultaneous obligations to fulfill for ISAF and the NATO Response Force, amongst others. This combined with the fact that EU Battlegroups have never been deployed (due to slow political decision-making), despite several occasions in which they according to various experts could or should have been (most notably DR Congo in 2006 and 2008 and Libya in 2011), has led to increasing gaps in the standby roster. Joint funding and actual usage may resolve these issues.[17][18]

Full operational capacity was reached on 1 January 2007, meaning the Union could undertake two Battlegroup sized operations concurrently, or deploy them simultaneously into the same field. The Battlegroups rotate every 6 months, the roster from 2007 onwards is as follows;[16][19][20][21][22][23]

Period Battlegroup Framework Nation Other participants* Force HQ (FHQ) Size
2005 Jan–Jun French Battlegroup France Paris
British Battlegroup[15] United Kingdom London
Jul–Dec Italian Battlegroup Italy Rome
2006 Jan–Jun French–German Battlegroup France Germany Paris
Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup Italy Spain, Greece and Portugal Rome 1500
Jul–Dec French–German–Belgian Battlegroup France Germany and Belgium Paris
2007 Jan–Jun French–Belgian Battlegroup France Belgium Paris
Battlegroup 107[21] Germany The Netherlands and Finland Potsdam 1720[24]
Jul–Dec Multinational Land Force[25] Italy Hungary and Slovenia Udine 1500
Balkan Battlegroup[26] Greece Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus Larissa 1500
2008 Jan–Jun Nordic Battlegroup (NBG08) Sweden Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Norway[27][28] Enköping 1500
Spanish-led Battlegroup Spain Germany, France and Portugal ??? ???
Jul–Dec French–German Battlegroup France Germany Paris ???
British Battlegroup United Kingdom London
2009 Jan–Jun Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup Italy Spain, Greece and Portugal Rome 1500
Balkan Battlegroup Greece Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus tbd 1500
Jul–Dec Czech–Slovak Battlegroup Czech Republic Slovakia[29] 2500
Belgian-led Battlegroup Belgium Luxembourg and France[21] tbd ???
2010 Jan–Jun Battlegroup I-2010[30] Poland Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania Międzyrzecz
UK–Dutch Battlegroup United Kingdom The Netherlands London 1500
Jul–Dec Italian-Romanian-Turkish Battlegroup Italy Romania and Turkey Rome
Spain, France, Portugal tbd tbd
2011 Jan–Jun Battlegroup 107 (EUBG 2011/1) Netherlands Germany, Finland, Austria and Lithuania tbd c. 2350[31]
Nordic Battlegroup (NBG11) Sweden Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Norway[32] and Croatia[33] Enköping 1500
Jul–Dec Eurofor (Eurofor EUBG 2011-2)[34] Portugal Spain, Italy, France Florence
Balkan Battlegroup[34] Greece Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine[35] Larissa 1500
2012 Jan–Jun French–Belgian–Luxembourgish Battlegroup France Belgium and Luxembourg Mont-Valérien
Jul–Dec Multinational Land Force Italy Hungary and Slovenia. Udine
German–Czech–Austrian Battlegroup Germany Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, Ireland[21] Ulm
2013 Jan–Jun Weimar Battlegroup (EU BG I/2013) Poland Germany and France Międzyrzecz
Belgium, Luxembourg, France (unconfirmed)[16] tbd tbd tbd tbd
Jul–Dec Battlegroup 42[22][36] United Kingdom Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands London
Belgium (unconfirmed)[21] Belgium
2014 Jan–Jun Balkan Battlegroup Greece Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine[37]
Sweden, Finland (unconfirmed)[23] Sweden
Jul–Dec EUBG 2014 II[12] Belgium Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and Macedonia 2500–3700
Spanish–Italian Amphibious Battlegroup[23] Spain[23] Italy[23]
2015 Jan–Jun Nordic Battlegroup (NBG15) Sweden Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ireland[38] France[39]
Jul–Dec France,[23] Belgium (unconfirmed)[23] France[23]
2016 Jan–Jun Visegrád Battlegroup[40] Poland Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine[13][14]
Jul–Dec German–Czech–Austrian Battlegroup[41][42] Austria? Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg and Croatia 1500–2500
2019 Jul–Dec Visegrád Battlegroup[13] Poland Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia (and Ukraine?)[13]

There are plans to extend the concept to air and naval forces, although not to the extent of having a single standing force on standby, but scattered forces which could be rapidly assembled.[43]

Niche capabilities

The following Member States have also offered niche capabilities in support of the EU Battlegroups:[44]

Further details on specific contributions

Nordic Battlegroup sniper training at Kilworth, Ireland

The Battlegroups project is not to be confused with the projected Helsinki Headline Goal force, which concerns up to 60,000 soldiers, deployable for at least a year, and take one to two months to deploy. The Battlegroups are instead meant for more rapid and shorter deployment in international crises, probably preparing the ground for a larger and more traditional force to replace them in due time.

Western Balkans Battlegroup proposal

In 2010, a group of experts from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy proposed the establishment of a Western Balkans Battlegroup by 2020. In a policy vision titled "Towards a Western Balkans Battlegroup: A vision of Serbia's Defence Integration into the EU 2010-2020",[46] they argued that the creation of such a Battlegroup would not only be an accelerating factor in the accession of the former Yugoslav republics into the EU, but also a strong symbolic message of reconciliation and security community reconstruction after the devastating wars of the 1990s. Furthermore, the authors of the study argued that such a Western Balkan Battlegroup, notwithstanding all the political challenges, would have a very high linguistic, cultural and military interoperability. Although decision makers initially showed a weak interest in the Western Balkans Battlegroup, the idea has recently reappeared in the parliamentary discussions in Serbia.[47]


Dutch artillery exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, 2014

In 2008, the EU Battlegroup conducted wargames to protect the first-ever free elections in the imaginary country of Vontinalys.[48] In June 2014, EUBG 2014 II with 3,000 troops from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Netherlands and Spain conducted a training exercise in the Ardennes, codenamed 'Quick Lion', to prevent ethnic violence between the "Greys" and the "Whites" in the imaginary country of "Blueland".[49][50]

See also


  1. Landstrom, Gustav (February 2007). "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Chaillot Paper. EUISS (97): 7. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  2. "The EU Battlegroups and the EU civilian and military cell" (PDF). European Union Factsheet. European Council. February 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  3. 1 2 Paul Reynolds (15 March 2007). "New force behind EU foreign policy". BBC News. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  4. "Charlemagne" (columnist) (13 January 2013). "Europe in a foreign field". The Economist. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  5. Deaglan De Breadun (15 October 2004). "Value of EU 'battlegroup' plan stressed by Annan". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  6. Landstrom, Gustav (February 2007). "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Chaillot Paper. EUISS (97): 9. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  7. (all Background) Landstrom, Gustav (February 2007). "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Chaillot Paper. EUISS (97): 9–12. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  8. 1 2 "Factsheet on EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Council of the European Union. April 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  9. "The European Security and Defence Policy: from the Helsinki Headline Goal to the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). European Parliament. 12 September 2006. Retrieved 7 July 2015. (p. 9)
  10. (all Tasks) Landstrom, Gustav (February 2007). "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Chaillot Paper. EUISS (97): 17–19. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  11. (all Structure) Landstrom, Gustav (February 2007). "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Chaillot Paper. EUISS (97): 15–16. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Infographic EU-Battlegroup en Nederlandse deelname". Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  13. 1 2 3 4 "Bratislava Declaration of the Visegrad Group Heads of Government on the Deepening V4 Defence Cooperation". Visegrád Group. 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  14. 1 2 "V4 invites Ukraine to set up joint military unit". Ukrinform. Ukrainian Government. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  15. 1 2 John Reid (27 January 2006). "Lessons Identified from Battlegroups Initial Operational Capability". Hansard. House of Commons of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  16. 1 2 3 "EU Battlegroup". Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  17. Anna Barcikowska (November 2013). "EU Battlegroups – ready to go?" (PDF). Brief ISS. EUISS. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  18. Homan, Kees (August 2011). "EU-Battle groups: Use them, or lose them" (PDF). Armex (in Dutch). Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael. 95 (4): 18–19. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  19. Bonaiuti, Chiara; Lodovisi, Achille (2010). Sicurezza, controllo e finanza. Le nuove dimensioni del mercato degli armamenti (in Italian). Milan: Editoriale Jaca Book. p. 273. ISBN 8816409274. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  20. Landstrom, Gustav (February 2007). "Enter the EU Battlegroups" (PDF). Chaillot Paper. EUISS (97): 88. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 Volpi, Valerio (2011). Why Europe Will Not Run the 21st Century: Reflections on the Need for a New European Federation. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 155. ISBN 1443830526. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  22. 1 2 "Hoofdstuk 4: Naar een Europees Defensiebeleid". (in Dutch). Netherlands Atlantic Association. 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "European Defence Capabilities: lessons from the past, signposts for the future. Chapter 3: the state of play". European Union Committee - Thirty-First Report. House of Lords. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  24. Wilmer Heck (30 November 2006). "EU wil wereldwijd vlammen doven". NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  25. Also known as the Italian–Hungarian–Slovenian Battlegroup.
  26. "Greece prepares military exercise with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania". EUbusiness. 22 November 2005. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-01.
  27. Erik Magnusson; Mats Amnell (13 December 2007). "Norra Europa på väg mot en försvarsallians". Sydsvenskan (in Swedish). Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  28. "Nordic Battlegroup - svenskledd styrka till EU:s snabbinsatsförmåga" (in Swedish). Försvarsmakten. Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
  29. "Czechs, Slovaks start preparing joint military unit". Czech Republic: The Official Website of the Czech Republic. 20 July 2006. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
  30. Also known as the Polish-led Battlegroup.
  31. "Einde oefening vormt start EU-Battlegroup (video)". (in Dutch). Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  32. Tom Brady (19 November 2010). "Irish troops on exercises in Sweden". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  33. "New agreement on the time of Croatian helicopters" (in Swedish). Swedish Armed Forces. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  34. 1 2 Machado, Miguel (19 October 2010). "Eurofor European Union Battle Group 2011-2". Operacional (in Portuguese and English). Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  35. Leigh Turner (11 July 2011). "Ukraine joins EU battle group". Foreign Office blogs. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  36. "Royal Marines train on Salisbury Plain". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)/Defence Infrastructure Organisation. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  37. Nestoras, Antonios (19 May 2015). The Common Security and Defence Policy: National Perspectives. Academia Press. p. 62. ISBN 9038225245. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  38. "Nordic Battlegroup NBG15". Swedish Armed Forces. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  39. "Lithuanian rotation actively preparing for standby for EU Battlegroup next year". DELFI. 19 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  40. "Nowa Wyszehradzka Grupa Bojowa: Polska na czele" (in Polish). 7 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
  41. "Klug bei Battlegroup-Übung in Allentsteig". Österreich Journal (in German). 2 July 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  42. "Österreich soll an EU-Battlegroup 2016 teilnehmen". Kurier (in German). 18 February 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  43. EU To Include Air, Naval Forces in Battle Group Concept 19 March 2007
  44. "EU Battlegroups – Annex A: Battlegroup Concept". United Kingdom Parliament. 19 February 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
  45. along with 80 bomb disposal and communication specialists from Ireland and 45 from Estonia. Ulf K. Rask (29 May 2006). "Inauguration of the Nordic Battle Group Headquarters". Försvarsmakten. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
  46. Filip Ejdus; Marko Savković; Nataša Dragojlović (May 2010). "Towards a Western Balkans Battlegroup" (PDF). Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  47. "Otvoreni parlament - Strana 19". Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  48. Enter In defence of Europe BBC News 5 June 2008
  49. Roland Duong; Teun van de Keuken (15 September 2014). "De Slag om Europa: Een Europees leger". De slag om Europa. NPO. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  50. "3.000 Europese militairen oefenen in Wallonië". Het Laatste Nieuws. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
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