EU Nordic Battle Group staff headquarters opens in Sweden
Plans for a Nordic Battle Group (NBG) for the crisis management forces of the European Union took a major leap forward on Monday, when the staff headquarters of the force was officially inaugurated in the Swedish city of Enköping.
"There has been much talk about scaling back the Defence Forces and shutting down garrisons. Today we are seeing an example of a new kind of defence. We are setting up a completely new kind of unit, and we are doing it together with other countries", said Lieutenant-General Mats Nilsson to journalists.
Finland, Norway, and Estonia are taking part in the Swedish-led group, which is the fifth unit in the EU’s rapid deployment reserve. Each battle group maintains readiness for six months in turn for deployment at ten days’ notice for humanitarian and crisis management missions around the world, if the EU decides to send them.
The Nordic Battle Group is to be in readiness for the first half of 2008. By that time the whole EU rapid deployment reserve is to comprise 18 battle groups.
In addition to NBG, Finland is taking part in another battle group, where Germany and The Netherlands are partners.
The commander of NBG is Swedish Brigadier-General Karl Engelbrektsson, who officially received his commander’s flag of the fifth group, bearing the Roman numeral five.
"You can also see it as the letter V for victory", Engelbrektsson said. There was a certain ironic military humour in his comments, as he has fingers missing from his left hand.
"Fingers got blown off in an accident when I was a second lieutenant, as I was defusing a mine. The snow slipped beneath me and I stumbled", Engelbrektsson said.
Soldiers were quickly recruited for the battle group, and training began in each of the four countries. In October next year the group will meet for the first time for joint exercises in Sweden.
"There is at least ten weeks of common time for the exercise", Engelbrektsson said.
The general admitted that delivering a unit composed of soldiers from four countries to a crisis area in ten days is a challenge.
"It's Christmas Eve for logistics men! They can really put their professional skills to the test", Engelbrektsson said.
Africa is seen as a likely area of deployment for EU crisis management forces. Long distances and heavy equipment mean that only some of the force can be airlifted rapidly to the area in the early stages.
"We are looking into various alternatives of strategic transport. We have agreements on ships that we can rent at short notice", Mats Nilsson says.
At Monday’s ceremony a number of staff officers of the future battle group signed their service contracts. One of them was Lieutenant-Colonel Petri Kosonen of Pori.
"I will be the chief of the planning section", said Kosonen.
Enköping is the nerve centre of the international operations of the Swedish military, including the Swedish unit taking part in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Estonia to take part in EU's Nordic battle group (15.12.2004)
Chief of Defence urges quick decision on status of rapid deployment forces (24.2.2005)
Finns approve of EU combat forces - sharp differences between men and women (29.11.2004)
Finland to recruit professional soldiers for rapid deployment special force (10.11.2004)
Finland and Sweden agree to set up common EU military force (5.10.2004)
Finnish officers may join EU forces in Congo (7.3.2006)
Finland to increase number of peacekeepers in Afghanistan (13.2.2006)