European Union External Action

Part 2: EU Defence Cooperation - the crucial issue of mobility

09/08/2018 - 00:00

security and defence

Closer EU defence cooperation necessitates that Member States' Armed Forces are able to move within the Union. However, time consuming border formalities and inadequate infrastructure pose serious obstacles. For a more effective EU defence, it is crucial to overcome these hurdles. A comprehensive EU action programme launched in spring 2018 aims to achieve this.

Enhanced military mobility helps to protect the Union and its citizens. It also facilitates the deployment of EU military missions and operations in partner countries under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Improved military mobility boosts EU Member States’ ability to act jointly and effectively. 

Perhaps it sounds surprising, but today soldiers, tanks, military aircraft or vessels need to cross borders on a daily basis within the EU. Be it for the purpose of military exercises, joint training or the preparation for deployments in third countries, mobility of the armed forces of EU Member States is crucial in combining their strengths and in the accomplishment of tasks.

However such mobility requires road and rail networks suitable for military transport and adequate rules for the quick and seamless movement of troops and equipment across the Union.                               

Against this background, on 28 March 2018, Commission President Juncker and EU High Representative Mogherini presented the Action Plan on Military Mobility to address the issues.

“Promoting peace and guaranteeing the security of our citizens are our first priorities as European Union. By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise. It will be another step in deepening our cooperation at EU level, also … with our partners, starting with NATO" - Federica Mogherini

security and defence

What are the obstacles to mobility?

The EU has reached an unprecedented degree of harmonisation of rules and freedom of movement for persons. However, these achievements do not apply to the military sphere, to military equipment and soldiers. Different and non-standardised procedures for the crossing of Member States' borders exist, consuming much time and energy. By the same token, infrastructure has been planned and developed often without taking into account the transportation needs of specialised and heavy military equipment.

security and defence


The proposed EU Action Plan will help improve the situation. It encourages investment in infrastructural improvement and administrative facilitation. Member States are in the driver's seat and remain fully in charge regarding approval and management of military personnel and equipment moving on their respective territories.

Objectives of the Action Plan:


Expected outcomes: 

security and defence

Is Military Mobility linked to NATO?

EU-NATO cooperation has been taken to a new level following the 2016 EU – NATO Joint Declaration by the EU Presidents and the NATO Secretary General on strengthened cooperation. Based on the Declaration, in December 2017, the EU and NATO Councils agreed on 34 new actions for cooperation, one of which specifically targets the improvement of military mobility.

Thus enhanced military mobility should become a highly relevant and successful area of cooperation strengthening both EU cooperation in the areas of security and defence as well as the EU's partnership with NATO.

security and defence, NATO
The EEAS summer series on security and defence puts the spotlight on key EU initiatives in this area. The next article will be published on 16 August and will look at the new and binding framework of cooperation among EU Member States, the Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO. In case you missed it: Last week we provided a general overview of the EU’s role in security and defence issues and initiatives taken in that regard. You can read the article here