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European Rapid Reaction Force

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with European colleagues regarding the progress of the ERRF; and what exercises are planned to test capability. [110028]

Although the EU is seeking to strengthen its rapid response capability, there is no standing European Rapid Reaction Force nor any EU agreement to create one: existing national or multinational forces, declared under the Helsinki Headline Goal, will be made available to the EU on a voluntary, case-by-case basis when required for a crisis management operation. Units declared to the Headline Goal may participate in national, multinational or NATO exercises but there is no specific EU exercise programme to test military capability. The EU does, however, have an agreed programme of exercises to validate its crisis management procedures including a joint EU/NATO exercise planned for November 2003. I regularly discuss the European Security and Defence Policy with European colleagues. The Headline Goal, on which the EU continues to make progress, and rapid response capabilities were discussed most recently at an informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers in March 2003.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his French counterpart on the future of the European Rapid Reaction Force. [111874]

There is no standing European Rapid Reaction Force nor any EU agreement to create one: existing national or multinational forces, declared under the Helsinki Headline Goal, will be made available to the EU on a voluntary, case-by-case basis when required for a crisis management operation.I regularly discuss the European Security and Defence Policy with my French counterpart. Our last meeting was at the Le Touquet summit in February 2003, where we jointly recognised that developing the capacity for rapid reaction was a European priority and agreed to step up co-operation between our national planning and operations staff in order to enhance the interoperability of our Armed Forces to prepare for contingencies where they may be called upon to act together at very short notice.