Sunday, September 27, 2009

Maritime surveillance and battle groups to be discussed at EU ministerial meeting

If a ship sinks in European waters, what happens? Who knows what? At the informal meeting of EU defence minister in Göteborg, which begins on Monday, the issue of maritime surveillance will be discussed in detail. Other issues to be discussed include the development of the EU’s crisis management capability and the ongoing action against pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The meeting, which runs from 28 to 29 September, opens on Monday with a discussion on integrated maritime surveillance. Today not enough information is exchanged between civil and military authorities in cases when the EU countries are expected to intervene, for example in environmental catastrophes or human trafficking.

“If we know better what is happening on our seas, this contributes to both improvements in the environment and better security”, says Sweden’s Minister for Defence Sten Tolgfors, who will chair the meeting in Göteborg.

Monday opens with a demonstration of a form of cooperation that is already being used in the Baltic Sea region. There, countries’ armed forces work together using radar to get a better picture of what is happening out at sea.

Two rapid reaction forces ready

During the first day of the meeting, the ministers will also discuss the battle groups, one of the EU’s tools for crisis management. The EU always has two rapid reaction forces available to intervene in crises.

“So far they have never been used. However, there have been situations where they could have been used. During our EU Presidency we will work towards a more unified view of where the EU can make use of the battle groups. This is why we want to have a political discussion in Göteborg”, says Sten Tolgfors.

Gulf of Aden in focus

On day two, discussions will cover EU action in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. The EU’s military presence off the coast of Somalia is intended to combat pirate activity in the area. This action was recently extended until the end of next year.

In addition to ministers from the EU Member States, others attending the meeting will include Javier Solana, High Representative for the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, and representatives of the European Commission and NATO. Crown Princess Victoria will also attend. The meeting of defence ministers will be the second EU meeting in a short space of time to be held in Göteborg. Earlier this week the education ministers met there, and on 1 October the informal meeting of finance ministers kicks off. The idea behind scheduling several ministerial gatherings one after the other is to save resources and help protect the environment.

Read more about the meeting of defence ministers, and about the EU’s maritime surveillance and battle groups, via the links on the right.