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UPDATE 1-EU must create deployable rapid reaction force, Borrell says

reuters.com · 09/02/2021 03:11
UPDATE 1-EU must create deployable rapid reaction force, Borrell says

Updates with timing of proposal

By Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold

- The chaotic Western withdrawal from Afghanistan is likely to be a catalyst for the European Union's attempts to develop its common defence, the EU's top diplomat said on Thursday, saying a rapid reaction force must be part of that.

Calls within the EU are growing for the bloc to be able to intervene militarily in a crisis without relying on U.S. troops.

EU defence and foreign ministers are set to discuss the way forward on Thursday and Friday at an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Slovenia.

"Sometimes there are events that catalyze history, that create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before the Slovenia gathering.

Borrell has called for a European "first entry force" of 5,000 troops to replace the EU's battlegroups that were created in 2007 but have never been used.

"We have to look for something more operational," he said regarding an entry force. "The need for more, stronger European defence is more evident that ever," he told reporters.

He said he hoped for a plan in October or November.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Hugh Lawson)

((robin.emmott@thomsonreuters.com; +32 2 287 6835; Reuters Messaging: robin.emmott.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))