Brussels – The European Union has launched steps to improve the movement of military equipment and personnel across the bloc, for example by upgrading roads and bridges to cope with heavy loads.
European nations have been reviewing military structures across the continent in recent years, in light of renewed tensions with Russia.
Improving military mobility
Military mobility has become a priority for the NATO alliance and for a newly established defence cooperation among 25 EU member states.
By improving military mobility, the EU can be “more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The European Commission proposal includes a review of Europe’s road and rail network to identify suitable military transport routes and an assessment of existing border checks to speed up formalities for military staff and equipment, including dangerous goods.
As an example, many road bridges across the EU are not built to take the weight or height of oversized military vehicles, while railway infrastructure lacks sufficient loading capacity for military uses, the commission said.
By harmonizing national rules and simplifying border procedures, EU member states could save at least 30 billion euros (37.2 billion dollars), according to EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.
Infrastructure upgrades would also bring advantages outside of the military sector, for example by improving roads and railway services for commercial use, according to the commission, the EU’s executive arm.
“Prepared for all situations”
Under the proposal, which requires the approval of EU governments, a list of priority projects will be drawn up next year, following a needs assessment, with a view to providing EU funds for the most urgent improvements.
Although the EU is a peace project, it needs to be prepared for all situations, said EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.
“We know that the world is very unpredictable and we have seen many changes happening in the last couple of years, and even in the last couple of months,” she added.
NATO officials have questioned in a classified report whether the alliance could respond quickly enough to a Russian surprise attack, sources have told dpa.
The proposal comes after NATO approved the establishment of a new senior command centre last month to support rapid troop movements across Europe.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen described the NATO structure as a military “Schengen” system for Europe, in reference to the passport-free zone that allows citizens to travel freely across the continent.