European Union defense ministers were meeting here Monday to nail down commitments on troops and materiel for a rapid reaction force mandated by last December's Helsinki EU summit to be operational by 2003.
EU members, having agreed on the force, were Monday in effect putting their money where their mouths are, declaring exactly what each of their countries can and will contribute.
The project envisaged in Helsinki was for a force of 60,000 troops capable of jumping into Kosovo- or Bosnia-like hotspots within 60 days and remaining in place for at least a year.
Normal troop rotation for a force that size militarily means a factor of X-3, meaning some 180,000 battle-ready troops ready to move quickly to head off trouble, stem conflict already blazing, or provide humanitarian aid after a natural disaster.
Military experts have drawn up a "shopping list" for the rapid reaction force that includes 300-350 warplanes and 80 warships, and the ministers here were taking stock of what they have, what they need, and what each will contribute.
Major gaps to be filled are in the areas of command, strategic transport and intelligence, all requiring common European programs to fill the bill.
On Tuesday, the EU ministers will bring in their European partners, the six non-EU members of NATO -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Turkey -- and nine candidates for EU membership -- Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia -- to declare the additional contributions they have expressed interest in making – BRUSSELS (AFP)
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