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Common Security and Defence Policy

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Common Security and Defence Policy
(European Defence Union)
Arms of the Military Staff (EUMS), which includes the EU's permanent operational headquarters, MPCC
Founded1999 (as the European Security and Defence Policy)
Current form2009 (Treaty of Lisbon)
HeadquartersMilitary (MPCC) and Civilian (CPCC) Planning and Conduct Capabilities, Kortenberg building, Brussels, Belgium
High RepresentativeJosep Borrell
Director General of the Military StaffLTG Esa Pulkkinen
Chairman of the Military CommitteeGEN Robert Brieger
Active personnel1,410,626 (2016)[1]
Reserve personnel2,330,803
Budget€223.4 billion ($249.3 billion) (2018)[2]
Percent of GDP1.5% (2020)[3]
Related articles
HistoryHistory of the Common Security and Defence Policy

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is the European Union's (EU) course of action in the fields of defence and crisis management, and a main component of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

The CSDP involves the deployment of military or civilian missions to preserve peace, prevent conflict and strengthen international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Military missions are carried out by EU forces established with secondments from the member states' armed forces. The CSDP also entails collective self-defence amongst member states[a] as well as a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in which 26 of the 27 national armed forces pursue structural integration. The CSDP structure – headed by the Union's High Representative (HR/VP), Josep Borrell, and sometimes referred to as the European Defence Union (EDU) in relation to its prospective development as the EU's defence arm[4][5][6][b] – comprises:

The EU command and control structures are much smaller than the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Command Structure (NCS), which has been established for territorial defence. It has been agreed that NATO's Allied Command Operations (ACO) may be used for the conduct of the EU's missions. The MPCC, established in 2017 and to be strengthened in 2020, is the EU's first permanent military OHQ. In parallel, the newly established European Defence Fund (EDF) marks the first time the EU budget is used to finance multinational defence projects.

Decisions relating to the CSDP are proposed by the High Representative, adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council, generally requiring unanimity, to be then implemented by the High Representative.


The commands of Western Union service branches were situated in the Palace of Fontainebleau from 1948 until they were transformed into NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in 1951.
Organigramme for the European Defence Community (EDC), which – if ratified – would have created a unified defence arm for the later to be established European Political Community (EPC). This force would represent an autonomous European pillar within NATO, under the authority of the Supreme Commander.

The post-war period saw several short-lived or ill-fated initiatives for European defence integration intended to protect against potential Soviet or German aggression: The Western Union (WU, also referred to as the Brussels Treaty Organisation, BTO) and the proposed European Defence Community (EDC) were respectively cannibalised by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and rejected by the French Parliament. The largely dormant Western European Union (WEU) succeeded the WU's remainder in 1955.

In 1970 the European Political Cooperation (EPC) brought about the European Communities' (EC) initial foreign policy coordination. Opposition to the addition of security and defence matters to the EPC led to the reactivation of the WEU in 1984 by its member states, which were also EC member states.

European defence integration gained momentum soon after the end of the Cold War, partly as a result of the EC's failure to prevent the Yugoslav Wars. In 1992, the WEU was given new tasks, and the following year the Treaty of Maastricht founded the EU and replaced the EPC with the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) pillar. In 1996 NATO agreed to let the WEU develop a so-called European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI).[7] The 1998 St. Malo declaration signalled that the traditionally hesitant United Kingdom was prepared to provide the EU with autonomous defence structures.[8] This facilitated the transformation of the ESDI into the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) in 1999, when it was transferred to the EU. In 2003 the EU deployed its first CSDP missions, and adopted the European Security Strategy identifying common threats and objectives. In 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon introduced the present name, CSDP, while establishing the EEAS, the mutual defence clause and enabling a subset of member states to pursue defence integration within PESCO. In 2011 the WEU, whose tasks had been transferred to the EU, was dissolved. In 2016 a new security strategy was introduced, which along with the Russian annexation of Crimea, the British withdrawal from the EU and the election of Trump as US president have given the CSDP a new impetus.

Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.

  S: signing
  F: entry into force
  T: termination
  E: expiry
    de facto supersession
  Rel. w/ EC/EU framework:
   de facto inside
                  European Union (EU) [Cont.]  
European Communities (EC) (Pillar I)
European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) [Cont.]      
/ / / European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)  
(Distr. of competences)
    European Economic Community (EEC)    
            Schengen Rules European Community (EC)
'TREVI' Justice and Home Affairs (JHA, pillar II)  
  / North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) [Cont.] Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC, pillar II)

Anglo-French alliance
[Defence arm handed to NATO] European Political Co-operation (EPC)   Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP, pillar III)
Western Union (WU) / Western European Union (WEU) [Tasks defined following the WEU's 1984 reactivation handed to the EU]
[Social, cultural tasks handed to CoE] [Cont.]                
      Council of Europe (CoE)
Entente Cordiale
S: 8 April 1904
Dunkirk Treaty[i]
S: 4 March 1947
F: 8 September 1947
E: 8 September 1997
Brussels Treaty[i]
S: 17 March 1948
F: 25 August 1948
T: 30 June 2011
London and Washington treaties[i]
S: 5 May/4 April 1949
F: 3 August/24 August 1949
Paris treaties: ECSC and EDC[ii]
S: 18 April 1951/27 May 1952
F: 23 July 1952/—
E: 23 July 2002/—
Rome treaties: EEC and EAEC
S: 25 March 1957
F: 1 January 1958
WEU-CoE agreement[i]
S: 21 October 1959
F: 1 January 1960
Brussels (Merger) Treaty[iii]
S: 8 April 1965
F: 1 July 1967
Davignon report
S: 27 October 1970
Single European Act (SEA)
S: 17/28 February 1986
F: 1 July 1987
Schengen Treaty and Convention
S: 14 June 1985/19 June 1990
F: 26 March 1995
Maastricht Treaty[iv][v]
S: 7 February 1992
F: 1 November 1993
Amsterdam Treaty
S: 2 October 1997
F: 1 May 1999
Nice Treaty
S: 26 February 2001
F: 1 February 2003
Lisbon Treaty[vi]
S: 13 December 2007
F: 1 December 2009

  1. ^ a b c d e Although not EU treaties per se, these treaties affected the development of the EU defence arm, a main part of the CFSP. The Franco-British alliance established by the Dunkirk Treaty was de facto superseded by WU. The CFSP pillar was bolstered by some of the security structures that had been established within the remit of the 1955 Modified Brussels Treaty (MBT). The Brussels Treaty was terminated in 2011, consequently dissolving the WEU, as the mutual defence clause that the Lisbon Treaty provided for EU was considered to render the WEU superfluous. The EU thus de facto superseded the WEU.
  2. ^ Plans to establish a European Political Community (EPC) were shelved following the French failure to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC). The EPC would have combined the ECSC and the EDC.
  3. ^ The European Communities obtained common institutions and a shared legal personality (i.e. ability to e.g. sign treaties in their own right).
  4. ^ The treaties of Maastricht and Rome form the EU's legal basis, and are also referred to as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), respectively. They are amended by secondary treaties.
  5. ^ Between the EU's founding in 1993 and consolidation in 2009, the union consisted of three pillars, the first of which were the European Communities. The other two pillars consisted of additional areas of cooperation that had been added to the EU's remit.
  6. ^ The consolidation meant that the EU inherited the European Communities' legal personality and that the pillar system was abolished, resulting in the EU framework as such covering all policy areas. Executive/legislative power in each area was instead determined by a distribution of competencies between EU institutions and member states. This distribution, as well as treaty provisions for policy areas in which unanimity is required and qualified majority voting is possible, reflects the depth of EU integration as well as the EU's partly supranational and partly intergovernmental nature.


Since 2002, the European Union has intervened abroad thirty-five times in three different continents.[citation needed][clarification needed]

The first deployment of European troops under the ESDP, following the 1999 declaration of intent, was in March 2003 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM, today: North Macedonia). Operation Concordia used NATO assets and was considered a success and replaced by a smaller police mission, EUPOL Proxima, later that year. Since then, there have been other small police, justice and monitoring missions. As well as in the FYROM, the EU has maintained its deployment of peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as part of Operation Althea.[9]

Between May and September 2003 EU troops were deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during "Operation Artemis" under a mandate given by UN Security Council Resolution 1484 which aimed to prevent further atrocities and violence in the Ituri Conflict and put the DRC's peace process back on track. This laid out the "framework nation" system to be used in future deployments. The EU returned to the DRC during July–November 2006 with EUFOR RD Congo, which supported the UN mission there during the country's elections.

Geographically, EU missions outside the Balkans and the DRC have taken place in Georgia, Indonesia, Sudan, Palestine, and UkraineMoldova. There is also a judicial mission in Iraq (EUJUST Lex). On 28 January 2008, the EU deployed its largest and most multi-national mission to Africa, EUFOR Tchad/RCA.[10] The UN-mandated mission involves troops from 25 EU states (19 in the field) deployed in areas of eastern Chad and the north-eastern Central African Republic in order to improve security in those regions. EUFOR Tchad/RCA reached full operation capability in mid-September 2008, and handed over security duties to the UN (MINURCAT mission) in mid-March 2009.[11]

The EU launched its first maritime CSDP operation on 12 December 2008 (Operation Atalanta). The concept of the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) was created on the back of this operation, which is still successfully combatting piracy off the coast of Somalia almost a decade later. A second such intervention was launched in 2015 to tackle migration problems in the southern Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med), working under the name Operation SOPHIA.

Most of the CSDP missions deployed so far are mandated to support security sector reforms (SSR) in host-states. One of the core principles of CSDP support to SSR is local ownership. The EU Council defines ownership as "the appropriation by the local authorities of the commonly agreed objectives and principles".[12] Despite EU's strong rhetorical attachment to the local ownership principle, research shows that CSDP missions continue to be an externally driven, top-down and supply-driven endeavour, resulting often in the low degree of local participation.[13]


High Representative Josep Borrell

The CSDP involves military or civilian missions being deployed to preserve peace, prevent conflict and strengthen international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Military missions are carried out by EU forces established with contributions from the member states' armed forces. The CSDP also entails collective self-defence amongst member states[a] as well as a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in which 26 of the 27 national armed forces pursue structural integration. The CSDP structure, headed by the Union's High Representative (HR/VP), Josep Borrell, comprises:

While the EU has a command and control (C2) structure, it has no standing permanent military structure along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Allied Command Operations (ACO), although it has been agreed that ACO resources may be used for the conduct of the EU's CSDP missions. The MPCC, established in 2017 and to be strengthened in 2020, does however represent the EU's first step in developing a permanent military headquarters. In parallel, the newly established European Defence Fund (EDF) marks the first time the EU budget is used to finance multinational defence projects. The CSDP structure is sometimes referred to as the European Defence Union (EDU), especially in relation to its prospective development as the EU's defence arm.[4][5][6][c]

Decisions relating to the CSDP are proposed by the HR/VP, adopted by the FAC, generally requiring unanimity, and then implemented by the HR/VP. The EU command and control (C2) structure is directed by political bodies composed of member states' representatives, and generally requires unanimous decisions. As of April 2019:[14]

Liaison:       Advice and recommendations       Support and monitoring       Preparatory work     
Political strategic level:[5]
ISSEUCO Pres. (EUCO)Chain of command


Military/civilian strategic level:

Dir MPCC[3] (MPCC)
Operational level:
MFCdr[4] (MFHQ)HoM[1]
Tactical level:
CC[2] LandCC[2] AirCC[2] MarOther CCs[2]

1 In the event of a CSDP Civilian Mission also being in the field, the relations with the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC) and its Civilian Operation Commander (Civ OpCdr), as well as the subordinate Head of Mission (HoM), are coordinated as shown.
2 Other Component Commanders (CCs) and service branches which may be established.
3 The MPCC is part of the EUMS and Dir MPCC is double-hatted as DGEUMS. Unless the MPCC is used as Operation Headquarters (OHQ), either a national OHQ offered by member states or the NATO Command Structure (NCS) would serve this purpose. In the latter instance, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), rather than Dir MPCC, would serve as Operation Commander (OpCdr).
4 Unless the MPCC is used as Operation Headquarters (OHQ), the MFCdr would be known as a Force Commander (FCdr), and direct a Force Headquarters (FHQ) rather than a MFHQ. Whereas the MFHQ would act both on the operational and tactical level, the FHQ would act purely on the operational level.
5 The political strategic level is not part of the C2 structure per se, but represents the political bodies, with associated support facilities, that determine the missions' general direction. The Council determines the role of the High Representative (HR/VP), who serves as Vice-President of the European Commission, attends European Council meetings, chairs the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and may chair the Political and Security Committee (PSC) in times of crisis. The HR/VP proposes and implements CSDP decisions.
6 Same composition as Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) II, which also prepares for the CSDP-related work of the FAC.


The European Union Global Strategy (EUGS) is the updated doctrine of the EU to improve the effectiveness of the CSDP, including the defence and security of the members states, the protection of civilians, cooperation between the member states' armed forces, management of immigration, crises etc. Adopted on 28 June 2016,[15] it replaces the European Security Strategy of 2003. The EUGS is complemented by a document titled "Implementation Plan on Security and Defense" (IPSD).[16] Deterrence theory is applied to deter aggressors as one of the core mandates of Common Security and Defence Policy, yet lacks credibility due to insufficient resources.[17]


A new Action Plan on military mobility and cyber resilience was released 10 November 2022.[18]


National armed forces' personnel combined (2016)[19]

The CSDP is implemented using civilian and military contributions from member states' armed forces, which also are obliged to collective self-defence based on Treaty on European Union (TEU).

Five EU states host nuclear weapons: France has its own nuclear programmes, while Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands host US nuclear weapons as part of NATO's nuclear sharing policy. Combined, the EU possesses 300 warheads, and hosts between 90 and 130 US warheads. Italy hosts 70-90 B61 nuclear bombs, while Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands 10-20 each one.[20] The EU has the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, after the United States and Russia.

Expenditure and personnel[edit]

The following table presents the military expenditures of the members of the European Union in euros (€). The combined military expenditure of the member states amounted to €223.4 billion in 2018.[2] This represents 1.4% of European Union GDP. European military expenditure includes spending on joint projects such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and joint procurement of equipment. The European Union's combined active military forces in 2016 totaled 1,410,626 personnel.[1]

In a speech in 2012, Swedish General Håkan Syrén criticised the spending levels of European Union countries, saying that in the future those countries' military capability will decrease, creating "critical shortfalls".[21]

Guide to table:

  • All figure entries in the table below are provided by the European Defence Agency for the year 2017, except for Germany's personnel figure, which is for 2016. Figures from other sources are not included.
  • The "operations & maintenance expenditure" category may in some circumstances also include finances on-top of the nations defence budget.
  • The categories "troops prepared for deployed operations" and "troops prepared for deployed and sustained operation" only include land force personnel.
Member state Expenditure (€ mn.) Per capita (€) % of GDP Operations & maintenance expenditure (€ mn.) Active military personnel Land troops prepared for deployed and sustained operations Reserve personnel
Austria Austria[1] 2,673 301 0.74 574 24,190 1,100 950,000
Belgium Belgium[1] 5,672 349 1.1 680 27,789 1,293 3,300
Bulgaria Bulgaria[1] 1,140 109 1.56 118 30,218 1,168 3,000
Croatia Croatia[1] 950 149 1.5 154 14,862 796 18,343
Cyprus Cyprus[1] 470 409 1.83 63 20,000 0 75,000
Czech Republic Czech Republic[1] 3,310 184 1.46 474 23,036 672 3,236
Estonia Estonia[1] 748 363 2.31 158 6,178 100 60,000
Finland Finland[1] 4,873 523 2.15 919 7,515 1,738 900,000
France France[1] 49,700 609 1.79 10,201 208,251 17,000 38,550
Germany Germany[1] 57,300 489 1.53 177,608 29,200
Greece Greece[1] 7,086 393 3.82 504 106,624 2,432
Hungary Hungary[1] 2,200 122 1.66 492 23,846 1,000 20,000
Republic of Ireland Ireland[1] 780 191 0.31 103 9,500 850 1,778
Italy Italy[1] 26,310 339 1.6 1,583 181,116 18,300
Latvia Latvia[1] 758 243 2.23 132 5,686 75 3,000
Lithuania Lithuania[1] 1,028 256 2.13 145 14,350 26,000
Luxembourg Luxembourg[1] 389 484 0.56 30 824 57
Malta Malta[1] 54 122 0.51 8 1,808 30
Netherlands Netherlands[1] 12,900 507 1.5 2,144 40,196 1,500 5,046
Poland Poland[1] 11,940 226 2.2 1,918 106,500 60 75,400
Portugal Portugal[1] 3,975 235 1.6 142 32,726 1,698
Romania Romania[1] 5,590 185 2.0 277 69,542 2,961 50,000
Slovakia Slovakia[1] 1,520 183 1.75 198 13,152 846
Slovenia Slovenia[1] 548 204 1.04 72 6,342 707 1,000
Spain Spain[1] 15,660 231 1.2 1,891 120,812 7,410 15,150
Sweden Sweden[1] 5,620 460 1.1 1,973 14,500 750 34,500
European Union EU[1] 222,194 365 1.50 1,287,171 2,330,803

Naval forces[edit]

Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is one of the largest commissioned warships in the European Union.

The combined component strength of the naval forces of member states is some 514 commissioned warships. Of those in service, 4 are fleet carriers. The EU also has 4 amphibious assault ships and 20 amphibious support ships in service. Of the EU's 49 submarines, 10 are nuclear-powered submarines while 39 are conventional attack submarines.

Operation Atalanta (formally European Union Naval Force Somalia) is the first ever (and still ongoing) naval operation of the European Union. It is part of a larger global action by the EU in the Horn of Africa to deal with the Somali crisis. As of January 2011 twenty-three EU nations participate in the operation.

France and Italy have blue-water navies.[22]

Guide to table:

  • Ceremonial vessels, research vessels, supply vessels, training vessels, and icebreakers are not included.
  • The table only counts warships that are commissioned (or equivalent) and active.
  • Surface vessels displacing less than 200 tonnes are not included, regardless of other characteristics.
  • The "amphibious support ship" category includes amphibious transport docks and dock landing ships, and tank landing ships.
  • Frigates over 6,000 tonnes are classified as destroyers.
  • The "patrol vessel" category includes missile boats.
  • The "anti-mine ship" category includes mine countermeasures vessels, minesweepers and minehunters.
  • Generally, total tonnage of ships is more important than total number of ships, as it gives a better indication of capability.
Member state Fleet carrier Amphibious assault ship Amphibious support ship Destroyer Frigate Corvette Patrol vessel Anti-mine ship Missile sub. Attack sub. Total Tonnage
Austria Austria 0 0
Belgium Belgium[23] 2 2 5 9 10,009
Bulgaria Bulgaria 1 4 3 1 10 18 15,160
Croatia Croatia 5 2 7 2,869
Cyprus Cyprus 5 5 0
Czech Republic Czech Republic 0 0
Denmark Denmark[24] 5 4 9 18 51,235
Estonia Estonia 3 3 2,000
Finland Finland 4 4 12 20 5,429
France France[25] 1[d] 3 13 11 20 18 4 6 76 319,195
Germany Germany[26] 3 7 5 8 15 6 44 82,790
Greece Greece[27] 9 13 33[28] 4 11[28] 70 138,565
Hungary Hungary 0 0
Republic of Ireland Ireland[29] 8 8 11,219
Italy Italy[30] 2[e]+1[f] (1)[f] 3[g] 4 16 5 11 10 8 59 303,411
Latvia Latvia 5 5 3,025
Lithuania Lithuania[31] 4 4 8 5,678
Luxembourg Luxembourg 0 0
Malta Malta[32] 2 2 1,419
Netherlands Netherlands[33] 2 4 2 4 6 4 22 116,308
Poland Poland[34] 5 2 1 3 19 3 28 19,724
Portugal Portugal[35] 5 7 7 2 23 34,686
Romania Romania[36] 3 7 6 5 21 23,090
Slovakia Slovakia 0 0
Slovenia Slovenia[37] 1 1 2 435
Spain Spain[38] 1[h] (1)[h] 2[i] 5[j] 6[k] 23 6 3 46 148,607
Sweden Sweden[39] 6 11 5 22 14,256
European Union EU 4 4 22 34 75 38 156 136 4 48 514 ~516 1,309,110 ~1,309,110

Land forces[edit]

The Leopard 2 main battle tank

Combined, the member states of the European Union maintain large numbers of various land-based military vehicles and weaponry.

Guide to table:

  • The table is not exhaustive and primarily includes vehicles and EU-NATO member countries under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE treaty). Unless otherwise specified.
  • The CFE treaty only includes vehicles stationed within Europe, vehicles overseas on operations are not counted.
  • The "main battle tank" category also includes tank destroyers (such as the Italian B1 Centauro) or any self-propelled armoured fighting vehicle, capable of heavy firepower. According to the CFE treaty.
  • The "armoured fighting vehicle" category includes any armoured vehicle primarily designed to transport infantry and equipped with an automatic cannon of at least 20 mm calibre. According to the CFE treaty.
  • The "artillery" category includes self-propelled or towed howitzers and mortars of 100 mm calibre and above. Other types of artillery are not included regardless of characteristics. According to the CFE treaty.
  • The "attack helicopter" category includes any rotary wing aircraft armed and equipped to engage targets or equipped to perform other military functions (such as the Apache or the Wildcat). According to the CFE treaty.
  • The "military logistics vehicle" category includes logistics trucks of 4-tonne, 8-tonne, 14-tonne or larger, purposely designed for military tasking. Not under CFE treaty.
Member state Main battle tank Armoured fighting vehicle Artillery Attack helicopter Military logistics vehicle
Austria Austria 56 364 90
Belgium Belgium[40] 521 155 27
Bulgaria Bulgaria[40] 362 681 1,035 12
Croatia Croatia[41] 75 283 127 10
Cyprus Cyprus 134 169 234 15 398
Czech Republic Czech Republic[40] 123 501 182 24
Denmark Denmark[40] 46 229 56 12
Estonia Estonia[42] 74
Finland Finland 200 1,080 722 25
France France[40] 450 6,256 349 283 10,746
Germany Germany[40] 815 1,774 401 158
Greece Greece[40] 1,622 2,187 1,920 29
Hungary Hungary[40] 90 634 35 8 471
Republic of Ireland Ireland[43] 107 36
Italy Italy[40] 1,176 3,145 1,446 107 10,921
Latvia Latvia
Lithuania Lithuania[44] 88 96
Luxembourg Luxembourg
Malta Malta
Netherlands Netherlands[40] 16 634 135 21
Poland Poland[45] 1,675 3,110 1,580 83
Portugal Portugal[40] 220 425 377
Romania Romania[40] 857 1,272 1,273 23
Slovakia Slovakia[40] 30 327 68
Slovenia Slovenia 76 52 63
Spain Spain[40] 484 1,007 811 27
Sweden Sweden 120 978 268
European Union EU[40] 8,413 25,421 11,259 822

Air forces[edit]

The air forces of EU member states operate a wide range of military systems and hardware. This is primarily due to the independent requirements of each member state and also the national defence industries of some member states. However such programmes like the Eurofighter Typhoon and Eurocopter Tiger have seen many European nations design, build and operate a single weapons platform. 60% of overall combat fleet was developed and manufactured by member states, 32% are US-origin, but some of these were assembled in Europe, while remaining 8% are soviet-made aircraft. As of 2014, it is estimated that the European Union had around 2,000 serviceable combat aircraft (fighter aircraft and ground-attack aircraft).[46]

The EUs air-lift capabilities are evolving with the future introduction of the Airbus A400M (another example of EU defence cooperation). The A400M is a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities.[47] Around 140 are initially expected to be operated by 5 member states (Luxembourg, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium).

Guide to tables:

  • The tables are sourced from figures provided by Flight International for the year 2020.
  • Aircraft are grouped into three main types (indicated by colours): red for combat aircraft, green for aerial refueling aircraft, and grey for strategic and tactical transport aircraft.
  • The two "other" columns include additional aircraft according to their type sorted by colour (i.e. the "other" category in red includes combat aircraft, while the "other" category in grey includes both aerial refueling and transport aircraft). This was done because it was not feasible allocate every aircraft type its own column.
  • Other aircraft such as trainers, helicopters, UAVs and reconnaissance or surveillance aircraft are not included in the below tables or figures.
Fighter and ground-attack
Member state Typhoon Rafale Mirage 2000 Gripen F-16 F/A-18 F-35 Tornado MiG-29 Other Total
Austria Austria[46] 15 15
Belgium Belgium[46] 52 (34 ordered) 52
Bulgaria Bulgaria[46] (10 ordered) 11 6 Su-25 17
Croatia Croatia[46] (12 ordered) 12 MiG-21 12
Cyprus Cyprus[46]
Czech Republic Czech Republic[46] 12 (24 ordered) 16 L-159 28
Denmark Denmark[46] 33 4 (23 ordered) 33
Estonia Estonia[46]
Finland Finland[46] 62 (64 ordered) 62
France France[46] 135 (134 ordered) 97 232
Germany Germany[46] 134 (38) (35 ordered) 81 30 Tornado ECR 245
Greece Greece[46] 6 (18[48]) 42 153[49] 33 F-4 234[49]
Hungary Hungary[46] 14 14
Republic of Ireland Ireland[46]
Italy Italy[46] 94 30 (108 ordered) 71 58 AMX, 15 Harrier II, 13 Tornado ECR 281[50]
Latvia Latvia[46]
Lithuania Lithuania[46]
Luxembourg Luxembourg[46]
Malta Malta[46]
Netherlands Netherlands[46] 29 26 (26 ordered) 55
Poland Poland[46] 48 (32 ordered) 23 32 Su-22 103
Portugal Portugal[46] 25 25
Romania Romania[46] 17 16 MiG-21 33
Slovakia Slovakia[46] (12 ordered) 10 10
Slovenia Slovenia[46]
Spain Spain[46] 68 (20 ordered) 84 12 Harrier II 164
Sweden Sweden[46] 94 (70 ordered) 94
European Union EU[46] 311 141 139 120 357 146 60 (346) 152 44 243 1,713
Aerial refueling and transport
Member state A330 MRTT A310 MRTT KC-135/707 C-17 C-130 C-160 C-27J CN-235/C-295 An-26 A400M Other Total
Austria Austria[46] 3 8 PC-6 11
Belgium Belgium[46] 9 7 3 ERJ-135/145 19
Bulgaria Bulgaria[46] 2 1 1 L-410 & 1 PC-12 5
Croatia Croatia[46]
Cyprus Cyprus[46] 1 BN-2 1
Czech Republic Czech Republic[46] 4 4 L-410 8
DenmarkDenmark[46] 4 4
Estonia Estonia[46] 2 An-28/M28 2
Finland Finland[46] 3 3 Learjet 35 & 6 PC-12NG 12
France France[46] 2 14 16 15 27 15 3 A340 92
Germany Germany[46] 4 42 31 2 A319 76
Greece Greece[46] 13 8 21
Hungary Hungary[46] 4 4
Republic of Ireland Ireland[46] 2 1 BNT-2 CC2/B 3
Italy Italy[46] 16 12 4 KC-767
3 KC-130J
3 A319
Latvia Latvia[46]
Lithuania Lithuania[46] 3 1 4
Luxembourg Luxembourg[46] 1 1
Malta Malta[46] 2 BNT-2 CC2/B
2 King Air 200
Netherlands Netherlands[46] 4 2 (K)DC-10 6
Poland Poland[46] 5 16 20
Portugal Portugal[46] 6 7 13
Romania Romania[46] 2 7 2 11
Slovakia Slovakia[46] 2 5 Let L-410 Turbolet 7
Slovenia Slovenia[46] 1 Let L-410 Turbolet
2 Pilatus PC-6 Porter
1 Dassault Falcon 2000
Spain Spain[46] 2 7 21 6 5 KC-130H
2 A310
Sweden Sweden[46] 7 1 KC-130H 8
Shared within EU 3 (6) part of MMF 3
European Union EU[46] 5 4 16 0 83 107 30 81 16 60 41 391


Established at Union level[edit]

Irish Army personnel from the Nordic Battle Group at an exercise in 2010

The Helsinki Headline Goal Catalogue is a listing of rapid reaction forces composed of 60,000 troops managed by the European Union, but under control of the countries who deliver troops for it.

Forces introduced at Union level include:

  • The battle groups (BG) adhere to the CSDP, and are based on contributions from a coalition of member states. Each of the eighteen Battlegroups consists of a battalion-sized force (1,500 troops) reinforced with combat support elements.[51][52] The groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times. The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union. The Battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007, although, as of January 2013 they are yet to see any military action.[53] They are based on existing ad hoc missions that the European Union (EU) has undertaken and has been described by some as a new "standing army" for Europe.[52] The troops and equipment are drawn from the EU member states under a "lead nation". In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the Battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots.[54]
  • The Medical Command (EMC) is a planned medical command centre in support of EU missions, formed as part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).[55] The EMC will provide the EU with a permanent medical capability to support operations abroad, including medical resources and a rapidly deployable medical task force. The EMC will also provide medical evacuation facilities, triage and resuscitation, treatment and holding of patients until they can be returned to duty, and emergency dental treatment. It will also contribute to harmonising medical standards, certification and legal (civil) framework conditions.[56]
  • The Force Crisis Response Operation Core (EUFOR CROC) is a flagship defence project under development as part of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). EURFOR CROC will contribute to the creation of a "full spectrum force package" to speed up provision of military forces and the EU's crisis management capabilities.[57] Rather than creating a standing force, the project involves creating a concrete catalogue of military force elements that would speed up the establishment of a force when the EU decides to launch an operation. It is land-focused and aims to generate a force of 60,000 troops from the contributing states alone. While it does not establish any form of "European army", it foresees an deployable, interoperable force under a single command.[58] Germany is the lead country for the project, but the French are heavily involved and it is tied to President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to create a standing intervention force. The French see it as an example of what PESCO is about.[59]

Provided through Article 42.3 TEU[edit]

Personnel of the European Corps in Strasbourg, France, during a change of command ceremony in 2013

This section presents an incomplete list of forces and bodies established intergovernmentally amongst a subset of member states. These organisations will deploy forces based on the collective agreement of their member states. They are typically technically listed as being able to be deployed under the auspices of NATO, the United Nations, the European Union (EU) through Article 42.3 of TEU, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or any other international entity.

However, with the exception of the Eurocorps, very few have actually been deployed for any real military operation, and none under the CSDP at any point in its history.

Land Forces:


  • The European Air Transport Command exercises operational control of the majority of the aerial refueling capabilities and military transport fleets of its participating nations. Located at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands, the command also bears a limited responsibility for exercises, aircrew training and the harmonisation of relevant national air transport regulations.[62][63] The command was established in 2010 to provide a more efficient management of the participating nations' assets and resources in this field.


Participation, relationship with NATO[edit]

Out of the 27 EU member states, 23 are also members of NATO. Another four NATO members are EU applicants—Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey. Two others—Iceland and Norway—have opted to remain outside of the EU, however participate in the EU's single market. The memberships of the EU and NATO are distinct, and some EU member states are traditionally neutral on defence issues. Several EU member states were formerly members of the Warsaw Pact. Denmark had an opt-out from the CSDP,[1] however voted in a referendum in 2022 to begin to participate in the policy area.

  Non-European countries
  Transcontinental countries
Comparison of the two main Euro-Atlantic defence organisations
   European Union
(in respect of its defence arm, the Common Security and Defence Policy)
Mutual defence clause Article 42.7 of the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union:

"If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States. [...]"

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty:

"The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them [on their territory] shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. [...]"

  Political strategic organisation
Highest office High Representative (HR/VP) Secretary General
Principal decision-making body Foreign Affairs Council North Atlantic Council
Liaison body European External Action Service International Staff
Seat Kortenberg building (Brussels, Belgium) NATO headquarters (Brussels, Belgium)
  Military strategic organisation
Supreme commander Director of the Military Planning and Conduct Capability Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Headquarters Military Planning and Conduct Capability (Brussels, Belgium) Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (Mons, Belgium)
Chair of chiefs of defence assembly Chairman of the European Union Military Committee Chair of the NATO Military Committee
Chiefs of defence assembly European Union Military Committee NATO Military Committee
Advisory body European Union Military Staff International Military Staff
  Membership Permanent Structured Cooperation Membership
Member states of both the EU and NATO
 Belgium Founder Founder Founder
 Bulgaria 2007 Founder 2004
 Croatia 2013 Founder 2009
 Czech Republic 2004 Founder 1999
 Denmark 1973 2023 Founder
 Estonia 2004 Founder 2004
 Finland 1995 Founder 2023
 France Founder Founder Founder
 Germany Founder Founder 1955
 Greece 1981 Founder 1952
 Hungary 2004 Founder 1999
 Italy Founder Founder Founder
 Latvia 2004 Founder 2004
 Lithuania 2004 Founder 2004
 Luxembourg Founder Founder Founder
 Netherlands Founder Founder Founder
 Poland 2004 Founder 1999
 Portugal 1986 Founder Founder
 Romania 2007 Founder 2004
 Slovakia 2004 Founder 2004
 Slovenia 2004 Founder 2004
 Spain 1986 Founder 1982
 Sweden 1995 Founder 2024
Non-NATO EU member states
 Austria 1995 Founder Partnership for Peace
 Cyprus  2004 Founder No
 Ireland 1973 Founder Partnership for Peace
 Malta 2004 No Partnership for Peace
Non-EU NATO member states
 Albania Candidate 2009
 Iceland No Founder
 Montenegro Candidate 2017
 North Macedonia Candidate 2020
 Norway Defence Agency agreement Founder
 Turkey  Candidate 1952
 United Kingdom No Founder
European countries outside both the EU and NATO
 Andorra  No No
 Armenia  No Individual Partnership Action Plan
 Azerbaijan  No Individual Partnership Action Plan
 Belarus No Partnership for Peace
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Candidate Membership Action Plan
 Georgia  Candidate Intensified Dialogue
 Kazakhstan  No Individual Partnership Action Plan
 Kosovo Applicant / Potential candidate No
 Liechtenstein  No No
 Moldova Candidate Individual Partnership Action Plan
 Monaco  No No
 Russia  No Partnership for Peace
 San Marino  No No
 Serbia Candidate Individual Partnership Action Plan
  Switzerland Defence Agency agreement Partnership for Peace
 Ukraine Candidate Intensified Dialogue
 Vatican City  No No
NATO member states located in North America, which are therefore ineligible for EU membership
 Canada Founder
 United States Founder
Members of NATO's Partnership for Peace located outside Europe, which are therefore neither eligible for EU nor NATO membership
 Kyrgyzstan Partnership for Peace
 Tajikistan Partnership for Peace
 Turkmenistan Partnership for Peace
 Uzbekistan Partnership for Peace

The Berlin Plus agreement is the short title of a comprehensive package of agreements made between NATO and the EU on 16 December 2002.[67] These agreements were based on conclusions of NATO's 1999 Washington summit, sometimes referred to as the CJTF mechanism,[68] and allowed the EU to draw on some of NATO's military assets in its own peacekeeping operations.

Chart presented in 2012 by then Director General of the Military Staff Lt. gen. Ton van Osch, asserting that the utility of the combined civilian and military components of the EU policy could be considered more effective than NATO for a limited level of conflict.

See also[edit]

Other defence-related EU initiatives:

Other Pan-European defence organisations (intergovernmental):

Regional, integorvernmental defence organisations in Europe:

Atlanticist intergovernmental defence organisations:


  1. ^ a b The responsibility of collective self-defence within the CSDP is based on Article 42.7 of TEU, which states that this responsibility does not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states, referring to policies of neutrality. See Neutral country§European Union for discussion on this subject.According to the Article 42.7 "If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States." Article 42.2 furthermore specifies that NATO shall be the main forum for the implementation of collective self-defence for EU member states that are also NATO members.
  2. ^ Akin to the EU's banking union, economic and monetary union and customs union.
  3. ^ Akin to the EU's banking union, economic and monetary union and customs union.
  4. ^ Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle
  5. ^ Aircraft carrier Cavour and aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi
  6. ^ a b New universal ship of Trieste has the function of aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ship.
  7. ^ San Giorgio-class amphibious transport dock
  8. ^ a b Spain withdrew last classic aircraft carrier Príncipe de Asturias in 2013 (currently in reserve). New universal ship of Juan Carlos I has the function of fleet carrier and amphibious assault ship.
  9. ^ Galicia-class landing platform dock
  10. ^ F-100 class
  11. ^ Santa María class


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]