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Euro 'Gendarmerie' Set Up to Police the World's Trouble Spots

The European Union added a fresh arm to its fast-growing military and police machinery yesterday, launching a fighting "gendarmerie" for quick deployment to trouble spots all over world.

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

EU defence ministers meeting in Holland agreed to back the French-inspired plan for a 900-man force to be operational by December. Comprising French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese units, the gendarmerie - or carabinieri in Italian - will be well-armed and ready for full-scale conflict if necessary. The first commander will be French, with headquarters in Italy.

Michelle Alliot-Marie, the French defence minister, said the force was designed for "post-conflict" duties in regions emerging from civil war such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Ivory Coast.

She extolled the move as further proof that Europe is coming of age as a genuine military power and added: "When we spoke of European defence 10 years ago, it was utopian; five years ago, it was just talk; now it's a reality."

Britain welcomed the scheme but without its own tradition of a militarised police it has no plans to take part. The gendarmerie is one of a plethora of cross-border military, paramilitary, and police bodies sprouting up in the EU, including a Finnish-Swedish force to patrol the Arctic wastes and a Franco-Spanish anti-terrorist police corps.

The EU's main project is a rapid reaction force, a pool of 60,000 troops, 400 aircraft and 40 warships, backed by a military staff and an intelligence cell in Brussels, supposedly ready for duty worldwide. Critics say it remains a paper army, lacking the basic airlift to project force overseas, or the sort of "smart" weapons that dominate modern warfare.

Mrs Alliot-Marie has been pushing for an autonomous EU military force outside NATO control. She is the chief advocate of a strategic alliance between the EU and China to counter American power, a plan that has infuriated Washington.

While Britain and France have been working closely together in pushing the EU's defence ambitions, their ultimate vision is starkly different. Paris sees it as part of long-term goal of breaking dependence on Washington: London sees it as a means of locking the EU into the transatlantic structure.


  • The Daily Telegraph