NewsFeed n° 18

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One year after: the armies in the fight against coronavirus

One year ago, the European countries started taking strong and restrictive measures to stop the spreading of SARS-Cov2. Some also engaged their armies, in various ways.

In France, the armies’ contribution is even an operation, called operation “Résilience”, focused on helping and supporting the population and civil authorities. The actions undertaken were transport of medical provision or patient transfer, by air, sea or land, or the building in the East of a temporary hospital by the Defence Health Service. Amphibious helicopter carriers, equipped with an hospital and transport helicopters, were also deployed in France overseas territories. The forces were only deployed when the civil services were unable to endure, and were not employed for curfew controls. Meanwhile, the French external operations were maintained at their normal pace as much as possible.

In Germany, more than 25,000 Bundeswehr employees have been committed in the fight against the Corona-virus. They assist the administration in several ways: by helping to trace contamination chains, by lending support to Healthcare Institutions, in setting up vaccination centres, test centres, and by providing sheds for storing vaccines.

Their duties remain in accordance with the German Constitution (Grundgesetz), which strongly restrain soldier’s interventions (except Notstandsgesetz) on the German territory.

Throughout the year, the Bundeswehr has offered assistance to various European countries, such as France, Italy and the Czech Republic, by sending intensive care physicians or by offering to transfer patients by AirMediVac to German hospitals. Since last month, Portugal has also received help from Germany. The Bundeswehr sent a contingent of 26 intensive care specialists, which has just been renewed.

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News on industry: MAWS, FCAS 

MAWS: Germany intends to buy 5 US P8A Poseidon

The MAWS program (Maritime Air Warfare System) aims to conceive the next generation of maritime patrol aircrafts by 2030, in a cooperation between France and Germany. On one hand, France operates Atlantique 2 aircrafts, recently upgraded. On the other hand, Germany currently exploits 8 Lockheed P3C Orion, that were to be modernised to extend their lifetime until then. However, it was recently decided to remove them from service in 2025. In addition, on March 12th, the US State Departement approved the sale of 8 P8A Poseidon, the American most recent maritime patrol aircraft, leaving doubts on the German will to go further on MAWS. Heard on March 17th by the French Senate, the German Chief of Staff explained that MAWS is the objective, but waiting until then is too long. He added that what was important was to have capacities, ideally available off the shelf, or if needed to be developed. France reacted by offering 4 of its own 22-aircraft fleet to meet MAWS deadline.

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FCAS: France’s B plan, and Airbus response

Dassault CEO Eric Trappier detailed in front of the French Senate the plan B he had talked about a few weeks ago: he was not considering France going alone, but a deep change in governance methods. He gave as example the success of nEUROn, a stealth drone demonstrator developed with 6 countries on time and schedule, for which Dassault had been able to choose its subcontractors based on their competences. In the meantime, French Minister of Defence Florence Parly detailed the “core principles” her administration sees for the project: identify clear responsible for the different tasks and assign each workpackage to the best fitted.

More recently, Airbus CEO, Dirk Hoke, added a new chapter to this ongoing issue by answering to French critics in front of the French Parliament. Stating there is no plan B, given the program’s cost and schedule, and defending every partners’ participation, he said that the program manager should not control everything nor take all the decisions. He also warned about the June deadline coming soon for presenting the project in front of the Bundestag, before the coming federal elections.

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The European Peace Facility, a support to EU military equipment exportation

The European Peace Facility is an initiative from the former High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Frederica Mogherini to create a off-budget fund, enabling the financing of external operations or support to partners. Outside of EU multi-annual budget, it should be worth €5 billion and cover until 2027 in time. It has been definitely voted during the Foreign Affairs European Council on March 22nd and has therefore entered into force.

This facility is aimed to ensure a quick and permanent financing of external operations and enforce the capacities of Defence and Security Policy, to prevent conflicts and preserve peace.

However, a key and consequently new element of this new fund is the ability to provide military equipment to partner countries, like for example equipment presented during training missions abroad. The equipment must be referenced in the common list of EU military equipment, and gather mainly artillery devices.

This has been described as a paradigm shift, and has met the reluctance of some countries. The absence of sanction mechanism in case the country does not respect its engagements is pointed out, as well as the fact that this fund may be an incentive for weapon exportation.

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European Union external operations

IRINI – Support to arm embargo on Libya

The High Representative Josep Borrell has visited the IRINI headquarters at the occasion of the operation’s first anniversary. In Rome, he stressed the recent progress in Libya political situation and that the operation allowed 2300 hailings, 8 inspections and 20 reports to the UN.

The UN mandate for IRINI runs until 31st March 2021 and should be renewed for two more years.

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Myanmar: Director General of the EU Military Staff speaks to Myanmar military

On March 9, the European diplomacy decided to go for a strategy involving its own military resources to engage with the Deputy Commander in Chief of Myanmar military. This was the first contact between the EU and Burmese military authorities since the February 1st coup following 2020 General elections.

According to a press release from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Vice-Admiral Hervé Bléjean, Director General of the EU Military Staff had a phone conversation with Vice-Senior General Soe Win to deal with the situation in the country.

Although it expressly condemns the military coup on February 1st, the European Union is ready to support dialogue with Myanmar. Vice-Admiral Hervé Bléjean urged Burmese military authorities to stop violence and exhorted them to respect International Law. He also called for the release of the democratically elected leaders, amongst others, elected head of government Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

On March 22nd, the European Union has however approved sanctions against 11 responsible of the military coup, with a travel ban and asset freeze, through a Foreign Affairs Council.

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