Although something of the sort had been talked about for a while now and other regional security structures already exist on the continent, the timing and membership of the European Intervention Force (EIF) speaks to its possible purpose in distinguishing it from all others. France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, and the UK all came together less than a week before the upcoming EU Summit that’s expected to intensely focus on migration, and with Italy’s new government not yet ruling out membership, it looks likely that the EIF will attempt to become a more effective instrument for responding to this crisis.In addition, the EIF is for the most part a bloc of Western European countries that have come to represent so-called “Old Europe”, with the exception of Estonia of course, which represents a more concentrated regional military focus than the EU-wide PESCO. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the initiative for having the potential to improve Europeans’ military readiness, while French Defense Minister Florence Parly highlighted its intent in creating a “European strategic culture” that can contribute to “anticipating crisis and responding quickly and effectively”. From the looks of it, the EIF is intended to be an EU-led mini-NATO that’s much more relevant for Western Europe’s needs than the Transatlantic bloc as a whole.The optics of this initiative therefore run the risk of exacerbating East-West tensions within the EU by contributing to the perception of a “two-speed Europe” that the former communist states have loudly spoken out about over the past two years. Furthermore, bearing the EIF’s presumed purpose in mind and considering the backdrop of the Migrant Crisis, legitimate concerns can be raised about whether this military force will be deployed beyond the Mediterranean and into Africa itself, potentially to assist with the so-called “disembarkation centers” that have been unofficially proposed for certain North and West African countries. Whether it ultimately fulfills this role or not, the EIF is nevertheless a watershed event in the EU’s post-Brexit military history and provides a sense of direction for where the bloc — or at least part of it — might be headed during these uncertain times.
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