Tonin says EU has learnt its lessons in Afghanistan

Brdo pri Kranju – The creation of a European rapid reaction force will be among the topics discussed at Thursday’s informal meeting of defence ministers in Brdo pri Kranju. Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin said the recent events in Afghanistan have been a lesson for the EU and called for a change of the mechanism of deployment.

Arriving at the meeting, Tonin said Afghanistan had shown the EU does not have capabilities to operate in complicated theatres, and that mechanisms for deployment of European battlegroups are too complicated.

“We have to think about how to change this mechanism so we can act fast and efficiently, he said, noting that making such decisions by consensus may not be the right way.

“Maybe the solution is to invent a mechanism where the classical majority will be enough and those who are willing will be able to go,” he said.

Such a mechanism would involve a majority deciding on troop deployment and only countries willing to deploy their troops would participate. No countries would be forced to embark on such a mission, according to him.

Tonin said his impression after yesterday’s dinner was that “we are close to or a little bit above the majority” concerning the change of mechanism.

Although it values consensus as a small member state, Slovenia supports this change because it wants the EU to be “a global player on the global stage,” which requires an efficient military, efficient diplomacy and a strong economy.

“Obviously right now we only have a strong economy, we have to work on other two issues as well.”

The initial discussion is that such forces would number around 5,000 troops, but they would be larger as well, up to 20,000-strong. Slovenia has the capacity to contribute 200-300 troops.

Asked how long it may take before the mechanism would change given that there have been many discussions to that effect in the past, Tonin said Afghanistan had made it clear that “we have to act fast”.

After Afghanistan, the EU is keeping an eye on the Sahel, where the consequences for the EU could potentially be graver than in Afghanistan. “I think we won’t repeat the same mistake in Afghanistan.”