Liberation operates a clutch of good blogs; as well as AFOE Satin Pajama nominee Jean Quatremer’s Coulisses de Bruxelles, which everyone knows, there’s also an absolutely cracking blog on French and European national security issues.
They point out here that Slovenia, which took over as holder of the EU presidency on the 1st of January, is militarily the tiniest of states, with a total of 7,349 men in arms, one ship, a dozen Pilatus turboprop planes and 4 Cougar helicopters. It’s got to be one of the few good points about the rotating presidency that it is unrivalled in its ability to distribute power on the international stage to states this small and otherwise unknown.
On the other hand, though, as Secret Defense also points out, the EU is still struggling to put together the promised peacekeeping mission to Chad. The problems are essentially that the member states are not forking out to provide enough support helicopters and tactical transport aircraft to support the force in part of the world with essentially no infrastructure. There is not really a shortage of choppers; even Slovenia has four, right? However, they are one of those assets which is always in short supply; national armies are very unwilling to part with them.
The UK, meanwhile, is faced with a highly helivorous commitment in Afghanistan which has led it to buy Merlins from Denmark and Portugal in order to form another Naval helicopter squadron. It’s hard to see a specifically European solution to this; it certainly seems sensible that countries like Slovenia might contribute cash (as they will soon be a net contributor) rather than maintain a micro-air force, but this is always going to be a hard sell. There’s also an argument that dispersing these capabilities among smaller states means they will be more available for EU tasks; Austria isn’t likely to invade Iraq. What say the comments?