in: IMI/DFG-VK: Kein Frieden mit der NATO

The French-German Brigade in Müllheim


von: Tobias Pflüger | Veröffentlicht am: 7. Januar 2009

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At their summit in 1987, Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand agreed to establish a mixed formation, the German-French Brigade. The unit finally entered into service in 1990, and its staff was transferred to Müllheim in the Land (federal state) of Baden-Württemberg in 1992.

In 1993, the Brigade was incorporated into the Eurocorps that was created that same year. The Eurocorps is a multinational military formation made up of approximately 60,000 soldiers in total, with contributions from Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg. The approximately 5,000 soldiers of the French-German Brigade are stationed at three bases in Baden-Württemberg: Donaueschingen, Immendingen and Müllheim. Müllheim is also the seat of the Brigade staff of the French-German Brigade with its HQ Company and the German-French Support Battalion.

The Eurocorps (and consequently the French-German Brigade as well) can be used by both the EU and NATO: ‘The Corps will serve NATO and the European Union. In this respect, its equipment allows both autonomous deployments and the coordination of multinational troops.[1] To date, active deployments have merely been carried out in the NATO context, but it is just a matter of time before the French-German Brigade also goes to war under the European flag. In terms of its capabilities, the unit is one of the spearheads of the Western intervention forces, which are distinguished by their high flexibility and rapid deployability and are intended for the most intensive combat operations. ‘In future, the French-German Brigade will have to meet the following requirements:

– The capacity to be deployed as an advance formation for the Eurocorps

– The ability to sustain itself logistically for 30 days […]

– Combat readiness within 5 to 10 days for air-portable early entry forces and within 10 to 20 days for the remaining, fully deployable follow-on forces

– The capacity to incorporate additional multinational contributions, primarily from other Eurocorps nations.’[2]

Spearhead of EU militarism

The German-French Brigade was the first joint project undertaken within the European Union to develop a common EU military component: ‘The creation of the German-French Brigade was a first step in the shaping of a united Europe in the military sector. [It functions] as the core of the European ground forces.’ In the second half of 2008, the French-German Brigade constituted the majority of one of the European Battle Groups: ‘This means the Brigade is able to make a significant contribution to the European Union’s rapid response capability.’ The Brigade provided 1,600 of the Battle Group’s 2,300 German, French, Belgian, Spanish and Luxembourgois soldiers. They have to be ‘in a position to go into action anywhere in the world within a few days at any time.[3] Even if, as has been mentioned above, the French-German Brigade has still not gone to war for the European Union, its whole structure suggests this will happen sooner or later. In any case, the unit has already taken part in numerous operations within the NATO framework.

NATO operations

Relations between the Eurocorps and NATO were regulated in the SACEUR Agreement of 21 January 1993. This agreement contains provisions concerning the missions to be carried out by the Eurocorps within the NATO framework, competences with regard to the planning of commitments and the Eurocorps’ subordination to a NATO command authority. In principle, this ensured that the Eurocorps would be available for NATO missions. The French-German Brigade has already participated in numerous deployments under the NATO flag: ‘In 1996, the Brigade provided forces for the IFOR mission in Croatia, and since 1997 it has continuously provided forces for the SFOR mission in Bosnia, where the 292 Light Infantry Battalion lost two comrades-in-arms as a result of a shooting accident during operations with the 2nd SFOR contingent and had to send one heavily injured soldier home.

From November 1997 to March 1998, 30 soldiers from 4 Company of the 292 Light Infantry Battalion were detailed to provide security for the Commanding General, in which capacity they were present as the final security ring at all meetings of heads of government concerned with the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. This was followed in 1999 by a deployment to Ohrid (Macedonia). The soldiers of 3 Company of the 292 Light Infantry Battalion were the first troops to set foot in Kosovo from Macedonian territory and therefore launched the KFOR mission. In 2000, the Brigade provided emergency aid during the clearup operation following a marine accident in which the Erika, an oil tanker, broke up off the coast of Brittany. In 2000/2001, the Brigade was once again sent on deployments for SFOR and KFOR. […] In 2002/2003, the Brigade provided the lead element for the 6th SFOR contingent and participated in Task Force Fox (TFF) and Operation Allied Harmony (OAH) in Macedonia, as well as supplying troops for KFOR, ISAF (Afghanistan) and Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2004/2005, the Brigade led the Multinational Brigade in Kabul as part of ISAF.[4]

In addition to this, the French-German Brigade is an essential component of the NATO Response Force (NRF). The French-German Brigade provided 1,200 of a total of 6,500 soldiers involved in the first NRF manoeuvre, Steadfast Jaguar, which simulated the ‘recapture’ of an island off the oil-rich coast of Western Africa. In 2006/2007, the French-German Brigade then provided the core of the NATO Response Force’s ground troops, and parts of the Brigade deployed to Kosovo once again in January 2009.

Obvious target for summit protests

The French-German Brigade is an essential part of both the EU’s military component and NATO. On account of the geographical proximity of its headquarters at Müllheim to the places that will be hosting the NATO summit in April 2009, the Brigade represents a particularly inviting target for anyone who wishes to make sure the protests against Western militarism are noticed across the whole region.

Endnotes

[1] German Federal Ministry of Defence, ‘Eurokorps’, 27 July 2007, URL: http://tinyurl.com/979gm9

[2] Homepage of the German-French Brigade, URL: http://www.dfbrigade.de/site_de/indexd1.htm

[3] Ibid.

[4] Wikipedia, ‘Deutsch-Französische Brigade’, URL: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsch-Französische_Brigade

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