The European Union evolves from a commercial and trading organisation as a united military force is created. Last Friday, the EU took the first steps towards the creation of an active military intervention force, officially named Rapid Reaction Force, which should be fully operational by the beginning of January, 2003. This force will have nine brigades, totalling some fifty or sixty thousand men in its terrestrial force (army) but it will also have a naval and air force. The total number of personnel, including all three armed services, reservists and auxiliary personnel will be around 180,000. Its rules of engagement will allow it to act in a theatre of operations 4,000 kilometres from the borders of the EU. The Rapid Reaction Force will be prepared to act within 60 days of being called and will have the capacity to operate autonomously for at least a year. Last Friday, in France, which chairs the current six-month presidency of the European Union, the fifteen Defence Ministers of the EU member states initiated the policy which will see the force created within the next three years. To date, the results of this informal meeting are as follows : Germany : 18,000 soldiers Austria : 2,000 Belgium : 3,000 Sweden : 1,500 The Netherlands : 3,000 Portugal : 1,000 The remaining EU countries will present their plans on the 20th November, in the NATO conference in Brussels. This meeting will also finalise the plans for the constitution of the Naval and Air Forces. The Rapid Reaction Force will intervene in situations which are considered to pose a threat to the security of the EU.

Timothy BANKROFT-HINCHEY Correspondent of PRAVDA.Ru Lissabon

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