The European Union
's 60,000 strong rapid reaction force due to be operational from 2003 lacks ships and aircraft and may not be ready to carry out its designated tasks until 2010, Reuters reported
. The force, whose mandate includes readiness to evacuate Europeans from trouble spots as far as 10,000 km (6,100 miles) from Brussels and intervene militarily up to 4,000 km (2,450 miles) away, was so ill-equipped that it might not be able to carry out its tasks until 2010.
"The year 2003 is very unrealistic. It is more like closer to 2010," Michael Clarke, a professor at the Center for Defense Studies at Kings College in London. "It is not at all impossible that this is the case," Swedish Defense Minister Bjorn von Sydow
was quoted as saying.
But in a statement released after an EU defense ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday, von Sydow said progress made so far "indicates that the Union will soon be able to undertake operations on a case by case basis, possibly even before Laeken."
He was referring to the EU's December 2001 summit of heads of state and government in Laeken, a Brussels suburb, at the end of the EU presidency of Belgium, which takes over from Sweden in July.
"The important tasks ahead for the Swedish Presidency are the capability issues," von Sydow said in the statement. - (Reuters)