Finland has submitted proposals with five other countries to facilitate the movement of military equipment around the EU, as part of enhanced defence cooperation across the block.
The proposal comes just a 36 hours before US Defence Secretary James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis visits Helsinki.
During the visit, Mattis will meet with President Niinistö and defence ministers from 11 northern European countries – all except Finland and Sweden are NATO members.
Finland has actively promoted the plans for the EU’s new structural cooperation. It is a framework within which EU countries can launch different joint defense projects.
So far, Finland has been interested in satellite cooperation, maritime safety and cyber defense. And, according to official sources and reported by STT Finnish News Agency, Finland would also like to facilitate movement of military traffic within the EU.
Finland has submitted a proposal with Estonia, Latvia and the Benelux countries to ease border formalities and improve logistics so that heavy transports can proceed more smoothly.
In particular, the Netherlands has been active in this matter because of its intensive cooperation with neighboring countries.
Sustainable roads and bridges
Eliminating border barriers is one of the most important items on Finland’s military wish list. NATO also encourages a policy of transport facilitation.
“NATO has had similar problems with moving its troops for training purposes, but it is the EU that has the tools,” an official tells STT.
Already, defense equipment can be relocated relatively easily within the EU’s borders just with decisions taken at defense force level. A new discussion about so-called ‘Schengen military equipment’ concerns whether equipment is being moved for a military excercise between countries, or for crisis management operations.
Infrastructure across the region would have to be improved to make conditions easier for transporting heavy military equipment – like making sure roads and bridges are strong enough and wide enough. Transporting equipment by rail would also require large types of loading equipment.
EU countries are expected to decide on the launch of defense cooperation in the coming months.