Latest news

Military Mobility in Europe: Cooperation going in the right direction, but long road ahead

6 minutes

On 30 January the European Defence Agency (EDA) organised a ‘High Level Symposium’ on military mobility at the Royal Higher Institute for Defence in Brussels, in the context of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU. High-level speakers - including three Ministers of Defence, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, EU Commissioner for Transport, EDA, NATO and U.S. representatives - discussed progress and future challenges of enhancing military mobility in Europe, emphasising the EU’s role in facilitating concrete measures in several areas. Topics of discussion included the harmonisation of custom procedures and border permissions as well as the dual use of transport capacities.

The current geopolitical context, including Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, demonstrates the need for efficient and effective modes of transport of both troops and equipment across Europe. Military logistical movements, however, are quite complex and often encounter different types of legislative, administrative, and physical obstacles. The event highlighted how a streamlined approach is therefore necessary, building upon greater civilian and military cooperation.

Represented by their Ministers of Defence and State Secretary at the event, major entry-countries such as Belgium the Netherlands and Germany have a crucial role to play as valued reception, transit and dispatching nations, due to their central location within Europe and their extensive maritime infrastructure. With NATO and the European Union established in Brussels, Belgium’s cooperation with other partners on the issue of military mobility is a key priority of its Presidency of the Council of the EU.

In his keynote speech, EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, who is also the Head of the European Defence Agency, said, "In a conflict every second matters. Investing in military mobility is not just a commitment; it is an investment for today and tomorrow to allow our armed forces to respond faster to crises at our borders and beyond. Efficient and seamless transportation of troops and materials across Europe is a logistical, administrative and infrastructure challenge. We must address bottlenecks through cooperation and investment, to ensure rapid movement for the security of Europe.”

Head of Agency

The Belgian Minister of Defence, Ludivine Dedonder, opened the symposium, saying “in order to achieve the objectives, set out in the Military Mobility Action Plan 2.0, it is necessary to safely facilitate and accelerate the movement of our military forces and their equipment across the European Union, for emergency situations at our external borders or beyond.”  

How can the EU help? The Military Mobility Action Plan 2.0.

The EU has launched an updated ‘Action Plan on Military Mobility 2.0’ providing a comprehensive framework to develop a well-connected military mobility network, with shorter reaction times and secure, sustainable, and resilient transport infrastructure and capabilities. Speakers pointed to the need to achieve these objectives with a whole of government approach: government, civil industries, ministries of defence, and actors involved in land, air, and sea transport need to work closely together. This dual-use-approach will benefit the cooperating nations, not only in their military capabilities, but also in their national resilience. In this light, the Presidency will host a Dual Use Seminar in Ghent in February.

In recent years Belgium has set up an interdepartmental consultation with all national and regional stakeholders involved in the reception, transhipment, and transport of large quantities of military equipment on national territory. This consultation will be further enhanced in the near future, in order to make the necessary progress both at national and EU level.

Mil Symposium 2024  

EDA initiatives

The EDA supports participating Member States to fully implement two technical arrangements, signed in 2021, that address regulatory issues for cross-border movement permissions on land and in the air, which more than 20 EU Member States signed. The Belgian Ministry of Defence is holding a pioneering role in this working group.

Furthermore, to streamline and simplify formalities for cross-border military movements involving customs, a special “EU 302” form has been established by EDA. In the future, communication processes between the military and custom authorities will be digitalised while taking into account necessary cybersecurity. The development of a Military Customs System aims to reduce the administrative burden they could be encountering today. EDA is also working to improve the resilience of key elements underpinning effective military mobility, which encompasses robust information management, fortified cyber defences, and strengthened transport infrastructure.


In addition, the EDA is strongly engaged in two projects related to military mobility that have been launched under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO): the “Network of logistic hubs in Europe and support to operations” (NetLogHubs) led by Germany, the “Military Mobility” project led by the Netherlands. Belgium is participating in both projects which are of utmost importance for the Belgian Presidency. They ensure the progress on large-scale reception and transport of military equipment and personnel.


Untitled-1-Web news text (1)

Mutual reinforcement with NATO efforts

Military Mobility is often referred to as the flagship for EU-NATO cooperation, the symposium also welcomed representatives of NATO and the U.S. The event discussed how the EDA, Belgium and its other European partners will continue their efforts to improve Military Mobility in a European and NATO context. This includes more digitalisation of administrative processes, more cross-border movement coordination on land, sea, and air. This is the cornerstone of the Defence Readiness of the European Continent.

Article (C) by EDA and Belgium Defence - Bilitis Nijs - DG StratCom