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EU plans to ramp up infrastructure for better military mobility across the bloc

By Alexandra Brzozowski |

10-11-2022 (updated: 14-11-2022 )

military mobility projects

German army tanks of type 'Marder' are loaded onto a train for transport to Lithuania at the military training area in Grafenwoehr, Germany, 21 February 2017. [EPA/TIMM SCHAMBERGER]

military mobility projects

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The European Commission on Thursday (10 November) proposed a plan for ‘better connected and protected infrastructure’ aimed at allowing swift and seamless movement of troops and military equipment across the bloc.

For member states, military mobility has gained fresh urgency since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, with countries looking to raise the preparedness of their armed forces and the bloc’s military and humanitarian aid having to be quickly provided across the EU’s border into Ukraine.

“The security environment in Europe has changed dramatically since last February war is back to our borders,” EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters in Brussels.

“We have to adapt our defence policies to this new environment,” he added.

The EU’s military mobility ambition does not amount to a joint military force but aims at easing bureaucratic procedures that slow troop deployments considerably, whether by land, sea or air.

It is also meant to improve the exchange of information between EU countries and cut red tape at borders, including harmonising customs rules to allow for swift deployments and easier transport of military equipment.

According to the EU executive, the newly proposed plan is meant to help European armed forces “to respond better, more rapidly and at sufficient scale to crises erupting at the EU’s external borders and beyond.”

It would see member states evaluate whether their transport infrastructure – from roads and bridges to airports and ports – can also be used for moving heavy military equipment across the bloc.

One of the more prominent related issues has for example also been the different widths of the railway gauge between European and former Soviet countries like Ukraine and Moldova.

The plan foresees identifying possible gaps in the infrastructure and also integrating fuel supply chain requirements.

“For military forces to make a real difference on the ground, they must move fast. They must not be blocked over bureaucracy or a lack of adapted infrastructure,” Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager told reporters in Brussels.

“It takes at least five days for cross-border military capacity, from one country to another – that’s too long […] because it has been done not in a digital manner,” Borrell said.

“We are trying to develop digital systems shared by all member states in order to facilitate the movement through the borders,” he added.

EU funding would then be channelled to plug significant gaps with an emphasis on dual-use infrastructure, meaning they can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

However, it remains to be seen whether the demand can be met with the amount of available funding.

In the EU’s current multi-annual budget, €1.69 billion has been earmarked for dual-use transport infrastructure projects, a sum that had initially been intended to be higher, but was subsequently slashed in the budget negotiations.

In addition, under the European Defence Fund, the Commission said it will provide €9 million to support the development of a Secure Digital Military Mobility System (SDMMS), meant to enable direct and secure exchange of information between governments requesting and approving any military movement

military mobility projects

Europe's military mobility: latest casualty of EU budget battle

The Commission’s latest budget non-paper threatens to hamper flagship defence initiatives more than previous proposals. It was put forward on Friday (20 February) in an attempt to bridge the growing differences among EU leaders over the bloc’s next seven-year budget.

Interested partners

Military mobility has been seen as the silver bullet for EU-NATO cooperation, especially in recent years when the bloc presented it as a complementary element between the two organisations.

After  Canada, the US and Norway joined the EU’s Dutch-led project last year, the UK, a key NATO ally that after Brexit had been left out of the EU’s security frameworks, could soon be the fourth non-EU country to participate in the scheme.

Back then, it was the first time that the EU allowed third countries to join its so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework of military projects.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Borrell confirmed the bloc has accepted the UK’s application to join the project.

EU ambassadors had given their green light to London’s accession in October, paving the way for the decision to be formalised, without debate, by EU foreign and defence ministers during their regular meeting in Brussels next week.

military mobility projects

UK moves closer to join EU's military mobility scheme

EU ambassadors on Wednesday (19 October) unanimously approved the UK’s application to join the EU’s project on military mobility, which aims at improving the rapidity of troops and equipment movement across Europe, should the need arise.

With the approval in November, some EU diplomats expect the step not to be a stand-alone decision of closer security cooperation between London and Brussels.

Under the deal , brokered by the German EU presidency in 2020, a third country can only apply if it meets a stringent set of political, legal, and “substantive” conditions.

The political conditions for third countries limit their participation to cases where they provide “substantial added value” to the military project and share “the values on which the EU is founded,” meaning that they do not contravene its security and defence interests.

NATO member Turkey submitted a formal application letter to participate in the EU’s Dutch-led military project on military mobility in May last year, despite the request being met with apprehension amid tense relations with Greece and Cyprus. Sources involved in the matter stressed that the “internal process at project level is ongoing.”

Asked by EURACTIV whether under the current push on the matter others could potentially join the project soon, Borrell confirmed that “the request from Turkey is moving forward”, without giving further details.

military mobility projects

Turkey's participation request in EU military project apprehended as 'Trojan horse'

NATO member Turkey has submitted an application to participate in one of the EU’s Dutch-led military project on military mobility, despite tense relations with Greece and Cyprus. While the request is being reviewed, EU diplomats are split over Ankara’s possible participation.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]


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Military Access, Mobility & Safety Improvement Project

Goal:  Military Access, Mobility & Safety Improvement Project will improve safety, efficiency, economic vitality, and reinforce strategic mobility throughout west and south Colorado Springs.

Cost: $161 million, with contributions from Colorado Department of Transportation, El Paso County, Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, and a federal BUILD grant.

Contractor:  SEMA Construction, Inc.

Timeline:  Completed end of  2024

Location:  El Paso County, Colorado Springs, CO 

This extensive safety and the mobility-improvement project will focus on strategically enhancing connectivity and accessibility at several military bases and facilities in and around Colorado Springs.

Project Information

Military Access, Mobility & Safety Improvement Project (MAMSIP) will deliver more efficient and safer mobility along I-25, Colorado Highway 94, South Academy Boulevard, and Charter Oak Ranch Road, enabling economic stability and development. The delivery of MAMSIP will strengthen and enhance the redundancy of strategic movement between the nationally significant El Paso County military installations of Fort Carson, Peterson Space Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station, and Schriever Space Force Base.

These corridors are critical for the mobility of the residents of the Pikes Peak region, while I-25 serves as the backbone of commercial freight movement for the state of Colorado and the CanAm Corridor stretching from Mexico to Canada. Individually, the implementation of each of the four projects will lead to more efficient and safer vehicular movement along these corridors.

Improvement Project Locations

MAMSIP is partially funded by the $18.350 million BUILD grant award from the US Department of Transportation.

The four improvement components are:

Project Benefits

The objective of these four project components are to improve the safety and efficiency performance of crucial road corridors in the Pikes Peak region. Implementation of these projects will enhance accessibility and connectivity between several of the region’s nationally significant military installations (also the region’s largest employers) ensuring greater efficiency and safety of military personnel and equipment while also strengthening redundancy of strategic mobility.

military mobility projects

military mobility projects

Increased military mobility budget under the second call

December 30, 2022

military mobility projects

The military mobility projects will support Member States and partner countries to develop a well-connected and secure military mobility network. Examples include the upgrade of six rail bridges and the construction of two low-speed track sections for longer and heavier trains in Germany on the North Sea – Baltic   Corridor, the purchase of a multi-use hybrid propulsion ice-breaker to increase capacity in the port of Riga, the upgrade of two stretches of road along the Via Baltica close to the Lithuanian-Polish border, the modernisation of rail infrastructure at the Romanian port of Constanta, and the construction of a new bridge over the Prut river connecting Romania and the Republic of Moldova.

“With this new batch of projects co-financed under the 2022 CEF Military Mobility call we are clearly accelerating our support to transport infrastructure improvements across the EU that will contribute to the security of our continent for decades to come,” said the Director of the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA), Dirk Beckers.

The 35 projects have been selected among those submitted under the second Military Mobility call for proposals issued by the CEF programme, the funding instrument for strategic investment in EU transport infrastructure. The Commission will pay grants, which co-finance the total estimated project costs and which will be paid earlier than initially planned.

“The results of our second call on military mobility under Connecting Europe Facility reflect the need of the European Union’s Member States to improve the dual use of our transport system. It was a highly competitive and oversubscribed call, with winning projects in 17 countries. I am pleased that some of the projects in Germany, Romania and Poland directly address improving the infrastructure on the Solidarity Lanes, our corridors used for Ukraine’s imports and exports,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said.

The second Military Mobility call, which was opened on 12 May 2022 and closed on 29 September 2022 aims to co-fund projects that will support the adaptation of transport infrastructure to civil and military mobility needs within the EU by making it suitable for civilian and defence dual-use.

To enhance military mobility across EU, a budget of EUR 1.69 billion is available under CEF between 2021-2027. Under the first call for proposals in 2021, 22 projects worth EUR 339 million were selected for funding and are now being implemented across the EU.

The selected rail and rail-related projects.

Photo: ProRail


Copyright @RailwayPRO Communication Platform. All rights reserved

Global defense news, analysis and opinion

UK to Join Dutch-Led Military Mobility Project

Photo of Alie Peter Neil Galeon

The British Ministry of Defence has confirmed its participation in the Netherlands-led Military Mobility project, further enhancing cross-border military transport procedures across Europe.

The Military Mobility project was established to enable the unhindered movement of troops and equipment within the EU by cutting lengthy bureaucratic procedures on the road, rail, air, or sea. 

“We are joining the Dutch-led Military Mobility project, which will better enable us to deploy troops and equipment across Europe and crucially support EU-NATO cooperation,” Prime Minister Ben Wallace said. 

“Working with our EU partners, we will ensure greater European security and a collective and determined response to our support for Ukraine.”

Important Military Ally

The former EU member is the latest addition to the Dutch-led project, joining 24 other member states. Norway, Canada, and the US joined last year. 

Dutch Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren also welcomed the UK’s participation following the approval of the EU Council of Ministers, emphasizing the country’s ability to respond to crises in the region.

“I very much welcome today’s Council decision and we will send the official invitation to London today. The UK is an important military ally and will provide a lot of added value to the project,” Ollongren said.

“It is a positive signal that the UK is seeking cooperation with the EU on defence matters. We very much need each other in these turbulent times.”

Permanent Structured Cooperation

The Dutch-led project is part of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework.

Launched in 2017, PESCO was formed for a more coherent European defense capability through planned and impact-based cooperation.

“It is a framework and a structured process to gradually deepen defence cooperation to deliver the required capabilities to also undertake the most demanding missions and thereby provide an improved security to EU citizens,” the EU said.

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