European students are all familiar with the Erasmus study exchange program. And if European defense ministers have their way, European soldiers may soon be familiar with the Erasmus military exchange program.
“The member states want to reinforce the interoperability of European troops and want soldiers working side-by-side in European military operations to be more familiar with the way each other work,” explained Hervé Morin, France's defense minister.
The subject was one of the principal discussion points on the second and last day of the EU informal defense ministers' meeting in Deauville (see yesterday's post for a summary of the first day's discussions).
The basic idea, he said, was that a French officer could , for example, spend some time in a Romanian military academy and get credits for it, while a Romanian officer could spend some time training in Malta and also get credits for it. “We don't want this just to be officers from the smaller member states coming to study at the big military academies of the bigger member states but that it should be real cross-fertilisation,” he said.
The ministers agreed that the project will be formally launched in Brussels on November 10.
Morin said the first concrete results in 2009 would be the publication of a joint training module and the launch of discussions between military academies and schools so that the teaching they dispense is recognised and credited by the others.
Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia have all announced their participation in this program. As well, of course, as France.
And what about the screaming absence of Great Britain ?
Well, a source close to the discussions told me that British defense minister Des Browne did not breath a word during the debate, not wanting to put the wheel in the spokes of the project, but that basically the British want no part in this exchange project ... fearful as always of too much Europeanisation in matters military.