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Border clearances, faster harbour-rail transport among new EU military mobility goals

The European Commission's updated military mobility plan will intensify its work on dual-use transport networks. (Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow)

The European Union's (EU's) newly revised military mobility (MM) plan will focus largely on boosting Europe's intermodal transport connections, digitalising paper-based national border clearances for troops and materiel, and enhancing Western Europe's rail connections to Ukraine and Moldova, according to EU officials. Fuel supply chains and space services for Europe's militaries will also be addressed, they said.

“We plan to integrate the fuel supply chain needs for military transport into the requirements that drive the EU's infrastructure process,” said Stijn Mols, head of security and defence planning in the European External Action Service, the EU's foreign policy wing. “We have all seen in Ukraine the problems that emerge when military convoys run out of fuel.”

Mols and other officials addressed their comments at a 29 November hearing on MM by the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE).

Mols said the European Commission's updated MM plan, unveiled on 10 November, will intensify its work on dual-use transport networks, including how to strengthen the EU's rail connections with Ukraine and Moldova, where the main challenge is “to overcome the difference in [track] gauge between them and the rest of Europe”.

However, infrastructure improvements alone will not speed up the military movements of national armies without removing the red tape they face at each other's borders.

“I can tell you from my experience and my years at NATO's Joint Force Command in Brunssum that military logistics can be a very complicated issue,” Dutch Brigadier General Henny Bouman, who chairs the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) MM project, consisting of 24 EU countries, told the SEDE meeting.

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