Military Mobility is one of the initial projects launched under the European Union's (EU) Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence (PESCO) facility. It is commonly termed a "Military Schengen" as it is inspired by the EU's Schengen Area, but designated to aid the free movement of military units and assets throughout Europe via removal of bureaucratic barriers and improvement of infrastructure.
The zone was proposed by Commander of United States Army Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges who made some initial headway via NATO, but issues like passport checks and weaknesses in transport links that can't take large military vehicles persisted. In 2017 Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Dutch defence minister, proposed a Schengen-inspired agreement for movement as part of the PESCO facility gaining ground as a result of Brexit and geopolitical pressures.
Military mobility was selected as a PESCO project due to its low cost and relatively little political disagreement on the subject. Out of all PESCO projects at launch, nearly all PESCO states will participate in it. The agreement is one which is designed to work with both NATO and EU operations, to ensure "units and equipment are in the right place at the right time, regardless of whether they are deployed in an EU or NATO context." The European Commission is to bring forward an action plan in 2018.
The project is inspired by Schengen, but faces very different challenges. It revolves around two main areas. The first is the removal of bureaucratic barriers such as passport checks and requirement of advance notice. While in the event of an emergency NATO can move troops faster, during peacetime advance notice is required for many movements; for example the movement of US troops from Poland to Germany requires 5 days advance notice.
As of PESCO's launch in December 2017, the Military Mobility project is the only project to count nearly every PESCO state as a participant (only France is absence, initially just as an observer). The project is led by Germany and the Netherlands. PESCO counts all EU states minus Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom.
- Call for ‘military Schengen’ to get troops moving, Politico.eu 4 August 2017
- EU launches work on 'military Schengen', EUObserver 10 November 2017