The Italian Almanac

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Italian News / Europe - January 25

A European military police force has been launched in Italy. The European Gendarmerie will be made up of military police from five EU countries and will be available for peacekeeping missions worldwide. The non-permanent force will have 800 police officers available to deploy within 30 days' notice and a pool of 2,300 reinforcements on standby.

The force, based in Vicenza, will be used for post-conflict peacekeeping and maintaining public order. In many crisis areas around the world the shift from military to civilian operations can often prove difficult. The new European gendarmerie is a force created to help smooth that transition. They will be sent to conflict zones where law and order has deteriorated but not completely broken down or where fighting has subsided and heavily armed troops are no longer needed.

The police will come from the paramilitary forces of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, though, in time, other EU countries will be invited to lend support. But there are concerns within Nato that this is yet another step towards a single European defence force and there have been questions over what mechanism would be in place to monitor such paramilitary activities.

The defence ministers of the countries involved, who were at the inauguration on Monday, insist the men of the gendarmerie have their own particular expertise and will be there to complement, not rival, Nato and UN operations.