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Between the EU Member States on EU Status of Forces



Command Paper number :  Cm 7572 [PDF 121k, new window]


Title of the Treaty


1.            Agreement between the Member States of the European Union concerning the status of military and civilian staff seconded to the institutions of the European Union, of the headquarters and forces which may be made available to the European Union in the context of the preparation and execution of the tasks referred to in Article 17(2) of the Treaty on European Union, including exercises, and of the military and civilian staff of the Member States put at the disposal of the European Union to act in this context (EU SOFA).


2.            The EU agreement on the Status of Forces (EU SOFA) concerns the legal status of military and civilian personnel seconded to the Military Staff of the European Union (EUMS). It also covers national headquarters and forces that may be used by the EU during an EU military or civilian exercise within the territory of the Union. It is intended that the EU SOFA will cover situations where other Status of Forces Agreements, notably the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (NATO SOFA), do not apply.


3.            The Agreement sets out the legal provisions that will enable military and civilian personnel to carry out their duties. The Agreement is divided into three parts to deal with the different categories of people to which it applies:


-         Part I sets out provisions that apply to all military and civilian staff covered by the EUSOFA. It includes the definition of military and civilian staff for the purposes of this Agreement. It sets out the rights of civilian and military staff to wear uniform, drive using licences issued by their own country and receive medical care. It also makes clear the obligation on personnel covered by this Agreement to respect the laws of their host state and to act in a way consistent with their position.


-         Part II covers the military and civilian staff seconded to the EU institutions - principally the EUMS. Provisions of this part give such military and civilian staff, where authorised by their orders and subject to the national regulations of the receiving State, the right to possess and carry arms. Immunities from legal process enjoyed by these staff in respect of acts undertaken in the course of their official functions are also set out in this part.


                 -     Part III covers headquarters and forces and the personnel within them. This sets out the rights of forces to secure their premises; inviolability of documents of headquarters; the arrangements for taxation; jurisdiction over military and civilian personnel; and arrangements for liabilities and claims.


                 -     The final provisions of the Agreement are contained in Part IV, including the procedures for ratification and entry into force. Part IV also regulates which SOFA applies in a specific situation where there is ambiguity, for example, where forces on an EU operation make use of NATO assets and capabilities. Insofar as military and civilian staff at HQ and forces are concerned, the EU SOFA will only apply where those staff are not regulated by another agreement governing their status. This means that the NATO SOFA will apply wherever possible.

4.            The Agreement was signed by all 15 EU Member States on 17 November 2003. On enlargement of the Union the new EU Member States also became party to the agreement.


5.            The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has lead responsibility for the European Security and Defence Policy. The Secretary of State for Defence has responsibility for military aspects and for the application of military law. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has responsibility for the tax exemption aspects. The Home Secretary has responsibility for the firearms and immigration aspects. The Home Office and the Department for International Development would also be involved for any crisis response operation involving military and civilian personnel under the EU SOFA within the territory of the EU.


Policy Considerations




6.            The EU Status of Forces Agreement is important as it will establish the status of foreign military and civilian personnel participating in ESDP activities. It will allow members of the armed forces of other EU Member States to be deployed on UK soil in support of the command of EU operations or the conduct of training exercises. It will in turn enable UK Armed Forces when engaged in operations or exercises in EU Member States to enjoy the general immunities and privileges applying to domestic armed forces, with reciprocal arrangements for armed forces from those countries engaged in exercises in the UK.


7.            The close consistency between the EU SOFA and the NATO SOFA means that the status of our forces should be the same whether an operation/exercise is led by NATO or by the EU.




8.            There are no immediate financial implications of this Agreement. If the UK were to provide a headquarters for a future EU operation/exercise this Agreement would offer tax exemptions to personnel from other EU Member States working at this headquarters. This is intended to prevent double taxation of staff ordinarily resident in another EU Member State and does not change the right of a State to tax its own military and civilian staff.


Reservations and Declarations


9.            None.



10.          The UK signed the EU SOFA on 17 November 2003. The Agreement will enter into force on the first day of the second month following ratification by the last of the EU Member States



Rt Hon David Miliband MP


Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

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