The first group of Irish soldiers to participate in EU battlegroups are currently undergoing training for the new units.

Chief of Staff Lt Gen Dermot Earley said the battlegroups will be ready to serve at short notice in both peacekeeping and disaster situations around the world.

Most of the 100 Irish soldiers assigned to an EU battlegroup were shaping up for their new role at Kilworth Camp in Co Cork this afternoon.

They will undergo further training in Sweden before the battlegroup officially goes on standby in January.

Ireland is providing a sophisticated bomb disposal and mine clearance unit to the Nordic Battlegroup, which will be composed of 2,000 troops - mostly from Sweden, Estonia, Norway and Finland.

The standby battlegroups are being set up so that Europe can respond to disasters or emergencies at five days notice to trouble spots around the world.

They would stay for about three months - sometimes until a bigger peacekeeping force arrives.

Irish missions abroad will still need the approval of the Government and the UN.

The Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, said the new battlegroups are not a European army in any shape or form, insisting that Ireland's participation does not undermine Ireland's traditional neutrality.