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European Defense Union / European Army

The clichéd perception is that France only looks to the south and Germany to the east. The Lisbon Treaty was signed by the 27 European Union Member States on 13 December 2007. For the Treaty to enter into force, all of the EU countries must approve it in accordance with their national procedures. A key aim of the Lisbon Treaty is to modernise the institutions that run the EU's business and makes them more democratic.

A new position of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy/Vice- President of the Commission was created in order to promote the EU action on the international scene and to be better able to defend its interests and values abroad. To drive forward its work on a continuous and consistent basis, the European Council would elect a President of the European Council for a maximum of five years. This would make the EU's actions more visible and consistent. The President of the Commission would be 'elected' by the European Parliament, on proposal from the European Council

In the Council of Ministers, qualified majority voting, instead of unanimous decisions, would be extended. This would help to make action faster and more effi cient. Qualified majority voting means that, from 2014, decisions of the Council of Ministers would need the support of 55 % of the Member States, representing at least 65 % of the European population. But important policy areas such as taxation and defence would continue to require a unanimous vote.

The Lisbon Treaty spells out more clearly the EU's role in the area of common foreign and security policy. Decisions on defence issues would continue to need unanimous approval of the 27 EU Member States. Missions which the EU has undertaken outside its own territory have been for the purpose of peacekeeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in the context of the United Nations Charter. The Lisbon Treaty extends the EU's role to include disarmament operations, military advice and assistance, and helping to restore stability after conflicts. It also creates the possibility of enhanced cooperation between Member States that wish to work together more closely in the area of defence.

The Lisbon Treaty provided that Member States would make available to the EU the civil and military capability necessary to implement the common security and defence policy and sets out the role of the European Defence Agency. It introduces a solidarity clause (of a voluntary nature) when a Member State is the victim of a terrorist attack or a natural or man-made disaster.

On 17 December 2012 UK Prime Minister David said "On defence, we are clear that NATO is the cornerstone of our defence, and EU co-operation should avoid costly new bureaucracy and institution-building. We will never support a European army." At that time, there was not a firm proposal that there should be a European army but there was an early discussion about a series of councils that were to take place in 2013 to discuss common defence and security policy.

Were there to be any move towards establishing greater European military integration, it would first require consensus among member states, because such matters cannot be determined by a qualified majority vote under the treaty. The British Government did not share the view that a European army would be helpful or necessary. Cameron's government believed that NATO was and should remain the centerpiece of collective defense and security arrangements.

The question of the European Union creating its own army was raised by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his annual state of the union address to the European Parliament on 14 September 2014. According to him, one of the options for addressing the problem of European security in the wake of Brexit is the deep integration of the member countries’ armed forces. The idea to create a European army was also supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and several other Old World political figures. The US understands the hidden and long-lasting meaning of the political ideas expressed by Juncker – to minimize Europe's dependence on the White House's military decisions.

Francois Hollande suggested that a European army should be created within and based on NATO. According to him, the European armed forces must have a certain autonomy. But in an army, which is based on unity of command and unquestioning obedience to the commander or boss, there cannot be any independent structures in principle. Otherwise, it is not an army, but a bad collective farm. Any disobedience in the army is punished by a tribunal. In addition, the North Atlantic Alliance is unlikely to be keen on a parallel and autonomous army. It has no army at all, as such. There are commands for different theaters of war – the central, southern and northern ones…

The February 2015 report of the Centre for European Policy Studies [CEPS] Task Force on Security and Defence chaired by Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for CFSP, Secretary General of NATO and Foreign Minister of Spain stated "rather than being surrounded by a ring of friends, the EU is now faced with an arc of instability stretching from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, through the Middle East and the Caucasus up to the new frontlines in eastern Europe. Moreover, the evolution in the multipolar security environment has led to a diversification of security threats that spread across political, social and economic dimensions and are increasingly interconnected.... hybrid warfare is neither new nor exclusive to Russia. Russia’s infiltrations in Ukraine and provocations to member states’ territorial water and air defences have, however, delivered a blow to Europe’s post-Cold War security order and have revived awareness in the EU about the possibility of military attack and occupation in Europe. ... Central and Eastern Europe is exercised by Russia’s aggressive foreign policy, EU member states in the south worry more about the violent implosion of Libya and the challenges posed by waves of illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean..."

Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union requires the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy as part of the common security and defence policy, which would lead to a EU common defence when the European Council so decides. That same article provides for the creation of defence institutions as well as for a European capabilities and armaments policy to be defined; whereas it also requires that the EU’s efforts would be NATO-compatible, so that a European Defence Union would enable a stronger North Atlantic Treaty Organization, consequently promoting further a more effective national (territorial), regional and global security and defense. Except for the creation of the European Defence Agency (EDA), none of the other missing elements of the EU common security and defence policy have so far been conceived, decided or implemented.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, said 08 March 2015 that the European Union needed its own army to help address the problem that it is not “taken entirely seriously” as an international force. He said this would help the EU to persuade Russia that it was serious about defending its values in the face of the threat posed by Moscow. “You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.” His proposal was immediately rejected by the British government, which said that there was “no prospect” of the UK agreeing to the creation of an EU army. “Such an army would help us design a common foreign and security policy,” the former prime minister of Luxembourg said. “Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously.”

Geoffrey Van Orden, a UK Conservative MEP and a party spokesman on defense and security, said: “This relentless drive towards a European army must stop. For Eurocrats every crisis is seen as an opportunity to further the EU’s centralising objectives. ... However the EU’s defence ambitions are detrimental to our national interest, to Nato, and to the close alliances that Britain has with many countries outside the EU – not least the United States, Gulf allies, and many Commonwealth countries.” Van Orden also accused Juncker of living in a “fantasy world”. “If our nations faced a serious security threat, who would we want to rely on – Nato or the EU? The question answers itself,” he said.

Mike Hookem, a defence spokesman for Ukip, said Juncker’s comments vindicated warnings that his party had been giving about the direction of EU policy for years. “A European army would be a tragedy for the UK. We have all seen the utter mess the EU has made of the eurozone economy, so how can we even think of trusting them with this island’s defence.”

By May 2016 Germany had thrown its weight behind the idea of the creation of a pan-European army, scaring British Euroskeptics and raising suspicions of Berlin’s ambitions to untie its foreign policy from NATO. An EU army is not on the cards for the time being, however closer cooperation on security and defence is becoming more important. During the Nato summit starting in Warsaw 08 July 2016, the EU and Nato signed a declaration aimed at strengthening cooperation, while setting out an effective division of responsibilities. NATO made a decision to increase the level of NATO militaries in some Eastern European countries, but this requires infrastructure to accommodate all these people. And the EU can support investments into infrastructure which is needed for this changed situation and which also goes hand in hand with NATO plans.

With Britain out of the picture, Germany and France may forge deeper defense cooperation in the European Union. Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on 13 July 2016 that Britain had “paralysed” such initiatives in the past. “I can tell you from experience that in the past Britain has said it will not do these things,” she told a news conference. “This paralysed the European Union on the issues of foreign and security policy." From Vilnius, Von der Leyen said 08 September 2016 “it’s time to move forward to a European Defense Union, which is basically a ‘Schengen of defense’”. She went on to add “this is what the Americans expect us to do.” In October 2016, Spain (together with Italy) joined Germany and France in their proposal for an EU Defense Union.

The European Defense Community (EDC) was proposed in 1950 by French Prime Minister René Pleven and was envisaged as a pan-European defense force. It would be an alternative to Germany joining NATO and would include West Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries. Although a treaty was signed in 1952, the plan failed to be ratified by the French Parliament. The current notion of a European Defense Union takes enjoys considerable support in the ranks of the European People’s Party.

The main ambition was for the EU to reach a level of collective security that would allow its members to treat Article 42(7) of the EU as equivalent to NATO’s Article V guarantee, meaning an attack on one is an attack to all. France was the first to evoke Article 42 (7) following the November 14, 2015 attack in Paris.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said 14 Septembe 2016 that the European Union should have its own military and not be so dependent on NATO. While addressing the European Parliament in his annual State of the Union speech in Strasbourg, France, Juncker said on that the 28-nation bloc “should be stronger” and start an EU military headquarters and work towards a joint army. “We should work towards a common military force to complement NATO,” he said, adding that the European Commission should generally be more active in the field of defense in order to reduce its dependency on NATO. He went on to say that the commission would propose a joint common European Defense Fund in the near future in order “to boost military research and innovation.”

In late November 2016 the European Parliament approved several measures to facilitate cooperation on defence and security within the EU. They also reiterated calls for EU countries to devote 2% of their gross domestic product to spending on defence. One way to cooperate more would be a European Defence Union. MEPs adopted plans for it on 22 November. Urmas Paet, the MEP responsible for steering the proposal through Parliament, said: “The main aim is to join up our resources on solid defence and security cooperation in the EU." MEPs also reiterated calls for EU countries to spend 2% of their gross domestic prodcut to defence and called for the establishment of multinational forces and an EU headquarters to plan and command crisis management operations.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called on Brussels to beef up its own military capabilities in the face of alleged Russian aggression. “We have seen an enormous modernization drive by NATO over the past three years because of the Kremlin’s behavior,” the minister said. “That was correct and important, but I believe that we must invest at least the same energy in... [the] modernization of European security and [a] defense union.”

The EU Parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for the creation of a defense union on 22 November 2016, justifying the move by the threats it says the bloc is facing. “Terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber and energy insecurity leave EU countries no choice but to step up their security and defense cooperation efforts, thus paving the way to the European Defence Union,” the EU Parliament said after passing the non-binding resolution. The proposals for the move would be addressed at a European Council meeting in December 2016.

Under the resolution, member nations are expected to dedicate 2 percent of their GDP to defense spending, as well as establish multinational EU forces to allow the bloc to act in situations in which NATO could be unwilling to become involved. The prospect of a real and operational EU army would have a poisonous effect on NATO, according to John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN and current contender for the role of secretary of state. “Over the course of the last 20 years, you’ve seen this idea [of a European army] appear over and over again,” Bolton said during an appearance on Breitbart News Daily radio on 23 November 2016. He was commenting on the recent push by the EU Parliament to pave the way for a European Defense Union, or, more plainly, a standing EU army. “If they actually got to the point of achieving [a true EU military capability] – that would be a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO,” Bolton said.

Bolton claimed, however, that such a move might lead to the union losing NATO protection – something that it has been taking for granted for some time, he said. “If the EU says, ‘Actually, we can defend ourselves,’ I tell you, there are a lot of Americans who would say, ‘Fine, and by the way, the next time an authoritarian militaristic society threatens you, let us know how it turns out,’” he said.

The European Commission has announced the setting-up of a new European Defense Budget, allowing for the procurement of military equipment, just weeks after agreeing the establishment of an EU Rapid Reaction Force and HQ, which NATO chiefs deny is a sign of a split in the alliance. The issue of European membership of NATO became a hot issue in the run-up to the US Presidential election with Republican candidate Donald Trump accusing Europe of not paying its way within the alliance. Although NATO considered that it remains the major Transatlantic and European military operation, the European Union is taking increasing steps to create an EU defense and security alliance that some say would duplicate the role of NATO.

The Commission announced 30 November 2016, the creation of a new "European Defense Fund" which would "support Member States' more efficient spending in joint defense capabilities" including research into "innovative defense technologies such as electronics, metamaterials, encrypted software or robotics" and the procurement of new assets, such as drone technology and jointly-bought helicopters to reduce costs. The announcement comes on the back of the latest EU foreign ministers' meeting, November 14/15, which agreed to set up a rapid reaction force that would involve EU Battlegroups, "air security operations", "maritime security or surveillance operations", with its own headquarters, working alongside NATO.

"Afghanistan has shown that the deficiencies in our strategic autonomy comes with a price," European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after an informal meeting of defense ministers on Thursday. "And that the only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen not only our capacity, but also our will to act." Borrell used sharper words in an oped in The New York Times, calling the recent developments in Afghanistan a "debacle" which should serve as "wake-up call" for Europe and "catalyze history."

US President Joe Biden's rejection of a European call to keep Kabul's airport open past August 31 to enable more evacuations left a bitter taste in European mouths. European Council President Charles Michel has weighed in as well, speaking at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia. "As a global economic and democratic power, can Europe be content with a situation where we are unable to ensure unassisted the evacuation of our citizens and those under threat because they have helped us?"

The feeling of shame and frustration over Afghanistan reignited the desire for more self-sufficiency. The idea getting the most attention is what's being called an "initial entry force" of approximately 5,000 personnel, not an entirely new concept for Europe but one leaders see would have been extremely useful in recent days. "This would have helped us to provide a security perimeter for the evacuation of EU citizens in Kabul" after the US departure, Borrell noted.

Slovenian Defense Minister Matej Tonin, whose country currently held the EU's rotating presidency, acknowledged that the lack of a new rapid response force wasn't the only hurdle to being what he called a "credible peace provider." "We have to speed up our political decision making," he said, noting that the bloc already established battle groups of 1,500 people each in 2007 but had never deployed them.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 13:49:11 ZULU