The new Europe would have its own army, relegating, if not replacing NATO
[By Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 14, 2016]
European leaders are discussing “far-reaching proposals” to build a pan-European military, according to a French defense ministry document leaked to the German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The efforts are part of plans to relaunch the European Union at celebrations in Rome next March marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Community.
The document confirms rumors that European officials are rushing ahead with defense integration now that Britain — the leading military power in Europe — will be exiting the 28-member European Union.
British leaders have repeatedly blocked efforts to create a European army because of concerns that it would undermine the NATO alliance, the primary defense structure in Europe since 1949.
Proponents of European defense integration argue that it is needed to counter growing security threats and would save billions of euros in duplication between countries.
Critics say that the creation of a European army, a long-held goal of European federalists, would entail an unprecedented transfer of sovereignty from European nation states to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, the de facto capital of the EU.
Others say that efforts to move forward on European defense integration show that European leaders have learned little from Brexit — the June 23 decision by British voters to leave the EU — and are determined to continue their quest to build a European superstate regardless of opposition from large segments of the European public.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that it had obtained a copy of a six-page position paper, jointly written by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen. The document calls for the establishment of a “common and permanent” European military headquarters, as well as the creation of EU military structures, including an EU Logistics Command and an EU Medical Command.
According to the newspaper, the document will be distributed to European leaders at an informal summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, on September 16. France and Germany will ask the leaders of the other EU member states not only to approve the measures, but also to “discuss a fast implementation.”
Soldiers from the Eurocorps on parade in Strasbourg, France.
According to Süddeutsche Zeitung:
“In the wake of the British referendum to leave the European Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande have decided to demonstrate the EU’s strength and to push the remaining member states to show more unity. Especially in defense policy, many projects were put on hold because Britain vetoed them. Without London, the two EU founding states, France and Germany, hope for swift decisions.”
On September 8, Defense News reported that the creation of a European army was the central focus of an August 22 meeting between the leaders of France, Germany and Italy in Naples, where the three declared “the beginning of a new Europe.”
According to Defense News, Italy is lobbying France and Germany to “back a plan for European tax breaks and financing for joint European defense procurement and development programs, as part of a bid to build a European army.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called for the establishment of a permanent EU military headquarters in Brussels that would manage all current and future EU military operations. “This could become the nucleus around which a common European defense structure could be built.”
Liam Fox, a former defense secretary who served under former Prime Minister David Cameron, disagrees. “The best way to protect ourselves is to stay close to the US. The US defense budget is bigger than the next 11 countries in the world put together. Europe’s defense intentions are a dangerous fantasy and risk cutting us off from our closest and most powerful ally.”
Mike Hookem, the defense spokesman of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), said: “I’m pleased to see people are finally waking up. An EU army is not some Eurosceptic fantasy, there are many in Brussels hell-bent on making it happen.”
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.