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Defence and security

When does a European army become reality?

“Go East!” – comes the recent clarion call of NATO’s Eastern flank. To counter growing fear of Russian aggression, arguments in favour of military armament are currently being mooted. Instabilities to the East, as well as the South and South-East of Europe are alarming: Europe is surrounded by insecurity and is unable to handle the resultant influx of refugees into its territory.

The uncertainty on and around the continent has given rise to voices for further integration in the EU’s foreign policy and defence communities. In a speech held at the Nordic Group Meeting in EUROMIL, Bernd Hüttemann, Vice President of the European Movement International’s represented its viewpoints on further integration as a result of current insecurity.

The European Movement underlines the clear need for further development of the Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU should have a greater role in providing peace and security on the European continent and as a global actor, which also points to the need for a common European Army (only to be used when non-violent means don’t succeed). European Movement President Jo Leinen has led calls on the need for a better and more permanent structured cooperation within the EU in order to effectively tackle conflicts and achieve peaceful resolutions. This implies also that the military capacities of the member states need to be further integrated. This pooling and sharing would lead to a better distribution of resources and responsibilities across our continent. It would not only decrease overall costs on military spending by the member states, but would also increase the EU’s capability to act as one entity. The European Movement brings to mind the EU’s ever increasing role in providing peace and security on and around the continent and its historical foundings based on shared values of democracy, solidarity and respect for human rights.

There are existing treaty provisions that allow for closer defence cooperation; but to pave the way for further integration and eventually a common army would inevitably change the existing framework. This has always been a sensitive matter

The re-opening of this debate recently by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker might give the impetus needed to take the necessary steps towards deeper military cooperation. A good start might also be Mogherini’s new EU Global strategy on Foreign and Security Policy which is under preparation and is expected to be announced in 2016.

To the surprise of many the current German coalition treaty of CDU, CSU and SPD says: “We strive for an ever-closer association of European military forces which can develop further into a European army with parliamentary oversight.” A European army was also previously mentioned in the German government guidelines; yet it is still to be carried out. The European Movement Germany among others is very curious as to what Germany’s leaders will do with this item. Federal Minister of Defence Von der Leyen even called it a natural step of integration that has to follow at one point, yet no one has been able to give a time frame. That is not to say the matter is not being discussed: the European affairs fraction of the CDU has spoken up for embarking more on this matter. They presented a Ten-Point-Plan for a more integrated European Defence Union.

As of now, many questions remain unanswered. It is unclear to what extent a European Army could be formed. How successful can the idea be assuming national armies are kept? Would further defence integration consequently mean the abolishment of at least some national armies? Of course, the majority of member states would never favour that. It would fundamentally change the definition of what the EU is as a concept.

This article is based on a speech by Bernd Hüttemann at the Northern Group Meeting of EUROMIL in Berlin on August 20, 2015. The Northern Group is a grouping of Nordic states within EUROMIL that focuses on the interests and needs of Northern countries. Member organisations from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden were present. During the discussion following the speech the participants raised many points, especially on the social dimension of such an enterprise. You can read the full speech here.

You can read more on European Movement policy here.

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