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Will the EU Form Its Own Army

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Written by Will Podmore

Will Podmore argues that there is plenty of evidence that many EU politicians have ambitions to form an EU Defence Force and become ‘a hard power actor in the world’.

Is a European army being created? What’s the evidence? Are the EU doing anything that looks like creating a European army? Well, yes. They now have an EU Military Staff and an EU Military Committee, both part of the ‘Command Structure’ of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy. They have created the EU Peace Fund, a military intervention fund of 10.5 billion euros.

The EU now has its Military Planning and Conduct Capability, its Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity, its Defence Intelligence Organisation, its Satellite Centre  (its Galileo and Copernicus programmes are both part of its Global Strategy), its European Security and Defence College, its Military Erasmus, to promote a ‘European strategic culture’, its Institute for Security Studies, its European Political Strategy Centre, its European Air Transport and its European Tactical Airlift Centre.

The EU is taking more and more control over member states’ armed forces, defence spending and foreign and defence policy. In April 2016, at the height of the referendum campaign, newspapers published German government documents which revealed that the EU was about to announce a new military strategy. The EU and the pro-EU campaign furiously denied it.

Just five days after the referendum, the EU announced its new Global Strategy. Many of these EU structures are new since the referendum. In November 2016 the EU released its Security and Defence Implementation Plan. Only a few EU insiders had seen it, yet that same day it went straight to the EU Council meeting for approval.

Without Britain’s veto, France and Germany moved fast. In January 2017, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini declared: “Security a priority. We have hard and soft power. Done more on defence in the last seven months than in decades.”

On 8 June 2017, Reuters reported that the May government had agreed to the new Military Planning and Conduct Capability command centre in Brussels on condition that it was not called a military headquarters.

‘EU Defence’ is the phrase the EU uses to describe the military powers it has acquired since summer 2016, to become what it calls a ‘hard power actor in the world’, a ‘Global Actor’.  Ursula von der Leyen, the newly appointed (not elected, never elected) European Commission President, tells us the EU is ready to ditch ‘soft power’ and flex its ‘muscles’ to ‘assert itself on the world’.

Theresa May proposed that we stay in the European Defence Agency and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund, and promised our participation ‘to the extent possible under EU law’ and ‘subject to the conditions set out in the corresponding EU instruments’. There is no halfway house with the EU, you’re either all in or all out – a single claw ensnared, and the bird is caught – and it requires compliance with the whole EU rulebook, all its directives, policies, finance and structures.

There was no need for us to be involved, no call for us to approve these moves, no mandate, no manifesto commitment and no need for ministers to spend time and money on it when government departments were supposed to be leaving, not joining, EU schemes.

Theresa May’s Chequers Plan, published in July 2018, showed that the Cabinet had railroaded a proposal to be involved in EU defence industry projects ‘through PESCO’. A senior EU planner explained how the European Defence Fund underpinned the EU Defence Union. Arnout Molenaar said, “If you research defence capabilities together, if you fund and develop together, if you build them together and you use them together and these are all done under a framework of policy instruments, then you can call this a Defence Union.”

In November last year the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a European Defence Fund. It committed to spending 13 billion euros to researching and developing weapons and military technology. The government put us into the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence. Just as the Treasury controls the Ministry of Defence’s work, this would control the Ministry of Defence and all the EU defence ministries.

Johnson’s Political Declaration says in paragraph 102, “the Parties agree to consider the following to the extent possible under the conditions of Union law:

  1. a) the United Kingdom’s collaboration in relevant existing and future projects of the European Defence Agency (EDA) through an Administrative Arrangement;
  2. b) the participation of eligible United Kingdom entities in collaborative defence projects bringing together Union entities supported by the European Defence Fund (EDF); and
  3. c) the United Kingdom’s collaboration in projects in the framework of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), where invited to participate on an exceptional basis by the Council of the European Union in PESCO format.”

 

Article 129.7 of Johnson’s proposed treaty says, “During the transition period, the United Kingdom shall not provide the head of any operational actions.” Article 156 says, “Until 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom shall contribute to the financing of the European Defence Agency, the European Union Institute for Security Studies, and the European Union Satellite Centre, as well as to the costs of Common Security and Defence Policy operations …” And, under Article 157, we would still have financial obligations after 31 December 2020.

So, Johnson’s so-called ‘exit’ deal would –  like May’s – keep us attached to it via three commitments: the European Defence Agency, the European Defence Fund and PESCO. The EU’s military capabilities are inexorably growing, its intent is clear, its direction is, as ever, towards a single federal EU state. Its aim is Common Defence by 2025, integrated Armed Services by 2027.

 

Are the EU’s leaders saying anything that looks like they intend to create a European army? What have they said about creating a European army? In his new book, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt writes, “We must move toward a single European Defense Union, with European armed forces composed of soldiers wearing the same uniform. … We must turn Eurocorps into a full-scale European army comprising both land troops and air and naval capabilities. In addition to a rapid response team, the conventional army units will include special forces (for chemical warfare, for example), a logistics corps, and medical capability. All twenty-eight member states should run a single joint budget for these and for personnel, military equipment, research, and development. … this will allow us to set up a European army capable of conducting, simultaneously, a single large military operation and three smaller interventions on land, at sea, or in the air. The soldiers of the European army will wear the same uniform with the same EU insignia. …

“the EU high representative for foreign affairs must cooperate closely with the European Defense Union and should preferably occupy the same building as the European General Staff. European Defense policy must however fit seamlessly into the union’s general security concept and strategic vision for foreign affairs. … This will require an amendment to the European Treaty. Among other things we will have to abolish the unanimity rule so that in the future the European Council can make its decisions with a qualified majority.”

The European Defense Union “will be financed from general EU resources, supplemented, if necessary, by compulsory contributions from the member states.”

In November last year Chancellor Merkel and President Macron called for a ‘real, true European army’. Macron said, “we will not protect Europeans unless we have a true European army … to defend itself better alone.” On 1 January this year, Verhofstadt tweeted, “Macron and Merkel now fully back a European Army. That’s great news!”

 

On 5 May 2017, Verhofstadt said, “Even when a few years ago it was impossible to talk about a European army, everybody said it is a dream. But it’s a necessity … The Americans can do four, five times more military operations than we can do. They are far more effective, because one army, one budget, and we have twenty-eight armies, twenty-eight budgets.” His European People’s Party called for “an EU strategic civilian and military headquarters” and, in the long run, “European stand-by forces under Union command”.

In September 2016, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called for a ‘common and permanent’ European military headquarters, the integration of logistics and procurement, and the coordination of financing and military planning. They agreed to activate Article 44 of the Lisbon Treaty which allows certain EU member states to proceed with military integration, even if other EU member states disapprove.

Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán says, “we should start setting up a common European army.” Czech Prime Minister Sobotka says: “in the long term, we will be unable to do without a joint European army.” The president of the European People’s Party Joseph Daul said: “We are going to move towards an EU army much faster than people believe.

Michel Barnier, then Special Adviser on European Defence and Security Policy to Commission President Juncker, wrote: “Member States are slow to accept that they need to go beyond a model where defense is a matter of strict national sovereignty …. traditional methods of cooperation have reached their limits and proved insufficient. European defense needs a paradigm change in line with the exponential increase in global threats and the volatility of our neighbourhood.”

Juncker said that “A joint EU army would … help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world.” He said a common EU army would have been useful during the Ukraine crisis: “With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state.” Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Juncker’s proposal: ”Our future as Europeans will at some point be with a European army.”

Merkel and her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also backed Juncker’s proposal. Steinmeier added: “The long-term goal of a European army is a major policy objective and has been part of the Social Democratic Party’s party program for many years.”

Ms von der Leyen said: “I think that the German army is ready, under certain circumstances, to be subordinated to the control of another nation. That is the goal, that in the European Union we step by step more firmly establish our cooperation, especially in security policy. This intertwining of armies with a view to having a European army is the future.”

In 2009 Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it is a “necessary objective to have a European army.” He added: “Every country duplicates its forces, each of us puts armoured cars, men, tanks, planes, into Afghanistan. If there were a European army, Italy could send planes, France could send tanks, Britain could send armoured cars, and in this way, we would optimize the use of our resources. Perhaps we won’t get there immediately, but that is the idea of a European army.”

 

Guy Verhofstadt told the NeoLibAntiDem conference on 15 September 2019, “the world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation states or countries, it’s a world order that is based on empires … The world of tomorrow is a world of empires, in which we Europeans and you British  can only defend your interests, your way of life, by doing it together in a European framework and a European Union.” The conference rapturously applauded his call for a European Empire. Is that what pro-EU voters knew they were voting for? Verhofstadt said in 2016, “Let’s create a European defence union, let’s take on our responsibilities … Let’s become an empire, an empire of the good and not of the bad.”

What is the effect on NATO? US President Donald Trump recently took his NATO partners by surprise by withdrawing troops from northern Syria and by announcing a troop draw-down in Afghanistan. NATO member Turkey then began its offensive into Syria. European NATO member governments responded by threatening sanctions against their ally and neighbour.

The USA and Turkey took their decisions without even consulting their NATO partners in Europe. This NATO split is fuelling EU leaders’ calls for an EU army. In an interview with The Economist on 7 November, President Macron urged European countries to become a ‘geopolitical power’.

He warned, “You have no coordination of the United States’ strategic decision with NATO’s partners and we are witnessing aggression led by another NATO partner, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake, without coordination.” He added, “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.”

Macron said that NATO “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” Asked whether he still believed in the Article 5 collective defence pledge, he replied, “I don’t know”, calling into question NATO’s founding principle, only weeks ahead of its London summit on 3-4 December, marking NATO’s 70th anniversary.

Chancellor Merkel tried to play down Macron’s words: “I don’t think such an all-round blow is necessary, even if we have problems, even if we have to pull ourselves together. … Emmanuel Macron chose drastic words, that is not my view of cooperation in NATO. The transatlantic partnership is indispensable for us.” So, Turkey and the USA are at odds with the rest of NATO, and France and Germany are at odds with each other. NATO is destabilised.

What should Britain’s defence policy be? Well, not to defend an EU empire, for one! And not to be dragged into yet more wars in the Middle East. We should defend our people, secure our borders and our fishing waters, defend trade routes, defend against terrorists like ISIS, stop the people-traffickers (stop the boats and you stop the deaths); deter any who threaten our independence.

About the author

Will Podmore

Will Podmore is a librarian, and a member of the University and College Union. His latest book is Brexit: the road to freedom (i2i Publishing, 2018)