For or against an European army?

European army military defense foreign affairs
Numéro 1

Learn the ropes

How does the EU defend itself today?
Today, the EU’s defense relies primarily on NATO. 22 out of 29 NATO’s member states are European. In 2002, the EU and the NATO signed a common declaration on the Common Security and Defence Policy, which confirmed their political and military cooperation. So, the EU does not have a real common European army, only military forces mobilized for certain operations. Only France and the United Kingdom have a solid capacity to intervene and a consequent military budget.

Sources: Le Taurillon, Toute l’Europe

A new project?
The idea to create an European army is not new. In the beginning of the 1950s, France, Italy and Germany attempted to create the European Defence Community, but the project was rejected by the French Parliament. This subject has been since then raised by several European decision makers. In April 2016, the French president François Hollande called for a « Europe of defence » to fight against terrorism.


Why do we talk about it today?
In November 2018, the French president Emmanuel Macron spoke about the necessity to create a ‘real European army’ to face Russia and to stop relying on the United States in the matter of European defence. A few days later, the German chancellor Angela Merkel supported the proposal and called to develop a vision of an European army. Many politicians and experts are concerned about this project, mainly for its funding, equipment, framework of command and the necessity to modify the European treaties.
Numéro 2

Choose your side

The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.
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Two is complementary, twenty-seven is a crowd!

Emma Farrugia European army JEF Europe Young European Federalists

Emma Farrugia

Lawyer, Board Member at Young European Federalists (JEF Europe)

The idea of a common European army is not a novelty of the last years, but in fact, this discussion was present at the very inception of the European project, which was first and foremost the product of a peace initiative.

After many years of little progress in what arguably is one of the most important functions of the project, the European Union has now finally re-gained political will and momentum for the realisation of this ambition with President Macron and Chancellor Merkel both calling for a common European army in November 2018. 

The limits of a decentralised system have been reached

The responsibility that we have in continuing to ensure peace and stability on our continent cannot be achieved through the continuance of intergovernmental cooperation among Member States – the fact is, the limits of a decentralised system have been reached.

Now, the challenges and threats that Europe faces are simply far too great for each single Member State to combat on its own.  The worsening situation being posed by the real and common threats of nationalists, populists, terrorism and organised crime, instabilities in the Middle-Eastern and North African regions and most imperatively, illiberal countries like Russia, require renewed efforts by the Member States and which can only be fought by European capabilities and strategic autonomy.

In practice, this means the creation of a real defence union through the pooling in of research, technical, financial and civilian resources towards the creation of a multi-national European military force with its own military and planning capabilities in the field of conflict prevention and crisis response.

The advantages of having one solid common approach instead of twenty seven different security and defence policies will prevent the duplication of resources, notably within the field of defence investment, which would in turn increase efficiency in critical times, increase savings in national budgets and bolster the EU’s influence on a global scale. 

Tt is high time that the EU stops relying on the US to be its protector and instead do more in terms of protecting its own civilians

Apart from the real threats that the EU faces, under the administration of President Trump, the United States’ foreign policy towards Europe has been rapidly changing and so it is high time that the EU stops relying on the US to be its protector and instead do more in terms of protecting its own civilians. Through a common European army, the EU can finally act autonomously in responding and managing crises effectively while also rendering NATO more operable in its role as provider of security and defence in Europe.


(In)feasible idea of “European army”?

Adriel Kasonta european army research european union

Adriel Kasonta

Political Consultant and Foreign Affairs Analyst at Adriel Kasonta Consulting

In order to appropriately assess the feasibility of the “European army” idea, first we have to explore the concept of an army before expounding further on the topic.

By applying the most basic definition of an army, we learn that it is strongly connected to the themes of sovereignty and a nation state.

Army, being the armed service of a nation state, has been serving the purpose of strengthening national unity and patriotism.

If we accept that army is one of the core institutions of a sovereign nation state, predominantly employed as an external force, the question then arises as to how a “European army” would be brought to existence.

Army is the armed service of a nation state

While the EU can (and should) serve its purpose of maintaining the status as the world’s second largest economy, it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to manage often competing raison d’etats of its historically, culturally, and economically different member states.

Legitimate questions surface in the process of this exercise should consider the following issues:

A) Would a “European army” have its own troops (how would this be regulated?), or would there be contributions from individual member states?

B) How large would it be and why?

C) How would decisions on the direction and execution of Army operations be made?

D) And most importantly, how it would be financed?

Finances would play the crucial role, as in the case of NATO spending gives an unparalleled example of the European approach towards defence budgeting and requirements.

According to NATO’s annual report published in March 2018, only seven of the 29 NATO members are reaching the recommended spending target of 2% of gross domestic product. Given the state of affairs, is not encouraging inasfar as believing that defence is a ‘priority’ for Europe, let alone creating its very own army.

Such an institution might double up and compete with NATO

The most obvious concern is that such an institution would not only double up on neglected NATO structures already in place, but also compete with the latter for military resources which is very difficult to perceive with respect to the evidence presented.

At present, under the ‘Common Security and Defence Policy’, EU military operations can be called upon assisting in peace-keeping, conflict prevention, and strengthening international security which provide enough powers for non-hostile economic alliance.

The fact is that member states’ national parliaments will continue to play a major role in deciding when and where their soldiers should be deployed, and would be very reluctant to cede any substantial powers related to this (still) solely national matter.

Instead of wasting EU tax payers money on costly, impractical and unnecessary projects, the EU would be better off spending on science, education, and research, and seriously commit itself to existing structures and serving the NATO project.

What is your opinion now?

One thought on “For or against an European army?

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