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08 July 2020

Divisions remain among member states over plans for 'EU army'

The possibility of a fully-functioning EU army “remains distant” as member states grapple with conflicting priorities, according to a new paper.

EU member states have struggled to find consensus over plans for an 'EU army'
EU member states have struggled to find consensus over plans for an 'EU army'

Despite ambitious speeches from German chancellor Angela Merkel and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the will to create a unified army for the European Union “lacks the means, structures, and institutions that can put it into practice”.

The claims are made by Alberto Cunha, PhD researcher in the Department of European and International Studies, in his paper, Post-Brexit EU Defence Policy: Is Germany Leading towards a European Army?

With the UK a long-standing opponent of a single EU army, there had been hope in the wake of the Brexit vote that the remaining 27 member states might move towards greater progress in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), potentially paving the way for a force that carried out a more interventionist and responsive role in international security.

However, Alberto sets out that differing priorities between the EU’s two largest member states, France and Germany, has made any potential progress slow.

In the paper, Alberto notes: “Since Emmanuel Macron’s election, France and Germany have repeated proposals to create a ‘European army,’ but different ideas still persist about what this – and the concept of ‘more Europe’ in general – would mean in practice.

“As such, Paris still does not have the partner she hoped for in Berlin and is getting increasingly disappointed. She seems increasingly frustrated with the distance between Berlin’s words and actions.

“Unlike Germany, France saw the need to develop multilateral cooperation with the most ambitious European countries in terms of military capabilities and the political will to intervene militarily when necessary – in their likeness.”

However, with US president Donald Trump withdrawing troops from Germany and making public his displeasure at what he sees as a lack of commitment from Germany in terms of funding the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Alberto believes the issue of a joined-up approach to defence is one the Germans can no longer ignore.

He notes: “France has long been uncomfortable with the trade-off that allows NATO to be the main security guarantee for Europe, while Germany traditionally has accepted and even welcomed it. Why? In my views, that is in no small part because it allows Berlin to avoid difficult questions about its defence policy and capabilities while its security is guaranteed in the middle of a secure and peaceful Europe.

“As Trump’s recent threats to withdraw US troops in Germany show, Berlin can no longer avoid at least considering these questions.”

You can read the paper in full here.

In this story

Alberto Cunha

PhD candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant