2. NO GO for AN EU ARMY
BSSB.BE cer.eu 28/11/2018
* An EU army would be a shift towards territorial defence, far beyond the ambitions of CSDP
Two: Unwillingness to deploy
The lack of a shared vision of how to use EU forces would be an enormous problem in a crisis. Member-states would be keen to protect their sovereignty, which means that a single government could block a deployment.
- Europeans have learned this the hard way, through the EU Battle Groups. Created in 2007, these consist of rotating troop contingents from member-states, in theory ready to deploy at ten days’ notice. In practice, they have never been used.
- Differing national military strategies and threat assessments deter EU members from volunteering soldiers for operations.
- An unattractive system of cost distribution, which places the brunt of an operation’s financial burden on the deploying country, does not help. Indeed, the longer battle groups have gone unused, the weightier the symbolism of deciding to use them has become.
Today, governments shy away from even trying: in 2013, the UK blocked these forces from supporting French operations in the Central African Republic, fearful of the potential effect on Britain’s EU membership debate. Even the staunchest supporters of an EU army cannot conceive of a supranational defence authority that could over-rule such decisions by national parliaments.
Three: Re-inventing the wheel
Some member states worry that an EU army would compete with NATO structures. With 22 of 28 EU states also being NATO members, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has urged Europeans to avoid duplicating NATO – money invested in an EU army would be money lost for the alliance.
Institutional squabbling between the EU and NATO is rooted in a long-standing and largely ideological divide. On one side were the so-called ‘Gaullists’, advocating a strong and independent Europe de la défense.
On the other, the ‘Atlanticists’ wanted to protect NATO’s role as Europe’s security provider and favoured strong American involvement. They reject the idea of EU territorial defence, fearing this would remove the raison d’être for America to keep its forces in Europe.
These days, NATO’s problem is not that the US may abandon Europe’s defence because Europeans are doing too much for themselves, but rather that Americans might tire of European “free riders” (as President Obama has termed them). Washington has repeatedly signalled that it does not care through which institution European defence is channelled; the priority is getting Europeans to take their own defence more seriously. But central and eastern European states see US capabilities as a vital hedge against an aggressive Russia. As a result, they have also expressed their strong preference for NATO and rejected the idea of a European army. They are unlikely to give up this resistance anytime soon.
Four: Lord make me pure but not yet
Finally, a European army would fall foul of politics in key EU capitals. Paris, while not explicitly opposing the idea (foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault indeed spoke recently about the need for “strategic autonomy for Europe and Europeans”), would rather get the rest of Europe to support French operations in Mali and the Sahel. Britain, as noted above, considers any debate on an EU army dangerous. Ireland, which guards its neutrality zealously, opposes the idea of an EU army and secured a protocol to the Lisbon Treaty stating explicitly that the treaty did not provide for the creation of such a force.
Germany’s alleged commitment to creating an EU army is also weaker than it may appear. Though the project features explicitly in the government’s coalition agreement and is supported by almost all political parties, German politicians all stress the long-term nature of this ambition. It is considered good form for a ‘good European’ in Germany to reaffirm the commitment to a European army. But Christian Moelling, a senior fellow for security policy at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, who was involved in the ministry of defence’s white book consultation process, says that no one is preparing concrete implementation plans.
Another stillborn of EU defence co-operation, the ‘Permanent structured co-operation’, or PESCO, also demonstrates the member-states’ unwillingness to involve the European Union in their efforts at military co-operation. The Lisbon Treaty introduced PESCO to allow a core group of EU members to deepen their co-operation on military matters, when certain criteria were met. But the mechanism has never been used – countries chose instead to pursue military integration in small clusters outside EU structures.
The political will for small-scale EU co-operation was never there, so it will not be strong enough to enable the creation of an EU army.
There will be no European army for the foreseeable future; but the EU can and should do more to strengthen European defence. Collectively, its member-states are the world’s second largest spender on defence, surpassed only by America.
This spending does not translate into a proportionate amount of military power, however. Inefficiencies and a lack of co-ordination and interoperability prevent the EU from taking advantage of obvious economies of scale. Money wasted on duplication and protectionist policies is money that cannot be invested in capability development. Shared infrastructure, joint procurement and a closely integrated defence market would all help ensure European governments get more for their money.
The #EU Army is a pipe-dream that blocks decisions on how best to meet Europe’s #defence needs
There have been some positive developments, including the creation of the European Defence Agency (EDA) to co-ordinate defence planning between member-states, or the multinational European Air Transport Command (EATC), which commands almost 150 aircraft from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. EATC works for two reasons: there is an agreed financing model, and though EATC determines how to use aircraft most efficiently, every country can refuse to take part in a particular operation, without blocking others. The EDA is investigating whether this framework could be used as a model for other capabilities in the future.
The EU can add value to European defence by integrating European defence markets, or co-ordinating multinational procurement projects. But these initiatives do not set the stage for an EU army, a project which has few true friends and many enemies. European leaders should not allow debates over the creation of such an army to get in the way of decisions on how best to meet Europe’s defence needs. Instead they should use existing structures to ensure that member-states waste money on neither unnecessary duplications, nor a distracting and unrealistic European pipe-dream.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: cer.eu