Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

EU commission chief makes case for European army

  • A European army would send a clear signal to Russia, says Juncker (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said the EU should establish its own army to show Russia it is serious about defending European values.

In an interview with Die Welt am Sonntag, Juncker said "Europe has lost a huge amount of respect. In foreign policy too, we don't seem to be taken entirely seriously."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

An army would allow the EU to react in a "credible manner" to threats to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring country, he noted.

"You would not create a European army to use it immediately," said Juncker, who was previously prime minister of Luxembourg. "But a common European army would send a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending European values."

Juncker added that a European army would not be "competition" for Nato, to which 22 of the 28 EU states belong, but about strengthening Europe.

"A European army would show the world that there will never again be war between its member states."

The idea of a common EU army has been floated on and off for many years but has always run into opposition, particularly in Britain, one of the two member states (along with France) that is considered to be a major defence player.

It reiterated its opposition once again on Sunday.

“Our position is crystal clear that defence is a national – not an EU – responsibility and that there is no prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European army," a government spokesperson said, according to the Guardian.

The EU army idea has never gained real traction across member states for an array of reasons, with objections on grounds of ideology, politics, culture and tradition.

Joint EU missions abroad - such as the border assistance mission in Libya - have been common for 10 years, but when France in 2013 wanted military action in Mali to counter a jihadist threat, it did it alone.

Meanwhile the EU's battlegroups, meant to be deployed rapidly in a military crisis, have never been used.

Juncker's words did receive a cautious welcome by Germany's defence minister, however.

Ursula Von der Leyen told German radio that she believed that the German army could "under certain circumstances" be prepared to put soldiers under the control of another nation. Such a move would “strengthen Europe’s security” and “strengthen a European pillar in the transatlantic alliance”.

She said "our future as Europeans will one day be a European army" although she added "not in the short term".

Juncker's words on an EU army and the state of EU foreign policy come as the EU has begun to assess how it deals with its near-abroad.

Last week the European Commission suggested that its neighbourhood policy - a soft policy focussing on trade access in return for raising democratic standards - had been "inadequate" in dealing with the Arab Spring and former Soviet countries.

Meanwhile, Russia's annexation last year of Crimea as well as its ongoing involvement in fighting in eastern Ukraine has also exposed the limits of EU foreign policy.

The EU has agreed several rounds of sanctions against Moscow, but it remains internally divided on how hard it should be on Russia.

Opinion

More union in European defence

If Europe is "forged in crises", the current situation in Ukraine and in the Middle East calls for the forging of a European Defence Union.

MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship

Two MEPs have withdrawn their nominations from the MEPs Awards over the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis's participation as a sponsor — currently involved in an alleged bribery scandal in Greece.

EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Interpreters at the European Parliament are fed up with remote interpretation, citing auditory health issues given the poor quality of the online sessions.

Column

'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Some modest headway in recognising the unrelenting tide of discrimination and violence facing women worldwide was made at last week's largely self-congratulatory and mostly irrelevant G7 talk-fest. But no one mentioned abortion, just days after the Roe vs Wade decision.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

News in Brief

  1. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  2. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  3. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  4. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  5. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  6. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades
  7. State intervention ends Norwegian oil and gas strike
  8. France repatriates 35 children from Syrian camp

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  2. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  3. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  4. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  5. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  6. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  7. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato
  8. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us