Friday

24th Mar 2017

France and Germany propose EU 'defence union'

  • Von der Leyen: "It's time to move forward to ... a 'Schengen of defence'." (Photo: Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau)

Germany and France have drawn up plans for closer EU defence cooperation, including a new military HQ and swifter deployment of overseas missions.

The ideas were outlined by the two countries’ defence ministers, Ursula Von der Leyen and Jean-Yves Le Drian, in a six-page paper sent to the EU foreign service on Sunday (11 September) and seen by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and French daily Le Figaro.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The Eurocorps in Strasbourg could help EU Council to plan operations (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The Franco-German paper says, according to Le Figaro, that “in the context of a deteriorating security environment … it is high time to reinforce our solidarity and European defence capabilities in order to more effectively protect the citizens and borders of Europe”.

The UK had in the past opposed steps toward the creation of an EU army or duplication of Nato structures.

But the Franco-German paper says that “taking into account the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, we have to henceforth act as 27 [member states]”.

The paper says EU military missions, such as the Sophia anti-migrant smuggler operation or the Atalanta anti-pirate mission, should in future be commanded out of a joint military HQ instead of rotational command by EU states.

It says EU states should create a new command centre for coordinating medical assistance, a logistics centre for sharing “strategic” assets, such as air-lift capacities, and should share satellite reconnaissance data.

It adds that the Eurocorps in Strasbourg, an existing military club between Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Poland, could in future help the EU Council to plan missions in order to speed up deployment.

It says EU “tactical groups”, also knows as “battle groups” - joint battalions created by small groups of EU states - should be made operationally ready.

It calls for a single EU budget for military research and for joint procurement of air-lift, satellite, cyber-defence assets and surveillance drones, in a programme to be coordinated by the European Defence Agency, an EU offshoot in Brussels.

It also says the EU should foster a European esprit de corps by creating a new military academy or by having European courses at national military schools.

Core group

The paper notes that a core group of EU countries could go ahead on the basis articles 42 and 46 of the EU treaty on “permanent structured cooperation”, but that the project would be open to all EU states.

Speaking in Vilnius last Thursday, Germany’s Von der Leyen compared the plan to the EU’s free-travel Schengen zone.

"It's time to move forward to a European defence union, which is basically a 'Schengen of defence’,” she said, according to the Reuters news agency, adding: "That is what the Americans expect us to do”.

“When we have threats that are surrounding us, we all know no country by its own will be able to manage that. But we together, we Europeans, we are very strong if we improve our capabilities as Europeans,” she said.

A French defence ministry source told the AFP news agency the idea was to avoid “substituting it [joint EU defence] for national defence bodies which remain, by definition, the key to the security of EU member states”.

French sources also said the plan should be implemented by “2017 to 2018”.

Same hymn sheet

The Franco-German initiative was reportedly cooked up between Von der Leyen and Le Drian in the margins of the Nato summit in Warsaw in July and is to be discussed at an EU summit, which will take place without the UK, in Bratislava on Friday.

The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, is also expected to call for deeper EU military cooperation in a speech in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The ideas are likely to win support in eastern EU countries, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, but could pose problems for neutral EU states, such as Ireland, as well as for others, such as The Netherlands, who do not believe that people in post-Brexit Europe want to make new leaps in integration.

France and Germany earlier in August already put forward a blueprint for EU internal security cooperation, including an EU border guard force and better intelligence sharing on terrorism.

EU joint defence to focus on south

France and Germany propose leap forward on EU defence, but ideas are far from being an "EU army", and target African crises instead of Russia.

UK to veto EU 'defence union'

Reacting to Bratislava talks, Britain has said it would veto the creation of EU military capabilities so long as it remained a member of Europe.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

Turkey-EU relations plumb new depths

Turkey’s EU quarrel escalated on all fronts over the weekend, amid fresh “Nazi” and “terrorism” jibes. “Not all Turks are little Erdogans,” Juncker said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  2. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  4. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  5. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  6. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  8. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  9. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  10. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  11. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  12. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted

Latest News

  1. Poland and Greece talk tough before Rome summit
  2. Birthday wishes to the European Union
  3. MEPs set out to give posted workers equal pay
  4. Hohe Cyber-Bedrohung für Frankreichs Wahlen
  5. 'No zero terror risk', EU security chief warns
  6. UN could step in where EU fails in child migrant protection
  7. May: London attacker was known to the police
  8. Ending the migrant deal with Turkey may save the EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsDomestic Violence in Tajikistan: Time to Right the Wrongs
  3. European Trust SummitCorporate Strategy and Public Affairs in a Low-Trust World - Conference 31 May
  4. UNICEFNew Law in Hungary on Detention of Migrant Children Raises Alarm
  5. Malta EU 2017Agreement Reached to Involve Consumers in Financial Services Policymaking
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cities Gather Against Violent Extremism & Introduce Nordic Safe Cities
  7. World VisionFears and Dreams of Syria's Children and Their Peers Around the World
  8. Malta EU 2017Maltese Presidency and EP Agree on Visa Liberalisation for Ukraine
  9. Mission of China to the EUEU Window Chinese Government Academic Scholarship 2017/18 - Apply Now
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Lead the Way on Women's Economic Empowerment
  11. Center for Data InnovationBuilding Smart Cities for Tomorrow's Data Economy – 28 March - Brussels