Friday

26th Feb 2021

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.

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

  • 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.

News in Brief

  1. Rights group exposes Ethiopia massacre
  2. US carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria
  3. Malta closes investigation into journalist murder
  4. Dutch parliament calls China treatment of Uighurs genocide
  5. Spain fined €15m by ECJ over data failures
  6. Belarus: Anti-government protester jailed for 10 years
  7. German charged with spying for Russia in Bundestag
  8. Heavy earthquakes in Iceland trigger volcanic activity

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Armenia 'coup' shows waning of EU star in South Caucasus
  2. 'Difficult weeks' ahead, as variants spread across EU
  3. EU top court advised to strike down Hungary's asylum policy
  4. Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency
  5. Is EU poised to solve child labour in 'green' batteries?
  6. The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them
  7. Who are the EU's new Russian deplorables?
  8. Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us