Monday

19th Oct 2020

No support for EU army in ministers' talks

  • “It’s not about a European army”, German defence minister said (Photo: Reuters)

There will be no joint EU force and no EU military HQ for a long time to come, defence ministers’ talks in Bratislava on Tuesday (27 September) indicated.

The informal meeting came after Italy had proposed the creation of a "permanent" EU force as a political response to Brexit and to popular fears that Europe was becoming more vulnerable .

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

  • British minister Fallon said: "We are going to continue to oppose any idea of an EU army or an EU army headquarters" (Photo: Defence Images)

France and Germany had also proposed an EU command centre for overseas crisis missions and EU funding for “battlegroups” - temporary, battalion-sized forces created by small groups of member states.

Coming out of the talks, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said there was “common ground” on the principle of closer defence cooperation.

But she mentioned smaller initiatives, such as joint investments in Europe’s arms industry, a joint R&D budget, and better planning of overseas missions, as examples of the kind of projects that had won support.

Finland, which had, prior to the meeting, called for a “pragmatic” approach to EU defence, also offered to host an EU cyber-defence academy.

“This is not about a European army, this is about stronger defence cooperation”, Mogherini told press in Slovakia.

Referring to British threats to veto projects that might compete with the Nato defence alliance, she added: “Let me tell you very clearly: Today, in my three hours’ discussion with ministers, I never once heard the word ‘veto’, I never once heard the word ‘blocking’, and I never once heard the word ‘army’.”

“This was not an ideological or abstract debate, it was about what we can do together … to respond to our citizens, who demand that we invest in their security”, she said.

The British defence chief, Michael Fallon, earlier in the day repeated the UK’s threat.

"We agree Europe needs to step up to the challenges of terrorism and of migration, but we are going to continue to oppose any idea of an EU army or an EU army headquarters which would simply undermine Nato”, he said.

The German minister, Ursula Von der Leyen, on Tuesday said Berlin and Paris believed the EU would “make significant progress before the end of the year” on certain projects, but also mentioned joint spending instead of the military HQ idea.

“It’s not about a European army”, she also said.

“It's about bundling the various strengths of European countries to be ready to act together quickly .

If you look at how much personnel and money is available for defence in the 28 states in Europe but how little this is coordinated, there's significant space for improvement”.

Political will

An EU source who attended the Bratislava event told EUobserver that Italy’s EU force idea was not discussed, but that “everybody mentioned the HQ issue”.

The source said that some states, including Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK spoke out against the idea.

He said that about 10 others, including the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Portugal, and Spain, were “open to discussions” on the HQ, but not in the short term.

He also said that France and Germany were “way ahead of the others” in their initial proposals.

The source added that even if the EU decided to fund battlegroups they would be unlikely to see action because member states “lacked the political will to go into theatre”.

“All the discussions start with talk of greater efficiency, but quickly become ideological”, he said.

Finland calls for 'pragmatic' EU defence

Finland’s plan for EU defence integration, presented to ministers today, goes less far than Italian or French “visions”, while quietly designating Russia as a threat.

Italy lays out 'vision' of EU army

Italy has laid out plans for the creation of a “European force” that goes beyond Franco-German proposals on defence integration.

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.

Interview

Former spy chiefs call for EU-US intelligence hub

Europe and the US need an "intelligence hub” to fight terrorism, with grand ideas on EU military integration unlikely to bear fruit, Germany’s former spy chief has said.

News in Brief

  1. Italy takes extra measures as Covid-19 infections rise
  2. Coronavirus: Brussels worst in Europe, health minister says
  3. Vandalism sparks call for EU action on 5G disinformation
  4. Belgium installs curfew, closes restaurants and bars
  5. Ireland to probe Instagram's use of EU children's data
  6. Belarus: 10th weekend rally in a row against Lukashenko
  7. Warfare continues to rage in South Caucasus
  8. Turkish Cypriots elect nationalist president

Column

A 'geopolitical' EU Commission. Great idea - but when?

Safeguarding Europe's position starts with recognising the unpleasant reality that Europe's power is waning. Behind the facade of European cooperation, national self-interest still predominates and that has never been any different.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. France marks trauma of history teacher's murder
  2. Spain's Sanchez in storm over judicial appointments bill
  3. Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience
  4. Brexit and EU budget in spotlight This WEEK
  5. A ghost town haunts the future of Cyprus
  6. EU leaders unsure how to talk to Turkey
  7. EU leaders discuss Turkey's air and sea 'provocations'
  8. EU's 2030 climate target left for December summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us