Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

UK blocks blueprint for EU military HQ

  • Johnson (r): "You know, we’re not going to stand in their way" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The UK has blocked legal preparations for an EU military headquarters in the run-up to Brexit and national elections.

Boris Johnson, its foreign minister, took the step at a meeting in Brussels on Monday (15 May) citing disagreements over “language”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Mogherini said she gave same "clear" message to UK defence minister Michael Fallon by phone (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

“There’s a discussion still going on about some of the language there”, he said. “If they want to come together [on joint defence plans] … then, you know, we’re not going to stand in their way. We’re just working on some of the language to make sure that we get it totally right”.

The new HQ is to be an office inside the EU foreign service in Brussels that would take charge of EU military training missions, such as the ones in Mali or Somalia, which are currently run out of command centres in member states.

The other 27 EU members had wanted to adopt a legal mandate for it on Monday which described it as an “operational” body, but the UK has said that would be a step too far toward the creation of an EU army that would duplicate Nato.

Michael Roth, Germany’s EU affairs minister, said after listening to Johnson that he did not hear “a relevant argument” against going ahead.

He also noted that the UK had already agreed, in March, to create the HQ. “The decision has already been taken in principle”, he said, according to Germany’s DPA news agency.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said she hoped the HQ could still be put in place by the end of June.

Echoing Roth, she said she told Johnson “very clearly” that it was the UK’s “responsibility” to allow the plan to go ahead after having agreed to it in March.

“If you take a political decision then it’s your responsibility to allow this to become reality”, she said.

Diplomats linked Johnson’s decision to Brexit and to the upcoming British election on 8 June in which his Conservative Party is trying to win votes by being “bloody difficult” with the EU.

"It is unfortunate that essential European security and defence projects have become hostage to domestic political moves," one EU diplomat told the Reuters news agency.

Another one said: “If this issue is to be delayed until after the British elections in June and then approved, well OK”.

But Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski warned that events in the wider world “won’t wait until we agree with the UK on our divorce terms”.

EU defence ministers will return to the topic in greater detail in Brussels on Thursday.

The joint defence plans include a €500-million-a-year fund for research into drones and cyber defence technology.

The fund is to be paid out of the EU budget, with the European Commission to unveil details in June.

The plans also include joint arms procurement and making EU “battlegroups” more ready to intervene in conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

“A European army is not a project for the near future”, Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker told Salzburger Nachrichten, an Austrian newspaper, on Saturday.

“It is, however, a project that would give additional weight to the European foreign and security policy. Even though the road may still be long, we could already focus our strengths better”, he said.

Magazine

Ceci n'est pas une EU army

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini got tired of repeating the phrase "this is not … an EU army", but 2016 saw France and Germany leap forward on military integration.

Feature

Colonisers speak - 60 years after Congo's independence

Belgium is in the midst of a nationwide reassessment of its colonial past. Under pressure from a younger, more activist, generation and a growing African diaspora, the former colonial power has taken some steps over the past year.

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us