Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

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

Support quality EU news

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

... or join 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.

EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans

An emergency resolution adopted at the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb calls on the EU Council and member states to take a positive decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as soon as possible.

Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

The outgoing president of the EU council, Donald Tusk, is set to be elected as the president of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Tusk will have to deal with the final decision over Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

News in Brief

  1. Russia plans 'Arctic Air Defence" with S-400 missiles
  2. Belgium: King does another round of consultations
  3. Thousands protest Orban's theatre clampdown
  4. Russia and Ukraine agree ceasefire by new year
  5. US deploys biggest army to Europe in years for training
  6. New 100km/h speed limit on Brussels ring road planned
  7. Orban wants bill to tighten grip over theatres
  8. Dutch reduce terror threat level for first time since 2013

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us