Thursday

1st Dec 2022

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. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us