European army or EU army are terms for a hypothetical army of the European Union which would supersede the Common Security and Defence Policy and would go beyond the proposed European Defence Union. Currently, there is no such army, and defence is a matter for the member states.
The idea of a European army was first discussed in 1950. It was proposed by France and would have consisted of the “Inner Six” countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany), in order to strengthen defence against the Soviet threat without directly rearming Germany in the wake of World War II. In 1952 the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community was signed but not ratified by the signatories.
However, during the Cold War, Western Europe relied on NATO for defence, precluding the development of European cooperation. Immediately after the “fall of communism”, the defence apparatus was preoccupied with NATO expansion into the former Soviet bloc. The idea of a European army gained popularity after the September 11 attacks and NATO’s involvement in conflicts outside of Europe. In a phenomenon dubbed diversification of European security, NATO has come to be responsible for “hard” threats while the European Union has taken a greater role in “soft” threats, including peacekeeping in the western Balkans. The 2007 Treaty of Lisbon also has furthered defence integration within the EU. This has led to support for a European Defence Union, which would be a step higher in collaboration than the current Common Security and Defence Policy.
In 2019, Germany and the Netherlands activated the 414 Tank Battalion, the first that included soldiers from two EU countries. The battalion was created because Germany did not have enough soldiers, while the Netherlands lacked tank capability. This was described as a step towards a European army. The Franco-German Brigade in Alsace has been less successful due to greater linguistic and cultural differences.
Under the current arrangement, there is no EU army and defence is reserved for the member states.
The term “European army” is vague and it is not entirely clear what it would entail. Increasing integration would make security more efficient and less expensive for member states.
Support and opposition
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both expressed their support for a joint European army. Macron endorsed the idea in 2018 after the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and in light of American President Donald Trump’s scepticism of Atlanticism. Other European politicians who have expressed support include former French prime minister Alain Juppé (in 1996), former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, former Czech prime ministers Miloš Zeman and Bohuslav Sobotka, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. European army is on the official programme of the European People’s Party.
Dutch deputy prime minister Kajsa Ollongren supports the idea while defence minister Ank Bijleveld opposes it. It is also opposed by Eurosceptic politicians in the EU, such as Ryszard Legutko. NATO has been described as the “biggest obstacle” to a European army. According to NATO officials, the alliance has discouraged independent European defence capabilities, both as an attempt to avoid duplication and as a moral hazard effect from US defence subsidies prompting less military spending by European countries. The United States ambassador to NATO also expressed opposition to any European protectionism in developing its own defence industry. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the European Union could not defend itself without NATO and should not try to form a European army.
A 2019 survey found that 37% of Dutch citizens “approved the idea of a European army” while 30% are opposed to the formation of an army of all EU members.
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