Does the EU need an army?

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both recently promoted the idea of creating a European army. Commentators examine why the two leaders are keen on the initiative and hope that they will pursue it with resolve.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Now it's time for action

Hopefully Merkel and Macron will now follow their words with deeds, writes Massimo Riva in his EU column in Le Repubblica:

“Otherwise their repeated statements on the subject will start sounding like a show which might testify to sincere Europeanism but is completely lacking in substance. Setting their sights on a supranational military force is a clear objective and an excellent contribution to a united Europe. But if no concrete steps are taken after all the fanfare they'll only have done the national-populist forces that are seeking the dissolution of Europe a big favour. Europeanism must not be just a goal or a religion you believe in but never practice. Either it's accompanied by clear political commitment or it has no substance whatsoever.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Why Europe is having a change of heart

There are several reasons why Macron and Merkel are openly using the word 'army' these days, Milliyet notes:

“The changes in the global security architecture are forcing the EU to seek new paths. In addition, pressing security issues are on the agenda. ... Trump, who has above all focused his attention on China, wants the EU member states to quickly increase their defence spending. Putin's annexation of the Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine as well as the growing number of cyber operations are also cause for concern. The threat of IS terror in North Africa, Libya, Syria and Iraq remains a serious problem. Added to that, the ongoing stream of refugees in the Mediterranean region remains high on the agenda.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

All talk but no action

A joint European army isn't on the table at the moment, Helsingin Sanomat comments:

“All the talk about a common European army will do nothing to get such a structure actually up and running because there are no projects that take things in that direction. What such statements could do, however, is weaken relations between Europe and the US. Russia's President Putin has also enjoined Europe to establish an army of its own. For him the project is attractive because he believes it would divide Europe. By talking about a European army Macron and Merkel, by contrast, are seeking to promote Europe's joint resolve.” (PL) /

Dangerously forgetful

The EU is moving a step in the direction of Russia with a European army, objects:

“Germany, France and other Western states don't want to pay as much for maintaining Nato as they should and at the same time they like the idea of Rating something new, something that would even have the Kremlin's support. The would-be European leaders have quickly forgotten that without the participation of the American forces and without American financial aid both the first and the second world wars would have ended in total disaster.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Those who want peace don't call for armies

Words and deeds are miles apart when it comes to Europe's peacekeeping policy, The Irish Times complains:

“The sums involved in the armaments industry are staggering and cast a strange light on Macron's pet project, the Paris Peace Forum, launched in the immediate aftermath of the Armistice centenary celebrations. This peace forum is being held after the EU has approved funding for research for fully autonomous weapons controlled by artificial intelligence, including drones and so-called killer robots. The EU is the third-biggest exporter worldwide of armaments. Holding a peace forum while enthusiastically promoting a European army also seems hypocritical.”

Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

New opportunities for non-Nato states

Dzerkalo Tyzhnia looks at what the founding of a European army would mean for Ukraine:

“As far as the format is concerned the European army, as it looks now, would be an entity that is separate from European structures and that aims for intensified collaboration among individual European states. Naturally this opens up certain possibilities for European states that are neither Nato members nor member of the EU. This applies especially for Ukraine, which could be given a real chance to become part of Europe's armed forces and gain new allies and new prospects for the future. But all this isn't as easy as it appears.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Moscow delighted about weak competitors

Ria Novosti discusses why Moscow welcomes the idea of a European army:

“The calm with which Moscow, as the capital of a current superpower, is observing this ambition is not surprising. It's too obvious that the presumed locomotives behind the European superpower have very different ideas about how this army should look. If France perhaps wants to be able to flex its muscles in a bigger arena, Germany wants above all to give the EU security and stability. And this indicates that the 'joint European army', once it's up and running, will be hardly any more capable of action than Nato. It will, however, be less dependent on Washington - and for that reason alone we should not reject the prospect of its creation.”

Financial Times (GB) /

No Western alliance without a Soviet threat

The alliance between Europe and the US is an anachronism in any event, the Financial Times argues:

“What gave rise to 'the West' in its modern usage was a Soviet menace that has no modern equivalent, yet. Even if we date the alliance back to 1917, when the US entered the first world war, it accounts for a minority of American history and a sliver of European history. If Nato and other items of cold war architecture now lapse into a kind of benign disrepair, it is not all the work of Mr Trump. The wonder is that they held as well as they did between 1989 and now.”

Artı Gerçek (TR) /

Not much left of the peace project

Instead of encouraging visions of peaceful coexistence the EU's leaders are pinning their hopes on military projects, comments Artı Gerçek:

“It was Macron, the young politician the neo-liberals have pinned their hopes on, who announced the message marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice: a European army. The idea is not new. It is one of the topics most frequently discussed by the European Union in recent years. Steps in this direction have long since been taken. ... For a long time now the EU army has been taking measures against migrants, who are seen as Europe's greatest enemies. Yet the European Union was once a project for peace, even if in recent years there have been attempts to make people forget this. ... But now [Europe's] leading politicians are trying once more to capitalise on a war. ... While they celebrate the end of the war they promise death for billions.”

Stuttgarter Nachrichten (DE) /

Violation of national sovereignty

Christoph Reisinger, editor-in-chief of the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, takes a dim view of Macron's proposal:

“The fact is that a European army would above all mean one thing: the violation of national sovereignty where it counts most: when war and peace are at stake. ... Ultimately a 'true European army' means that an EU institution will have the say on where and how troops are deployed. As far as the division of labour is concerned, at the very least that means that if Germany supplies parachutists, for example, they must be at the disposal of all other states participating in the joint army. And naturally also for missions whose purpose hardly anyone in Germany understands or agrees with. And that's supposed to be the ideal solution?”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Trump would be left empty-handed

Ria Novosti recalls that the US president has long been demanding that the Europeans raise their defence budgets:

“With his declaration on a European army that acts independently of the US on principle and even protects Europe against the US, Macron is on the one hand showing the willingness to spend money on improving Europe's security (and thus depriving Trump of his main line of argument). On the other hand he insists that these funds must stay in the EU and not end up in the Pentagon's coffers. In such a scenario Washington lacks any really good options for continuing the discussion. Naturally one could cast the French and Germans as notoriously incompetent in military affairs. But while voters in Alabama might fall for that kind of talk, in the EU it would only strengthen anti-American initiatives.”

The Independent (GB) /

British can't expect protection

In the event that a European army is established Britain is unlikely to benefit, The Independent fears:

“Yet closer military cooperation in the EU is unlikely to involve the UK after Brexit - not that a Conservative government would embrace this if it were on offer anyway. Why would an EU army have an interest in protecting the UK when Brussels has played a hardball game in negotiations on customs, trade and the divorce bill? A reforming EU, of which Macron is a leading player, is trying to discourage other nations from pursuing an exit strategy - so allowing the UK another Brexit opt-in, on military cooperation, is highly unlikely.”