“The Union should have at its command a single European army, with the monopoly of external force projection.”
By Mario Zorro, Ella Fuller and Ece Kepekci
Since the financial crisis of 2008, Europe has mainly focused on its internal problems and has neglected the development of its foreign policy. As the international situation today seems more complicated than ever, it is clear that Europe needs to do more to to act collectively in order to combat security threats with greater effectiveness. The creation of a single European army, as the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently expressed, is a vital step in preserving Europe’s security as well as her interests on the global stage. A prerequisite for the creation of such military capacity, however, is the establishment of collective democratic control over a such a powerful tool.
The recent events in Ukraine, the instability in the Mediterranean and the Middle East all highlight the case for a single European army that has the monopoly of external force projection. In particular, the reaction to the crisis on our eastern border has highlighted a lack of unity and strength, and underlined Europe’s fundamental foreign policy inertia and division.
The creation of a single European army would empower a more robust and commanding Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which would allow for better and more rapid response to international political crises than is currently possible. It would equally reassure the EU’s smaller member states, particularly in the East, who currently do not possess the means to defend their national territory.
Furthermore, a strong and unified European military presence could provide the much needed direction and cohesion required at a time of increasing tensions in a multi-polar international context. A single European army would mean that Europe is more capable, united, and resolved when protecting itself or asserting its interests vis-à-vis any adversary. In such a time of heightened tension it is ironically the creation of Europe’s army in itself—rather than the actual use of any military power—that could contribute to more stability and security around Europe’s borders.
Moreover, the existence of a European army would solve the problem of European security currently being too reliant on the United States of America. The Union needs to build capability so that it can unilaterally react to security threats and guarantee the safety of Europe and her allies if necessary, all while maintaining a strong collaboration with our partners on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, Europe is and should be best placed to determine its own security and military objectives without having to be dependent on external support and be subjected to external interests. This is especially needed as the United States’ security interests have begun to shift, with their focus pivoting more towards Asia than previous regions of interest. Europe can no longer rely on the security dividend provided by the strength of the US military and will have to live up to its responsibilites.
A single European army would eliminate the gap in military capabilities between the European Union and the larger armies on the international stage, immediately making Europe one of two big NATO members.
Military spending would be made more efficient. Defence industries across member states would be able to follow a stronger common framework; and R&D as well as military hardware would become less diverse and more standardised—which would result in a more efficient and effective system as a whole. The creation of a single European army would encourage the development of a stronger independent European intelligence, allowing European policymakers to make policy choices based on the best information available.
Crucially, the creation of a single European army would encourage further European integration, which is vital in order for the Union to secure and maximise its role internationally. It would enable the citizens of Europe to democratically decide their own fates in matters of security and military strategy.
Sovereignty and constitutional obstacles still remain as strong barriers to this ambitious project and, for a single European army to be created, an overhaul and strengthening of European institutions is essential. It would be a great mistake for Europe not to advance towards a stronger and more complete union and this clearly includes the question of military integration.
Fundamentally, Europeans will be able to cope better with potential threats arising in an increasingly multi-polar world if they work together as one. At the same time the creation of a single European army would be a catalyst for the much needed strengthening of European institutions as a single unified European army would require one single state and parliamentary control.
The creation of a single European army does not necessarily mean the EU’s role as a mediator would be compromised. Mediation and the utilization of military power are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, a mediator with military assets of its own could watch and secure the peace agreements and conditions more effectively, and could also allow the EU to protect vulnerable populations and secure the delivery of humanitarian relief in more successful ways. It would equally allow the EU to be a stronger pillar in the United Nations’ peacekeeping system.
Fundamentally, the European Union must realize that only in unity beyond the sole economic aspect, can it maintain and extend its influence and power internationally. A single European army is a necessary component in realising this objective and a crucial way to combat the foreign policy inertia and division that currently inhibits the EU from effectively addressing political conflicts that affect its interests internationally.