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European Army? Not Just Now

  • October 1st, 2008
  • Posted by Guillaume Benoist

eurocorps-badge.jpgThe European Union has been long thinking of a common military force; while nothing has been officially created yet, there are already existing organisations like the “EU-NATO club” — the Eurocorps.


Since 1952 and the failure of the European Defence Community project, the EU has seen ups and downs on policies concerning its military defence.

eurocorps-members-ep.jpgToday, there are active, cooperative military forces and formations: EUFOR, Eurofor, Battlegroups and Eurocorps amongst others — but no real European army regrouping the 27 members.

Some governments have been reticent about the construction of a joint European army, let alone one that would replace national forces, strongly preferring to keep their military independence.

The United Kingdom has taken something of a lead, saying the much dreamt-of joint army might be formed – but it would have to be within the already-existing NATO alliance.

Otherwise, as it was stoutly put by a spokesman for the premier, Gordon Brown: “The Prime Minister’s view is that there will not be a European Army.”

One main impact of a military amalgamation — even in some quarters a reason for it — would be to secure greater independence for Europe from its long-time, but large and sometimes unpredictable ally, the United States.

Germany and France are leaders among the nations arguing for a force the EU could call its own – putting an end to the legend of the European Union as an economic giant and a security weakling.

Those two former great enemies have been running a common Brigade since the early 1990s, and Germany’s current Chancellor, Angela Merkel argues in plainest terms: “We need to get closer to a common army for Europe’’.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, shares that opinion and proposes that a permanent headquarters should be set up in Brussels for planning missions abroad.


Many obstacles to the one-army idea exist; one of them the questions of a command language.

Noting the diversity of languages spoken in Europe it would seem difficult to find just one to lead troops, (though perhaps NATO would provide the lead, working in English and French only).

Another problem is the defence budget to be spent every year by each EU members.

Many cannot afford the level of preparedness, weapons, equipment and training that can be put up by France, the UK or Germany; (as with economic cooperation, and the struggle for compliance with budgetary standards, to enter the Eurozone).

Political opponents of an expanded European Union, all manner of Euro-doubters and sceptics, of course, see the possibility of a European army as a step further towards a federal Europe.


eurocorps-paris.jpgSome of the EU countries are already working together on advanced defence projects — like the Eurofighter Typhoon, created in partnership among the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain; or another aircraft the SEPECAT Jaguar, the fruit of a Franco-British collaboration.

The stop-start Treaty of Lisbon, whenever it might come into force as a blueprint for the new Europe, would include plans to reinforce the links between EU armies.

In the meantime there is scope for some solidarity-making, and at a symbolic level, France on 14th July last year made the grand gesture; inviting the armed forces of all its 26 EU partners to take part in the traditional parade, along the Champs Elysees .


Eurocorps badge; members of the corps; EU flags in Paris

“France is plotting to create a Euro Army”, Daily Mail, London.

Judy Dempsey, “Europe reluctant to set up a security doctrine”, IHT, Paris, 9.5.08,, (1.10.08).