Time for a European Army

Looking to the present now, we shall start from the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Junker who said in an interview to Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper a [better integrated] army […] would help us to better coordinate our foreign and defense policies, and to collectively take on Europe's responsibilities in the world. Oli Smith on the express.co.uk reports the words of Joseph Daul, president of the European People Party (EPP), the largest political grouping currently present in the European Parliament: we are going to move towards an EU army much faster than people believe. Mr Smith continues by saying that the paper released [by the EPP] calls for a 'European operational headquarters' to replace the system of national governments directing their own forces. On top of this, the EPP in October 2015 in the final statement released after their meeting held in Madrid went even further calling for a self-selected core of EU nations [that] should surge ahead in areas such as common maritime surveillance as the first step in that direction, not only the party points at the area where the cooperation and integration is more easily achievable but they also open to the idea of a two speed European integration, for those member states willing to further integrate and those who are not. This is not a new idea as the treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 already incorporated it but in recent times talks between Italian President of the Council Matteo Renzi and British Prime minister David Cameron have been held in this direction pushing the idea back up in the foreign agenda. 

I would like to conclude this report of leaders calling for a European Army with the words of Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, who introduces us to a new fundamental dimension of our discussion. Europeans should consider a new and more ambitious defense and security policy, and not only as part of NATO. Clearly the new element here is NATO, the other leaders did not directly refer to the US. President Tusk opens to the idea of an independent defense and security policy, clearly not directed (or dictated) by the United States. Furthermore this statement came in a very particular moment, as disagreements have been growing between Germany (which, unfortunately, currently acts as a sort of European representative) and the USA over the development of the Ukrainian conflict. It’s appropriate to remember the words of Hastings Ismay 1st Secretary General of NATO, who said the purpose of the alliance was to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down. At the end of the day the Americans aren’t here because they intrinsically want to help or protect us, NATO it’s just another (but like no other) instrument  of the American foreign policy.

I have to admit that it’s safe to say that NATO offers a security umbrella for all of its members, including the majority of EU states and, for the time being, they have benefited greatly from it. It is not only European leaders alone though that are showing some signs of frustration, in fact in 2010 US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that the cold war generation of US politicians was retiring, and that the ones that were taking over were less convinced of the need of such a big and expensive organization, he argued that if you told the American taxpayer [that the US bears] 75% of the financial burden in NATO, it would raise eyebrows.”

Moving towards my conclusion, I have to admit that I mostly focused on the necessity for the European Union to gain autonomy, to break free from the American military grip, but that doesn’t mean that the USA, and the rest of NATO, has to become our enemy or even a rival. With some wit this comes clear. In fact it is not that much the USA who should be seen as the biggest competitor, but uprising powers such as China and India. The world we live in, for as much as we like it or not, is moving towards a multipolar system and this is going to come at a high cost. Unfortunately for them the country to pay the most is going to be the USA. It overstretched itself after the “victory” in the cold war and now, after having experienced the breeze of world hegemony it doesn’t want, absolutely understandably, to step back. Unfortunately for the US there isn’t much to do about it without unbearable internal losses given an hypothetical attempt to curb the developing countries’ economic growth. Ultimately, anyway, the UE is going to be a grown up brother that shares most of his principles and values with the United States probably willing to chose his side most of the times.

There are many other steps to be taken for a better integrated and stronger Europe, for all the Europeans to believe that this is the right oath to follow for a brighter future. An easy example of another fundamental policy missing might be applied in the field of education. An introduction to European citizenship and the values the union stands for jointly with English language since year 1 in schools, and why not, since kindergarten to make Europe-wide cohabitation and communication easy and effortless tasks. Putting all the pieces together and considering that the EU already has the second largest military budget in the world,  probably just above China (data about China varies strongly from 130 billion according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies to 220 billion according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), it comes naturally to think that sooner or later it will claim its military independence. The EU needs an effective army if it wants to be taken seriously in a multipolar system on the international scene.