The German Path to an EU Army (II)

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Prominent German think tanks and politicians are calling for the establishment of an EU army. To this effect, "integration options" in military policy are viewed as appropriate, for example, at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). In a paper published by the German Ministry of Defense, an SWP researcher writes that the current financial crisis has clearly shown some European countries that "sovereignty built on autonomy is illusory." However, to prevent possible reservations of some EU member countries, the author recommends avoiding the label "European army." Efforts tending in the same direction but "under a different name" would have "more chances of success." The Vice President of the European Parliament, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP) of Germany, has expressed a similar view. "Only a European approach" to military matters can assure that the "economic giant" Germany will not remain a "political dwarf" when enforcing "western values and interests," Lambsdorff declared in a newspaper article.

Caution in Terminology

According to the government-affiliated German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), there are "good reasons" for establishing an EU army. In a paper published on the website of the German Ministry of Defense, Claudia Major, Deputy Director of the SWP's "Security Policy Research Group," wrote that particularly the transformation of the USA's global role and the current "financial crisis" offer "new options for European integration." Because the United States will be "more tied up in Asia and Africa" in the future, the EU has to "assume more responsibility around the world." The "financial crisis" has clearly shown that "national sovereignty built on autonomy is illusory." "The EU countries must make cut backs and gradually accept that solutions must be found at a European level." The author, however, explicitly calls for "caution in the use of terminology," because countries, such as Great Britain, would not "support a project labeled 'European army' in the foreseeable future." "Efforts leading in the same direction, but under a different label, would have more chances of success."[1]

Vanguard Forces

Based on these considerations, the SWP researcher outlines "two paths to a European army." The first path, according to her, would be to encourage military policy cooperation between the governments of the EU member countries. This "enhanced" cooperation could lead to the establishment of more joint combat units, such as the "EU Battle Groups," which could serve as the "nucleus of a European army," the author explains. The second path would be the "transfer of national prerogatives to the EU." This would be the only route to lead ultimately to an "integrated European army" with "European command structures," which "no longer would be dependant on decisions by individual European countries," according to the author. Since the EU members are not yet ready to comprehensively "transfer their sovereignty," only the "coexistence of national armies with initial vanguard forces of a European army" is possible today.[2]

Military Requisites Planning

The SWP researcher sees the creation of a "common European arms market" as another possibility for establishing an EU army. Bilateral projects in the area of arms development and production are particularly well suited for this purpose, explained the scholar. "They could ... enhance the interoperability of the groups of states, the engagement capability of these groups in periods of austerity and serve as models for other countries, if successful."[3] Recently, Hans-Georg Ehrhart, of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) in Hamburg, expressed a similar view in an interview in the German business press. Ehrhart calls for removing "national hurdles" to establish a "functioning European arms market" and spoke in favor of EU countries engaging in joint "military requisites planning." Like Claudia Major, of the SWP, Ehrhart also does his best to avoid the term "EU army." Instead, he refers to a "closer cooperation" in the area of military policy. "That should not be called the European army, just as we do not refer to NATO as the Atlantic army."[4]

Comprehensive Armament Cooperation

Ehrhart and Major's statements show clear similarities to those of the European politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP) from Germany. Vice President of the EU Parliament, Lambsdorff recently demanded that the German government follow the example of the "comprehensive armament cooperation" established between Great Britain and France. "It is high time that Germany takes this path."[5] London and Paris reached military policy accords in November 2010, with the intention of maintaining their capacity for military intervention, even without German approval. This has led German government advisors to begin referring to a new "Entente Cordiale." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Lambsdorff is now demanding that the "tangible shaping up of our European armed forces" should be the primary objective of Germany's bilateral projects, otherwise Germany will remain "an economic giant and a political dwarf, when it involves seriously defending western values and interests." According to statements made by the FDP politician, he favors the idea of an EU army. The question is merely whether such a project "would fit into the existing institutions" or whether "something new" must be devised.[7]

Concrete Steps

The Chair of the Defense Committee of the German Bundestag, Hans-Peter Bartels (SPD) agrees with Lambsdorff's position. According to Bartels, the time has come for "taking concrete steps toward a European army." As argumentation, Bartels refers, in an interview, to the tight budgetary situation of many EU countries, the civil war in Ukraine and the wars of aggression being waged with troops from EU countries. "We have too little money, and we also have new challenges in security policy. However, we have learned, over the past few years, to cooperate closely in missions abroad. Therefore, why should we not also use this in the basic functioning of our armed forces?"[8] With this thesis, Bartels is edging up to the line of codified military policy contained in the German government's coalition contract, signed by the SPD and the CDU. In that document, one reads: "We are striving for an ever closer association of European armed forces, which can develop into a parliamentary-controlled European army."[9]

The Bundeswehr as Trailblazer

Leading German media organs have also begun openly propagating the creation of an EU army. This can also be seen in headlines such as "Europe Ultimately Needs a Common Army."[10] Reference is generally made to the numerous "cooperation projects" agreed upon between the German armed forces and those of other EU states. The transfer of paratroopers and cavalry units from the Netherlands to the German command is considered a particularly good model. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[11]) It is being reasoned that, thanks to the "global situation" and "austerity pressure," a "vision is becoming reality" - "the Bundeswehr is the trailblazer for a European Army."[12]

[1], [2], [3] Claudia Major (SWP): Legitimation und Umrisse einer Europa-Armee. www.bmvg.de 02.01.2014.
[4] Die Bundeswehr muss zur EU-Armee werden. Interview mit Hans-Georg Ehrhart (IFSH). www.wiwo.de 06.10.2014.
[5] Alexander Graf Lambsdorff: Deutsche Verteidigung muss jetzt europäisch werden. www.welt.de 28.09.2014.
[6] See The New Entente Cordiale.
[7] Alexander Graf Lambsdorff: Deutsche Verteidigung muss jetzt europäisch werden. www.welt.de 28.09.2014.
[8] Deutschland treibt das Projekt Europaarmee voran. www.welt.de 07.08.2014.
[9] Deutschlands Zukunft gestalten. Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD. 18. Legislaturperiode. Berlin, November 2013.
[10] Thomas Straubhaar: Europa braucht endlich eine gemeinsame Armee. www.welt.de 30.09.2014.
[11] See The German Path to an EU Army (I) and Under German Command.
[12] Helmut Michelis: Europa-Armee fasst Tritt. www.rp-online.de 27.10.2014.