Driving Force for the EU Army

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Military experts of the SPD group in the German Bundestag are calling for an EU "military academy" and "permanent military headquarters" along with other steps toward establishing an EU army. "As Social Democrats, we want to be the driving force in Europe of a parliamentary controlled European army," declared its "Working Group on Security and Defense Policy" in a position paper. The paper was presented last week by the SPD parliamentary group's defense policy spokesperson Rainer Arnold. The EU is "a global actor" due particularly to its economic influence, the authors explain. Its foreign and military policy, on the other hand, is inadequate and "urgently in need of improvement." These demands are being raised at a time when the Bundeswehr has begun to establish "European" military structures through bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects, and when Germany's Minister of the Economy is calling for the establishment of an EU armament industry with a strong German base, independent of the USA. Already a few years ago, SPD politicians called for reopening the discussion on the EU's war and peace decision-making authority, and possibly taking this authority away from the national parliaments.

Large "Capability Gaps"

The SPD Bundestag's "Working Group on Security and Defense Policy's" position paper takes stock of the EU's military policy of the past few years. Last week, the position paper was presented by Rainer Arnold, the defense policy spokesperson for the SPD's Bundestag group along with Arne Leitz, an SPD member of the European Parliament. The EU, "with its 28 member-nations, its 500 million citizens and its economic influence - accounting for a quarter of the worlds Gross National Product - is a global actor," according to the document.[1] The EU's foreign and military policies, on the other hand, "are inadequate and desperately in need of improvement." Already, the 1999 "Helsinki Headline Goals stipulating that up to 60 thousand soldiers be made available for deployment within 60 days" has "never been achieved," the paper continues. The EU Battle Groups are also "hardly practical" and tie down "forces unnecessarily." "The perspective of a common defense, as stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty," is also stagnating. "Until now, important goals have not been attained." The "Europeans' capability gaps in strategic areas" tell "a clear story."

"We, as Social Democrats"

As the authors of the paper explain, this is why "common European efforts" in terms of military policy "are desperately needed." The EU has already "announced improvements in four key capabilities." This refers to aerial refueling, satellite communications, cyber defense and drone development."[2] In the future, "not only are command structures and capabilities to be consolidated, but tasks will also be shared or jointly executed." The SPD working group makes concrete recommendations: "as Social Democrats, we want to be the driving force in Europe of a parliamentary controlled European army and we are pursuing this objective relentlessly."

EU Military Academy

According to the plans, step by step, military policy structures are to be consolidated at the EU level and, first, a Defense Committee formed in the European Parliament as well as a Defense Minister Council. Guidelines for the future EU military policy were laid down in a joint "White Book." The authors make a plea for "creating a European Military Academy or University," which could contribute "to the formulation of common qualification standards for future command levels of the European armed forces." In addition, the Social Democrats are calling for the "expansion of the European Gendarmerie," which, since early 2006, has been ready for action. For the time being, the Federal Republic of Germany is not participating in this paramilitary police force, because of Germany's segregation of police and military. According to the SPD's paper, because "the German Federal Police has not succeeded" in playing the "significant roll in the foreign EU and UN deployments" as desired, "the Bundeswehr's military police" may be called upon in the future.

EU Headquarters

The working group also calls for "increasing the number of European maneuvers and training exercises," to "further facilitate the collaboration of the various armed forces." The EU's joint European Air Transport Command (EATC) must be expanded. In fact, Spain recently became the sixth country to join. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) The authors make also a plea to establish a "Baltic Naval Headquarters" as well as to promote decisively "the establishment of a standing EU military headquarters incorporating all of the functional staff areas." "This would have the advantage of a constant mission readiness, as well as facilitating central planning and the execution of missions," the paper explains.

NATO vs. EU

The SPD's paper was published at a time, when the Bundeswehr has been laying the groundwork for the creation of an EU Army, through a significant expansion of its bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects with other armed forces within the EU. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) Collaterally, German Minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), is energetically calling for the expansion of an "independent European Arms Industry." Recently, Gabriel declared "a tangible arms technological basis can be maintained in Europe" only through the "cooperation and, in part, even the merger of European enterprises." "However, this must "take place on the basis of a consolidated German arms industry" to insure a strong German position.[5] The current SPD working group's paper explains why social democrats consider a truly autonomous German-European arms industry to be a necessity. "NATO is the relevant address for solving high-intensity conflicts. We are convinced that the EU has the better means for handling intermediate and low intensity challenges." The perspective of engaging in military missions independently from the USA demands an autonomous arms industrial base.

Nuclear integration

In many respects, the SPD paper's demands are nothing new. They had been formulated already in a document published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in June 2007, which had been supported by Rainer Arnold, Hans-Peter Bartels and others. The document's authors expounded on even more far-reaching measures as recommendations for the elaboration of the EU's long-term military policy. A joint EU military legislation and the designation of an EU Defense Commissioner at the head of the EU's military bureaucracy should be sought, according to that paper. The procedure for deciding on war and peace should also be clarified. In this context, according to that paper, "the transfer of EU nations' sovereignty and the transformation of the authority of decision-making to a democratically legitimated EU organ must be discussed." Germany, as the EU's predominating country, would have the advantage in this sort of arrangement. It was said, at the time, that an issue that must be "discussed" - from which the Bundeswehr still today is excluded - is "the role of the French and British nuclear forces in an integrated European Army."[6]

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Arbeitsgruppe Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik der SPD-Bundestagsfraktion: Positionspapier zur Europäisierung der Streitkräfte.
[2] See The Club of Drone-Using Countries.
[3] See Effizientere Kriege and The German Path to an EU Army (III).
[4] See The German Path to an EU Army (I), The German Path to an EU Army (II), The German Path to an EU Army (III) and Der deutsche Weg zur EU-Armee (IV).
[5] Rede von Bundesminister Gabriel zu den Grundsätzen deutscher Rüstungsexportpolitik. www.bmwi.de 08.10.2014.
[6] On the Way towards a European Army. Friedrich Ebert Foundation, London Office. June 2007. See German Europe.