Superpower Europe

WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Own report) - Under German pressure, the EU is pushing toward the establishment of military structures, independent of NATO, as is evidenced by recent decisions taken by its defense ministers. At their meeting, ending yesterday, the defense ministers decided, as a first step, that particular EU countries should enhance their military cooperation. The EU will establish a logistic hub and explore the creation of a European Medical Command. They planned the setting up of a nucleus for an EU civilian-military headquarters that, according to Italy's foreign minister, could grow to become a European general staff. These structures could serve NATO, but in the end, are suitable for an EU army. Berlin's attempt to pit the EU against the USA, by ostentatiously taking a distance to President-Elect Trump, has encountered opposition from the UK and several eastern EU countries. Leading European foreign policy makers called the EU a "superpower" expected to be a "global security provider."

EU Army from Below

The decisions taken by the EU defense ministers at their meeting ending yesterday largely meet the demands for the enhanced EU military cooperation that Berlin, for years, has been pushing for, particularly since last summer. Recently, the German and French foreign and defense ministers had reiterated these demands in joint statements ( reported [1]). The decisions include the demand to proceed with the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), as defined in Articles 42.6 of the Lisbon Treaty. Enhancing cooperation of particular EU countries, in fact, would lay the groundwork for creating an EU Army "from below." However, the official founding of an EU Army is out of the question for as long as the UK is still a member of the EU. London considers NATO structures sufficient and has no interest in building a counter-force to the USA. Berlin's drive to establish a common EU army was reiterated last weekend by Volker Kauder, Chair of the CDU/CSU Bundestag's parliamentary group, when he declared, "we should now be on course toward a European Army."[2]

Strategic Autonomy

The EU defense ministers have agreed on a joint logistic hub and the creation of a European Medical Command - both projects Berlin has been demanding for quite some time. Both would be available for EU military deployments, but, at any time, could be used also for NATO's wars. The latter option is taking British opposition to the creation of an EU army into account. The decisions also included measures to enhance the EU's armaments cooperation - as has been demanded by Berlin - particularly the development of European combat drones. The German government was unsuccessful with its appeal for establishing an EU military headquarters. The defense ministers have agreed on a sort of mini headquarters, a "permanent operational planning and conduct capability" to be used, however, only for "non-executive military missions." Command for combat missions will remain within the responsibility of national headquarters.[3] Italy’s foreign minister, said the mini-headquarters is "not yet a European general staff" but "the premise."[4] The EU defense ministers leave no doubt about the objectives of EU military cooperation: "strategic autonomy," as they note in their final communiqué.[5] These measures will be authorized by the highest authority at the EU summit in December.

"Defenders of Liberal Democracy"

Berlin is meeting resistance in its attempt to use the election of Donald Trump as president, to legitimize the creation of EU military structures. Following Trump's electoral victory, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) claimed, "the defense of liberal democracy ... has become our top priority." "Europe" must "prepare itself to assume more responsibility in foreign and security policy."[6] To consolidate the EU further in opposition to Trump, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, had convened - under German pressure - an extraordinary EU foreign ministers meeting for Sunday evening - with mixed results. The British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, uninterested in pitting London against Washington, demonstratively remained absent from the meeting, while several foreign ministers of eastern EU member countries openly declared their disapproval. The latter is not only because of the sympathy some EU countries, such as Hungary and Poland, share for the US president-elect's central plans - particularly Trump's intention of fortifying the border with Mexico with a wall and to deport millions in mass expulsions. Hungary's Foreign Minister, Péter Sziijártó, declared that he is not impressed by the "hysterical declarations" against Trump's projects being made in some of the EU countries.[7]

Struggle for Control

However, the second reason for their disapproval is based on some of the eastern EU countries' efforts not to have to forego close US military cooperation. For example, Poland and the Baltic countries are hoping to not only have the reliable US backing for their anti-Russian policies, but also as a counter-insurance policy against - the historically well known - German hegemony. The latter applies to the Czech Republic, whose Foreign Minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, in reference to NATO, recently declared, he "relies on" the "realism in American policies" and hopes, Trump will "continue what has proven effective."[8] Poland's Foreign Minister, Witold Waszczykowski announced that Warsaw is prepared to expand its military cooperation with the EU; however, there "should be no rivalry with NATO, with the USA."[9] Similar statements could be heard from the Baltic countries. Berlin is currently seeking to take advantage of Trump's electoral threat: the US would defend the eastern NATO members, only if they significantly increase their military budgets. We must fight "the Russian drive for power" together, declared German President Joachim Gauck in Berlin, at the end of last week, during the inaugural visit of Estonia's new President Kersti Kaljulaid. "When it comes to the security of the Baltic countries, Germany is at Estonia's side."[10] In the framework of the creation of EU military structures, Berlin persists in its efforts to assume control by loosening ties between the east European EU members and the USA.

"Service Provider for Global Security"

The attempts to gradually shake off US influence and organize an EU military, are being flanked by calls for a "superpower Europe," as EU foreign policy chief, Mogherini formulated it. The EU is facing "increasing competition in the global market," explained Mogherini late last week. We can only succeed, if we "work together," ... "with the full potential of a superpower, in the field of security and defense."[11] Mogherini, who, until now, has acted in accord with Berlin, was confident that there would be an increasing "demand of Europe" in global policy. "Request for a principled global security provider," for "a superpower that believes in multilateralism and in cooperation." "We are a superpower," declared Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.[12]

The Decisive Phase

Mogherini and Asselborn are picking up the cues that had been openly discussed in German think tanks more than a decade ago.[13] The struggle to implement the concept of a "superpower EU," until now, has been hampered by the numerous internal contradictions within the alliance. This process could now be entering its decisive phase.

[1] See The European War Union and Strategische Autonomie.
[2] Kauder: Weichen für europäische Armee jetzt stellen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.11.2016.
[3] Council Conclusions on Implementing the EU Global Strategy in the Area of Security and Defence. Foreign Affairs Council, 14 November 2016.
[4] Andrew Rettman, Eszter Zalan: EU crafts defence plan in Trump's shadow. 15.11.2016.
[5] Council Conclusions on Implementing the EU Global Strategy in the Area of Security and Defence. Foreign Affairs Council, 14 November 2016.
[6] Daniela Schwarzer, Josef Braml, Henning Riecke: Die Macht der Ohnmächtigen. 09.11.2016. See Der Trump-Impuls.
[7] Christoph B. Schiltz: So kopflos reagiert die "Supermacht" Europa auf Trump. 14.11.2016.
[8] Befreiung von "ideologischen Fesseln". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.11.2016.
[9] Andrew Rettman, Eszter Zalan: EU crafts defence plan in Trump's shadow. 15.11.2016.
[10] Mittagessen zu Ehren der estnischen Staatspräsidentin. 11.11.2016.
[11] Opening speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the 2016 EDA Conference. Brüssel, 10.11.2016.
[12] Christoph B. Schiltz: So kopflos reagiert die "Supermacht" Europa auf Trump. 14.11.2016.
[13] See "Downfall or Ascent to World Power", "Supermacht Europa" and Potential of a World Power.