Grassroots Issue

BERLIN (Own report) - According to Germany's Ministry of Defense "notification" for the expansion of THE EU's military cooperation will be given at the beginning of next week. As the ministry announced, "more than 20 EU member countries" are expected to sign up to "PESCO" at next Monday's EU defense ministers meeting. Within the PESCO framework, an EU Army - still opposed by some EU member countries - is to be initiated "from below." First plans include the establishment of a logistics hub and a core element of a military headquarters in Brussels. "We Europeans must finally take our defense into our own hands," says the CDU parliamentarian and foreign policy expert Elmar Brok. These measures taken by the EU are designed to supplement a merger of European armed forces, which Berlin is also promoting within NATO, for example with the subordination of foreign military units to German command. The defense ministry declares that this is "a grassroots issue."

From Below rather than From Above

At its meeting of the foreign and defense ministers in Brussels, early next week, the EU will begin its planned closer military cooperation by giving notification. According to the German Ministry of Defense, "more then 20 EU countries" are expected to sign on to the project known as the "Permanent Structured Cooperation" (PESCO).[1] Under PESCO, member countries are supposed to form loose coalitions among themselves to collectively provide special military capabilities. In essence, this project substitutes for the fact that a common EU army - that Berlin has repeatedly promoted [2] - cannot materialize, due to persistent resistance by certain EU countries. PESCO is to initiate a procedure that will not demand mandatory participation, but by gathering individual military components "from below," can serve in the long run to substitute for an EU army "from above." PESCO's official inauguration, as was confirmed by the German defense ministry, is scheduled for mid-December.

Central Command for EU Wars

Concrete sub-projects are already being mentioned in Berlin. Thus, a joint medical command is to be formed, to use the EU's current capacity "more rapidly and flexibly than in the current structural pandemonium."[3] A centralized logistics hub must also be created, so that European military planners can make better "application of terrestrial, maritime and aerial transportation capabilities." In general, all PESCO participating nations should report "their capacities and capabilities" to the European Defense Agency (EDA), so that they are available to be consolidated at any time "in the framework of the new defense cooperation." The establishment of an EU military command headquarters is essential to these plans. An EU headquarters would be important for being able to jointly wage wars, which is exactly why there is still resistance to its creation. In the spring, the EU decided to create the core elements of a central command, whose activities would however be restricted to the coordination of so-called advisory and training missions. For the advocates of joint EU military missions, this is insufficient. However, the European Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) finds that there is no need to settle for the current stage of development. The extent to which the central command demonstrates its added-value will inevitably impact the debate about the more ambitious option of a full-fledged command headquarters.[4]

German Predominance

The German Ministry of Defense explicitly points out that PESCO "is similar to NATO's Framework Nations Concept." "It also involves projects that cannot be jointly implemented with all partner countries, but in smaller entities."[5] The two concepts are "not to be seen as competitive but as complementary." Since some time, Berlin has been promoting cooperation also in NATO's European framework. Germany had initiated the above-mentioned Framework Nations Concept in 2013, which NATO then adopted at its September 4 - 5, 2014 summit in Britain's Newport. This concept 1) provides for the subordination of foreign troops to German command, and 2) is aimed at the creation of so-called capability clusters. As confirmed in a current study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), "three multinational divisions, with up to five armored brigades each, should be fielded" by 2032; two of these should be comprised from "German divisional staffs and structures" with the incorporation of units from other nations. According to current planning, an aerial task force - to be created - will have "more than 75 percent reliance on German capability," and a "German-dominated naval commando is foreseen for the Baltic Sea." The SWP concludes that "on land, at sea or in the air, Germany's role in these formations and structures will be significant."[6]

Capability Cluster

Germany is also forging ahead with the creation of so-called capability clusters. In mid-October, Germany and Hungary signed a cooperation agreement for the creation of a joint platoon. The platoon should become operational in 2020, and be further expanded to company level by 2025. The Bundeswehr's medical service is currently creating a multinational rescue center and can draw on the experience from Germany's participation in NATO's Military Medicine Centers of Excellence (MILMED COE) in Budapest.[7] The German Navy is also increasingly cooperating more closely with other European naval forces. Germany's marine infantry battalion is cooperating with the Navy of the Netherlands. In the future, a new operations command center in Glücksburg will assume control over German and Polish submarines. Germany and Norway plan to jointly acquire submarines and have their crews train together. The projects are constantly expanding.

On the Broadest Possible Front

As the SWP emphasizes, the major formations and clusters are ultimately formed by national troops. Though "the possibility exists" that "these units may be placed under NATO command," "in principle, the 'major formations,' however, remain the forces of individual countries and could, for example, also take on EU missions."[8] In addition, countries that, until now, have maintained their neutrality are also becoming involved. According to the Bundeswehr, Austria and Finland have signed letters of intent to cooperate with NATO in the future. Sweden and Switzerland have also signaled "their interests in cooperating."[9] This lays the groundwork for the incorporation of European troops in wars led by Germany on the broadest possible front.


According to Germany's Defense Ministry, the militarization of the EU is a "grassroots issue." "European citizens" expect the EU to be more active in areas of "security and defense."[10] With the militarization of the EU, Berlin and Brussels are merely fulfilling these expectations.


[1] EU-Staaten melden PESCO-Teilnahme. 07.11.2017.

[2] See also Europas Motor and Driving Force for the EU Army.

[3] PESCO: Das Ziel fest im Blick. 06.11.2017.

[4] Thierry Tardy: MPCC: towards an EU military command? EUISS Brief 17/2017. June 2017.

[5] PESCO: Das Ziel fest im Blick. 06.11.2017.

[6] Rainer L. Glatz, Martin Zapfe: Ambitionierte Rahmennation: Deutschland in der Nato. SWP-Aktuell 62, August 2017.

[7] See also NATO's Think Tanks.

[8] Rainer L. Glatz, Martin Zapfe: Ambitionierte Rahmennation: Deutschland in der Nato. SWP-Aktuell 62, August 2017.

[9] Framework Nations Concept: Zusammenarbeit intensiviert. 29.06.2017.

[10] EU-Staaten melden PESCO-Teilnahme. 07.11.2017.