In early November 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of what he touted as a “true European army” which he said would protect the interests of the bloc. The proposal was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel but criticised by British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has claimed that a European army is “already taking shape”, adding that Germany and France remain the “driving forces” of the continent’s defence.
“Reforms over the past months and years have brought our armed forces closer together. We’re working quickly,” Minister von der Leyen pointed out in her article published by German newspaper Handelsblatt.
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In the article, she also upheld the idea of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) defence scheme, which stipulates the bloc’s national armies cooperating on joint military projects. PESCO was first mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty of 13 December, 2007.
Additionally, von der Leyen responded to an article by former German Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement on European defence by insisting that reforms should bring national armies closer together.
“We are making good progress. Despite Brexit, and the controversial debates us Europeans have among ourselves, Europe remains a unique creation, uniting half a billion citizens in the name of freedom and prosperity. This community needs to be able to defend itself,” von der Leyen underscored.
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Her remarks came after French President Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of what he described as a “true European army” which he said should be aimed at protecting the interests of the bloc from China, Russia and the US. The proposal was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel but rejected by British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who claimed that any force which rivalled NATO would undermine international security.
He slammed the project as “crazy and dangerous”, pledging that Britain would “never” be part of it.
US President Donald Trump, for his part, slammed Macron’s proposal as “very insulting”, noting via his Twitter account on 10 November that “perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidises greatly”.
Trump has repeatedly urged all NATO members to contribute a minimum of two per cent of their GDP on military spending, as the military bloc advises.
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German Bundeswehr soldiers of the 122th Infantry Battalion take part in a farewell ceremony in Oberviechtach, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
© AP PHOTO / MATTHIAS SCHRADER
EU’s PESCO Pact: Viable Alternative to NATO or Much Ado About Nothing?
On 11 December 2017, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker praised the first operational steps taken by EU member states to “lay the foundations of a European Defence Union,” stressing that the bloc’s security “cannot be outsourced”.
The EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) would allow EU member states to enhance their armed forces, collaborate on projects in the military sphere and jointly boost their defence capabilities.