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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Continued build-up of the EuroArmy
Jean-Claude Juncker calls for EU army
European commission president says this military development would
persuade Russia the bloc is serious about defending its values
The European Union needs its own army to help address the problem that
it is not “taken entirely seriously” as an international force, the
president of the European commission has said.
Jean-Claude Juncker said such a move would help the EU to persuade
Russia that it was serious about defending its values in the face of the
threat posed by Moscow.
However, his proposal was immediately rejected by the British
government, which said that there was “no prospect” of the UK agreeing
to the creation of an EU army.
“You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker
told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in Germany in an interview published
“But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we
are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
Juncker, who has been a longstanding advocate of an EU army, said
getting member states to combine militarily would make spending more
efficient and would encourage further European integration.
“Such an army would help us design a common foreign and security
policy,” the former prime minister of Luxembourg said.
“Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign
policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously.”
Juncker also said he did not want a new force to challenge the role of
Nato. In Germany some political figures expressed support for Juncker’s
idea, but in Britain the government insisted that the idea was
A UK government spokesman said: “Our position is crystal clear that
defence is a national – not an EU – responsibility and that there is no
prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European army.”
In the past David Cameron, the British prime minister, has blocked moves
to create EU-controlled military forces saying that, although defence
cooperation between member states is desirable, “it isn’t right for the
European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and all the rest
Geoffrey Van Orden, a Conservative MEP and a party spokesman on defence
and security, said: “This relentless drive towards a European army must
stop. For Eurocrats every crisis is seen as an opportunity to further
the EU’s centralising objectives.
“However the EU’s defence ambitions are detrimental to our national
interest, to Nato, and to the close alliances that Britain has with many
countries outside the EU – not least the United States, Gulf allies, and
many Commonwealth countries.”
Van Orden also accused Juncker of living in a “fantasy world”. “If our
nations faced a serious security threat, who would we want to rely on –
Nato or the EU? The question answers itself,” he said.
Labour said that it did not support a standing European army, navy or
air force and that Nato was and should remain the cornerstone of
Europe’s collective defence.
A Lib Dem spokesman said: “Having an EU army is not our position. We
have never called for one.”
Mike Hookem, a defence spokesman for Ukip, said Juncker’s comments
vindicated warnings that his party had been giving about the direction
of EU policy for years. He pointed out that when Ukip’s leader, Nigel
Farage, warned about the EU wanting its own army in his debate with Nick
Clegg last year, the Lib Dem deputy prime minister dismissed this as a
Hookem went on: “Ukip [has] been ridiculed for years and branded
scaremongers for suggesting that the UK’s traditional parties were
slowly relinquishing control of our defence and moving toward a European
army. However, yet again, Ukip’s predictions have been proved correct.”
“A European army would be a tragedy for the UK. We have all seen the
utter mess the EU has made of the eurozone economy, so how can we even
think of trusting them with this island’s defence.”
He also claimed that having British soldiers serve as part of an EU army
would leave Britain unable to defend Gibraltar from the Spanish or the
Falkland Islands from the Argentinians. And it could see British troops
dragged into military action in eastern Ukraine, he claimed.
Hookem said that Ukip, unlike the other parties, was firmly committed to
spending 2% of GDP on defence and returning the armed forces to the size
they were before the 2010 defence cuts.
But in Germany, Ursula von der Leyen, the defence minister, said in a
statement that “our future as Europeans will one day be a European
army”, although she added “not in the short term”. She said such a move
would “strengthen Europe’s security” and “strengthen a European pillar
in the transatlantic alliance”.
Norbert Röttgen, head of the German parliament’s foreign policy
committee, said having an EU army was “a European vision whose time has
A report by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), published on
Monday, has warned that thousands more soldiers, sailors and airmen will
face the axe in the next parliament regardless of which party wins the
Rusi said it was inevitable that Britain’s defence spending would drop
below the Nato target of 2% of GDP in the face of continuing austerity
cuts and warned that up to 30,000 service personnel could go – with the
army likely to bear the heaviest cuts – leaving the armed forces with a
combined strength of just 115,000 by the end of the decade.
Even if defence spending is given the same level of protection being
promised to health and schools, it said the forces are still likely to
shed 15,000 personnel during the next parliament.