Dr. Roberts Zīle, MEP
In his annual speech “State of the Union” at the European Parliament, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker avoided naming the EU Army in particular, while he revealed new details on this idea within a framework which is more voter-friendly, namely the European Defence Union.
It was clear during the Cold War that military decisions concerning Europe were taken in Moscow and Washington. Now it clear how NATO has developed a procedure for a quick response (in Latvia it is by the parliament following a proposal by the government) in the case of an actual hybrid war. Within the Juncker’s new army, who will be responsible for the destiny of soldiers of the EU Army, including Latvia’s soldiers in the case of a hybrid war, for example? It is not clear; Juncker, Mogherini, or somebody else?
To admit, this plan, for the financing of which another new fund is being pushed, was announced in a more cautious manner than the results of the European Fund for Strategic Investments — Juncker’s previous fund. By the way, according to the recent findings of the European Investment Bank, this fund was only a success story for the big and rich European countries. It seems that Juncker and the Commission led by him have found a way for centralising EU resources — by announcing establishment of new funds again and again.
The EU Army without the largest army in Europe?
The British have always taken a firm position with regard to not only defence but also many other issues thus often balancing the mutually beneficial interests of Germany and France; therefore, the Brexit has opened a Pandora’s box to European federalists, by taking the largest army in Europe with them. Leaders of Germany, France, and Italy gave a meaningful speech on an aircraft carrier by declaring the new position as the European standard of security. Was it an answer to the Brexit? It seems that it was the Italian General Camporini who said it openly that the chances for European defence were now much improved, “now that the British have no voice in the matter”.
It appears strange to build a new EU security strategy without the largest army in Europe even after the British Secretary of State for Defence pointed it out that the British global commitment to the field of defence would only increase, also after the Brexit: “[we] would continue to play a leading role in defence, including against Daesh, or Isis.” The pacifist ideology rules Europe; moreover, a whole new generation in the majority of member states has grown up without participating in any war. It is not without a reason that Europe plays its defence role in the context of NATO.
Is it wise to duplicate NATO?
Fighting the terrorist is one of the main aspects justifying the new European security cooperation strategy and the creation of a new command centre for a permanent EU military force. Not only has it appeared in the speech by Juncker but also in the documents of the European Commission and the Parliament. An opinion has emerged that the main tasks of NATO cover more important aspects, namely the security of states while fighting the terrorist has been disregarded. First, although some may wonder how is it that terrorism is not related to the essential security of states, it should be reminded that the famous NATO’s Article 5 was first and so far only invoked on 11 September 2001 as a joint reaction to the terrorism act in New York.
Second, already a half a year ago the President of the Commission stated that“NATO is not enough” and that a common EU army would send important signals to the world and would allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world. At the same time speaking about sending important signals to the world: due to various home-policy related interests Europe has not still been able to ensure a visa-free travel to Ukraine and Georgia — countries that are being attacked by an external aggressor for years.
Just some months ago a new NATO headquarters was opened in Brussels opposite to the previous building; the new construction project cost framework was slightly more than one billion euro in total. Indeed, not all EU member states participate in the NATO (although the defence capabilities of Sweden and Finland have been specially developed to ensure close cooperation with the NATO), but almost all member states still do not meet the goal of financing the NATO in the amount of at least 2% of their GDP (with some exceptions like Estonia, Poland, Greece, and the UK). In addition, when upholding the idea of EU army, Finland which was already mentioned expects strengthening of domestic security and hybrid threat protection in a manner that does not match the global emphasis of Juncker’s idea — international missions.
Irrespective of how far from the NATO headquarters the new command centre for the EU military force would be, it is clear that EU member states already lack financing for such goals. It is also clear that irrespective of who will become the next USA president, the NATO pressure on Europe to fulfil its commitment first to the NATO, which is its most important guarantor of security, will only increase. And that should be born in mind because there are way too many outstanding home works in this context. If we are still speculating about the now utopian idea of the EU army then, perhaps, the question how to finance it has already been answered.
Another Juncker’s financing fund?
Judging by the appearance, the European Commission President Juncker enjoys funds. Praising the results of his investment fund (EFSI) (while keeping silent that 92% of the total investment portfolio was concentrated in the so-called “old and rich” EU-15 member states) and offering extending the term of operation of this “successful” fund, Juncker proposes a new fund, this time for Africa and the neighbouring countries in the amount of 44 billion euro. No wonder the European Defence Fund, which is going to be proposed by the Commission later this year, will follow the example of EFSI by organising military procurements within the EU (of course, without the UK). In other words, we will get rid of the military products made in the USA and guess which EU countries will experience the military industry development by way of procurements. The estimated amount of the evolving Defence Fund is 3.5 billion euro. And suddenly it is clear why Germany (NATO financing in the amount of 1.19% of GDP), France (1.78%), and Italy (1.1%) are the most eager advocates of this idea, while Poland, who meets the NATO financing criteria, is in favour of stronger integration into NATO.
Is the EU going to lag behind in the military progress?
Further analysis of the possible scenarios of the mentioned defence fund is made clearer by the fact that in October the Polish government suddenly terminated a contract with the French “Airbus” providing for a purchase of military machinery thus preferring US army helicopters, which will be manufactured in Poland. Although it seems that no one remembers how the French motor industry was successfully moved from the Balkans back to France during Sarkozy’s time, it is clear that Poland would not have been able to purchase the US military machinery in such a manner, given such defence union and fund. In its turn, it means that there would not be any reason for the member states to host US military factories and that there would be less competition and that US industry would leave Europe taking away its military progress, which Europe lacks so much.
Finally, given the current geopolitical situation when the EU and the NATO have managed to agree in the Warsaw Summit on the cooperation in fighting hybrid threats and illegal migration (urgent topics in Europe) and given the UK leaving the EU along with its army, the EU should, on the contrary, use every chance to make sure that the UK stays maximally integrated into the European defence system. Coming funds and the smell of money must not overshadow that.