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The European Parliament is calling for EU army

On 19 February, the European Parliament adopted by a large majority, 482 votes in favour, 111 against with 55 abstentions, Karl Von Wogau’s own initiative report entitled “European security strategy and ESDP” which calls for a stronger foreign, security and defence policy.

The EU Member States have been criticized by the European Parliament for not achieving progress on key aspects of the EU's foreign and security policy.

According to the MEPs in order to promote peace and international security, the EU needs to develop its strategic autonomy through multilateral cooperation in international organisations, such as the United Nations, and through partnerships with other key actors.

Whereas the European Parliament stressed the importance of the transatlantic relationship and coordination of actions between the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and NATO it pointed out that it is necessary “(…) a more balanced partnership, without competition and with respect for each others' autonomy and mutual understanding where there are diverging strategic considerations.”

It should be mentioned that security and defence questions are decided at intergovernmental level therefore the European Parliament has no competence in this policy area. However, the European Parliament is seeking to get involved in the ESDP. It can adopt recommendations to be addressed to the Council and own-initiative reports, where it can express its views on this policy.

According to the European Parliament the EU defence “needs a new dynamic” therefore it has made around 15 recommendations to the Council.

While criticizing the Member States to be more concerned with their national security interests and neglecting the common responsibility for protecting joint European interests it has urged them to provide for more effective European security arrangements so that the EU can be a more important player on the international scene. The MEPs have deemed necessary to define the EU's common security interests.

It is important to mention that the last December European Council has marked a decisive step for the ESDP. It was a great victory for the French presidency as its proposals to strengthen the ESDP were endorsed by the European Council. Obviously, the European Parliament congratulated the French EU Presidency for its initiatives concerning ESDP.

The European Council has stressed that Europe should be able in the near future of deploying 60 000 men in 60 days for a major operation. But the EU leaders have not established any deadline or specific financial commitments. According to the European Parliament Eurocorps should be the core of the EU force of 60 000 soldiers permanently available. The EU leaders agreed that the EU should be able to conduct “two major stabilisation and reconstruction operations supported by a maximum of 10 000 men for at least two years” as well as “two rapid response operations of limited duration using the EU's battle groups.” Moreover, the European Council has agreed that the EU should be able to conduct simultaneously “an emergency operation for the evacuation of European nationals, a maritime or air surveillance/interdiction mission, a civilian-military humanitarian assistance operation lasting up to 90 days” likewise “around a dozen ESDP civilian missions (…) of varying formats, in a rapid reaction situation which could last several years.”

Obviously, the Council’s commitments were welcomed by the MEPs. Nevertheless, the European Parliament has criticised the vague wording using on the conclusions concerning the ESDP since they failed to describe a real strategy.

The European Parliament has called for a White Paper to include proposals endeavouring to improving and complementing the European Security Strategy mainly “the definition of common European security interests and criteria for the launching of ESDP missions” however the Council has not accepted the suggestion. Moreover, the Council has not considered the Parliament’s demands made in previous reports on the ESS and the ESDP such as the definition of common European security interests and the definition of criteria for the launching of ESDP missions. Consequently, the European Parliament called, again, for a White Paper on European security and defence.

The European Parliament has also called again for the establishment of a European Civil Peace Corps. It wants to transform the Peace-building Partnership into a European Civil Peace Corps for crisis management and conflict prevention. It is evident that such Peace Corps would duplicate the work of the UN.

The European Parliament has stressed the need for the EU to build up both civilian and military capabilities in order to strengthen the ESDP. The MEPs called on the Member States to pool and share existing capabilities and to jointly development new ones. The European Parliament has requested to the EU Member States to “focus their efforts on common capabilities which can be used for both defence and security purposes.”

The European Council has subscribed to the declaration adopted by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on strengthening capabilities of the European Security and Defence Policy. The declaration has identified several military capability initiatives which were approved last November, by the EU Defence Ministers, aiming at reinforcing the EU’s military capabilities as regards security and defence in the aviation, maritime, space and industrial fields. Unsurprisingly, the European Parliament has welcomed such initiatives. In fact, the MEPs have stressed that Member States should focus cooperation efforts on certain sectors such as satellite-based intelligence, surveillance and warning equipment, unmanned air vehicles, helicopters and telecommunication equipment, and air and sea transport.

According to the European Parliament the Galileo and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) systems should be used for security and defence purposes.

The European Parliament is calling for further European military integration. The European Parliament considers “that a common defence policy in Europe requires an integrated European Armed Force which consequently needs to be equipped with common weapon systems so as to guarantee commonality and interoperability.” It has called for further cooperation between national armed forces “so that they become increasingly synchronised.”

The European Parliament has therefore recommended a new process, named SAFE (Synchronised Armed Forces Europe), to reinforce cooperation between national armed forces. The European Parliament has proposed “(…) an opt-in model for the organisation of SAFE based on more intensive voluntary synchronisation.” SAFE would be grounded in “the principle of a Europe-wide division of labour in military capabilities." This would be another step towards an EU army. If the idea is to "synchronised" EU member states armies the aim behind it is to put in place a single army controlled and commanded by the EU.

According to the MEPs there should be a “European statute for soldiers”, within the framework of SAFE, governing “(…) training standards, operational doctrine and freedom of operational action, issues relating to duties and rights, as well as the level of equipment quality, medical care and social security arrangements in the event of death, injury or incapacity.” It seems that the MEPs are suggesting replacing Member States's army regulations with the “European statute for soldiers.”

A European army would undermine the UK’s ability to use its own armed forces.

Sarkosy believes that the EU should have a “permanent and independent strategic planning capability” in order not to be dependent of the availability of national command capabilities or NATO resources. Hence, the question of strengthening the Military Staff of the European Union (EUMS) to transform it into a command centre capable of managing EU military operations is on the agenda. This idea has been opposed by the UK. However, there has been a general change in British policy on ESDP. The EU defence ministers had agreed to enhance the capacity of EU military staff in Brussels to carry out strategic planning for missions. According to the European Council Conclusions “The European Council would encourage the efforts of the Secretary-General/High Representative to establish a new, single civilian-military strategic planning structure for ESDP operations and missions.” It seems, for the moment, a new directorate responsible for crises will be created within the EU Council. Obviously, behind this plan is the reform of the EU’s crisis management structures.

The European Parliament has welcomed the European Council’s decision. In fact, it has called for the development of an autonomous and permanent EU Operational Headquarters with the capacity to carry out strategic planning and to conduct ESDP operations and missions.

It also favours the idea of creating a Council of Defence Ministers, instead of the present meetings of defence ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council composition.

The European Parliament has recommended strengthening the European Security and Defence College and transforming it into a permanent structure in order to enhance the development of a specifically European security culture. The European Parliament has called for coordination of crisis-related training and exchange programmes among armed forces in Europe.

It should be mentioned that France also wanted to promote joint European training courses as well as exchanges between national training bodies. The European Council has also backed the initiative for exchanges between young officers, inspired by the Erasmus programme with the aim to create a “European defence culture.”

Moreover, the MEPs have suggested that the EU Member States should open up their armies to citizens of other EU Member States. People joint the army because they feel the need or willingness to defend their own country. Why on earth the European Parliament believes that citizens from a Member State would like to enter the army of another Member State, what about their oath of loyalty to their country?!

The European Parliament also adopted Ari Vatanen’s report on the role of NATO in the security architecture of the EU. The European Parliament has stressed its support for “(…) the establishment of a permanent EU Operational Headquarters, under the authority of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative, having as part of its mandate the planning and conduct of military ESDP operations.” According to the MEPs such a structure would not duplicate NATO’s work but it would complement the current NATO command structures. The European Parliament has proposed that “(…) each EU Member State which is a member of NATO should demarcate those forces that can be deployed only for EU operations, so as to prevent such deployment being blocked by NATO members which are not EU Member States; considers that duplication in the use of these forces should be avoided.”

The EU is duplicating the work of the United Nations and NATO without adding value. There are no troops for all the NATO, EU and UN missions. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberrry, the deputy chairman of the NATO military committee, has recently criticised the ESDP as regards equipment, operations and political commitment. He said “European forces tend to go it alone. There is duplication, as well as quantitative and qualitative problems.”

Caroline Flint, the Minister for Europe wrote, recently to the Guardian saying “(…) Let me be clear - there are no plans for a European army; no such army exists (…)” However, Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative defence spokesman, replied saying that British ministers are “(…) sleepwalking towards a European army and seem to have little awareness of what is going on."

The MEP has also stressed that France has been given “one of the top two military posts in Nato: Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.” Hence, according to him “France will now have the opportunity to adapt Nato to suit its EU agenda.” Moreover, he said in a letter to the Guardian “There is already the distraction of President Sarkozy's insistence on changing the seating arrangements; choreography designed to highlight France's place in the alliance; and a script setting out France's view of the relationship between the EU and Nato. The fact is, there is a determination to create what amounts to a European army.”


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Bill Cash has been the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stone since 1997 and an MP since 1984.

He is currently the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and the founder member of the European Foundation...

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