As a result of many recent events, EU diplomats have come to a firmer conclusion that Europe needs a greater say in world affairs and a more robust defense plan. Explicit request for a pan-European military force had been dismissed by many, but now, the idea seems more than possible.
A day after the anniversary of the Paris attacks in which 130 people died the previous year, the ministers signed a new security plan. Although the plan is far from being the creation of a unified EU military force, it highlights important measures in response to external threat, the significance of security resilience of foreign partners and the protection of EU citizens.
Illegal migrants and terrorist attacks in other European cities and the fear that it may spread are making the push for a European Army more appealing. Moreover, Mr. Trump’s victory seems to raise additional concerns among European politicians about his future foreign policy plans and the possibility of reduced engagement of the US in international security. Donald Trump’s “accommodating” approach to Vladimir Putin, as was emphasized by the head of the German Bundestag’s foreign affairs Norbert Röttgen could potentially be a threat to European security.
The US election results have delayed talks on how Germany, as the most powerful state in the EU should assume greater responsibility during an international security alert. Norbert Röttgen said that “it is inevitable Europe and Germany will have to bear a much bigger share of international responsibility and we will have to get ready for this much faster than in the last few years. This is a wake-up call.”
Not only did Germany push for a stronger and unified military force, France has been proactive as well. Right after the attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande invoked the EU’s self-defense clause instead of NATO’s, hereby reminding all that Europe is a power on its own. Hollande keeps the idea alive and emphasizes the significance of unity and independence of the EU: “Let’s not rely on another power, even a friendly one, to do away with terrorism.” By reaching out to Germany, he stressed that “our two countries must agree to a budgetary effort on defense” and to act outside of the EU.
Italy and Spain have also expressed their support and stated that such a military cooperation will be crucial soon since they would have to get involved in some countries like Mali or Somalia, where NATO abstained to consider deployment.
Another advantageous factor for the EU members to reach a full consensus on strengthening their defense is Brexit: the UK has been long against such moves.
After the Brexit referendum, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault published a document with recommendations for the EU to focus on which were security, immigration and the economy. The biggest attention was given to military security. The report states that “Germany and France propose a European Security Compact which encompasses all aspects of security and defense dealt with at the European level and thus delivers on the EU’s promise to strengthen security for its citizens.” Furthermore, creating “a permanent civil-military chain of command,” establishing standing maritime forces, creating European response capability and the European civil protection corps along with the European platform for intelligence cooperation were emphasized as important steps for further defense development.
Although the European Union is divided to some degree especially after the referendum in the UK, the aforementioned security cooperation and military force development unfortunately, remains to be one of the few things EU members agree on.
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