Friday, 13 March 2015

Juncker’s Euro Army: A Weapon of Mass Distraction?

Commission President Juncker has advocated a European army in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt:

"Eine solche Armee würde uns helfen, eine gemeinsame Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik zu gestalten und gemeinsam die Verantwortung Europas in der Welt wahrzunehmen", sagte Juncker. Mit einer eigenen Armee, so der Luxemburger weiter, könnte Europa glaubwürdig auf eine Bedrohung des Friedens in einem Mitgliedsland oder in einem EU-Nachbarland reagieren. So könne man Russland den Eindruck vermitteln, "dass wir es ernst meinen mit der Verteidigung der Werte der Europäischen Union".”

“”Such an army would help us to shape a common foreign and security policy and to take the common responsibility of Europe in the world seriously,” said Juncker.  With its own army, the Luxembourger continued, Europe could credibly react to threats to the peace in Member States or in the European Neighbourhood.  That way Russia would be given the impression “that we take the defence of EU values seriously.”” [Own Translation]

Given that the interview was mostly focused on the Eurozone crisis and economic questions, it was strange of Juncker to raise the issue of a European army, which isn’t exactly on anyone’s agenda at the moment. Member States already co-operate on defence to some degree through the European Battlegroups, and co-operate on common missions such as Operation Atalanta, which tackles piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Integrating defence is obviously a sensitive issue, and there is a lot that can be done in co-ordinating research, earmarking troops for joint battlegroups for peacekeeping missions, and a better division of labour. However, a Euro Army is a mad fantasy without a greater level of democratic coherence in the EU and a better consensus on how to act on foreign policy. I daresay everyone realises this, and Juncker knows this, so the EU army remark comes across as a silly distraction, even if it’s one that can effectively generate headlines.