Military Capabilities

European army ‘necessary’ for EU – German defence minister

27 November 2018

German and French soldiers of the Franco-German Brigade parade in Paris. Politicians from both countries have called for the formation of a European army over recent weeks. Source: Brigade Franco-Allemande

The creation of a European army is a logical and necessary step as European Union (EU) member states forge ever closer defence ties with one another, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said on 27 November.

Speaking during her keynote address to the Berlin Security Conference in the German capital, von der Leyen said that standing-up a ‘Euro army’ would be a required endeavour as Europe builds up its own strategic culture.

“The European defence union is in the making, and this leads to the idea of a ‘Euro army’. This would be challenging but necessary. Europe must be able to act independently where it needs to,” von der Leyen said, adding that such an institution would be complementary to the NATO alliance rather than in competition with it.

Von der Leyen’s comments were part of a wider address on the need to strengthen European defence at the same time as safeguarding the transatlantic partnership with Canada and the US. “This is the goal of our [German] security policy, as both of these things belong together and we need both,” she said. “As Europeans we accept it is our task to take on more of a share of the defence burden [of the continent] to make it fairer, she said. “We highly appreciated the US military presence in Europe, and that of Canada also. [Germany] has always been as committed to NATO as to the EU.”

According to von der Leyen, the formation of a European army would enable the EU to act in areas where it might otherwise not be able to do so, even as members of NATO. “Europe must be able to act independently where it needs to,” she said, highlighting the experience of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s as an instance where the continent was unable to respond effectively to what was essentially a European problem.

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