The President of the European Commission has said that the EU needs to create its own European army, investing in”fighter jets, drones and cybersecurity,” adding “You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them – of what use are they?”
Ursula Von Der Leyen, the German head of the 27-nation bloc, made the remarks during a State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Brussels this week.
According to Von Der Leyen, in the wake of US President Joe Biden’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was widely regarded as a major geopolitical blunder, the EU should turn its attention to creating a new “European Defence Union.”
“The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem. But what we need is the European Defence Union,” she said.
“In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces. This is no doubt part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution.
“But the more fundamental issue is why this has not worked in the past. You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them – of what use are they?
“What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will.
“And if we develop this political will, there is a lot that we can do at EU level.”
Von Der Leyen proceeded to list the areas in which European countries should combine their military forces.
“We fall short if Member States active in the same region do not share their information on the European level,” she said.
“It is vital that we improve intelligence cooperation…Secondly, we need to improve interoperability.
“This is why we are already investing in common European platforms, from fighter jets, to drones and cyber.”
She also proposed waiving VAT on weapons and military equipment that was developed and produced in Europe.
“This is why, under the French Presidency, President Macron and I will convene a Summit on European defence,” she said, adding: “It is time for Europe to step up to the next level.
“There is simply no security and defence issue where less cooperation is the answer.”
In 2019, when Von Der Leyen was German defence minister, she stated that she believes that an EU army is “already taking shape.”
“”Europe has to build an army,” Wolfgang Clement wrote in this space yesterday,” said Von Der Leyen.
“He’s right! Given the global environment, Europe needs to improve its ability to act on behalf of its own security. But he unfortunately failed to mention the progress we Europeans have made in the last few years. Europe’s army is already taking shape.”
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) July 3, 2019
In the past, French President Emmanual Macron has called for a “true European army,” backed up by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
France's Macron pushes for 'true European army' https://t.co/MIF6GhKO7i
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 6, 2018
Merkel joins Macron in calling for a ‘real, true European army’ https://t.co/rTj0fjMYnX
— The Guardian (@guardian) November 13, 2018
Moreover, Von Der Leyen’s predecessor, former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, previously called for a European army as well.
Jean-Claude Juncker calls for EU army http://t.co/nEbxh2KPI9
— The Guardian (@guardian) March 9, 2015
Moreover, top EU official Guy Verhofstadt called in 2019 for a “European empire.”
— Acton Institute (@ActonInstitute) September 17, 2019