EU Army plans exposed in 12-page German paper to act against ‘tiresome sovereignty issue’

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A working group on Security and Defence Policy of the SPD ‒ Germany’s second-biggest political party ‒ has published a plan to create a 28th EU Army. Instead of concentrating on the further development of cooperation between the 27 national armed forces as before, the 12-page paper reveals how a new, separate force is to be created – parallel to the national troops such as the Bundeswehr. The 28th Army would report directly to the EU Commission and would be under the responsibility of a newly-appointed Commissioner for Defence.

Political control would take place via a defence committee, which would also be set up in the European Parliament; following the example of the German parliamentary army, MEPs would decide on operations with a simple majority at the request of the Commission.

Fritz Felgentreu, Defence policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, said: “Our aim is to improve the EU’s ability to act, regardless of the tiresome questions of sovereignty.

“In addition to the already existing ability to enforce trade policy and the desired greater unity in diplomacy, the 28th Army can sustainably strengthen the military pillar of European cooperation.”

According to the concept paper, the nucleus of the 28th Army is based on already existing battlegroups.

For example, it would be based on around 1,500 soldiers in its initial capabilities.

In the medium term, it would grow to the size of a reinforced combat troop brigade and thus increase to around 8,000 soldiers, including support elements such as logistics and medical services.

The SPD, led by Saskia Esken‎ and Norbert Walter-Borjans, is one of the two major contemporary political parties in Germany along with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).

The head of London-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau argued that their concept paper reveals a “shocking lack of understanding” of the EU’s security priorities in the early 21st century.

Mr Munchau wrote: “Probably the least helpful proposal you can make to help the EU move in the direction of strategic autonomy is to call for a European Army.

“The problem is not only that it sets the bar too high, which it does. It also diverts attention from the security discussion the EU needs to have instead.

“This is one of those ideas where you don’t know where to begin dismantling it. Our first thought was this: are they trying to do to defence what they did to the eurozone?”

Mr Munchau claimed that with the monetary union, the bloc ended up creating a dysfunctional system in the vague hope that future generations would fix it.

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He added: “Have they considered what might happen if the European Commission charged into battle and lost? The British are still traumatised by the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War.

“An army is not an inter-institutional working group that meets on Tuesdays.”

He concluded: “The paper also reveals a shocking lack of understanding of the EU’s security priorities in the early 21st century.

“The biggest threats to our security right now do not stem from invasion by a foreign power, or our refusal to participate in a war in the Middle East or Africa.

“Our list of priorities would include the following: defence against cyber threats from Russia and China; a restoration of the Iran nuclear deal; the co-ordination of the fight against terrorism; the push against empire-building in our neighbourhood; and a defence of EU companies and individuals targeted by the US for secondary economic sanctions.

“It is rather difficult to think of an EU security interest for which you would need a European Army.”

The original 12-page concept paper was originally published in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Despite Mr Munchau’s claims, according to one of Germany’s most senior defence officials, the creation of an EU Army is now pretty much inevitable.

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In 2017, Hans-Peter Bartels, a former national defence commissioner, called for NATO’S EU members to organise their forces into a single unit.

Mr Bartels said: “We are currently disorganised, technically fragmented and duplicate structures unnecessarily.

“We do not want to go down the solitary national path any more.

“Not in Germany, not in the Netherlands, not in the Czech Republic and not in Italy.

“Every step in the right direction is important.

“In the end, there will be a European Army.”

His comments, on the same day Brexit talks formally began, were a sign the rest of the EU was preparing to press ahead with further defence integration.

Britain has repeatedly blocked plans for an integrated European defence policy, but other member states have warned it cannot expect to have a say in the issue post-Brexit.

France has also led calls for a European Army.

The Netherlands and Germany have already merged some units, while the Czech Republic and Romania have expressed interest.

Funding for a European Defence Fund has been included in the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) this year.

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