EU divide: How member states fumed at ‘wrong’ EU army plans

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The EU held a crucial summit on defence and security in which countries discussed ways to maximise its military capabilities despite pressures on the bloc’s budget. However, this led to a debate around the EU army – as then Prime Minister David Cameron warned that a bloc-wide militar force would be wrong. He said in 2013: “It makes sense for nation states to cooperate over matters of defence to keep us all safer… but it is not right for the EU to have capabilities, armies, air forces and the rest of it.

“We have to get that demarcation correct, between cooperation which is right, but EU capabilities which is wrong.”

Other EU leaders highlighted the benefits of cooperation rather than the drawbacks.

On foreign and security policy, “Europe can work much closer together,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She added: “We can pool our armament activities but above all, we must also have a coordinated policy.”

Former NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen didn’t comment specifically on Mr Cameron’s comments, but argued that Europe needed to invest in its miltary capabilities.

He said: “If European nations invest more in military capabilities, they will also make stronger contributions to Nato.

“There is no such thing as a European army, only national capabilities. We had an excellent exchange of views.”

The EU has denied that it is pursuing an EU army, but some of its most prominent figures have previously argued for it.

The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote an article in 2019 titled “Europe is forming an army” when she was still a Defence minister in Angela Merkel’s government.

Ms von der Leyen argued that given the dangers facing Europe and the West today, the continent needs to be self-sufficient in defending itself, and can do so by closely integrating its military forces.

She added in her article for Handelsblatt: “‘Europe has to build an army’, Wolfgang Clement wrote in this space yesterday. 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.

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“Europe’s army is already taking shape.

“Reforms in recent past months and years have brought our armed forces closer together.”

The German politician highlighted her country’s tight links with France and the Netherlands on defence.

She added: “Among European nations, Germany and France are the driving forces in defence.

“But the German army’s close cooperation with other European partners, especially with Dutch forces, has also proven effective in many missions, and illustrates how to do integration properly.”

Signing off, Ms von der Leyen appeared to hit out at the UK as she warned that even Brexit couldn’t scupper the EU’s plans.

She said: “We are making good progress. Despite Brexit, and the controversial debates we Europeans have among ourselves, Europe remains a unique creation, uniting half a billion citizens in the name of freedom and prosperity.

“This Europe must be able to defend itself.”

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