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Do we need an EU-army? A pro and con debate

Is a common army necessary for the security of the EU? Or is it just an unrealistic dream that weakens NATO?

 

EU Army Aircraft Carrier

This is what an EU aircraft carrier could look like

In 2019, a Franco-German aircraft carrier was on the table. The idea was never realised.

 

The idea of an EU army is not new. Already in the 1950s, a common army was supposed to be founded in order to prevent renewed armed conflicts. At that time, however, the implementation failed.


Recent events in Afghanistan and Ukraine show how dependent the EU states still are on the US army. As a result, the discussion about an EU army has flared up again. Critics as well as supporters put forward different arguments.


This article is intended to provide an overview of the respective arguments and to shed light on possibilities for the further development of the European security architecture.



Con


An EU army is a long way off

Many EU states are simply not willing to transfer this central point of national sovereignty and often identity to the EU. The political system of the EU would have to be changed and years (possibly even decades) of negotiations would be necessary.


Discussing the idea does little to change the current security situation, costs a lot of political capital and does not have much chance of actually being implemented.



An EU army does not necessarily lead to a safer Europe

If the EU army is built up parallel to the national armies - as is often proposed - another dual structure will be introduced. This will probably have a negative impact on the financing of the national armies and will weaken rather than strengthen the European armies.


Moreover, an EU army could weaken the American "commitment" within NATO. Especially in view of the Ukraine war and possible future conflicts such as in Taiwan, the EU cannot afford to step out of line with the Americans now. That would be too risky.



There is an existing security architecture for Europe

Critics note that NATO already provides a security structure for Europe that works. It ensures national defence (Article 5 of the Washington Treaty) as well as crisis management. The deterrence against states such as Russia works and NATO has also demonstrated flexibility in operations and can act in a wide variety of configurations. It is therefore perfectly possible for EU states to carry out missions within the framework of NATO.



Pro


Powerful signal

If one takes the idea of an Ever Closer Union to its logical conclusion, the goal of a common army almost automatically emerges.


Towards Russia and, if necessary, China in the future, it would be a clear signal to respect the European security order. Towards the USA it would make clear that Europe takes the principle of "burden sharing" in NATO seriously.


And for European citizens it would be a strong signal of European integration and a step that could fill a European identity with life.



Increasing efficiency

Currently, 27 different armies exist in parallel in the EU. A merger of the armed forces would have various advantages.


Defence spending could be used much more efficiently. Redundancies would be massively reduced. Joint defence purchases would reduce costs. Higher military investments would be possible and thus better armament industrial capabilities.


In short, the performance of the armed forces would be massively increased for the same amount of money.



A pole to be taken seriously

From an economic perspective, the EU is a respected "player" worldwide. From a military perspective, things look different. A large part of the armies are simply too small or poorly equipped to exert military influence.


In what is likely to be a multipolar world, a common army could strengthen the EU's position and help defend its own interests and values.


Especially in view of the fact that the US commitment to NATO could collapse in the next US election, it is essential that the EU takes its security into its own hands.



 


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