EU Defense, Where Political Opportunity Meets Strategic Necessity

Written by | Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Daniel Keohane (Carnegie Europe)

On 23 June, the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union. Most of the leaders of the EU Member States responded to this step by various proposals for strengthening cohesion and integration within the Union and especially in the area of security. Even the Eurosceptic countries such as the Visegrad Four have also spoken out for a greater convergence within the organization and directly proposed the creation of a European army. In contrast, the Italian proposal talks about the “defense of Schengen”, which would consolidate cooperation among the founding members of the EU. Another grouping within the Union, which calls for a deeper integration, is the Weimar Triangle, whose members want a more effective defense policy. To that end, the question arises what is the real state of the European security?

The idea of creating a specific military force has been most moved forward by France and Germany, which have together formed the so-called European Security Compact. Even the EU leaders in Brussels backed the proposal put forward by France and Germany. Federica Mogherini announced the creation of a security and defense strategy by the end of 2016, which will support the existing EU Global Strategy drafted in June. The initiative has been embraced by military experts and the leaders of armies of the individual Member States. According to them, Brexit is an opportunity to finally shift integration into the area of security as well.

Reactions to the idea of integration are not just positive. Due to the different defense cultures and situations of EU Members, it is very likely that the project will ultimately fail. The question also remains what role NATO will play if this project succeeds. Europeans want to keep the organization to deter any aggression from Russia, though this at the same time means that any discussion about an EU army is pointless. On the other hand, NATO leadership sees this development in a positive light, if only because the strengthening of cooperation in terms of security will also streamline NATO itself. In 2015, the EU states spent €200 billion on defense, yet much of it was unnecessarily wasted because of disunity among EU members.

Great Britain, because of whom the whole initiative started in the first place, will also play an interesting role in that process. Even if the British leave the EU, there is no reason why they should not further integrate within the framework of security, which would after all strengthen the positions of both London and the European Union. Britain has confirmed its willingness to participate in the security project and it is also willing to assist in the operations in the Mediterranean and the Western Balkans.

(The study can be downloaded here)


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