The European Union yesterday (6 March) made a decisive step towards more security cooperation by giving a green light to the establishment of a new headquarters to supervise its military training missions. Although the powers of the new institutions are limited, the command that has been in making for more than a decade will help coordinate European defense amidst the struggle to agree on new initiatives. There are major disagreements within Europe over how far and in which direction to expand military cooperation and improve European military procurement, a major demand of the new US administration.
EU leaders agreed to tame the new command’s authority and powers due to British objections that the command’s operations would overlap with those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In practice, the command will not be officially called a headquarters, it will be led by an existing general and it will not be able to oversee the missions where force may be employed. The establishment of an EU command has for long been opposed by several EU countries, including the Baltic state, on the grounds that it would form a basis for a European army – a notion that has generally been dismissed by European leaders.
Federica Mogherini, the head of the European diplomacy, however, praised the command, saying that it would “allow us to have a more unified, more rational, more efficient approach to the existing military training missions we have and I think this is a major step forward”, though she also emphasized that “it is not a European army … but it is a more effective way of handling our military work.” Although the new US administration has yet to take a position on European defense and the role of the United States in securing the security of the old continent, President Trump has stepped up its pressure on Brussels to increase Europe’s military spending and take on larger security responsibilities.