We had a comment sent in by Sento, who very much believes that Europe needs a joint EU army, and that greater unity between European states is required to defend ourselves in a dangerous world. But is his vision realistic? Is it shared by the majority of Europeans? Or is it politically impossible?
We put this question to Marcin Terlikowski, Head of the European Security and Defence Economics Project at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM). What would he say?
It is high time that Europeans cooperated more in defence, and delivered more in terms of defending Europe from different threats. However, we will not quickly establish a joint army; an armed force commanded from Brussels by the European Commission or any other institution.
Instead, by saying that we need more European defence, we mean that we need more cooperation, we need to procure armaments together, we need to integrate our military units so we are more effective when deploying them to fight threats, including instability in Europe’s southern neighbourhood, connected with terrorism, but also threats posed by Russian provocative force posturing and manoeuvres in Eastern Europe. That would be my reaction.
Europeans need to deliver more in defence, particularly after so many years of cuts in defence budgets, after years of shrinking military spending and armed forces. We need to do more, and we need to do more together…
We also had a comment from Duncan, who was very sceptical about the chances (or necessity) of a common European army. However, he believed that there was a clear need for a joint security border force to protect EU borders, as well as stronger counter-terrorism cooperation. Could this sort of “enhanced cooperation” be more realistic?
Up until today, a “joint force” has always meant a force composed of separate national military units put together into a bigger force and commanded jointly, where all participating countries have their own representatives and the decisions are made on the political level based on consensus, and then translated into common military action on the ground…
However, when we speak about the more ambitious type of “joint force”, which is a common capability, we usually mean that there would be individual servicemen and women, employed by a supranational body – in this case the European Union. This is very difficult to achieve in the defence realm because there has never been, in modern history, this kind of common army where you have an institution like the European Union having its own army. It has always been the first kind of “joint force”, where you have states having own army and co-operating together.
So, when Duncan talks of a joint border guard, I suspect he means it in the sense that it should be funded from the common EU budget and operated by EU agencies. In that sense, it could represent this more ambitious type of joint force, but at the same time it will not be about defence, but rather about border protection. It will therefore be less politically sensitive, and it will compliment and enhance the capabilities of the state, rather than replacing them. States won’t get rid of their own border guard, instead they will be supported by additional EU capability.
However, even if it is less ambitious and only about border protection, not defence, it is still very sensitive because there have been no examples in the EU or NATO of these kind of real common forces established for the organisation, not controlled by member states but controlled and established by a central body…