The new European Army announced by J-C Juncker last year is a project which has generated lots of debate. The project being still only under discussions will be beyond doubt very to implement. The key issue is a potential relationship between European Army and NATO. The European Army should be a new structure, which regroups some units of the EU Member States. We do not know how deep this “integration” will be, but already the project becomes very controversial.
First of all, it is unclear whether the new European Army immediately becomes a new member of NATO. As we know, NATO is not only a military organisation but also to the limited extent a political alliance (like the European Union). However, NATO regroups also countries in Europe which are not a part of the European Union (taken Norway, Island or Turkey). Conversely, there are countries like Finland who are member state but not part of NATO. The creation of the European Army can this order disturbs. In addition to that, many countries in the European Union strongly oppose the idea of the joint army forces. All these questions have to be answered during the debate and preparatory work.
It would not be exaggerating to say that the new project creates more difficulties instead of solving problems. Undoubtedly, we need to integrate our forces in Europe due to a high cost of the modern equipment. The post-cold war approach towards defence in Europe reduced spending on armies, and consequently, we have dozens of mini-armies in Europe which are unable to face and solve conflicts of the 21 century (Libya, Syria or Maghreb). Indeed, Europe militarily depends on American presence on the continent. I do not citizen this situation; I just wish that our relationships should be both friendly and based on partnership.
What can be done by the European Union in this regard? Instead of creating a new army; I would rather focus on the integration of our defence industry and military education. By the way, what would be the official language of the projected European Army- like in the EU we will make orders in 24 languages? If in English, many countries would ask why? This question is still not answered. Taking more practical aspect, we need one type of tank, one type of fighter, etc. Nowadays, Germany, Poland, France and Italy have a different kind of equipment. The Airbus is a good example of such integration but cannot be limited merely to France and Germany. Other EU states should join the consortium, ideally all of them. Airbus needs to have factories across Europe, in every EU member states In this regard; we can also reduce costs of the production. Undoubtedly, it is cheaper to produce missiles, ammunitions and engines in Bulgaria than in France. But that cannot be achieved without the political will of the biggest Members of the EU.
I do not say no for the EU Army. We could launch this project step by step, in an evolutional way. The modern armies are the part of three main components- land, air and navy. Why not start to integrate navies across Europe or in one basin. I can imagine a common European Mediterranean Fleet also because all EU member states in this region are parts of NATO. This experiment would answer the question whether the EU needs a common army or not and how the cooperation would look like?
Another interesting idea would be to create a common Baltic or Benelux army with a joint budget, grades and units. Beyond doubt, it is easier to start such a project with countries that have the same targets and share the same approach towards defence. A joint army of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would generate more means for the security, instead of having three mini-armies deprived of tanks, planes nowadays. They also face the same threat because of their geographical location. In this regard, NATO would only support such a project.
A joint army of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg could also be the first step, to create a European Army. Other countries could join the project in the future like the European Union. We still forget that the European project has been building since 1957 and still is not achieved.
The recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Syria prove that we need a united, European approach towards defence. An integration process within the EU and NATO structures is desired, but a creation of the new army deprived of strong political will, can only weaken our political and military transatlantic cooperation. And this should be remembered by the EU politicians when they think about a new common project.