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As you may remember, voters were promised before, during and after the EU referendum campaign that the European Union was not planning on creating a European Army. People who claimed that such a thing was in the works were described by the political left as conspiracy theorists, liars and fake news.
The reality, of course, was that this plan has existed for decades, long before Brexit or even the modern political era. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, has recently thrown his weight behind the creation of a European Army, declaring that: ‘we have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America’. His mention of the United States certainly raised eyebrows, and caused a great deal of frustration in Washington. Both the United States and France are members of NATO, and the former is concerned that a new military entity in Europe could either harm NATO or complicate its operations.
Then Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, not only endorsed Macron’s words but used her speech in the European Parliament to warn that Europe was essentially on its own: ‘the times when we could rely on others is past’. She was both applauded and jeered by various MEPs, with Nigel Farage opening a fall broadside against her plans in his own speech.
Many analysts fear that such a move by the European Union to create its own Army is flawed, for the simple reason that many countries within Europe are not even meeting their funding obligations with regards to NATO. If they cannot even manage that simple task, how they can possibly manage on top of that to create and run a European Army remains to be seen.
It has also been noted by some that Brussels may use such a force in member nations’ territory without the national government’s permission. It is not hard to imagine Victor Orban’s Hungarian government coming into (political) conflict with Brussels if such a move was made.
Currently, the ‘Common Security and Defence Policy’ is the EU’s defence wing, and although many people do not realise it, this organisation has actually already seen action abroad. Their first deployment was to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a mission known as ‘Operation Artemis’ in 2003. A much more well-known deployment carried out by the CSDP was ‘Operation Atalanta’, which was a naval force designed to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. Both of these operations used the militaries of EU member states, and the missions were managed by Brussels in coordination with the United Nations.
There are mixed messages in regards to whether Britain will still contribute any personnel to a future European Army. You would think that Brexit would indicate a strong ‘no’, however there are contradictory reports as to what the Ministry of Defence will be doing during the Brexit transition period. It would be presumed that the British Military would withdraw fully from any integration with Brussels once the Brexit process was completed, however Theresa May’s Brexit deal has thrown this into doubt.
Whatever the case, the European Commission and Parliament are working closely with each other to make a European Army a reality in the near future, and now that they have both Macron and Merkel’s approval, their efforts have been given the largest boost yet.