IR & PoliticsSecurity

The Myth of the European Army: is it still on the agenda?

The security concerns and issues of national and international regions are changeable. Regional changes influence national perceptions. These changes are interact with one another. While actors and threats at regional level change, other actors cannot be expected to remain stable. Therefore, states which attempt to create security communities in the region try to create an identity of ‘us’. Indeed, in accordance with the description, a few years after the end of the Second World War, everything was ready for the establishment of a common European Army. All treaty drafts were completed and even the details of the soldiers’ uniforms were determined. The Common European Army would have consisted of the soldiers of Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) but in the summer of 1954, the French Parliament rejected this so-called European Defence Community treaty. However, recent developments have brought these plans back onto the agenda.

Rising Star ‘Emmanuel Macron’

Ever since the establishment of the European Union, progress has been led by several key countries, predominantly founder countries or countries which have a strong economy. Germans and Frenchs pioneering within the Union was essential for establishing common monetary policy. Furthermore, the UK and France played an important role in EU common, foreign and security policies.

However, though German Chancellor Angela Merkel has played a significant role in reacting to the Eurozone monetary crisis, Russian annexation in Ukraine and the Syrian refugee crisis, we have seen that due to blocking by domestic politics and economic worries in other European countries, Germany’s role has interpreted as a sole position besides being a leader. Moreover, Brexit has overshadowed UK’s reputation on European Politics.

Meanwhile, following the elections in 2017, Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France and many EU enthusiasts started to hope that Mr Macron would resume France’s traditional role in the EU and that it could become a strong leader alongside, perhaps ahead, Germany while the German Chancellor was facing domestic opposition and challenges to her authority due to over-migration, asylum policy and allocation, Furthermore, multiple organisational implications of Brexit cleared the way for the French President.

More importantly, there has been no result in the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, with failures to achieve an effective result and concrete unity between member states during the refugee crisis, all points which yet again highlight a lack of leadership in the Union. Moreover, the fact that U.S. President Donald Trump may have forced US troops out of the European continent could have brought the EU into a period of political turmoil and confusion. The increasing danger from Russia and the UK’s departure from the EU in March, 2019, reactivated the dynamics of the Common European Army.

Latterly, the French President gave a speech on the European Union at the University of Sorbonne in Paris on September 26, 2017[1]. As part of his European vision, he announced that he intends to establish a common European Union defence force. He also explained a series of reforms and said he intends further cooperation in the areas of security and anti-terrorism. The French President hopes in 2020 that joint-defence power among EU countries can be replaced with NATO and that instead of supporting NATO, the EU should act as a joint military power. He also highlighted, “I want to build a real security dialogue with Russia, which is a country I respect, a European country – but we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States[2].” Mr Macron also said that it is necessary to develop a common defence budget and policy and also pointed out the need to establish a European military training academy.

President Macron also created another stir for the creation of a European army to defend Europe in a radio interview[3]. On 6th November, 2018, he told the press that, “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America”. The President continued, “We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army”. He repeated himself again by saying, “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner[4]”. Mr President also added that populism and extremist nationalism are rising in Europe; they are here and they do politics all around. We need a stronger Europe, was the general message.

Problems and Challenges

The European Union is a matchless political and economic union in which member states have co-operative sovereignty in determining policy areas and the corresponding set of rules on an extensive range of economic and political issues. The EU process of integration began after World War II, primarily by six Western European countries, to encourage peace, security and economic development. The EU presently contains 27 member states, including former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The EU is mostly viewed as a milestone of European stability and prosperity. However, in the last decade, many EU countries have faced substantial economic and political difficulties.

Although a developed economic situation has been the norm in the EU, ever since 2015, economic compressions and societal changes have affected the rise of populist and anti-system political parties. Among those parties are harboured anti-EU or ‘Eurosceptic’ thoughts. Due to these trends, the EU’s ability to deal with multiple internal and external challenges is deeply affected. Of note, we find: Brexit, deficit democracy and the rule of law in some member states, democratic relapsing in some member states and related societal issues, significant migrant and refugee flows and issues on allocation, the threat of free movement in the Schengen zone, a lack of integration by migrants into societies, economic implications, an increasing ‘Russian effect’, an intensified terrorism threat by which EU citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq to become foreign fighters, etc. These problems have adverse effects on the EU’s solidarity.

Failure to find a solution to these issues and the lack of foreign policy directed by Brussels has undermined the EU’s domestic and foreign policy. The EU, with its new institutional structure established in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, includes critical changes aimed at increasing the consistency and coherence of the EU’s external actions. It provides for a so-called “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”, who will be responsible in the Council for the EU’s common foreign and defence policies[5] and is aimed at strengthening and revitalising security and defence policies which have been disrupted recently; however, the crises in Libya and Ukraine have revealed and shown as inadequate the EU’s lack of strategy for attempting to implement actions. In addition to these two problems, parallel crises within the European Union and International agenda, such as the Euro and the refugee crisis, have shown the EU’s lack of politics on internal problems, as well as foreign and security policies.

Moreover, Europe’s ability to develop and operate an independent defence policy independent from NATO was further strengthened in 2017 by the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) signed by 23 members of the European Union (EU). This project was developed under the leadership of Germany and France. Europe’s security crises have been recognised in many European countries due to the influx of refugees, the threat of increasing radical terrorism and the aggressive policies of Russia. In particular, President Trump has questioned the need for NATO and accused European allies of relying on American defences without contribution, in response to the idea of a European Army.


The European Army, as a project having been discussed in the European Union for a long time, was once again on the agenda by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has made great efforts to build an independent and united Europe in recent times.At this point, France wants to create a unified and integrated Europe which is independent of the USA, a world hegemonic power which is independent of the leading actors of Eurasia, namely Russia, as well as from Asia-Pacific’s rising economic power and global hegemonic power, China.

Breaks in the global geopolitical equation continue in Eurasia, West Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. As a result, the role of the US in the international system has begun to lose its effectiveness and importance. These geopolitical challenges, rising from different geographies of the world, do not allow the US to shape the global order in line with its geopolitical and economic interests. From this point, the European Army project led by France is also a very important initiative for the construction of Europe which can be home to the centre of geopolitical world power.

However, unlike Russia or the United States of America, Europe is not a unitary actor. The European Union is more of an economic union than a sovereign state. Moreover, Brexit and the populist movements in some countries, along with growing right-wing populism in other nations, prognosticate that this integration would not go well. Member states do not want to lose sovereignty on defence policy within a common structure, though decisions on defence and foreign policy require unanimity. Furthermore, member states would be eager to protect their sovereignty which would mean that a single government might block a deployment. Which country or state will make the decision to commit a European army to war? The lack of a shared vision and the ability to create a common solution on how to use EU forces might be a huge problem in a crisis such as what we saw with the migrant crisis in 2015. The EU economy is the second largest in the world but without political integration, Europe cannot obtain military power which is equal to its economic power. Additionally, over 20 EU states are already NATO members. In order to duplicate money invested for the military into an EU army would be a waste of money. Also, the ‘Permanent structured cooperation’ demonstrates the member states’ unwillingness to be part of the European Union joint army.

To sum up, EU member states are the world’s second-largest investors in defence expenditures, predominated only by the United States of America. Unlikely as it may be with its military-political focus, the EU should do more to strengthen European defence and value by integrating markets or co-ordinating transnational projects instead of creating an army.


[1] _speech_by_the_president_of_the_french_republic_cle8de628.pdf



[4] military-defence-eu-a8619721.html


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Berk Can Kozan

He achieved his BA Degree from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and obtained his MA degree from University of Pécs in Hungary. His main research fields concern on nuclear deterrence, international security and foreign policy issues, international relations’ theories, and internal/external affairs of Turkey. Currently, he is a third year PhD student at the National University of Public Service in Hungary.
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