European Defence

The long march toward a Europe of Defence

A complex process

, by Translated by Oronzo Daloiso, Lionel Luttenbacher

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

The long march toward a Europe of Defence

Europe of defence or rather the defence of Europe? That is the core question of why building a collective defence? Is there still a threat to Europe or its interests? Much has been done at least on paper, but there exists no proper European army.

Behind a Europe of defence hides the question of a political Europe

Certainly significant progress occurred, such as the formation of the Franco-German brigade, a rather strong symbol marking the Franco-German reconciliation, or the Eurocorps. This shall not delude us from the fact that a force potential without common strategic visions corresponds to nothing and leads to nothing. That is the origin of the diverse peace-keeping missions, leaving to NATO the competence of ensuring security in Europe, whose aim was to create a blockade against the ex-USSR. Yet, in my view, it does not have a major relevance anymore in the 21st century.

To this extent, the question of defence calls for another one, namely the question of the political vocation of Europe as well as whether it is possible to function with 27 or more members. How can we have a common vision of Europe with 27 member states, maybe soon 30, having diverging opinions on the meaning of European independence as well as the relationship with the United States?

Historical overview: from the ruins of war to CFSP

On 8 May 1945 Europe was economically weak, morally sick and materially destroyed. The need for preventing such bloodshed to occur again would come alone, by going through two actions, notably the mutualisation of economics and sinews of war; that was the case of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and secondly the attempt to found a project of a European Defence Community (EDC), rejected in 1954 by the French National Assembly. Only in 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty, a Europe of defence and security would appear.

From the European Defence Community to the current European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), an essential component of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the idea of a Europe of defence is marked by significant progress and yet it stops as brutally as predictably - be it the rejection of EDC under the pretext of a too quick rearmament of Germany or the impossibility of European emancipation towards NATO- due to diverging visions within Europe as far as EU-US relations are concerned. Indeed, some argue they are primordial, whereas others see it as a bridle to the emergency of an independent and credible European capability.

Bringing the question of a Europe of Defence to the citizens

The questions and the issues for the coming years are numerous:

  Can the political Europe be revived by pursuing the creation of disparate units such as the recent Battle group which is subject to an intergovernmental authority?
  Is the mere addition of national military budgets enough to speak about a European army?
 Does Europe have ambition and means to become a major actor in international relations?
  Or should it merely be a background actor and play a spectator role in possible future conflicts between the US and China?

Such questions do not simply concern the military, the politicians or other personalities, but also and overall the average citizen who, depending on the answers to these questions, will see his daily life changing in depth and durably.

The citizens shall take possession of defence issues, while understanding that these are not purely abstract questions for the experts’ use only, but rather an essential task for the future!

Image: photo of Robert Schuman, French Minister of Foreign Affaires, signing the North Atlantic Treaty for France. Source: NATO.

 Official site of the Franco-German Brigade
 Official website of the European Air Group
 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
 European Defence Agency
 Western European Union

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