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From a Worm to a Tiger – Does the EU need an Army?

In December 1998, the heads of state of Britain and France met for a two-day summit in St-Malo, France, to discuss the defence policy of Europe. The result of the summit was heralded as a breakthrough, given the long-standing impasse between the two states with regards to that sensitive topic (Howorth, “European Integration” 1). The resulting declaration asserted that “The European Union needs to be in a position to play its full role on the international stage” (Howorth, “European Integration” 105). “To this end,” it read, “the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises” (Howorth, “European Integration” 105).

In other words, in order to safeguard and promote its interests, to be a credible international actor, it is desirable for the European Union to possess its own military force, or at least the ability to employ military means under the name of the EU and without being subject to the whims or narrow self-interests of any one single member-state. This capability; indeed, the very idea of having a common defence policy, is proving to be controversial; Britain, for instance, faces a strong domestic opposition to the issue (McCormick 201; Rowena). In light of the controversies, this most pertinent question is raised: Does the existence of an EU Army enhances or serves the purposes of European integration?

Before proceeding further, it is necessary to introduce two the two types of integration as it pertains to the EU. The first is ‘negative’ integration, is the “removal of obstacles to a free market” and to prevent “discrimination” (Leibfried and Pierson 6; Pinder 90). The second, ‘positive’ integration refers to “the formation and application of co-ordinated and common policies in order to fulfil … objectives other than the removal of discrimination” (Pinder 90). It must be noted that the two are not mutually exclusive; there can be a common policy that does discriminate in favour of one party. In Pinder’s terms, this would be akin to “a national economy with a regional policy that discriminates powerfully in favour of that nation’s less-favoured regions” (91).  In this light, both the euro and an EU army are examples of positive and negative integration that co-exist. Both the euro and an EU army are efforts to have coordinated and common approaches towards reaching the objectives as defined by the EU. However, with regards to the euro, the member states still have exclusive control over their fiscal policies. Likewise, while the proposed EU army would operate autonomously under EU control, its manpower would be raised, trained and equipped by the various member-states. The decision to contribute the types of forces to the EU army would too remain the sovereign decision of the member-states.

Analogies will be drawn between a possible EU Army and the common currency that is in use at present. Will the EU Army, like the euro, serve to promote European integration? Or is it even necessary at all? This essay will attempt to answer the preceding questions.  Both the euro and the proposed EU Army were designed to meet specific goals of the EU. Therefore, with the euro as a comparison, this essay will examine if an EU Army is indeed like the former, necessary to further European integration.

I argue that while further defence integration is desirable, even necessary, a standing EU army, as an independent EU institute like the euro, is not. This is because of the different characteristics of economic and defence integration. In other words, while the euro may have been required for economic integration and thus drawing the EU together, the same cannot be said of the EU army in the sphere of defence.

This essay will be structured as following. The first section will explore the history of defence integration in the EU. The second section will explore the history of the euro, and how it has helped in the integration of the EU. In the final section, the concept of an EU army will be compared to the euro, in how in contributes to forming a greater, tighter EU identity.


Integrating Europe’s Defences

What is an EU army? It is what the term suggests: a military force answerable only to the European Union, and not to any single state. While many balk at the notion of an EU army, Howorth points out that “the story of European integration began with defence” (“European Integration” 1). The story first began with the Treaties of Dunkirk in 1947 and Brussels in 1948, which were designed to create a security community that would forestall war (Howorth, “European Integration” 1). It must be noted that such an entity is but one end of the spectrum that is defence integration, albeit the most integrated form. As highlighted in the introduction, the European Union has integrated its defence capabilities and policies; the issue is the extent and degree of said integration. The integration of Europe in the defence sphere is thus not a new or novel concept.

As mentioned, the history of defence integration has its roots in the aftermath of World War Two. France proposed the formation of a European Defence Community (EDC), a supranational European army under the framework of the North Atlantic treaty Organisation (NATO) (Merlingen 28). The EDC did not last however; Britain was lukewarm about the idea, and many in France feared a resurgent Germany (McCormick 50). The EDC was finally dealt a death blow, when the French, humiliated in Vietnam, voted against the EDC, leaving only the Western European Union as the sole forum for any semblance of an integrated European defence (McCormick 50).

The collapse of the Soviet Union found the EU facing a new world. Without the threat of a massive attack on their homelands, Western Europeans began agitating to “reinforce their collective international identity and influence in Eastern and south-eastern Europe” (Merlingen 32). In addition, Western Europe desired the ability to ameliorate conflicts in the region and counter new security threats such as terrorism and transnational organisational crime (Merlingen 32). In response, the European Community created the Common Foreign and Security Policy, one of the three pillars under the 1992 Maastricht Treaty (Merlingen 32).

The declaration by Britain and France in Saint Malo in 1998 laid the foundations for aan EU capable of employing military force autonomously (Merlingen 35). As mentioned previously, this was meant to meet “a perceived need to improve the Union’s ability to respond to security crises”, a situation that was painfully laid bare at the EU’s inability to resolve the Balkans conflict (Menon 226). In 1999, the ESDP was launched by the EU in Helsinki. It proclaimed that the EU would “have an autonomous capacity to take decisions … to conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises” (Merlingen 36). Of great significance was the Headline Goal 2003, which was part of the ESDP. It mandated the formation of a European Rapid Reaction Force, some 50 000 to 60 000 strong, by 2003 (Merlingen 36).

One key point that cannot be overlooked in the story of defence integration was the 2007 Lisbon Treaty. Under it, the ESDP was renamed the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and its scope was expanded and entrenched (Merlingen 37). It provided the EU with greater authority and influence, and laid a series of procedures allowing for member-states to cooperate (Merlingen 38).

In summary, the EU has made great strides in pursuing a common foreign and security policy. In recent years, it has shown increasing eagerness in asserting itself as an important international player (Merlingen 39). It must be noted that for all the progress, defence integration is still far from what the EDC in the 1950s was supposed to achieve (Merlingen 39). Is that old goal of the EDC – as represented by an EU army – still relevant in the world that the EU faces today? This question will be examined in a subsequent section.


History of the euro

The euro was first conceived of during the economic crisis that plagued the 1970s (History of the EU). The United States, in order to shore up its own economy, had abandoned the gold standard; in response, European heads of states decided to ties their currencies together (History of the EU). In 1991, the member-states of the European Union signed the Treaty of Maastricht, in which a single currency was established, paving the road towards Economic and Monetary Union (History of the EU). As part of these efforts, an autonomous European Central Bank was set up (History of the EU). In 1999, the euro was officially launched as an electronic currency to be used by banks, foreign exchange dealers and stock markets; responsibility with managing the new currency and by extension, the economies of the EU, now lay not with the member-states, but with the ECB (History of the EU). The final arrival of the euro was heralded on January 1, 2002, when it became a cash currency to be used by the 300 million citizens of 12 member-states, replacing the latter’s’ national currencies (History of the EU).


Impact of the euro

The euro has brought numerous benefits to those member-states that have adopted it. Firstly, the euro has brought monetary stability to these economies, removing the planning problems that were rife with the previously fluctuating exchange rates (McCormick 167). A second benefit was that travellers within the eurozone were provided with much greater convenience. More importantly, “this has the added psychological benefit of making them more aware of being part of the common enterprise of integration” (McCormick 167). Thirdly, there is greater price transparency, which allows for greater consumer choices and greater competition among businesses (McCormick 167). Businesses, likewise, has benefited from lower costs of transactions (McCormick 167). Overall, the euro has brought to Europe much economic benefits; in a study by McKinsey, it was stated that all member-states have enjoyed growth (Verdun 116).

Beyond the economic benefits, how instrumental was the euro in pulling the EU together into a more cohesive whole? The hallmark of the EU integration is its single market, of which the euro has been indispensable (McCormick 163). Indeed, so crucial is the euro to the notion of an integrated EU that Jacques Rueff, advisor to President Charles de Gaulle, remarked that “Europe will be made by the currency, or it won’t be made” (Van Raepenbusch in Verdun 114).  Furthermore, consideration must be paid to the Europeans’ perceptions of the euro. As it is, “for many the euro is the symbol of successful integration, one that gives consumers and citizens a concrete token of the entire European integration process that has brought to the European continent peace and prosperity” (Verdun 119).  The euro then has played a key and indispensable role in driving European integration.


Comparing the EU army with the euro – whither its necessity?

The preceding sections have described the evolution of both defence and economic integration in the EU – the CSDP in the former and the euro in the latter. The euro represents perhaps the pinnacle of economic integration, and as demonstrated, it has served the purposes of EU integration. Will an EU army, or increased defence integration at the least, fulfil such purposes as well? The following paragraphs will present evidence that it will do so.

One group that do advocate for further defence integration is the Centre for Strategic and International Studies located in Washington D.C. The Centre argues that given the new challenges Europe faces, “further integration in the defence domain [is] a logical next step” (Flournoy et al. 4). They base their arguments on several premises. The first is that “new challenges require new capabilities”; the authors that while Europe does not risk a major conventional conflict, it does however have to contend with new threats such as terrorism and organised crime (Flournoy et al. 18).  Another key premise the Group highlights that defence spending in Europe is insufficient for it to perform its myriad duties (Flournoy et al. 21). To solve the above, the Centre argues for increased defence integration, “that is, coordinating the efforts of individual European countries, the European Union, and NATO to create an enhanced set of collective defence capabilities and supporting processes to meet Europe’s future security needs” (Flournoy et al. 26). The Centre has another reason why defence integration is paramount: not only will it serve the needs of the European Union, but it will, in turn, make for a more tightly-knit Union in other domains. Stronger defence integration, such as in procurement, will cause the “consolidation of demand”, which subsequently “will drive price pressure, which in turn will drive consolidation of overcapacity, which in turn will create a lower cost structure” (Flournoy et al.72). Consequently, the Centre believes that a ” new and improved capacity in the European industrial base supporting defence” will be produced (Flournoy et al.74). In short, increased integration in the defence sphere will spill over into the economic sector, leading to a more tightly-knit Union. This is reflected in the Centre’s conclusion: “the industrial base will affect each policy option for European defence integration and in turn be affected by it” (Flournoy et al. 79).

The Centre is not the only entity that highlights the reasons for further defence integration in assisting the integration of the EU as whole. Kari Möttölä, a civil servant with the Finnish government, noted that the existence of the ESDP has, as explained by the institutionalist approach, “contributed to the institutionalisation and consolidation of the European Union as an international actor” (6). Another reason, provided by the constructivist school of thought, is that the ESDP creates a “common strategic culture” within the EU, a culture which over time, will “shape and transform political traditions and preferences from within the Union” and thus formulate “a convergence of norms” (Möttölä 8). This is illustrated in the fact that military action, or what Möttölä deems as “hard tools”, are now “expedient and acceptable… in cases that earlier could only have been objects of soft security” (9).The ESDP has thus brought the EU together in agreement on possible solutions to crises – a further step towards greater EU integration. Indeed, like how Europe was “made by the currency”, the Centre calls further defence integration “a necessity” (Flournoy et al. 97). As the pinnacle of defence integration, an EU army would doubtlessly bring about the above advantages and benefits to the EU.

Despite the apparent benefits, it must be noted that the whole endeavour of defence integration remains mired in controversies. This is not unique to the defence sphere; the euro, when first introduced, invited criticisms as well. In the wake of the current economic crisis, the euro has come under ever more scrutiny. The euro, however, has endured, and thus provides a useful comparison to the issues that surround defence integration.

When the idea of the euro was first floated, it drew immediate concerns. Chief among them was the loss of national sovereignty and national identity (McCormick 168). With the adoption of a common currency, member-states have lost one crucial tool with which to manage their economies; they have “surrendered control” over domestic economic policy to the supranational ECB (McCormick 168). Likewise on a psychological level, “the majority of people equate national currencies with national sovereignties, and deem both sacrosanct” (El-Agraa 639). This loss of control and identity was deemed, and indeed remains so controversial, that Britain, Sweden and Denmark did not accept the euro as their currency (McCormick 164). The recent eurozone crisis has only served to amplify criticisms of the euro; Sadeh argued that “the economic arguments in favour of a single European currency were overstated from the outset” and in some respects, by not accounting for the differing contexts of the many economies, may have even made things worse (Sadeh 129).

Defence integration drew just as much, if not more, criticisms. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, came under fire “from his own Conservative MPs” after attending a 2012 summit in Brussels that sought to strengthen military cooperation and enhance the EU’s ability to respond with military action (Mason). The reason cited by the article was that it was against Britain’s “national interest” , particularly a loss of sovereignty (Mason). There were also protests at what appeared to be usurpation of NATO’s role. Denmark, for instance, is adamant against “Europe even attempting to create an autonomous defence capacity, which it believes should remain the sole prerogative of NATO” (Howorth, “European Integration” 46). Likewise, traditional NATO allies such as Turkey were initially hostile to the idea of the ESDP, chiefly because it had no influence and that it feared the use of EU-sanctioned intervention against it in Cyprus (Howorth, “From Security” 186). In short, the dissent against defence integration, much less an EU army, came from both governments and citizenry alike.

We have thus far discussed the controversies that have dogged both the euro and the process of defence integration. These, as we have seen, appear to mirror each other, particularly that which concern sovereignty, or rather the loss of it. Both, as illustrated, are dedicated to furthering the integration of the EU, through the fulfilment of specific needs. In light of this, I argue that the euro and the concept of an EU army are in many respects similar to each other. There is one stark difference, however; the euro is in place, but an EU army remains as yet a thought. Indeed, as the following paragraphs will reveal, while further defence integration should be sought after in the interest of the EU, it is may not be entirely necessary for an EU army to exist for this goal to be accomplished.

Firstly, we must recall the existence of NATO. In the field of collective defence, NATO remains the prime guarantor of Europe’s security in a conventional war. There were even predictions that NATO would become irrelevant, given the lack of a common European enemy in the post-Cold War era (Howorth, “European Integration” 12). However, even despite all the progress the EU has made in its defence integration, NATO “was the only serious combat/defence force available, at a time when the need for combat forces … was in fact growing constantly” (Howorth, “European Integration” 12). This was clearly demonstrated in the Balkans conflict, where NATO was the only organisation capable of bringing to bear the military action needed (Howorth, “European Integration” 12). Indeed, the different member states could not even come to a common consensus on an appropriate course of action. For instance, while Germany supported Croatian independence, France was against it (Marolov). This precluded the EU from instigating any form of military action, and thus NATO had to fill the void – which it did.

Furthermore, any alternative to supplant NATO as the guarantor of collective peace and security was deemed to be politically unviable – the examples of Britain and Denmark, as mentioned earlier, are examples of this (Howorth, “European Integration” 12). In summary, while further defence integration may be desired, an EU army is not entirely necessary to defend Europe.

For all of its power, however, NATO remains a military instrument dominated by the United States, and as such may not be the most appropriate organisation to call upon to defend the security interests (short of open, conventional war on or within Europe) that are exclusive to the European Union.  Once again, however, an EU army may not entirely necessary, despite the proclamations of St Malo that the EU must be able to wield military power in order to maintain its global influence. This is because there exists procedure, agreements and treaties that allow the EU to draw upon the militaries of its member states if the need so arises. The following will describe some of these features that do give the EU significant, though limited, military strength.

One of the earliest features was the ‘Berlin-Plus’ arrangements that came out from a NATO summit held in 1996 (Howorth, “From Security” 185). Essentially, this allowed the EU “to borrow assets from the US”, have “‘assured access to NATO planning’ ” and “‘presumed access to NATO’s assets and capabilities’ and a pre-designated Europeans-only chain of command” (Howorth, “From Security” 185). This feature has been criticised as being complex (Howorth, “From Security” 185). Nonetheless it does demonstrate that the furthering of EU defence integration does not necessarily have to lead to a full-blown EU army, when such features can be employed instead to meet the task at hand.

Another important feature of EU defence integration without an EU army can be found in the so-called Petersburg tasks. These are duties that are defined in the Treaty of the European Union as conflict prevention and crisis management tasks (Howorth 107). Such duties undoubtedly require that the EU project some measure of military power; this was admitted by the Cologne European Council of 1999 (Howorth, “European Integration” 107). In order to muster the needed resources, there is a 1994 agreement between the states of the Western European Union and NATO (Merlingen 33). In this arrangement, NATO is able and willing to “make collective alliance assets available to WEU operations carried out by the EU in pursuit of its Petersberg tasks” (Merlingen 33). The value of this agreement is that it provides the EU with the ability to deploy expeditionary military forces abroad. Though the EU can only do so in a limited capacity as defined by the Petersberg tasks, and with political considerations, since the assets are from NATO, it does demonstrate that the EU can fulfil certain goals and missions without a full-scale EU army.

There is yet another tool of the EU that is available to it that may preclude the need for an EU army. This is the concept of battlegroups. Approved by the member-states in 2004, the aim was to form thirteen battlegroups, each with 1500 men, giving the EU a “rapid reaction capability” (Gowan 14). These battlegroups are to be deployable within a period of fifteen days, and last for three months (Gowan 14). It must be noted that the resources and manpower that form these battlegroups are contributed voluntarily by member-states; battlegroups are either offered on a national basis, or comprised of elements drawn from several states (Merlingen 79; Möttölä 12). The battlegroup concept is thus not binding on member-states in the manner that euro is. In any case, its significance is that it provides the EU a capability perform missions such as post-conflict stabilisation and humanitarian assistance (Merlingen 79). Indeed, the concept has proven its worth. In 2003, Operation ARTEMIS was executed, whereby a French-led EU force assisted the “hard-pressed” UN force in place to stabilise Bunia, a town in Congo (Gowan 17). Heralded as a military success, it demonstrates that the EU can perform such tasks without the recourse to an EU army.

Discussion and Conclusion

Since its inception, the European Union, through various treaties and agreements, have become increasingly integrated. In international organisations, it is participates as a unitary entity representing the interests of all of its member-states. That the EU has come so far, decades after being torn asunder in two world wars, is indeed unprecedented.

The integration of the EU came about because of its member-states aim to cooperate with each other to achieve common goals. This essay has reviewed two such types of goals, residing in the economic and defence realm. In the economic realm, it was deemed necessary that member-states adopt a common currency – the euro – in order to accomplish their common goals. In the defence realm, however, while further integration is desired and sought, I argue that an EU army, the defence realm’s equivalent of the euro, is not necessary for the EU to achieve its common goals. This is because as illustrated, the EU has at its disposal numerous tools and policies that are sufficient for it to achieve its goals. The economic realm had no such alternatives; only through euro adoption could the EU fulfil its tasks.

This is not to say that an EU army will never materialise. Realities and politics are always changing; and while the calls for an EU army not prove necessary at this point in time, the possibility will always exist. If that eventuality does indeed comes to pass, the EU, due to the groundwork that it has laid, should not be found wanting.

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