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These economic problems have led to the emergence of Eurosceptic nationalist parties and movements across the continent. A union of almost million people after Brexit cannot allow a country two-thirds its size to treat it like a group of vassal states. Accordingly, both French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel declared this month that they support the need to create a joint European army. But the German establishment credibly maintains that a European army is meant to supplement and strengthen Nato. The transatlantic alliance will be no less necessary than it was before, nor will European citizens regard their American counterparts with any less sympathy and fellow feeling.

The deep historical ties between the US and Europe remain unchanged; everybody knows there will be an America after Trump. Better yet, Europe is once again pursuing political unification with vigour and a sense of collective purpose, and that is how it should be.

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The European project has long suffered from giving economic integration pride of place while pushing political unification to the backburner. But the French National Assembly never ratified that treaty, so it never entered into force. Then came the Maastricht treaty, which offered a second chance for a political union. How can we provide energy for the world while tackling climate change?

By working together — governments, international bodies, private sector and civil society — with the EU playing a leading role. After decades of the EU viewing itself as a peace initiative and seeing defense as a matter of national sovereignty made all the less urgent thanks to the EU's existence there is still no consensus on how to create, organize or wield joint military power.

Few are eager to turn over authority to Brussels. Trade wars might be fought better with collective muscle, but real wars? On that, EU leaders remain divided. In Germany, under fire from U.

Germany's Merkel calls for a European Union military - Reuters

In France, President Emmanuel Macron, citing a worrisome lack of joint EU military planning, has called for "a common intervention force, a common defense budget and a common doctrine for action. In the U. Advocates of military cooperation say no less than the EU's survival is at stake. But it remains far from certain that European capitals can find the political will, the technical capabilities, the financial resources and, most fundamentally, the mutual trust necessary to transform the EU into a military superpower capable of countering Russia, acting independently of the United States, or ultimately wielding global influence.

Nor is it clear that national governments want to relinquish control. The bloc is still wrestling with the decades-old question of how much of hard power to put under the authority of Brussels — a question further complicated by the EU treaties, which bar direct financing from the bloc's budget of weapons and military operations.

The European Commission in EU Defense Industrial Policy

At a June meeting of top national defense officials, there was some skepticism about giving Brussels more powers, said a senior EU diplomat. And Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, urging greater strategic integration, has declared that " soft power alone is not powerful enough in an increasingly militarized world. But many others are reluctant to cede authority over national security, afraid of a backlash from voters and, in some cases, worried about undermining NATO.

But he stopped well short of endorsing an EU army. In a sign of how leaders are still searching for the right balance, the Netherlands was one of eight countries, along with Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Portugal and Spain, to sign up with France on Macron's initiative to create a "common intervention force. While initial steps may seem small, experts say they represent a revolutionary shift after decades of inaction. And it is not the case that the United States of America will simply protect us. Instead, Europe must take its destiny in its own hands.

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That is our job for the future. Diplomats said only two projects — the cyber initiative led by Lithuania and a Dutch-led initiative on military mobility — have made concrete progress so far. But a European army would let Germany project power without getting into the constitutional and political mess of reconfiguring the Bundeswehr itself, a strictly self-defense force. France is the muscle, Germany is the money. The union of the two is a game changer.

Even so, the establishment of a European army is far from a done deal. The main problem comes down to different views of the European project. Some, like the British, have always seen it as an economic project first and foremost, and only unfortunately also having a political dimension on top. Others have always seen it as a political project whose main aim is peace on the continent, and where economic integration is just a means to that end.

For some the union is just a platform for cooperation between sovereign nation-states. For others, some degree of meaningful sovereignty is only really achieved when the small nation-states of Europe pool their legal prerogatives together to achieve real power and leverage on the global stage.

This is a problem. The formation of a European army is as consequential to the reality of national sovereignty for the nation-states of Europe as the withdrawal of the U. Those who view the nation-state as the natural unit of sovereignty will be extremely wary of the scope and capacity of any proposed European army. In effect, the only way the formation of such an army will not impinge on national sovereignty is if individual member states retain their own separate forces with complete operational autonomy and each state has a veto on anything the European force might want to do.

With the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the formation of a European army would no longer be vetoed by the U. So that does increase the likelihood that efforts in this area will be successful.

Chairman EUMC

But the U. Poland and Hungary are quite likely to seek to block this initiative unless they have cast-iron vetoes on operational matters. Italy may soon join the chorus of skeptics. But if done this way, the European army will be a largely meaningless project. EU foreign policy is already institutionally entrenched as weak and dysfunctional—deliberately so. The first commissioner for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton of the U. And if a common EU defense policy were to be articulated to command the European army, that policy would have to be subordinate to EU foreign policy, and therefore also weak, dysfunctional, and fragmented.

Collective decision-making with 28 countries having to unanimously agree on a course of action in matters as sensitive as war and peace is just not a recipe for swift, effective action. Even outside of the nationalist awkward squad, how likely are countries like Sweden or Finland to vote for war in any circumstance short of an outright Russian invasion?


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Then there would be the inevitable national conflicts on how operations are conducted: Every country would want to avoid their troops serving on the front line, and every country would seek to be the one providing highly technical support—from a distance. That said, however, the stewards of the U. Because while the first instinct for the Europeans themselves is to try and form a European military within the institutional framework of the European Union, nothing about the project inherently requires this. And when it comes down to it, a Franco-German army is unlikely to let Budapest get in the way.

The formation of a European army under the institutional arrangements of the EU would require EU treaty changes, which would have to be approved by all governments and legislatures in the 28 countries, and probably have to get approval from at least a handful of public referendums.


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Building the army through this path is already nigh impossible. And if it were ever to succeed, as we have seen, the compromises needed to persuade all stakeholders to come on board would render the entire project largely pointless. So the two core European powers have already set things in motion.