Europe has its eyes fixed on the future with a variety of new strategy papers. Two that have been leaked are attempting to unpick some of the details of a military mission.
One deals with a European defence shared by the European Union (EU). The other works on the creation of a global alliance that could substitute for the US military in a crisis and, for security purposes, become Europe’s permanent military force.
According to several sources and analysts with knowledge of the documents, whose contents have yet to be confirmed, Brussels is determined to move forward with this blueprint for a European army. Despite internal controversy, which has been debated since the 1990s, the plans are fully endorsed by key European officials.
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The European defence minister for the Netherlands, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, refused to comment on the leaked documents. They were seen by some as “the blueprint for a new army without the unpopular part of so-called NATO, the European component”. The Netherlands will chair the EU foreign and security policy in the next three years, and it is already preparing for the presidency with a pre-inaugural review of its military system.
The treaty setting up the European military was adopted in 2014 with the aim of creating a more joint mission for defence and security, giving it a greater role for EU foreign and security policy, but the inclusion of the idea of a European army or even of a “European Union central armed forces” has almost sparked a state of hysteria.
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But as the leaked documents show, progress is being made. A study of shared European defence and security spending levels was submitted to the Commission earlier this year and is currently being analysed by experts. In addition, several EU countries are studying the possibility of co-investing in some military projects with the European army in order to strengthen the common budget, including closer integration of defence industry as well as research and co-production efforts.
The major question is what the EU’s defence policy should look like after the two-step treaties of 2014 and 2016 come to an end. The latter defined a 20-year roadmap for creating “a co-ordinated defence and security framework and associated capacities”.
Piece by piece, the EU is building an army, one that is designed to act as Europe’s – and, potentially, the world’s – permanent force. While fully embarking on this project would in theory be “controversial”, it has also become the single most important political priority of the European Union.