A European Army??

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Last Tuesday I attended the Alliance Francaise de Cork/UCC European Symposium. In the afternoon we split into round-tables. I went along to the round-table entitled “The Question of the European Army”. This round-table was led by Quentin Perret of Atelier Europe, Nevin Power and Frank O’Callaghan.

Quentin seemed to be on his own on the Pro-Army side. He based his arguments around four points.

  1. Security
  2. Influence
  3. Military Division
  4. Efficiencies from Commonalities

On the other hand the Irish in attendance were very much opposed to the idea of an European Union. The arguments weren’t as easily grouped as we weren’t the ones guiding the discussion, but they centred around the following ideas

  1. Neutrality
  2. Language
  3. Agreement at EU Level
  4. lack of need for hard power

It was quite an interesting discussion. I think in Ireland we do need to discuss this more. We seem to have a “lalala – fingers in ears” reaction to any discussion about a European Army. I know I found it hard to discuss myself.

Towards the end of the discussions we found two scenarios when a European Army is possible. The appearance of another. For example, if Russia became belligerent against the EU member states,  or if the United States decided to withdraw from supporting European security. Then there will be a big hole in European defence structures and a lack of ways of European Armies to be deployed around the world. (NATO is heavily dependent on US Military might). I think it is highly probably in either of those cases that a European Army will be on table.

One thing that Quentin said though is true, if Europe is to become a European Federation (United States of Europe) then it will certainly need some sort of army. That is true of any state.

Ireland has a strange relationship with military power. As a small country we bat way above our weight without having to resort to use military force, or the threat of such force.

I think we need to start really talking about a European Army in Ireland so we can be properly aware of when it is acceptable to us that an army is created. It should not be a discussion that should be led down the road of conscription and the loss of the triple lock etc, they will still be our Governments choice. As long as the Common Foreign and Security Policy is an area where unanimity is needed then there will be no European Army, but what will Ireland’s relationship with an Army set up under the enhanced co-operation procedure be?

This is a big and complicated issue and one there needs to be civilised public discourse on. Will it happen? I doubt.

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Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

10 thoughts on “A European Army??”

  1. Stephen,

    The majority of EU member states are NATO members as well. Only six, if I remember correctly, are not; most of them on the periphery.

    In my view, a common EU defence is a natural development, but old habits die hard, so the first step would be permanent structured cooperation between willing and able member states.
    .-= Ralf Grahn´s last blog ..EU and eurozone membership paradoxes =-.

    1. Thanks for the comment Ralf, you are close on the numbers its 5: Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Austria and Malta.

      We will see if the EDA and practice gained from the Partnership for Peace, EUFOR, Bosnia and Rapid Reaction Force lead to anything!

  2. NATO is very much a product of the the Cold War and I do believe it is unneeded in today’s world. I also fervently believe that the EU should distance itself militarily from the US, so much so that I would love to see a complete US military withdrawal from Europe. Now Steve you have said that this would result in “a big hole in European defence structures.” Now I have to ask; from what does Europe need defending against? You speak of potential Russian belligerence, why? Russia is a major power with its own interests which may at times run contrary to those of the EU, but it is by no means the type of country to start a war over trivial diplomatic quibbles.
    Peace on the European continent cannot be secured by US militarism or by increased EU militarism. That said, I do believe that the EU needs some kind of unified command structure and flexible, organic and highly mobile armed forces which are specifically designed to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
    What we do not need is the kind of EU army designed to repel a full scale Russian invasion; a a scenario which only belongs in the past and the deranged minds of Cold War fantasists.

    1. Bryan, I used Russia as an example as it has been a historical “other” in European Defence history. You could replace it with China, USA, Madeupland etc.

      As for the hole in European Defence Structures. No European Army is currently able to deploy itself outside of the continent without US help. Even within the continent we have problems. It was due to this that it was left to the US to take the lead in Yugoslavia and Kosovo. It is well documented that European Defence spending is not up to par. That for example no European air force has air refuellers, and other items of equipment that is needed to allow forces to operate outside a home nation. This is why the EDA was created and why there is a possible argument for a European Army.

      While I would agree with you that EU Militarianism would be against the whole point of the European Project in the first place, but it is now enshrined it in its treaties (EDA and CFSP).

  3. I think an EU army is needed, and I would agree with Quinten’s points. However, I do realise that it can create quite a hysteria(like in Lisbon) and so calling for a discussion is a good idea. I mean take neutrality for example. Many people think its enshrined in Irish law or the constitution itself, never realising it is only a government policy from the late 1930s. These myths would need to be rebuked and a discussion would be the best way for it.

    1. Mario, you are very correct!!! Its why we need to start discussing it before there are moves towards one so that we as a country know where we stand and what we want (or don’t) want from it!

      I hate having to explain the triple lock to people! 🙁

      1. I agree! I think it’s actually a general problem that people tend to make up an opinion from some half-truths and half-facts and then there’s nothing you can say to make them reconsider.
        However, what I find also is that the academia are sometimes very slow to try and stir up a discussion on a topic. I think they should get a bit more involved as they are, after all, the intelligentsia which are kinda meant to guide us(in a way, not suggesting elitism or anything like that here). Simply highlighting some issues would be more than enough, I think.
        .-= Mario´s last blog ..Good Neighbors =-.

  4. I definitely think that Ireland should open up on debating neutrality. I remember during Lisbon II the neutrality debate in the Irish Times, where the pro-neutrality side traced its “history” back to WWII, completely missing Ireland offering a bilateral alliance with the US (NATO was only rejected because it would mean allying with a UK that retained possession of NI). Very little of the debate seemed to discuss or analyse the changes in security considerations since WWII and the cold war, as well as the continuing rules and logic behind security, diplomacy and hard power.

    It’s irritating to have attempts at a proper debate hijacked by conscription and other political tailsmen dating from a 1916 Sinn Féin – surely we can move on and update our political vocabulary?

    We should be asking ourselves: what is our security based on? Is it the Atlanic Alliance or Europe? Should it be?

    If so, then surely we should contribute (it seems morally negligent not to contribute to security structures that benefit us)? And if so, how should we contribute in a way that’s consistent with our needs and views/foreign policy?

    Dara O’Briein once said if China invaded Europe, would we really stand aside? It’s an extreme idea, but if the security of Europe affects our own, then surely we should ask ourselves how best to secure a safe Europe in the long term. It may not mean a full-fledged European army, but military co-operation is a good idea. (It’s important to note that the Lisbon Treaty and EDA haven’t brought any of this about!)
    .-= Eurocentric´s last blog ..A Week as a Romanian S&D MEP =-.

    1. Eurocentric,

      Excellent point! The neutrality debate is very much based on the propaganda of war years and the post-war years. As you rightly pointed out it was only because the UK was in NATO, we didnt join!

      You raise very important questions that no one in Ireland and certainly not in the political elite are willing to answer. Its funny to see that it is a comedian that is asking these questions! It dosent say a lot for our leaders.

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