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.
- Military Division
- 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
- Agreement at EU Level
- 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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