Germany says it’s time for a European Defense Union

Odd Andersen / POOL

German Defence minister Ursula von der Leyen gives a statement after meeting with Interior minister, German Interior minister and Interior ministers of the state of Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, at the interior ministry in Berlin, 31 August 2016.

Germany says it’s time for a European Defense Union


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Germany’s defense minister, Ursula Von der Leyen, was in Lithuania on Thursday on NATO business. But, she spoke about the EU.

It’s time

From Vilnius, Von der Leyen said “it’s time to move forward to a European Defense Union, which is basically a ‘Schengen of defense’,” Reuters reported on Thursday.

She went on to add “this is what the Americans expect us to do.”

In the countdown to NATO’s Warsaw Summit, Germany pledged a force of 1,000 troops to be stationed in Lithuania. The battalion is expected to take charge of air defense from January 2017, with Dutch and French troops expected to join in.

This makes part of a greater deterrence initiative designed to hold in check Russia’s aspirations in the eastern flank on the alliance with 4,000 additional troops deployed by Britain, the US, Canada, and Germany in the Baltics and Poland.

Recently, Angela Merkel underscored the resurging role Germany is assuming in European defense, calling for more joint military operations in the Baltic States and states that feel vulnerable to Russia’s threat following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Resuscitating an old plan for an EU Article V

But, for years the notion of an EU army was opposed by Britain.

Following the June 23 referendum vote for Britain to leave the EU, France and Germany are spearheading the return of a 1950s plan for a European army, distinct from NATO.

The European Defense Community (EDC) was proposed in 1950 by French Prime Minister René Pleven and was envisaged as a pan-European defense force. It would be an alternative to Germany joining NATO and would include West Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries. Although a treaty was signed in 1952, the plan failed to be ratified by the French Parliament.

The current notion of a European Defense Union takes enjoys considerable support in the ranks of the European People’s Party.

The main ambition is for the EU to reach a level of collective security that will allow its members to treat Article 42(7) of the TEU as equivalent to NATO’s Article V guarantee, meaning an attack on one is an attack to all. France was the first to evoke Article 42 (7) following the November 14, 2015 attack in Paris.

Although Europe spends on defense half of what the US, the effectiveness of this expenditure is near 10%. National armies duplicate capability and there are few if any synergies in investment and infrastructure.

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