Juncker: NATO is not enough, EU needs an army

Jean-Claude Juncker [European Council]

The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats, as well as to restore the bloc’s standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper yesterday (8 March).

Arguing that NATO was not enough because not all members of the transatlantic defence alliance are in the EU, Juncker said a common EU army would send important signals to the world.

“A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world.”

Juncker said a common EU army could serve as a deterrent and would have been useful during the Ukraine crisis.

“With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state,” he said.

“One wouldn’t have a European army to deploy it immediately. But a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values.”

The 28-nation EU already has battle groups that are manned on a rotational basis and meant to be available as a rapid reaction force. But they have never been used in a crisis.

EU leaders have said they want to boost the common security policy by improving rapid response capabilities.

But Britain, along with France, the two main military powers in the bloc, has been wary of giving a bigger military role to the EU, fearing it could undermine NATO.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Juncker’s proposal. “Our future as Europeans will at some point be with a European army,” she told German radio.

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) replaces the former European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The Treaty of Lisbon introduces this name change by dedicating a new section in the founding treaties to this policy. The Treaty of Lisbon emphasises the importance and specific nature of the CSDP, which still forms an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

The Treaty of Lisbon introduces for the first time a mutual defence clause, specifically binding EU Member States. If a member state is the victim of an armed attack on its territory, it can rely on the aid and assistance of the other member states, which are obliged to help.

Two restrictions moderate this clause:

  • the mutual defence clause does not affect the security and defence policy of certain Member States, specifically those which are traditionally neutral;
  • the mutual defence clause does not affect the commitments made under the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

There is still no European expenditure or European defence budget. The crisis in public spending induced cuts in national defence budgets. And as in the preceding Treaties, the CSDP remains a fundamentally intergovernmental issue.

The challenges created by shrinking defence budgets are aggravated by the fragmentation which leads to unnecessary duplication of capabilities, organisations and expenditures. Studies on the added value of EU spending show that by integrating European land forces, EU countries would be able to save substantial resources.

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