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EU army: European Union with teeth - The next superpower?

A conversation with Peter van Ham

Peter van Ham is an expert in the field of Security and Defence, Europe in the World, Europe and the EU, as well as Trade and Globalisation. His research focuses on European security and defence issues, transatlantic relations, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and place branding. Moreover, he is a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael” in The Hague (The Netherlands). He is a visiting professor at the College of Europe (Bruges) since 2000.  

The idea of creating a powerful EU army continues to divide opinions in Europe. Lately, the idea of a  European army” has appeared to some politicians such as Macro and Merkel as a realistic possibility. Macron stated that Europe needs to protect itself against "China, Russia and even the United States" in terms of cyberspace and he further stressed that Europe needs to build up its own military because it can no longer depend on the US for defence.

We have already seen EU-led military operations for years, including naval missions dealing with piracy and people smuggling, or land operations in the Balkans and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The forces for these have only ever been put together on a case-by-case basis. Under the 'Common Security and Defence Policy', European Union military operations can be called for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security. Under the policy, the EU can only pay for civil operations, military and defence ones must be paid for directly by members

The EU certainly already has some military structures, including a military staff in the 'European External Action Service'. There are also more than a dozen EU multinational battlegroups, but they have never been deployed. That’s despite two of them (totalling 3,000 people) being on standby at any time. They can only be deployed if every EU member approves, that unanimous political backing has never happened.

NATO is dominated by the US, which holds the most political power and firepower because it spends most on defence. With the current US government, it seems to many that the EU needs to build a multinational capability outside of NATO. 

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