“From chemical weapons being used on our streets to state-sponsored cyber-attacks, Europe is under threat like never before, and Europeans are looking to us to act. Now is the time to ramp up our efforts to finish our work on the Security Union” said Julian King, the Commissioner for the Security Union on the 10th of October 2018 during the 172nd DCI Committee Meeting on Global Public Goods and Challenges before the European Commission. New dangers such as terrorism and energetic insecurity threaten dangerously European people and territories. In this context, the idea of a European community of defence (ECD) could be raised. But would the ECD be a real solution? And would its implementation be feasible?
Why was the first initiative of ECD abandoned
In the 1950’s, with the Korean War striking the world with full force, European countries realised how vulnerable they were compared to the two superpowers, the US and the USSR. In this context, the idea of a European Community of Defence (ECD) was raised. But this initiative raised a tumultuous debate within Europe. In France, while Gaullists were reluctant to a community under the control of NATO, Communists criticised the hegemonic imperialism of the Western Camp, which could have strengthened the division between the two Germany. Finally, Stalin’s death in 1953 accompanied by the first Détente made the EU wonder on the utility of a European Army.
Why would it be useful today?
Economic aspects – Excepted Poland, the 2008 economic crisis led EU member states to reduce drastically the share of GDP they dedicate to defence. Indeed, the share of spending of European member states decreased from 4,8 % of GDP in 1960 to 1,5 % of GDP in 2017. Moreover, there is a drastic rise in the cost of military equipment due to technological improvements. In this context, it would be useful to gather states’ budgets in order to create a European army.
Changes in American foreign policy – The ambiguous position of Donald Trump forces European to take care of their own security. Calling the NATO “obsolete” during his campaign, the president has also refused the idea of being constrained to support the principle of collective defence that binds member states between them in case of attack.
EU’s own interests – The European Union has and must be able to defend its own interests in terms of foreign policy. Moreover, with the rise of terrorism, the EU must also be able to defend its own security in case of attack, even if the US is looking elsewhere.
Loss of power – While Europe is disarming, the world is arming. While between 2001 and 2010, China, Russia, India and Brazil have experienced an increase in their military spending respectively of 189%, 82,4%, 54,3%, 29,6%, the ones of Germany and Italy are negative, (-2,7%, 65,8%) and the one of France has known a little increase of 3,3%. As far as the US is concerned, they remain by far the country that spends the most. Their budget, of 610 billion dollars, stands for more than one third of the world military spending. Europe needs to step up the pace if it wants to maintain its rank.
So, why not creating a European army?
Nevertheless, it is true that the idea of a European community of defence is difficult to implement. First of all, it is difficult for member states to renounce to their sovereignty. Each state has its own interest and it has been and it is still difficult to take a unified stand on foreign policy as the 2003 Iraq War showed. Additionally, there are strong disparities between member states. Their armies have neither the same strength nor the same budget, which makes harder the establishment of a European Community of Defence. Finally, since the end of the cold war, threats are less obvious and Europe seems to be free of significant direct danger, which might diminish the incentive for uniting European forces.
Ancient threats disappear and provide room for new ones. The 2008 crisis weakened European national armies and no one knows how long the US will remain part of NATO. In this context, despite the number of obstacles that a European cooperation may raise, a European Community of Defence, synonym of power and independence, cannot be avoided any longer.