Germany is expected to lay out its plans for a “European defense union” this July, with the hopes of pushing toward common structures, joint headquarters and shared assets among the European Union member states.
Germany is releasing its first White Paper — the name of Germany’s national security doctrine — in 10 years this summer. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced the addition of 7,000 troops Tuesday, in Germany’s first military expansion of troops since the end of the Cold War.
“Rarely has the German military faced higher demands than in the last few months,” von der Leyen said, referring to Germany’s migrant influx and Russian aggression. “We need to get away from a shrinking trend and toward a level of breathing space when it comes to personnel.”
The first step is to establish a joint civil military headquarters and council of defense ministers. To cut costs, countries would also coordinate production and sharing of military equipment. (RELATED: Marines Increase Prepositioning Is Norway As Russian Threat Grows)
The larger ambition is for EU countries to jump onboard and shift the trend of decreasing defense budgets. A leaked draft from the White Paper, seen by the Financial Times, proposes steps toward the formation of an EU army, by “the use of all possibilities available” under EU treaties to establish close cooperation between member states.
The startup process would be spearheaded by the Germans themselves, according to the papers.
“German security policy has relevance — also far beyond our country,” the paper reads. “Germany is willing to join early, decisively and substantially as a driving force in international debates … to take responsibility and assume leadership.”
The problem several EU member states have pointed out is that while a closer cooperation and sharing of assets may be plausible, countries have different foreign policy ambitions.
Tom Karako, senior fellow with International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Daily Caller News Foundation the implementation of an EU army has many obstacles to overcome.
“There’s been a lot of reasons for this not come into being,” Karako told TheDCNF. “Although there are certain some good reasons for it to exist, the significant obstacles — the fundamentals that have made this difficult in the past — appear to still be there.”
Opponents of a European defense union argue closer North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) cooperation would be a much more feasible and natural step. Some fear Germany’s goal of slowly merging military forces would weaken NATO in the long run.
“Their every instinct is to move toward European defense cooperation,” former British defense secretary Liam Fox told The Daily Mail. “The problem is that while they are unwilling to spend money, it is a dangerous fantasy that diverts money away from Nato.”
The White Paper was originally slated to be released in June. In order to not influence the outcome of the June 23 Brexit vote, it is now scheduled to be presented a month later.
Brexit campaigners have used the possibility of a common defense to encourage people to vote in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the EU.
“Why would we hand over our defense to the EU, which cannot even properly manage its own currency, the Euro?” Douglas Carswell, a member of parliament for the UK Independence Party, told The Daily Mail. “If we vote to remain on June 23 we will be forced to join this EU army.”
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