The Loss of Reality: The Illusion of a European Army

Christian Herrmann

In March 2015, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promoted the creation of a European army as a security policy measure to deter Russian aggression. French President Emmanuel Macron called for the formation of a common European army in November 2018, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is at least in the future in favour of the plan. Increased calls for the formation of a European army seem unrealistic in the face of increasing political centrifugal forces, which even make the continued existence of the European Union in its present form questionable. Only five of the 28 EU Member States meet the self-imposed defence budget target of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP). But in addition to the lack of or dwindling political preconditions, the proponents also seem to negate the military-historical and sociological laws. They often tend to confuse the ideal state with the actual state, preventing the overcoming of security-political ignorance by practicing perseverance and moral arrogance. This reduces the project to the defiant symbolism of a now questionable European entity. The paper is devoted to these considerations, including the motivational psychological foundations of functional armed forces, which permanently stand in the way of the realization of a European army. It remains illusory to think that a coherent organisational culture in the form of a European army could displace the culture of origin. This is already evident in the dichotomy of command and order tactics in France and Germany respectively. This can lead to bloody losses in use.

In the end, many unanswered questions remain:

  • Does the European army only refer to the European Union or to Europe as a whole? Is it Europe as a whole, is it more likely to mean Western Europe, that is, those countries that are also in NATO at the same time, such as Norway? Or do we choose a broad definition of Europe and include Georgia, for example?

  • Should the European army consist of national forces, which, like NATO, are signed up to a joint command - is it primarily a question of renunciation of sovereignty? Is it a small force which is set up and financed by one of the EU institutions, such as the Commission, and which is under the authority of it? Should the European army be the only force in the EU, or should there continue to be national forces for national tasks in addition to a common army? Who decides on the deployment of the European Army - is it the European Council, the Commission or the European Parliament? What is the role of national parliaments in this? What happens to the British and French nuclear forces?

In any case, despite all the ambitions to create a European army, it still seems to be a long and complex way to remove the uncertainties and challenges that exist.