Letter to the editor: 'Empty' EU army

Opinion piece (The Times)
23 November 2018

Sir, Gavin Williamson (report, Nov 20) need not worry about a European army, as the term is empty and misleading. European leaders are to blame: to score points in political campaigns (Macron) and boost their credentials as "good Europeans" (Merkel) they treat European defence as a symbol of EU integration rather than a policy field that requires urgent and pragmatic investment. 

This is irresponsible because no European leader has any intention of creating a supranational army. The German defence secretary clarified just last week that Berlin, like other capitals, does not plan on ever giving up national authority over troop deployments. The EU's ambition to be able to mount joint operations is neither new nor, so far, very successful: Europeans lack a shared threat perception and strategic culture. The French Intervention Initiative, set up outside of EU structures and with the UK, seeks to address these flaws. 

Recent EU projects can add value by integrating European defence markets and co-ordinating multinational procurement projects. This will require European leaders to commit money and political capital. To instead rehash, again and again, the debate about an EU-army is a cop-out.

Sophia Besch, research fellow, Centre for European Reform