Geoffrey Van Orden slams Juncker’s proposal for an EU army

“This relentless drive towards a European army must stop. For Eurocrats every crisis is seen as an opportunity to further the EU’s centralising objectives. However the EU’s defence ambitions are detrimental to our national interest, to Nato, and to the close alliances that Britain has with many countries outside the EU – not least the United States, Gulf allies, and many Commonwealth countries.” Van Orden also accused Juncker of living in a “fantasy world”. “If our nations faced a serious security threat, who would we want to rely on – Nato or the EU? The question answers itself,” he said.

The Guardian, 8 March 2015


Just like the single currency, creation of a single EU Army is seen by the Eurocrats as a key step in European integration. That’s its prime purpose. So it’s no surprise that Mr Juncker should now be pushing for this in the lead up to the June 2015 European Council.

Defence should not be an EU competence. However, the UK brake on EU involvement in defence was removed by Mr Blair at St Malo in 1998 when he agreed with France that the EU should develop an 'autonomous' military capability.  Much flowed from that declaration. Mr Blair wanted to raise his game in Europe and defence was his strongest card. It also played to long-standing French desires to separate European security from United States influence through NATO.

While contributing little of practical value, the EU placed its institutional footprint on an increasing range of defence-related activities, wastefully duplicating staff and structures already very well established at NATO. These included an EU Military Committee, an EU Military Staff, an intelligence assessment staff, and a European Defence College to promote an "EU defence culture". For the power-point presentations, there was also an impressive narrative of activity, including some 30 operational "CSDP missions". Most, however, were self-generated. Few stand up to scrutiny. And, as it happens, those that weren't mainly French operations were largely civilian.

As one top American General put it, "the EU installed the plumbing but there wasn't any water". It provided no additional military capabilities - not one additional warship, combat aircraft or soldier. Its lofty aim of 60,000 troops standing ready for dispatch on some imaginary EU-flagged military operation came to nothing. The successor concept of smaller and clearly misnamed 'EU battle groups', has yet to meet reality and identify a useful role.

Aware that naked pursuit of a European Army for political purposes might upset key powers such as Britain, the EU long sought alternative justifications for its ambitions. The latest has been the 'comprehensive approach' which enables it to claim some 'unique' amalgam of civil and military capabilities. But there is nothing original or exclusive about this concept - NATO ISAF in Afghanistan oversaw just such a wide range of capabilities.

The central fact is that the EU regards its defence policy as a political instrument - to intensify European integration in the most nationally sensitive sector and to enable the EU to become a global actor.

In NATO we already have a well-tried organisation for international consultation and military engagement by the Western democracies. The NATO alliance has the great advantage of ensuring that the United States and European allies are joined in response to crisis. NATO is inter-governmental and does not seek to take power from its members, and there is no reason why European allies should not take a lead when appropriate.

Most EU countries are also NATO members - yet another reason why it is ridiculous to create a duplicate organisation in Brussels. However, as the enveloping crises show, the European allies must improve their military capabilities, and be willing to use them. If, for some reason, it is not appropriate for NATO to be involved, then we have the option of our bi-lateral relationships or coalitions of the willing. The EU should focus on its civil and financial instruments and try at least to get these right.

There needs to be an urgent review of Britain's entanglement in EU defence and diplomatic policy.  We cannot sleep-walk into a situation where Britain's overseas profile is further diminished, NATO is split, and we have become an even less effective ally in a dangerous world where we need strong friends. I have led the opposition to EU meddling in defence. I continue to do all that I can to encourage the revitalisation of NATO and the strengthening of Britain's armed forces and defence industries - and to explain their multiple value to a wider audience.





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