The European Commission President wrote an article in 2019 titled “Europe is forming an army” when she was still a Defence minister in Angela Merkel’s government. Ms von der Leyen argued that given the dangers facing Europe and the West today, the continent needs to be self-sufficient in defending itself, and can do so by closely integrating its military forces. She added in her article for Handelsblatt: “‘Europe has to build an army’, Wolfgang Clement wrote in this space yesterday. He’s right!
“Given the global environment, Europe needs to improve its ability to act on behalf of its own security. But he unfortunately failed to mention the progress we Europeans have made in the last few years.
“Europe’s army is already taking shape.
“Reforms in recent past months and years have brought our armed forces closer together.”
The German politician highlighted her country’s tight links with France and the Netherlands on defence.
She added: “Among European nations, Germany and France are the driving forces in defence.
“But the German army’s close cooperation with other European partners, especially with Dutch forces, has also proven effective in many missions, and illustrates how to do integration properly.”
Signing off, Ms von der Leyen appeared to hit out at the UK as she warned that even Brexit couldn’t scupper the EU’s plans.
She said: “We are making good progress. Despite Brexit, and the controversial debates we Europeans have among ourselves, Europe remains a unique creation, uniting half a billion citizens in the name of freedom and prosperity.
“This Europe must be able to defend itself.”
With the coronavirus posing new challenges to Europe as well as the rest of the world, Ms von der Leyen also argued that an EU Army could help in dealing with pandemics.
At a meeting in The Hague in April 2015, Ms von der Leyen referred to the Ebola outbreak as one example of where an EU Army would respond to “international crises”.
She said: “The European Army is our long-term goal, but first we have to strengthen the European Defence Union.
“The United States also wants us Europeans as a powerful force within NATO.
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“The Ebola crisis alone, or the attack of ISIS on the Yazidi has shown that Europe must be more flexible and have faster access anywhere in the world in the event of a crisis.
“Well-rehearsed structures within a European Defence Union could help to shorten coordination processes and speed up the help that is needed.”
She added: “All over Europe we will need to invest more if our alliances can reliably take responsibility.”
Ms von der Leyen also noted that such a project remained a long-term goal and would “probably only be something that my children would experience”.
This came after Mr Juncker had also expressed interest in an EU military force.
In March 2015, he said: “Such an army would help us to build a common foreign and security policy, as well as jointly assume the responsibilities of Europe in the world.
“A common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
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