Merkel backs Macron’s call for creation of European army

‘We must take our fate more decisively into our own hands,’ chancellor tells European Parliament

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech at European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech at European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

 

Angela Merkel has called for the creation of a European army, using a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to make a passionate appeal for closer defence co-operation between EU member states.

“We should work on the vision of one day creating a real European army,” the chancellor said, to boos from Eurosceptic MEPs and cheers from her political allies. “I’m saying this in full awareness of the developments of the last few years.”

Her speech came on the same day that US president Donald Trump reignited his row with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron for making a similar appeal, tweeting that France should “pay for NATO or not”.”

Dr Merkel has long argued that Mr Trump’s America First policy should force Europe to become more self-reliant – and she made that point again on Tuesday in arguing for much closer European co-operation in defence matters.

“The times when we could unconditionally rely on others are over,” she said. “And that means that, if we Europeans want to survive as a community, we must take our fate more decisively into our own hands.”

Her speech echoed an interview with Mr Macron last week, in which he also called for a “true European army”, saying Europe needed to defend itself without having to rely wholly on the US.

Having already attacked the French president about those comments ahead a visit to Paris at the weekend, the Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia, ” he wrote. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France?”

He continued: “They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for Nato or not!”

Defence ties

Dr Merkel praised efforts to create a European joint intervention force for military operations, as well as the “permanent structured co-operation” programme (Pesco), which is shaping up to be the EU’s most serious attempt yet at forging closer defence ties. The scheme involves 17 projects ranging from improving military logistics to developing a new infantry fighting vehicle.

But Dr Merkel went further on Tuesday, saying the EU should strive to create a proper European army, which would show the world “that there will never again be war between European countries”.

Addressing a concern among some US military leaders, Dr Merkel emphasised that such a common army would “not be aimed against Nato”, but would on the contrary, be a “good complement” to the north Atlantic alliance.

She said it would be “easier to co-operate with us” if Europe did not have 160 different weapons systems, and each country did not have its own “independent administration, support and training [procedures]”. “In this regard we are not an efficient partner,” she added.

She also said Europe needed to jointly develop weapons systems and create a common arms export policy. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018