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A European Defense University, with which countries? For what purposes?

The Royal Military School could be the heart of this European defense university (credit: ERM)
The Royal Military School (Belgian) could be the heart of the European defense university advocated by Jean Marsia, who has just defended a thesis at ULB (credit: ERM)

(BRUSSELS2) How to deepen political Europe? With whom can we build Defense Europe? How to create a European esprit de corps? It is in some way these fundamental questions that Jean Marsia tackled. This former colonel in the Belgian army, and former advisor to Elio di Rupo (when he was Prime Minister), found an answer: the creation of a European Defense University. An ambitious project that he described in a thesis which has just been defended in Brussels (1). Here are some main elements

A political Europe still blocked

For the author, defense Europe is inseparable from political Europe. However, this is now blocked. “ The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1er December 2009, did not erase the failure, in 2005, of the Constitutional Treaty. In March 2012, I had the opportunity to point out to Herman Van Rompuy that the European Council had not discussed defense since 2005. » A new process has been put in place. It led the 28 heads of state and government of the European Union to set, in December 2013, an action plan and a new meeting in June 2015. " But last June, the European Council postponed the examination of defense issues to the second half of 2016. Political Europe and the Europe of defense at 28 are still blocked. »

Safely acquired security

Europe, as a whole, has significant resources. “ The 28 Member States of the European Union today have one and a half million military personnel ". But the reality is slightly different. " Only 80.000 soldiers, approximately 5%, can be used in external operations. Due to a lack of real military capabilities, these Member States cannot ensure our security. They, for the most part, appeal to NATO, that is to say the USA. This has allowed Member States to drastically reduce their defense effort, but it is still €200 billion per year, which is largely wasted: by spending more than half of the US defense budget, the Europeans do not get only a tenth of their military capabilities. »

Resume the integration process towards a United States of Europe

« Charles de Gaulle was right in 1953 to oppose the European Defense Community, and to demand a political Europe, capable of defining a European security policy, as a prerequisite for a European army. writes Jean Marsia. " Training soldiers, and especially officers, only makes sense if they are in the service of a political entity, to implement its security and defense policy. The development of the EDU must therefore follow, and not precede, the creation of the United States of Europe. These would relaunch political Europe and defense Europe, create the European army and found the European Defense University (EDU). »

A nucleus for a political Europe without France and the United Kingdom

« we must resume our process of political and military integration with a restricted core of Member States, which would constitute the United States of Europe » believes the author. Countries that do not place their sovereignty above everything else and do not have a privileged status “ From the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany demanded a deepening of political Europe, which France and the United Kingdom refused, given their status as permanent members of the UN Security Council. This privileged status closes the door to the United States of Europe »

With which Member States to create this nucleus?

The author then reviews the countries that could be part of this hard core and those that could not. “Six States, members of the euro zone are not members of NATO. Their neutrality also sets them aside. Finally, a common defense is primarily of interest to States with modest means, in terms of defense budget and industrial and technological base for defence. On the basis of these criteria, ten States are potentially members of the United States of Europe. These are: Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia. » BENELUX and the Baltic States should be thus “ the drivers of this initiative ". " A first nucleus could eventually absorb Spain, then Italy, then Germany. To join the United States of Europe, some member states of the European Union could adopt the euro or join NATO. The United States of Europe would eventually take over the French seat on the Security Council. This would allow France to join them. »

A European defense university to train and integrate the armed forces

To constitute " a credible European pillar of NATO, the United States of Europe will need military capabilities, but also a high-level industrial, technological and scientific base ". In this context, the creation of a European Defense University (EDU), responsible for training (or supplementing the training) of officers, would be a key element of the integration process. This university would start from the existing one with diversified functions, making it possible to compensate for a funding gap. “ To provide this training, the United States of Europe would bring together their defense universities within the EDU, to fulfill their three missions in a coordinated manner: to provide university training for command; research and perform services for third parties »

Rationalization of the existing system

In these periods of budgetary difficulty, the author also recommends a rationalization of existing systems. “ To reduce expenditures that do not create operational capabilities, other military institutions of higher education would be rationalized: European Union member states today have about 60 military schools and 40 defense colleges. Institutions that are not eligible for doctoral or even master's degrees would be removed or associated with EDU as colleges. »

…and a real European-style campus

As the EDU should eventually be able to orient, coordinate and manage multiple locations, dispersed throughout Europe, a model was selected after comparative analysis: The University of California, which has 10 high-level campuses, including Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego. »

A brotherhood of arms to be created

« The EDU would create, among the officers of the armed forces of the United States of Europe, the brotherhood of arms which will allow them to integrate, without cutting themselves off from their roots. Personnel, seconded by Member States to NATO, Eurocorps or the European Union General Staff, are loyal to the institution they serve. But it is his original corps which decides his future promotions and assignments. The armed forces of the United States of Europe should therefore be a European corps of officers, non-commissioned officers and volunteers. This requires common training that develops the leadership skills essential for an officer. »

Striving for excellence…

"To provide this training of officers, throughout life, the EDU should have a concept of training which tends to form the spirit, the body and the character of the pupils and trainees, so that the officers Europeans are able to maintain or restore peace, while preserving the lives of their soldiers as much as possible. This concept should consider the long term: it would not only be a question of training second lieutenants, but of future colonels and generals. Producing quality officers involves striving for scientific excellence. To achieve this, the EDU would be a space of freedom, intellectual debate, research and innovation, capable of promoting tolerance, equity and democracy. »

…and develop a European defense culture

“The EDU should be impartial, open to the civilian world and abroad, while developing European culture, citizenship and patriotism. (…) The EDU should contribute to the development of the European security and defense culture, as well as a military doctrine and a command style, adapted to European values ​​and the challenges of the 21st century. They would therefore be specific to the United States of Europe. »

(1) Thesis entitled “ From the Royal Military School of Belgium to a European Defense University. The key to European defence! » and supported, brilliantly, at the ULB (the Free University of Brussels), on September 7.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).