Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

The non-subject of the European army

Jens Stoltenberg's team (left) and Michael Fallon's team (right) defining their "media" lines, almost side by side (© NGV / B2)
Jens Stoltenberg's team (left) and Michael Fallon's team (right) defining their “media” lines, almost side by side (© NGV / B2)

(BRUSSELS2 in Bratislava) Everyone is talking about it, the word is on everyone's lips... “So the European army? It's for tomorrow ? How many divisions? Which country ? ", etc.

A vast smokehouse

In fact, the only subject that was not discussed in Bratislava (and never really in a European meeting) was this: the European Army never existed other than in fantasy. of a few Britons struggling to survive. In Bratislava, we talked about much more concrete subjects (and to be honest, almost boring...): European industry, incentives to better cooperate together, research budget, development of an autonomous Union HQ to carry out its own missions and operations around the world, battlegroup reform, etc. It's a lot less sexy!

British talent

This is the talent of the British: inventing a subject that is not put on the table to be sure of being able to oppose it without fear of being contradicted. The British Defense Minister, Michael Fallon, had already made a first media shot in an interview given to my colleagues at The Times a few days ago, during the European Council in Bratislava. It was shocking. He reiterated again today upon his arrival at the informal meeting of ministers.

« We will continue to oppose the idea of ​​a European army or a European HQ because it [amounts to] undermining NATO. [NATO] must remain the cornerstone of our defense and the defense of Europe. (Michael Fallon)

Media genius! Because, suddenly, it goes off in a rocket. This fills the gazettes, even the most serious ones. The headlines keep coming in the media, in all languages. “ Italy lays out 'vision' of EU army »Comments EU Observe , who are " Diskussion über EU-Army » continues the Austrian radio. What is your opinion on the European army, a Slovak journalist asks 'his' minister, Peter Gajdoš. Etc. It looks like it! Claiming that there was a discussion about a European army is a bit of false advertising. But it does not matter. It makes sales, it makes people click…

At the end of the meeting, the High Representative of the Union, Federica Mogherini, tried to calm things down: “ I have not heard anyone mention the word veto, no one mention the term blocking, no one mention the European army ". This is the strict reality. Because, according to the information collected by B2, the Briton, all fired up outside, became, inside the meeting, gentle, almost consensual, detailing how important British commitment is in NATO (in the east) but also in the EU (as part of Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean) or at the national level (by achieving the objective of 2 % of GDP spent on defense spending, which few countries meet).

The issue for the British is, in fact, quite different from what is said “out door“. It is not the so-called European army that London intends to counter. It is, on the contrary, to remain associated, as closely as possible, with all developments in the European Union in terms of defense, even after Brexit, whether to continue participating in defense research projects and even operations…

The whole meaning of Michael Fallon's word 'veto' is more like: “Hep guys (& girls), don't leave without me. Eh. Don’t let me down!” Of course, saying that for a Brit is a little less easy than puffing out your chest.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: The 10 myths that plague European defense

And for those who want to know how to have a more concrete vision: European defence: what we can do…together

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).