The Security of Europe requires a European Army
Kangaroo Discussion Paper by Karl von Wogau
The intention of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is a severe setback for Europe. The Union loses nearly 20% of its GDP. Even more serious is the fact that weights within the European Union are being modified. Germany is moved further into a leadership role that it cannot handle alone.
In addition to this we have to cope with the new orientation of American politics by the newly elected President -Trump. A foreign policy clearly focused on the interests of the United States in a more visible way, using all the protectionist instruments at its disposal.
However, this development is at the same time an opportunity. More than in the past, Europe will have to stand on its own feet. As Europeans, we have to reflect on how to regain lost confidence, and to decide on what the European Union should look like without Great Britain.
Security and prosperity
As citizens of the European Union we expect from her contributions to our security and our prosperity. But prosperity can be generated only if, first of all, security is guaranteed. Therefore the Union ought to concentrate on two key priorities:
- Firstly, a common market with a common currency. This market should be organized according to the principles of a Social Market Economy. This implies the adherence to a framework of rules (Ordnungspolitik)as developed by theFreiburg School of Economics. These rules concern the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, competition laws, as well as laws pertaining to the protection of workers, consumers, health, and environment.
- Secondly, a common foreign and defense policy including a common army. As a next step permanent structures have to be set up to enable armed forces of the states of the European Union to run common operations with procedures for their preparation which are less time-consuming and more efficient.Concerning the future development of EU 27the principle of subsidiarity must be applied in a more consistent way. Responsibility for tasks that can be provided equally well by the member states should lay with them.
Internal and external borders
The European Internal Market is one of the most undisputable achievements of the European Union. The abolition of border controls between the Member States was one of the most successful operations ever against red tape. Millions of customs documents have become obsolete by this program.
The most important part of the internal market program is the abolition of border controls between Member States. But this is only possible with the prerequisite of an effective protection at the external borders. Undoubtedly, the refugee crisis has shown that the Member States at the periphery of the Union are not strong enough to provide this protection. Therefore, it will be necessary to transfer the responsibility for the protection of the external borders to the European Union. As the next step the newly established European Border and Coast Guard must be further strengthened.
As already mentioned above, the economic framework of the European Union should be organized according to the principles of a Social Market Economy.
The rules of competition of the European Union and the basic principles of the European Internal Market have been designed in terms compatible with the ideas of the Social Market Economy. Today, the Directorate General for Competition is one of the most powerful institutions of the European Union. Moreover, we succeeded to anchor the notion of the Social Market Economy within the European treaties.Unfortunately the term is often misunderstood, not only in Germany, but also abroad. This becomes obvious when it is referred to as "Rhineland Capitalism".
Again and againthe proposal is made by French governments to set up a "European Economic Government" for the Eurozone as a counterpart of the European Commission. Yet, one of the main tasks of government is to provide the framework for the economy. In this sense, the European Commission is the Economic Government of the European Union, and the establishment of an additional institution with the same tasks would certainly not be useful.
The proposal to nominate a "European Minister of Finance" is equally nonsensical. A Finance Minister who does not dispose of his own budget and who is not anchored in one of the existing institutions would be like a general without troops, facing a sad and lonely destiny.
The Euro has overcome its first challenges. It should be noted that the US mortgage crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers have not been caused by the Euro. Rather the common currency has contributed to the solution of these crises. In connection with the financial crisis in Greece we have ignored the only reasonable debt brake, namely the rule that each country remains responsible for its own debt, a rule whose breach cannot be contributed to the Euro but is due to political considerations.
The Euro has become a success story.Ignoring the prophesies of bearded German augurs, the average inflation rate since its introduction has remained below two percent. This is lower than the average inflation rate of the former Deutsche Mark. In addition to this, the Euro has become the second strongest reserve currency of the world.
However, further challenges lay ahead if the American and, following suit, the European Central Bank should raise their interest rates, a development that is expected by many financial experts Such a move would most likely lead not only to a slowdown of economic activity, but also to a considerable burden on public finances.
The real problem of the Euro lies in a very different field. In the long term a monetary union is only viable if it is embedded in a political union. But a political union does not consist in harmonizing everything. Its center piece should be a common foreign and defence policy.
Only when Europe speaks with one voice, will it be able to defend its global interests in an effective way.
Common Foreign and Defence Policy
Concerningthe Common Foreign and Defence policy, we must first of all arrive in the real world. As Zbigniew Brzezinski rightly points out in his “Grand Chessboard”, we are a protectorate of the United States of America as far as our security is concerned. Without the protection of the United States our security could not be ensured today.
But a glance at history shows that a rich continent, which entrusts its security to others, lives in a dangerous way.
Since the beginning of this century, instruments were set up in order to define and to defend Europe's foreign and defence policy interests. This includes the European External Action Service, currently led by Federica Mogherini, the European Defence Agency, the European Border and Coast Guard as well as the structures of the European Security and Defence Policy. Parliamentary scrutiny is provided by the Defense Subcommittee of the European Parliament.
The missions which have been carried out within this framework, were mostly of a more political rather than military nature. Examples are the observer mission in Georgia, fighting pirates at the Horn of Africa, the protection of refugee camps in Chad and providing security for elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These were missions, in which the United States were not interested. They were therefore no duplication, but a complement to NATO.
The Member Countries of the EU 27 spend about EUR 150 billion per year for defense. This is about a quarter of the military spending of the United States. Again and again and most recently at the Munich conference the US repeats the requirement that all members of the Alliance must spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence.
However, the real problem is not the amount of the contribution, far more critical is the manner in which the money is spent. A disproportionately large share of the European contribution is used for structures which are provided not just once, but twenty-seven times.
In the present situation we must focus with priority on better spending taxpayers money in the area of defence. The security and defence policy of the European Union must be further developed to become the European pillar and a part of NATO.
Structures which already exist, as for example the Eurocorps in Strasbourg, should be used for this endeavor. Together with the French-German brigade, this should be further developed to become an effective instrument and a symbol of the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union. That would be a first step on the way to a future European Army.
A consistent application of the principle of subsidiarity leads to the conclusion that expenses for our security must be borne by the European budget. An important step in this direction is the funding of defence research which has been approved by the European Parliament on the initiative of Michael Gahler MEP in October 2016.In general it is reasonable to concentrate the budget of the European Union on big projects as for example the European infrastructures in the area of transport, energy, and satellite-based services.
Relevance of institutions
In connection withthe crises of recent years, the role of the European institutions has been weakened. The European Treaties which are the Fundamental Law of the European Union have been ignored when it seemed to be politically suitable. Depending on the requirements of the day they were applied in a discretionary manner. If we want to keep alive the peace-preserving basic structure of the European Union Europe should not be left to the whims of the political day-to-day business of the Member States. It would be an illusion to believe that in the long term it is possible to govern Europe from Berlin. Germany and France can only exercise their leadership role if they do it together. Moreover, the small and medium-sized Member States must be adequately involved in the decision making process.
The new voting system of the Council of the European Union is a well suitable tool for this purpose. It is more democratic than other voting systems of this type since it requires not only a majority of the states but also a majority of the population of the Member Countries.
Taking into account the principle of subsidiarity, the European Union should set itself the following priorities:
Secure external borders, open internal borders, a strong Euro and a Common Foreign and Defence Policy including the buildup of a European Army.
The author is an Honorary Member of the European Parliament and Secretary-General of the Kangaroo Group.
This essay was first published in German by the Ludwig-Erhard-Stiftung,Orientierungen, February 21st, 2017