The idea of a common defense policy for Europe dates back to 1948, when the UK, France and Benelux signed the Treaty of Brussels. The agreement included the creation of the Western European Union, which was, along with NATO, the principal forum for security and defence in Europe. More recently, in 2003, the former High Representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, Javier Solana, announced a Security Strategy for Europe. The document named as “A Secure Europe in a Better World” treated EU’s security environment for the first time and identified key security challenges and subsequent political implications for the Union, as well as a need for a commonly accepted strategic culture. Moreover, in 2016, Mogherini presented the “Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy” a comprehensive package of measures for security and defence. However, nowadays, it is crucial that a question be answered: how realistic would the creation of an independent European Army be?
To answer this question, we must bear in mind that in the recent decades NATO has the monopoly of security and defence. NATO’s purpose is, through its policies, to guarantee the freedom and security of its community. The funding of this Organization comes from Member States, who make direct and indirect contributions to cover NATO expenses. In this part, the United States have a major role, as the state burdened with the majority of NATO’s budget, as well as, for the most part, the realization of tactical operations and contribution in terms of military technology. On the contrary, the financial participation of the EU remains in low levels, indicating an intent to invest in other sectors, such as the development of trade, the promotion of economic growth and competitiveness, the amelioration of employment rates and the enhancement of EU cohesion and expansion. Consequently, even the total reduction of these expenses would not suffice to fund the management of serious crises, such as the refugee problem.
Furthermore, in the modern multipolar world we can observe several emerging powers, with the possibility of revisionist tendencies, as well as the diversification of the notion of security itself. The emerging power of China and its unknown intentions for the years to come, the unpredictability of terrorism and cyber attacks or the energy supply stability, used from Russia as a bargaining tool are some of them. As we know, Europe relies on NATO’s protection and its defense forces are negligible. The best way to explain this, would be to look back on the Yugoslav crisis. Τhe failure of Europeans to face the war, without NATO, especially after the declaration of 1991 that “the common foreign defence policy has been created” , demonstrated that the EU was able to supervise peace, but not to impose peace. Europe’s eventually resorting to NATO proved that Europeans couldn’t agree to a common foreign defence policy for the prevention of a crisis on European territory, let alone act as a security provider overseas.
Apart from the lack of policy cohesion and tactical organization, the EU defense mechanism, either existing or to be developed in the future, also presents the serious impediment of irreconcilable national strategies and incompatible weapon systems, due to the independence of each national defense industry. In a world full of uncertainty and economic interdependence already and unavoidably in an asphyxiating level, what kind of a national policy maker would willingly give up a nation’s last stronghold of sovereignty? But apart from this, the nations have contrasting strategic cultures, as an aftermath of different historical background, threats, ambitions and national enemies. Even if the states tend to cooperate in order to face a common enemy, national interests always come first. Besides, various realism scholars in international relations theory, such as John J. Mearsheimer, have underlined the perseverance of national over common goals. Thus, the balance of those conflicting national strategies can only be viable through a preexisting means of cooperation, already proven functional and capable, while the dissolution of an already effective system and its substitution by the construction of a completely theoretical structure is, if anything, futile and dangerously utopic.
To reach a conclusion, the creation of a European Army is a complex procedure, which needs time, money and structures currently inexistent. Traditionally, the EU uses soft power to deal with external threats and promote common interests and aspirations. So why change that strategy, literally bleeding the European Funds, in order to use hard power? And moreover, why insist doing so when every tangible proof points towards the insufficiency of a solely European defense? According to a strictly scientific cost-benefit analysis, it is in the Union’s best interest that we encourage the development of cooperation between the EU and NATO, with each organization doing what they are best at, rather than attempting to create an independent army jeopardizing each and every one of its glorious achievements so far. At the moment, however, it would seem that the EU’s greatest threat is the EU itself.