The United Kingdom sagely blocked attempts by the European Union to develop an EU army at a recent EU Council meeting in Brussels. Long the dream of EU bureaucrats, an EU Army would undermine NATO, transatlantic cooperation, and, ultimately, European security.
British Prime Minister David Cameron made it very clear the U.K. would not allow any such plans to come to fruition: “It isn’t right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and the rest of it, and we need to get that demarcation correct between cooperation, which is right, [and] EU capabilities, which is wrong.”
The EU Council meeting was the first in five years to focus on defense and security issues. France, which has 1,600 troops to the Central African Republic, has been leading a push to bolster EU defense capabilities. However, as Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation rightly points out, creation of an EU army would undermine NATO and minimize the importance of the transatlantic relationship for regional security:
The consequences would be great: The U.S. would lose influence in European security matters, and NATO would become a second-tier priority for most European countries. Finally, it would mean an end to Europe being a serious security actor on the global stage.
In an environment where most European NATO member states struggle to put even minimal resources into defense budgets, and few hit the 2 percent threshold for defense spending, further segmenting limited resources would only undermine the NATO alliance.
According to news reports, David Cameron and the U.K. leadership correctly want to keep defense a competency under the purview of individual nation-states and not transfer it to an unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels:
We see NATO as the bedrock of our collective defence. Any EU action should be complementary to that, but not duplicating it. We should be very clear that defence is a member state competence and we don’t want to see an extension of EU action in this area.
Any attempt to create independent EU defense capabilities flies in the face of national sovereignty. It would undermine the NATO alliance, marginalize the transatlantic alliance, segment already scarce defense resources, and, ultimately, make the world less safe.
David Cameron and the U.K. were right to stand against plans to further integrate European defense under the auspices of the EU. Plans for an EU army have not been defeated; they have, however, for now, been put on ice.