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Issue 2018/02

One Europe – One Army? On the Value of Military Integration

On November 11, 1918, the First World War came to an end. As France’s President Emmanuel Macron explained in a speech marking the centenary of the Armistice, this historic date forms an important point of reference for the European peace project. Shortly before the commemorations in Paris, he had once again called for the formation of a European army. 

The idea of a European army is not new. Although the renewed initiative is vague on details, one thing is certain: The European Union is in difficult straits as far as security policy is concerned. It is now going beyond previous forms and institutions of military cooperation, and taking concrete steps to prepare for a future that is perceived as increasingly insecure. One significant measure was the decision in November 2017 to establish Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defense. 

This instrument, with a current total of 34 projects, is clearly not the “big breakthrough” Macron hopes for. Nevertheless, some politicians see PESCO as a prelude to a European security and defense union. At least in the long term, so it is said, this will and indeed must lead to a common army. For all sorts of reasons, critics regard this scenario as being unrealistic and hardly desirable. 

This edition of the e-journal attempts to reflect critically on the situation. Our authors and interviewees give their views on key issues in peace ethics and security policy: What characterizes the EU as a “community of values,” and what standards should the Union hold itself to, if the commitment to respect human rights, democracy, peace, the rule of law and tolerance is to remain meaningful? Does the establishment of common military structures imply a departure from the “peace power” model? Faced with right-wing populism and forces threatening its very existence, should the EU rely on the unifying effect of a security promise, instead of lending new plausibility to Europe’s founding values?

Back in the 1950s, efforts to form a European army made good progress, but ultimately failed because of French opposition. Today, the question again arises of what obstacles stand in the project’s way. Aren’t NATO and a European army mutually exclusive? Will the military cooperation that already exists, and is now being intensified in many individual projects, exert an irresistible pull that nobody can escape? Or is this another case of taking the second step before the first – i.e. is the Union once again creating a common instrument without first agreeing on a common strategic orientation? And what new conflict potential does this bring, both for internal relations and externally, for instance toward Russia in particular?

Last but not least, it is of course important to consider military personnel themselves, who are already involved in a wide range of European partnerships. This issue’s special feature looks at the question of how far the German model of the citizen in uniform can be “translated” into the different military cultures and traditions. 

The editorial team would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of this edition. I hope you will enjoy reading it and find useful insights into the question of how Europe should stand up for itself in the future, and what it should stand for.

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Veronika Bock

Director of zebis

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