In a speech in the EU parliament on July 5th 2016, Guy Verhofstadt among
other things suggested the need for an EU army, in this article I wonder
whether this really is such a good idea.
In a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday 5th July 2016, former Belgian Prime Minister and current Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in which he slammed the European Council for its failure to respond to the Brexit result in the UK. Verhofstadt complained that if nothing was done, Brexit could easily trigger 27 more referenda across all the EU states.
His conclusion was that EU citizens "were not against Europe but against THIS Europe" and that Europe needed to be rethought. To back up his argument he cited a European barometer study that had been published in April which revealed that "82% want more European action on the fight against terrorism, 77% want more EU action in the fight against unemployment, 75% want more action in the fight against tax fraud, 74% want more action on the issue of migration. In 14 out of the 15 questions put in the Europe barameter people are asking for more Europe not less."
He then suggested that people want "a European coastguard, a European migration policy to tackle the migration crisis, a European capacity in intelligence to tackle terrorism, a European government to defend the Euro and to have a European army to defend our borders."
It's pretty clear that Brexit has placed Europe at a crossroads and whilst many of Verhofstadt's proposals sound perfectly reasonable, the idea of a European army somehow sticks in the gut.
We already have NATO, which is an alliance of sovereign states, so it really is a little disturbing to think that there might be an army in the hands of European technocrats, who are already being criticised for their lack of democratic transparency, and begs the questions "Who would control the EU army and where would its soldiers come from?"
In the Brexit campaign, it was a commonly voiced complaint that the European superstate is already at the mercy of Germany's interests so its not surprising that the idea of an EU army causes a large amount of suspicion. EU policies have long favoured Germany in its long standing rivalry with Russia, and one wonders whether its unification after the fall of the Berlin Wall was such a good idea after all.
The gradual inclusion of the Baltic and Eastern European states into the EU directly took territory out of Russian influence and as the Great Bear was wounded at the time, it could do little about it. People often talk about the EU as the guardian of peace in Europe but forget about the war in Yugoslavia, which in many ways was provoked by the EU's insistence in recognising Croatia thus provoking the ire of the more Soviet-influenced Serbia.
The recent attempt to bring the Ukraine under European influence nearly caused a full scale war, as Russia under Putin has recovered much of its power and pride. Obviously the initiative was also influence and backed by American foreign policy, but I can't help thinking that much of what happened just echoes the long standing rivalry between German and Russia in central Europe.
Both dominate a large number of other countries and also want to control the buffer zone between them. This is an obvious source of potential conflict and, speaking as a Brit, Lebensraum is just not my cup of tea.
I can perfectly understand why the UK wants to keep out of this but, as a resident of Spain, I can also see the attraction of greater political union. However, until there is more democratic transparency and checks on decisions that would affect all member states, we really have to ask ourselves the question "Is an EU army really such a good idea?"