No European country can any more afford to conduct military operations on its own. There is no alternative to a common defence policy. As well, isolation will lead to the end of our so old (and beloved) Nations. Opinions from a continental european.
Eurocorps: avant-garde of a European army?
After a post on Mr Westerwelle’s statement on a European Army, I think interesting to have a quick look on Eurocorps.
I will not come back to the history of this headquarters and the debate over its military capabilities. The focus will be put on its political relevance.
A major issue of European Defence is its ability to remain as neutral as possible in the midst of the various and sometimes opposing national interests of European countries, that we face, even in the official statements on a common decision (you can refer to my precedent post on the WEU –ESDA). To come back to neutrality, I do not mean neutrality during an operation, or in other words passivity in front of the opposing parties. This neutrality is a positive one, which can be understood as objectivity of the action as for the national goals of the participating parties refers.
Indeed, most of the current so to say multinational units are in fact national units with an international flavour. All of them are designed to keep the capability to set up a purely national headquarters and to lead an operation, even if one or the other participating nation withdraws for an operation. For instance, at the ARRC (Allied Rapid Reaction Corps) the commander and the chief of staff will always remain British officers five of the eight branch chiefs are Brits, a sixth one being an American officer. In contrary, in Eurocorps, the responsibilities as well as the burden, is fully shared between France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg (in the order of the contribution) and very soon Poland.
In contrary, Eurocorps owns a unique structure in which the different nations are completely interwoven. You can see on Eurocorps website (here). This confidence mechanism prevents any single nation to confiscate the use of the force for its own purpose. One could say that such a system hinders dramatically the efficiency of a force a makes it unusable in real war. May be. However, I do not think if we really can choice. None of the European Nations is currently able to take the lead on behalf of the others. The example of the Napoleonic wars, where France owned the exclusive leadership within the ‘Grande Armée’, or the example of WWII, when the Wehrmacht was leading alone the units provided by their allies in the campaign against the Soviet Union is definitely over.
The cuts in Defence expenditures of our countries are a good illustration that the ‘Splendid isolation’ or the ‘Great nation’ syndromes should belong to the past.At least, this is the opinion of the European Parliament that our Nations (with the significant exception of Great Britain) claim to reinforce, by disbanding the WEU assembly. Mr Kuhne, then Member of the European Parliament (Germany- SPD), proposed in a resolution on ESDP, “to place Eurocorps as a standing force under EU command and invites all Member States to Contribute to it”.
This proposition was passed with a very large majority of 500 votes on 5th June (here). This peculiar point on Eurocorps was not a matter of discussion. When referring to Mr Kuhne on the German position on this matter of a European army, at that time, Mr von Wogau(Germany- CDU) was the chairman of the subcommittee for Defence and Security.
Already at that time, German views on a potential European Army where not so much different than today.
Therefore I would say, may it please or not, at least in the minds of our German allies, there will be a European Army, and Eurocorps will play a role.