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The European Commission President argues that NATO is not enough, and an EU army would convince Russia the bloc is serious about defending its values.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has asked for the creation of a European army to fight Russia and other threats.
"With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state," he commented in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, published on Sunday.
According to Juncker, NATO is not enough because not all members of the transatlantic defence alliance are in the EU, and such an army would restore the European Union's foreign policy standing and show it is serious about defending its values.
"A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries", Juncker told the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world."
The former prime minister of Luxembourg has voiced support for a European army before (in May 2014, he wrote about it in his twitter account), but he believed Russia's military action in Ukraine has made the case much more compelling.
MESSAGE TO RUSSIA
“You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag. “But a common army among Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
“Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously”, he added. Juncker also said he did not want a new force to challenge the role of NATO.
The EU already has battle groups that are manned on a rotational basis and meant to be available as a rapid reaction force. But they have never been used in a crisis, although EU leaders have said they want to boost the common security policy by improving rapid response capabilities.
But Britain and France, the two main military powers in the bloc, have been wary of giving a bigger military role to the EU, fearing it could undermine NATO.
A UK government spokesman said defence was a national responsibility and there was no prospect of a European army: "Our position is crystal clear that defence is a national, not an EU responsibility and that there is no prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European army."
On the other hand, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Juncker's proposal. "Our future as Europeans will at some point be with a European army," she told a German radio station, because such a move would “strengthen Europe’s security” and “strengthen a European pillar in the transatlantic alliance” but she also added that “not in the short term”.
Norbert Röttgen, head of the German parliament’s foreign policy committee, agreed with her, he stated that having an EU army was “a European vision whose time has come”.