Germany’s Justice Minister Wants a European Army led by the Parliament
Katarina Barley, Germany’s Justice minister and lead candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the European election, called for better military cooperation in the EU. In an interview with POLITICO, Barley said that in order for a European army to work, the control needs to be handed over to the European Parliament.
One of the more pressing debates in the European Parliament has been the status of a so-called European army. While calls for such an army have been coming from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for years, very little work has been done on the matter. No details were ever provided on what the common characteristics of the army would be or how its chain of command would look like.
Despite recently being echoed by both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the topic gained the most traction when a German MP reignited the discussion
Katarina Barley, a prominent member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany and its lead candidate for the upcoming European election, recently told POLITICO in an interview that she had ideas on how to make a European army actually work.
Barley, who currently serves as Germany’s justice minister, said that she would “insist” that a European army “be bound to the vote of the European Parliament.”
“In German we call this a Parlamentsarmee,” she said, referring to the system whereby no German soldier can be deployed without the Bundestag’s consent. She noted that establishing a structure like that within the EU would require creating a proper defense committee in the European Parliament.
“We are ready for the next step, eyeing a European army. A European commissioner for defense, a directorate general for defense and European military headquarters would be feasible steps towards this aim of a common European army,” Barley said.
However, she warned about the dangers of getting the sequencing of such a large project wrong. Starting with a Directorate-General for defense shouldn’t be the first step, she said, urging the EU to “take a substantial decision in which direction we want to move” first.
Building on the experience of military cooperation between European countries is vital for the project, Barley said, alluding to the Franco-German brigades and Dutch-German tank battalions. Projects that converge military capabilities of EU member countries such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defense Fund (EDF) should serve as a model of what the future European army should look like, she told POLITICO.
For Barley, a European Union army is also a way to reconcile the electorate with the military. “One of the main benefits of the European Union is peace,” she said, adding that “a common European army would be the ultimate step to ensure that Europeans never wage wars against each other again.”
While calls for a European army are everything but noteworthy, Barley’s interview came as a surprise for many. The Social Democratic Party has never been a proponent of the military, both German and international. In 2017, the party campaigned heavily against raising defense spending to 2 percent and called for the army to be banned from visiting schools in Germany just last month.
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