Does the EU need a strong military force?
By Joe Harker
French president Emmanuel Macron has called for the European Union to have a proper army of its own so it can ward off the threat of Russia. Claiming that the EU cannot protected without a "true European army", Macron is the strongest voice in European politics to call for a standing army for the political organisation.
Other European leaders back a joint intervention force for times of crisis, proposed by Macron earlier in the year. Leaders from Germany and the UK voiced their support for the idea, but are wary about a standing army for the EU. The UK in particular is concerned that an EU army would undermine NATO as many EU countries are already signed up to the alliance.
Macron warned that Europe can no longer rely on the US for help and even suggested they could be a potential issue for Europeans in the future. He said: "We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.
"Who is the main victim? Europe and its security. I want to build a real security dialogue with Russia, which is a country I respect, a European country - but we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States."
Any sort of European army would need a joint command structure to link the armies of a number of nations. While many of them are part of NATO and would be required to fight together if one member was attacked they are under separate commands and getting them to work together during a crisis period could be difficult. This essentially means countries turning over their troops to an organisation they don't have full control over, a difficult prospect for many.
Outside of Macron's desires there appears to be little political will for a joint EU army. For EU countries to hand over the decision to put their troops in harms way would be a line many fear to cross. While almost all of the member states are willing to hand over some power and control to the EU in return for economic and collaborative benefits ceding the decision to send troops into a warzone is too much for many.
To honour alliances and choose to go to war to support a nation you have a treaty with is one thing, to have the decision made for you is quite another thing altogether. How many nations will be willing to let the EU decide where their soldiers are sent?
However, Reuters reports that the European Commission believes an EU army will be formed one day. The growing threat of Russia and the lack of reliability of the US as an ally could increase the pressure on Europe until a number of nations agree to something they would otherwise consider unthinkable.
For decades Europe has trusted in US backing in military matters, now they are having to contemplate standing alone. Will other national leaders come round to Macron's way of thinking?