Public Affairs Networking
10/03 – Mixed reception for Juncker’s EU Army proposal

Most European media, notably in Germany, comment on the EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal to create a European army, to, among other things, “show Russia that we are serious when it comes to defending the European Union values,” with some media, notably Rzeczepospolita and L’Humanité continuing to quote Mr Juncker in his interview published in Sunday’s Welt am Sonntag.

Diário de Notícias in Portugal reports that Germany is one of the few supporters in Europe of the creation of a European army. Most media write that most member states are sceptical, notably the United Kingdom, which claimed that defence issues are not an EU prerogative, and Central and East European countries seem to be more interested in strengthening NATO. Standart Daily in Bulgaria quotes European Commission Chief Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas stating that thanks to a common security policy and army, the EU would be able to save some €120 billion a year, and EC Deputy Chief Spokesperson Mina Andreeva stating that the EU is likely to consider the issue at the June summit.

Some Chinese media report that China supports Mr Juncker’s idea and comment on the Russian reaction. China National Radio refers to Russia stating that the establishment of a European military can only play a defiant role, but cannot guarantee Europe’s safety. Passauer Neue Presse, as well as Lidové Noviny and Diário de Notícias, positively comment on Juncker’s idea, nevertheless demonstrating that it is not viable. Passauer Neue Presse’s Andreas Herholz argues that this announcement was born out of necessity.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, quoted in HS, calls Mr Juncker’s statements a welcome boost to speed up the European debate on the EU’s common foreign and security policy, adding that Mr Juncker’s statement is rather about the EU’s ability to show its readiness to defend common values than the creation of a common EU army. Lidové noviny’s Zbyněk Petráček maintains it is a nice idea but nothing concrete will come out of it. But most media criticise and argue against the idea claiming that without a full political union, a common army has no chance of becoming a credible force. So long as fierce national rivalries exist at the heart of policy-making, a common army would quickly find itself reduced to a state of impotence if required to deal with any threat to an EU state.

Bernard Bernarding asks in Saarbrucker Zeitung how the EU, which cannot even find common ground regarding a harmonious economic and tax policy, would go about organising a united foreign and security policy. Diário de Notícias writes that EU member states currently don’t spend enough on defence, and insufficiently for a European army. Two editorials in The Daily Telegraph add that a European army would undermine the NATO alliance, competing with its army. FAZ and Politiken in Denmark comment that Juncker should try to strengthen NATO, which would be far more efficient in response to Russia’s behaviour.

The Irish Times writes that with 22 of the EU’s 28 member states already belonging to NATO, and with neutrals such as Ireland, Austria and Sweden unwilling to contemplate commitment to mutual defence obligations, the EC President will have difficulties demonstrating what added value a European army could bring and finding a consensus for his project. ©europeanunion2015

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