Donald Trump’s victory, as well as Brexit, ought to speed up plans for EU defence integration, Germany has said.
“Europe needs common political will for more security policy relevance. The outcome of the election in America could provide an additional impetus”, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an opinion article in the Rheinische Post, a German newspaper, on Thursday (10 November).
“The Brexit decision and the election in the United States have set a new course” for the EU, she added.
She said it was “difficult for Germany and Europe, on the day after the election, to assess what to expect from a Trump presidency”.
She predicted the US would initially turn inward “to heal the tremendous internal turmoil in the country” that arose from Trump’s divisive campaign.
She said EU security would depend on Nato and the US, but Trump’s victory meant that Europe, and Germany as “a great nation in the centre of Europe”, would have to be “more self-reliant on security issues”.
Von der Leyen spoke of “building a common security and defence organisation” that would stabilise African and Middle East countries so that fewer refugees came to Europe.
Speaking the same day in Brussels, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief and a former Italian diplomat, echoed the German minister.
“It’s starting to be clear to everyone that we can only succeed in providing security to our citizens if we work together as a true union, with the full potential of a superpower, in the field of security and defence”, Mogherini said in a speech at the European Defence Agency (EDA), a branch of the EU foreign service.
She said Nato was “the cornerstone of our collective defence”, but the EU should have “strategic autonomy”.
EU foreign ministers will discuss Trump’s victory at a special dinner, called by Germany, in Brussels on Sunday.
France, Germany, Italy, and Spain already called for an EU defence union in October in reaction to the Brexit vote.
“To be clear: an ‘EU army’ is not our objective,” they said at the time.
Italy and Germany do want an EU “army”, according to separate Italian proposals, and according to France, however.
Italy, in September, called for a “joint permanent European Multinational Force” that would pave the way for “a future European integrated force”.
French finance minister Michel Sapin, speaking at the Tatra summit, a conference in Bratislava last month organised by the Globsec think tank, said: “This is something that is very close to the Germans’ heart – they would like to create a European army”.
Von der Leyen, in her Rheinische Post article, mentioned Africa and the Middle East, but other German politicians have said EU military integration was also needed to deter Russian aggression.
“His [Trump’s] attitude is definitely a threat to the capacity of the West to stand up to an aggressive and nationalist Russia,” Norbert Roettgen, a senior MP in Germany’s ruling CDU party, told the Financial Times, a British newspaper, this week.
Restraint too far
Speaking at a security conference in Munich in 2015, German president Joachim Gauck noted a shift in thinking well before Brexit and Trump.
He said Germany should play a more forceful role abroad despite its World War II past.
“While there are genuine pacifists in Germany, there are also people who use Germany’s guilt for its past as a shield for laziness or a desire to disengage from the world,” he said.
“This [guilt] gives Germany a questionable right to look the other way … Restraint can be taken too far”, he said.
Full article: Germany: Trump victory to spur EU military union (EUobserver)