EU president the former German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen says: Europe needs ‘credible military capabilities’

In a key speech the EU president von der Leyen made a pitch for an EU Army

In a key speech the EU president von der Leyen made a pitch for an EU Army

Von der Leyen said: The EU is a master of rebuilding but must develop hard power — “credible military capabilities” — to influence world events, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

She stressed that these capabilities will be complementary to NATO and “different.”

“We must also do more when it comes to managing crises as they develop,” von der Leyen said in a keynote speech at the annual gathering of billionaires and business titans in Switzerland. “And for that, Europe also needs credible military capabilities and we have set up the building blocks of the European Defence Union. It is complementary to NATO and it is different.”

She added, “There is a European way to foreign policy and foreign security policy where hard power is an important tool — without any question — but is never the only one.”

Von der Leyen, who was German defence minister before being tapped for the European Union’s top job last June, has previously endorsed the concept of an “EU army” — at least as a sort of rhetorical call for improving the bloc’s collective military and defence capabilities, if not a literal expectation of soldiers in EU uniforms. But the early days of her Commission, with flare-ups of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, have only highlighted the EU’s limited capabilities and influence.

The Myth of the EU being founded in peace is really slipping

Earlier this week the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested an EU military mission to protect cease-fire in Libya. The EU should consider sending troops to Libya to enforce a cease-fire in the North African country, the blocs’s foreign policy chief said.

“If there is a cease-fire in Libya, then the EU must be prepared to help implement and monitor this cease-fire — possibly also with soldiers, for example as part of an EU mission,” Josep Borrell told German weekly Spiegel in an interview published Friday.

Turkey’s president Erdogan called for EU support for Turkish military aid. Head of state Erdogan wants the EU to work with Turkey in Libya. Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for the North African country is demanding the withdrawal of all international fighters.

Shortly before the planned Libya conference in Berlin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the European Union to stand behind Turkish military aid for the government in Libya. “Given that Europe is less interested in military aid to Libya, the obvious option would be to work with Turkey, which is already providing military aid,” Erdogan wrote in a guest post for the Politico news and debate portal.

Both Merkel and Macron joined forces last November in calling for EU army to complement NATO. German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed the creation of an EU army, siding with French President Emmanuel Macron whose similar call drew a fusillade of wrathful tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump.

In response to Macron’s call for a “true European army,” Trump wrote on Twitter: “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

Merkel threw her support behind the idea in an address to the European Parliament, part of a series of leaders’ speeches on the future of Europe.

Von der Leyen: ‘Europe must learn the language of power’

“Soft power” will no longer be enough if the EU wants to assert itself on the world stage, the incoming EU Commission head said. Ursula von der Leyen added that Brexit has “strengthened” unity within the bloc.

The European Union needs to take a more active role in global politics if it wants to protect its interests, incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

“Europe must also learn the language of power,” von der Leyen said during a speech on European policy in Berlin.

“On the one hand, this means building our own muscles [in areas] where we’ve long been relying on others — for example in security policies,” the former German defense minister said. “That also means applying our existing power in a more targeted way in areas where European interests are concerned.”

In the future, she added, the EU’s partners should expect stronger positions from the bloc as the former strategy of exercising “soft power” is no longer enough in today’s world.

Von der Leyen’s remarks in the German capital came on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. They also come a day after Germany’s current defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, called for Germany to play a more active military role in the world. LINK

For some an EU Army is a very frighting prospect never mind a re-militarised Germany.

In her speech on Wednesday, von der Leyen acknowledged that the EU had at times been caught flat-footed in responding to geopolitical conflicts, and even conceded that EU countries have at times been too divided on foreign policy, particularly in the case of the civil war in Libya.

“This is about Europe shaping its own future,” von der Leyen said. “But to be more assertive in the world, we know we must step up in some fields. Recent events have exposed where we have to do more. Libya shows the cost of division and hesitation.

“It takes very little power to break a fragile balance, but the true power lies in putting the pieces back together again,” she said. “During the last decade, Europeans learnt the importance of a stable neighbourhood. From Ukraine to the shores of the Mediterranean, from the Western Balkans to the Sahel, we have learnt the importance to invest more in long-term stability and to prevent crises. This is where Europe can make a real difference.”

She continued, “We are the largest donor for development cooperation — in fact, we invest in this more than the rest of the world combined.” But, noting that it was not enough, she then made her pitch for “credible military capabilities.”

The U.S. has often pushed back against EU defence initiatives by warning that they could overlap with the responsibilities of NATO and create redundancies. Washington’s concerns, in turn, often prompt hesitation on the part of some EU countries, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, where capitals rely most heavily on the U.S. for security against Russia.

In her speech, von der Leyen said the EU, while aspiring to greater military strength, would still put a premium on its soft-power expertise. “Hard power always comes with diplomacy and conflict prevention,” she said. “It always comes with reconciliation and reconstruction, which is by the way something Europeans know well, because we have gone through this, here in Europe.”

EU, founded as project of peace, plans military future

The mood in the European Union on military affairs is undergoing a seismic shift. The Myth of the EU being a project of Peace just died a death.

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