Recent developments towards an increase in European military integration will lead to more spending on military purposes in the future.
Trump’s position on NATO and the aggressive rhetoric against the members that do not fulfill their obligations to the Alliance have raised concerns amongst the members of the EU. These developments, linked with initiatives for more military cooperation among European states, reignited hopes for an integrated European military framework.
Although such initiatives might be a cause for positive development for Europe as a whole, not every member state finds them credible, as the recent visit of Romania’s President, Iohannis in the USA has demonstrated. Even if NATO continues to be the guarantor of peace and stability in Europe, an integrated EU might ask for a revision of the NATO treaties.
Two weeks ago, Merkel said at an election campaign event in Bavaria that “The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days”. Adding, “we have to fight for our own future ourselves, for our destiny as Europeans”.
This important announcement was accompanied by the statement of the President of the Commission, Juncker, who said on Wednesday: “For too long we have relied too much on the military power of others,” adding “We must now seize the moment to take charge of our own security. We owe this to our fellow Europeans.” This rhetoric is linked with the publishing of a reflection paper from the Commission to launch a public debate on how the EU at 27 might develop by 2025 in the area of defense.
These developments show a stronger commitment from the key European countries, Germany and France, for a stronger and more integrated Europe, but we should not exaggerate on the meaning of these proposals.
First, the launch of the “European Defence Fund” was rather the result of a European plan that was announced by President Juncker in September 2016 and backed by the European Council in December 2016, than a reaction to Trump’s latest statements.
Second, the purpose of these European initiatives is not to replace NATO, but to make better use of the spending and allocate funds more efficiently for European needs. Specifically, according to the Commission, the lack of cooperation between the Member States in the field of defense and security is estimated to cost annually between €25 billion and €100 billion.
Thirdly, more cooperation and more efficiency of the spending doesn’t mean that EU member states will pay less. On the contrary, the Commission’s reflections paper argues for more spending from the member states for security and defense. Specifically, it is stated “Moving towards Europe’s strategic autonomy requires spending more on our defenses, as well as spending better and spending together”.
The recent visit of the Romanian President, Iohannis, proved the reluctance with which countries at the first line of Europe’s defense, like Romania, face the low rates of military spending of European countries. Specifically, Iohannis, stated that he liked Trump’s speech in Brussels and that “military spendings are complicated and you need a lot of money because NATO is the strongest alliance the Earth ever saw and we want to keep it that way”.
Apart from Romania, there is a strong military presence of NATO in countries like Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Bulgaria, that guarantees the peace and the stability in those areas from Russian aggression. The question that is now risen is what we should expect from the EU in the military area.
As I showed, more military integration does not mean less spending for military purposes. On the contrary, it is very likely that European states will increase their military spending as a result of the recent terrorist attacks and the immigration problem. These issues are ranked first among the concerns of European citizens, as the Commission’s reflection paper shows, justifying any increase in military spending.
Trump’s rhetoric against those members that do not fulfill their obligations is going to boost European integration, instead of halting it. Merkel’s recent speech in Bavaria was addressed not only to Germans but to Europeans, signaling the importance of the European project for the Chancellor. Although this has been a hot issue recently, we shall consider the latest European initiatives for more military cooperation as signals for future radical changes, rather than decisive current reforms.