In a speech on Wednesday, Sept. 15 in Strasbourg, France, the president of the European bloc, Ursula von der Leyen, said that “political will” is needed for the European Union to form an army so that it “can do more” independently, the Daily Mail reported.
“In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces,” the former German defense minister said.
“This is no doubt part of the debate—and I believe it will be part of the solution,” she added.
In the context of the tumultuous military withdrawal from Afghanistan, where more than 100,000 people had to be evacuated within days due to the deadline agreed between the U.S. government and the Taliban, von der Leyen asserted that the European Union needs some independence to be able to act in crises like these.
“Europe can, and clearly should, be able and willing to do more on its own,” and she insisted that “it is time for Europe to step up to the next level.”
The European Union does have combat forces ready to deploy to trouble spots, but they have never been used.
Therefore, the EU President assured the other European leaders that this step was not taken earlier because member states have not made this a priority.
“What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity—it is the lack of political will. And if we develop this political will, there is a lot that we can do at EU level,” von der Leyen said.
The European leader hinted at her military strategy to form an army within the European bloc. To do so, she asserted, member states must “build the foundation for collective decision-making.”
“We fall short if Member States active in the same region, do not share their information on the European level. It is vital that we improve intelligence cooperation,” von der Leyen said.
The president spoke of forming a joint center where all member states share their security resources, from police training to space knowledge, technology such as drones, fighter jets, etc., and stressed the importance of increasing cybersecurity.
Von der Leyen proposes incentivizing the measure by not charging taxes on all defense production as long as it is made in Europe.
VAT exemption on the purchase of defense equipment developed and produced in Europe could be “considered,” the president said. “This would not only increase our interoperability, but also decrease our dependencies of today.”
Europe is currently mainly dependent on the United States for sourcing its defense equipment and technology.
In 2022, when France takes over the bloc’s presidency, von Der Leyen announced a defense summit would be held in that country, which will be the time to advance this proposal.
The leader of Brexit, the political movement with which the United Kingdom left the European Union, Nigel Farage, criticized Ursula von Der Leyen’s statements.
“Of course, they are using the damage Biden has done to NATO as an excuse to do this. But they’ve always wanted an EU army,” Farage said in an interview with the British media outlet Express.
An EU army is not going to work because even currently member states fail to meet the costs required of them by NATO, assured the Brexit leader.