Military Unification has been on the European Union's policy agenda for decades. In the past twelve months, the pressure to complete the task has accelerated the process, particularly since the Bratislava Summit of September 2016.
There, the 27 leaders of the EU decided to "give a new impetus" to European external security and defence.
They set as a target the December 2016 European Council to formalise an implementation plan.
To quote one commentator, "European Union Defence plans are associated with the eventual formation of a European Federal State. Under the current system of unaccountable governance, this means they will be run by an unelected oligarchy. A nation state that contracts out its defence has ceased to be."
The UK government publishes a White Paper on 'The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward' (Cmnd. 8288), beginning a process of cuts which sees spending reduced from just under 6% GDP to 2% GDP over the next thirty years.
European Commission President Jacques Delors tells a summit of European Economic Community heads of government at Fontainebleau that the first and foremost of his three big ideas for relaunching European political integration is “military union” (une défense commune), the others being currency union and the abolition of member states' vetoes. Mrs Thatcher refuses all three ideas in private at the summit with “No! No! No!” but is forbidden by her party bosses from even mentioning the phrase, or the military union proposal, until she defiantly uses the phrase (without its military context) in her last month as Prime Minister.
The European Council in Maastricht lays the foundations for a political Union with the creation of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the beginnings of a common defence policy (ESDP/CSDP, a major component of the CFSP), as the second pillar of the Treaty of Maastricht.
The text is signed in February 1992 and comes into force in November 1993.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac sign the Saint-Malo Declaration to make the Franco-British axis the motor of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy. Twenty EU military interventions have since been launched under the CSDP. Chirac and Blair foresee a military future increasingly independent of the USA, Canada and NATO.
The Franco‐British Council (FBC) and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) host the second Franco British Council Roundtable on bilateral defence "cooperation" at the French Embassy in London.
The purpose of this meeting is twofold. Firstly, it aims to extend the FBC’s "Britain, France and Defence” initiative of October 2009.
Secondly, ahead of the May 2010 General Election, they feel it important to "resume discussions before the formation of a new government and a reassessment of British strategic priorities".
The Franco‐British Council (FBC) and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) host the third Franco British Council Roundtable on bilateral defence "cooperation" at the residence of the British Ambassador in Paris.
Speakers include Gisela Stuart MP, Contre Amiral Pascal Ausser, Edward Leigh MP, Amiral Alain Coldefy, Francoise Hostalier, depute, Kevin Taylor of BAE systems and Vice Admiral Paul Lambert.
The event is sponsored by BAE Systems.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy sign two defence treaties at 10 Downing Street.
The announcement is made by the two leaders following a summit meeting held at Lancaster House. No debate is held in Parliament.
The White Paper is prefaced by Francois Hollande, President of France. It states:
Although the Lisbon Treaty’s inclusion of solidarity and collective defence clauses was a recognition of the fact that the Member States are equally concerned by most threats, their perceptions, strategic cultures and national ambitions remain very diverse. The specifc history of each Member State is reflected in the links forged in every continent, and sometimes in their contrasting visions of the role of military force in international relations. This diversity can be an asset, inasmuch as each country brings its own experience to the common project, but it can also be a source of mutual suspicion and make any hopes of rapid integration appear unrealistic. In this respect, the slow progress of the European defence and security policy shows that national perceptions cannot be transformed by institutions alone. The support of the people is essential. It can only be created through democratic debate, a common political will, shared experience and an awareness that we all have interests and strategic priorities in common. In the economic sphere, the crisis has confronted the European Union with difficult choices, giving rise to lively debate in all its Member States. Under the pressure of events, significant progress towards greater integration now stands to be achieved in budgetary and financial matters. This closer policy integration should eventually extend to security and defence. France sees this as a key objective, and it is in this perspective that it envisions its future and the exercise of its sovereignty.
For the first time since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council discusses defence and identifies priority actions for stronger cooperation:
- increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of Common Security and Defence Policy
- enhancing the development of capabilities
- strengthening Europe's defence industry
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission calls for an "EU Army".
“You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker tells the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
“But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
Juncker makes many similar statements throughout 2015, and makes it clear to David Cameron that military union would be a condition of any "new settlement" between Britain and the EU.
Jean-Claude Juncker's defence advisor Michel Barnier issues a white paper through the European Political Strategy Centre, the EU’s in-house think tank, calling for military union.
Europe needs to move from the current patchwork of bilateral and multilateral military cooperation to gradually increased defence integration. The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), provided in the Lisbon Treaty, could become a game changer in European security by enabling willing Member States to move forward.
Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and her German colleague Ursula von der Leyen sign two agreements on far-reaching cooperation measures. The signing takes place on board the Karel Doorman, which is moored in Amsterdam's harbour.
Included in the agreement are the integration of the German Naval Force Protection Battalion (Seebataillon) into the Royal Netherlands Navy, the integration of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade into the German 1st Armoured Division, and agreements on joint air defence.
High Representative Federica Mogherini presents the EU global strategy on foreign and security policy to EU leaders, meeting in Brussels at the EU summit.
The High Representative was mandated to prepare the new strategy by the European Council in June 2015. The strategy, under the title 'Shared vision, common action: a stronger Europe' reflects the collective views expressed in the process and offers a strategic vision for the EU's global role. In these challenging times, both for Europe and globally, the strategy highlights common ground and presents a way forward.
At the NATO summit in Warsaw, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and NATO Secretary-General sign a joint declaration on EU-NATO cooperation.
The declaration aims to further strengthen EU-NATO cooperation at a time of unprecedented security challenges from the East and the South.
The heads of state or government of the 27 meet in Bratislava to begin a political reflection on further development of an EU with 27 member countries.
Leaders agree on the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap, in which they state an intention to decide on a concrete implementation plan on security and defence and on how to make better use of the options in the Treaties at the European Council meeting in December.
They also agree to start implementing the joint declaration with NATO immediately.
The European Council reaffirms its commitment to the European Union Internal Security Strategy 2015-2020. It addresses the strengthening of EU cooperation on external security and defence and focuses on:
- the EU Global Strategy in the area of security and defence
- the European Defence Action Plan
- implementation of the common set of proposals which follow up on the EU-NATO Joint Declaration signed in Warsaw in July 2016
- HRVP/Head of the EDA proposals on the scope, modalities and content of a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD).
The Council adopted conclusions setting out the progress achieved in implementing the EU global strategy in the area of security and defence.
The Council also approved a concept note on the operational planning and conduct capabilities for CSDP missions and operations. One of the measures foreseen is the establishment of a military planning and conduct capability (MPCC) for the planning and conduct of non-executive military missions.
RUSI hosts 'Defence Implications of Brexit'. The conference "explores how the UK and EU can maintain a long-standing defence and security relationship after Brexit."
During the conference, Prof. Beatrice Heuser of the University of Reading says:
This is the earliest document that I can find that actually proposes European cooperation and integration: Clement Attlee, British Prime Minister. I haven’t found an earlier document in the European archives.
At the same conference, the European Council on Foreign Relations' Nick Witney calls for a joint Anglo-French nuclear deterrent.
Theresa May announces that Britain and Germany will form a defence pact immediately following formal invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The Ministry of Defence says it is working with Germany “on a joint vision statement on future co-operation”.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon agrees a joint vision statement - a commitment to strengthen co-operation in areas including hybrid and cyber warfare and counter-terrorism - with Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defence for the Netherlands.
The agreement will include a pledge to work more closely across defence and security policy, intelligence and joint exercises. It will also see the exchange of personnel and work towards a UK-Netherlands Amphibious Force.
At the June European Council, EU leaders agree on the need to launch an inclusive and ambitious permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) to strengthen Europe's security and defence.
Within three months, member states will agree a common list of criteria and commitments, together with concrete capability projects, in order to start this cooperation.
"It is a historic step, because such cooperation will allow the EU to move towards deeper integration in defence. Our aim is for it to be ambitious and inclusive, so every EU country is invited to join," says Donald Tusk at the European Council press conference.
UK Government publishes "Foreign policy, defence and development".
Despite "Brexit", the U.K. will continue its contribution to CSDP missions and operations if it can participate in both the mandate development and detailed operational planning stages of the process (PESCO).
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meet their Polish counterparts to discuss security and defence cooperation.
Fallon and Polish Defence Minister Macierewicz discuss increasing military ties and co-operation, including working towards a “Defence Capability and Industrial Partnership” to strengthen cooperation between the UK and Polish defence industries.
They also discuss the Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty, which the Prime Minister will sign at the next UK-Poland Inter-Governmental meeting in December.
Heads of state or government resume discussions on the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on defence at the European Council meeting, attended by Theresa May.
During opening statements by the European Council and European Commission to assess the state of Brexit negotiations, Donald Tusk announces his determination to create a European Monetary Fund, part an EU Treasury:
I will do everything in my power to take the first very concrete steps, by June , towards establishing the European Monetary Fund and strengthening the stability of the Banking Union. I still believe that it is possible. In June it will become clear if I am in incurable optimist, but one thing I can promise you today: if we don't reach agreement by June, I will say precisely why it wasn't possible, and who is responsible.
Jean-Claude Juncker announces publication of the European Commission Work Programme 2018 "with a 2025 perspective". In it he announces "a deeper and fairer economic and monetary union", including:
- Completing the economic and monetary union
- Completing the banking union
- Creation of a permanent and accountable European Minister of Economy and Finance
23 member states sign a joint notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), establishing an EU military and single point budget. Signatory nations are legally obliged to take part in PESCO operations, with no possibility of national electorates preventing national involvement.
The 23 nations are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The UK does not sign. It is possible for the UK and other member states to join at a later stage.
Member States experts meet at the European Defence Agency (EDA) for a workshop to assess PESCO related project proposals. The workshop is co-chaired by the EDA and the EU Military Staff, making up the PESCO secretariat.
The aim of the workshop is to establish a technical expert-level common understanding on:
- the scope of PESCO related project proposals
- the practical aspects of implementing these projects
- the assessment methodology to be adopted for all PESCO projects
- the proposed way ahead
Despite not signing the PESCO Joint Notification, the United Kingdom participates.
The title of the report is "EU Defence: the realisation of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)"
The report states the UK position on PESCO as:
The UK Government did not sign the Joint Notification on 13 November 2017. As such it will remain outside of PESCO. In doing so the UK will have no decision making rights over PESCO governance or any veto over the future strategic direction of PESCO, which has been openly acknowledged as greater EU integration in the field of defence.
The European Defence Agency Annual Conference 2017 entitled 'Security in the digital age: the added value of European cooperation’ is opened by the Head of the Agency, Federica Mogherini.
Addressing a 400-strong audience representing the whole European defence spectrum - governments, armed forces, industry, EU institutions, NATO, think tanks and media - Mrs Mogherini says the conference is taking place “at the most important moment for European defence in decades” with bold new initiatives such as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF) creating an unprecedented momentum for enhanced cooperation.
Today, we are building a European Union of security and defence. It's not a plan, not a dream anymore, but a reality (...) All the building blocks of a security and defence union are finally there.
NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels seeking to increase cooperation with the European Union.
Stoltenberg says foreign ministers, including Boris Johnson, would explore means of expanding cooperation - which is already at “an unprecedented level” - between NATO and the European Union.
Ireland and Portugal declare that they will join the EU's Permanent Structured Cooperation, bringing the total number of member states involved to 25.
This raised huge questions for Ireland over its historic neutrality.
The European Council formally adopts a decision establishing Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), less than a month after receiving a joint notification by member states of their intention to participate.
The 25 member states participating in PESCO are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
The European Council agrees its position (general approach) on the proposed regulation which will establish the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).
According to Jüri Luik, Estonian Minister for Defence:
European security is a core priority for our citizens. This is now being matched with a real increase in defence cooperation among EU members. The European Defence Industrial Development Programme will make our defence industry more competitive and innovative. This is crucial both for the security of our citizens and for the viability of our industry.
The 35th UK France Summit is held at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron agree significant further tightening of Franco British relations, including the creation of a UK-France Defence Ministerial Council, creating a permanent and regular forum in which UK and French Defence cooperation can be discussed by the two Defence Ministers.
Theresa May says:
The President and I agree on the importance of the UK-France relationship, not just to our security but to European security ... It is incumbent upon us to demonstrate leadership in meeting the great challenges of our time, and upholding the international rules-based system.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson hosts his German counterpart Ursula Von der Leyen in the UK for the first time. They meet to discuss strengthening defence ties. Gavin Williamson ssys:
The UK and Germany face the same intensifying threats to our way of life and we work closely together to protect our citizens from harm.
Germany is one of our closest allies and I look forward to even closer cooperation.
Reports across mainstream media of 'clashes' between Theresa May and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson over the question of Britain's status as a defence power.
A 'Tier One' defence power is one with full spectrum capability from conventional forces across all services to nuclear weapons. Her refusal to confirm Britain as a top tier power lends credence to suggestions of a merging of British and French nuclear deterrents.
The Department for Exiting the EU publishes its 'Technical Note' on defence which spells out the Government’s ambitions for a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU in Defence and Security after Brexit.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson signs the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) Comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding alongside counterparts from the eight partner nations.
The agreement marks the end of the establishment of the JEF framework and is a key milestone in preparing the force for action.
Made up of nine northern European allies Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the MoD says:
The JEF is more than a simple grouping of military capabilities. It represents the unbreakable partnership between UK and our like-minded northern European allies, born from shared operational experiences and an understanding of the threats and challenges we face today.
Joint Declaration on EU-NATO Cooperation is published by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
It welcomes "EU efforts to bolster European security and defence to better protect the Union and its citizens and to contribute to peace and stability in the neighbourhood and beyond. The Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund contribute to these objectives."
They quote the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who says:
We are in the process of transforming the EU into a genuine security and defence union. We remain convinced that we need more and not less Europe.
British troops arrive in Bosnia and Herzegovina to join forces from Austria, Hungary, Italy and Romania for Exercise Quick Response 2018. All proudly wear EU insignia on their arms.
The Franco British Council holds its 7th Defence Conference at the Residence of the French Ambassador in London. Leading guests were invited to speak on the state and direction of the Franco-British Defence relationships.
The event is supported by the UK and French Ministries of Defence and is funded by the UK Ministry of Defence together with generous commercial sponsorship from MBDA.
Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA, says:
The longstanding relationship between France and the UK in defence terms was one of the major factors leading to the creation of Matra Bae Dynamics in 1996 and MBDA in 2001 ... it was clear then as it is now, that the critical mass required to design, develop and produce the most advanced defence capabilities required by the armed forces of the two countries could never be obtained working independently.
When challenged about the likelihood of the British military falling under control of the EU as part of military unification, former Brexit Secretary David Davis states under his breath:
They will be after next year.
Gavin Williamson, alongside his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen, sign a 'Joint Vision Statement', deepening the "already strong UK-German relationship and increasing defence cooperation across a range of areas, from tackling violent extremism to building new military capabilities."
The 'Vision Statement' says:
We are determined to deepen and strengthen our relationship in order to achieve our common defence and security goals.
The King and Queen of the Netherlands visit Downing Street for the first time. They announce that the Netherlands has become one of the first nations to announce they intend to sail alongside the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in her first deployment in 2021.
Theresa May ackinowledges that UK's defence and security cooperation with The Netherlands is going from strength to strength, as the UK continues to negotiate "a deep security partnership with the EU post-Brexit".
Emmanuel Macron calls for the creation of a “true European military”. He says:
We have to protect ourselves with regard to China, Russia and even the United States of America.
We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European Military.
Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe tells that organisation that EU Military Unification is 'our project' during a speech in which he decries the fact that the EU has only 10-15% of the efficiency of the US military, despite having 45% of the budget.
Angela Merkel calls for ‘real, true’ European army days after Emmanuel Macron’s demands for EU military. She says:
We should work on a vision of one day establishing a real, true European army ... Such an army would not undermine the US-led military alliance NATO but could be complementary to it.
Theresa May's Brexit deal includes a difficult to find 'Outline of the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as agreed at negotiators' level on 14 November 2018'.
The framework on the future relationship includes participation by the United Kingdom on a case-by-case basis in Common Security and Defence Policy missions; collaboration by the United Kingdom in relevant current and future projects of the European Defence Agency; participation of United Kingdom entities in European Defence Fund supported projects and collaboration by the United Kingdom in Permanent Structured Cooperation projects.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg attends EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the NATO EU relationship. Speaking to reporters as he arrives at the event, Stoltenberg says:
Good morning ... I'm really looking forward to meet EU defence ministers, and in a few weeks, at the beginning of December, High Representative Federica Mogherini will attend the NATO foreign ministerial meeting, and I think this just reflects the unprecedented level of close cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies and the German Council on Foreign Relations publish their report 'Protecting Europe: meeting the EU's military level of ambition in the context of Brexit'. They state that most of the military scenarios that they tested, the EU would fail to meet capability requirements without the UK:
- Of the IISS–DGAP scenarios, only the rescue and evacuation operation and the support to humanitarian-assistance operation did not generate any capability shortfalls. If the United Kingdom is omitted, the humanitarian-assistance operation faces a shortfall in the naval domain.
- The scenarios concerning peace enforcement, conflict prevention, and stabilisation and support to capacity-building would all create significant capability shortfalls, even when the current 28 EU member states (EU 28) are considered. Without the UK, the EU 27 would face much greater shortfalls. Under those circumstances, a successful implementation of the operation is doubtful.
- If the peace-enforcement scenario is combined with the rescue and evacuation scenario, notable capability shortfalls emerge across all domains for the EU 28. Without the UK contribution, additional shortfalls would arise in the land and naval domain and with regards to enablers.
- If up to seven of the smaller operations are combined – which corresponds to the EU level of ambition – the EU 28 is out of its depth. There are extensive capability gaps across all domains and often less than one-third of the force requirement would be met. Removing the UK from the picture renders a bad situation much worse.
- Improvements in the maritime and air domains across the EU 28 are likely by 2030. However, these will not close the identified capability shortfalls, and ageing equipment will increasingly become a problem.
- As of 2018, EU strategic autonomy is limited to the lower end of the operational spectrum. Brexit will make it even more necessary to find a constructive combination of European partnerships and transatlantic engagement.
The paper discusses the capability of the EU28 (therefore including Britain) until 2030.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair express identical policy aims on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference.
Presentations from the emergency briefing held in Totnes on 3 November 2018.
Recorded in August 2016, Mike Robinson and Patrick Henningsen speak to David Ellis from Strategic Defence Initiatives and Brian Gerrish from the UK Column about EU Military Unification.