European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen used her State of the Union address to call for greater EU military capabilities, including the creation of battlegroups and expeditionary forces that would operate independently of NATO and the United Nations.
The top Brussels bureaucrat told MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg: “There will be missions where NATO or the United Nations will not be present, but where you should be on the ground.
“The good news is that over the past year we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem, but what we need now is the European Defence Union,” von der Leyen insisted, as she called for lessons to be learned from the hasty US-led withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan.
“There have been many discussions on expeditionary forces on what type and how many battle groups and entry forces we need.
“This is no doubt, part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution.”
Previous calls for further EU militarisation have at times fallen upon deaf ears at a national level, with numerous member states seemingly unwilling to hand greater power to Brussels, something von der Leyen insisted must change.
“The fundamental issue is why this has not worked in the past,” she said. “You can have the most advance forces in the world, but if you’re never prepared to use them… of what use are they?
“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 we can do at the EU-level,” she told the European Parliament.
Germany’s defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer praised the Commission’s intentions, tweeting: “Ursula
Von der Leyen is right. Real EU defence depends on the political will of member states. That’s why Germany and France must lead.”
It is understood that a summit focused on greater EU militarisation will be scheduled early next year between the European Commission and French president, Emmanuel Macron with von der Leyen concluding: “It is time for Europe to step up to the next level.”