Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chancellor candidate and current Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz said over the weekend that he supports the formation of a common European army that would be controlled by the EU.
Despite claims that such an army would be created being labeled a “conspiracy” in the past, the left-wing vice-chancellor, while speaking with the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Saturday, said, “For me, a common army is part of the idea of European sovereignty.”
Scholz added that while the project of forming a common European army is not an issue for the immediate future, when it does happen, it would need to be a “democratic structure” controlled by the European Union. Decisions regarding financing and military operations should “take place in European bodies, which certainly include the European Parliament,” the German vice-chancellor said.
According to Scholz’s vision, the EU army would be directly subordinate to the EU Commission and be responsible for a newly appointed defense commissioner, who would work alongside member states and the EU Parliament. Per the plan laid out by Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, the EU army would start with around 1,500 soldiers before eventually being expanded to 8,000.
While admitting that the idea of raising a European army was still a “dream of the future”, Scholz argued that much would be gained if “we in the Councils of the European Union move away from the unanimity requirement and take majority decisions in matters of foreign policy as well as financial and tax issues”.
Scholz and the Social Democratic Party aren’t the first to call for the formation of an EU army. The idea has been under discussion for some time now, with some of the bloc’s 27 member states favoring the idea and others opposing it.
In November of 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron — arguably Europe’s two most influential heads of state — voiced their support for the creation of an EU army. Following remarks made by Macron where he called for a “real European army” to “protect” Europe from “China, Russia, and even the United States of America”, Merkel said she also backed the formation of “a real, true European army”.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the woman who previously won the contest to succeed Merkel as the CDU party leader, has also publicly backed the idea of a common European army. During a speech in the EU capital Brussels in February 2019, Kramp-Karrenbauer said she supported the idea of a “Europe of security” which “must someday also include a European army”. Kramp-Karrenbauer has since been succeeded by Armin Laschet as CDU party leader.
While acting as Germany’s defense minister in 2019, current President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen — the European Union’s most powerful executive – wrote in an opinion piece for the German business newspaper Handelsblatt that “a united EU military is becoming a reality”, with Germany and France being them primary “driving forces in defense”.
Von der Leyen reaffirmed her commitment to the formation of a common European army last January, during statements she gave at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, saying that the EU had “set up the building blocks of a European defense union”.
At present, opinion polls for Germany’s national election in September have placed Scholz’s Social Democratic Party in third place behind Merkel’s CDU/CSU grouping and the Green party.
Merkel has repeatedly said that she will not run for a fifth term.