EU heavyweights call for European Army
2012-09-19 0:00

By Ian Traynor |

Five of six biggest EU countries back plans which include pan-European foreign ministry and majority voting to bypass UK veto

Five of the six biggest countries in the EU, excluding Britain, have called for a radical overhaul of European foreign and defence policies to create a powerful new pan-European foreign ministry, majority voting on common foreign policies to bypass a British veto, a possible European army, and a single market for EU defence industries.

The German-led push, supported by 11 of 27 EU countries, embraces recent calls in Berlin and Brussels for a directly elected European president, sweeping new powers for the European parliament, and further splitting of the EU by creating a new parliamentary sub-chamber for the 17 countries of the eurozone.

While the call for a European army was not supported by all 11, the document also calls for a new European police organisation to guard the union’s external borders and for a single European visa.

Nine months of brainstorming over the future of Europe by the foreign ministers of the 11 countries, launched by Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, has resulted in a 12-page document crammed with policy recommendations. It will prove hugely contentious and, if implemented, will increase the pressure on Britain to quit the EU.

"To make the EU into a real actor on the global scene we believe that we should in the long term introduce more majority decisions in the common foreign and security policy sphere, or at least prevent one single member state from being able to obstruct initiatives," the document said.

"Aim for a European defence policy with joint efforts regarding the defence industry (eg the creation of a single market for armament projects); for some members of the group this could eventually involve a European army."

Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who launched the EU proposals which include a pan-European police body and possible army.

The backers include Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland, five of the six biggest EU countries omitting Britain. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Portugal and Luxembourg also signed up.

The recommendations include more incendiary steps, including a proposal to re-open and change European treaties by majority voting because getting consensus in a union of 27 or 28 has become too slow, acrimonious and unwieldy.

Apart from stiff resistance from Britain, which would veto a European army and refuse to take part in foreign policies with which it disagreed, the proposals are likely to prompt a turf war in the European commission because they would strip several departments of powers and resources, concentrating them in the EU’s relatively new diplomatic service headed by Catherine Ashton, a Briton.


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