The European Union has been urging member states to agree to a more harmonised approach to security and defence through increased cooperation between sovereign armies. The increased push towards collaboration fuelled concerns the bloc may step away from NATO to pursue the creation of a fully-fledged EU Army in the coming years. But Baroness Goldie warned the “inadvertently antagonistic” stance Brussels has adopted in the past few years could cause additional threats to the continent.
The Conservative peer told the Lords’ EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee: “The EU has, over the years, been developing its approach to defence.
“If you take the Common Security Defence policy, if you take PESCO, if you take a number of other European-related structures in relation to defence, clearly Europe has a desire to present a coherent position in relation to defence.
“What I think it has to be perhaps very vigilant about is, if you look at the recent articulation of rules for PESCO, in all its language the EU will want to be careful that it doesn’t sound excluding or inadvertently antagonistic.”
Baroness Goldie insisted Brussels must ensure any defence policy developed is in line with the commitments made to NATO.
She continued: “We don’t want an impression to our common hostile operators, who are a threat to both the EU and the United Kingdom, any sense of division.
“I think the EU has good structures in place, the EU will want to develop these but it’s very important it develops as complementary to NATO, not in competition with NATO.”
The warning comes after plans were drawn up for the creation of a 28th European Army reporting directly to the European Commission rather than sovereign member states.
The proposal was drawn up by a Security and Defence Policy working group within the German Social-Democratic Party – the second-biggest political party within Germany.
Control of the new military branch would be in the hands of a defence committee established in the European Parliament, with MEPs vote on operations with a simple majority system at the request of the Commission.
Fritz Felgentreu, the SPD’s parliamentary group Defence spokesman, said: “Our aim is to improve the EU’s ability to act, regardless of the tiresome questions of sovereignty.
“In addition to the already existing ability to enforce trade policy and the desired greater unity in diplomacy, the 28th Army can sustainably strengthen the military pillar of European cooperation.”
The centre of the proposed 28th Army would be based on pre-existing battlegroups, starting off with 1,500 operatives to later expand to around 8,000.
But the working group’s concept paper has already come under fire as think-tank Euro Intelligence head Wolfgang Munchau blasted the plan for its “shocking lack of understanding” of EU security priorities.
Mr Munchau said: “Probably the least helpful proposal you can make to help the EU move in the direction of strategic autonomy is to call for a European Army.
“The problem is not only that it sets the bar too high, which it does. It also diverts attention from the security discussion the EU needs to have instead.
“This is one of those ideas where you don’t know where to begin dismantling it. Our first thought was this: are they trying to do to defence what they did to the eurozone?”
He added: “Have they considered what might happen if the European Commission charged into battle and lost? The British are still traumatised by the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War.
“An army is not an inter-institutional working group that meets on Tuesdays.”