Reform #5: Armed forces

Ferenc Gräff |


The united and strong Europe – reformed along the principles introduced previously (see Enlightened Europism) – is going to be able to defend and promote its achievements globally only through a wise and decisive foreign policy with clear strategic aims. However, in my view, the necessary precondition of a successful foreign policy and diplomacy is the existence of a powerful army; therefore, the reformation of the European armed forces is inevitable in order to let our voice be heard and understood in the world. Besides, the Republic of the United Europe (or RUE) must abandon the European Union’s ill practice of deliberately neglecting the protection of the bloc’s external borders, bringing stability to the bordering regions instead.



Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the member states of the European Union spend gradually less on defence and security, relying entirely on the US-dominated NATO for military protection and intelligence services. As it is never smart to depend on a foreign power regarding national security – especially on one that is not committed to provide unconditional military aid –, the creation of a strong and independent European army is imperative to guarantee the security of the European people.

The European Union came across of establishing a common European army a couple of times in its history already. The first attempts were made at the beginning of the unification process (in the shadow of the Soviet Union’s threat), at the collapse of the USSR, and at the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Despite the opportunities provided by these events, the EU managed only to make tiny steps towards a military co-operation between the member states. Due to the pressure caused by the Arab Spring (e.g. Syrian civil war, illegal immigration), the Russo-Ukrainian conflict (e.g. Crimea, Donbass), and increasing Turkish hostility (e.g. Caucasus, East Mediterranean), the topic is once again on the table in Brussels, but – once more – there is not enough political will to move forward.

As the consequence of lacking political will, funding proves to be a serious hindrance of investing in a grand European project, which would require not only additional spending, but also the reallocation of existing national military expenditure. Besides money, many member states express their anxiety over the potential loss of national sovereignty, as they oppose the idea of a European army patrolling on their national soils. These are the reasons why the European defence policy is being stuck at the level of the Common Security and Defence Policy (or CSDP) and Synchronized Armed Forces Europe (or SAFE) – both impotent. There are military co-operations in place between some member states (e.g. Germany and the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries), but they are not serious enough to be taken as examples.

Apart from the issues related to political will, funding, and national anxiety, there are numerous technical and practical difficulties that have to be overcome. Due to Brexit, the EU has lost its most powerful military power (e.g. nuclear energy, intelligence), which is a painful loss on short-term, but can be neutralised on mid-term by the member states developing and constructing their own weapons – following European guidelines –, meaning that the creation of a European arms industry is crucial. There are massive differences between the various national weapons systems not only in quantity and type, but in quality as well; therefore, common European standards must be set and followed in order to harmonise and modernise the national armies. For instance, comparing the member states’ 178 weapons systems to the US’ thirty, it is obvious that Europe needs significant reduction – whilst increasing effectiveness. There are seventeen different types of tanks in use in the EU (only one in the US), 29 types of vessels of war (four in the US), and twenty types of fighter jets (six in the US). The United States has a command centre (Pentagon), which decides on all matters related to the military (e.g. weapons system, development), whereas the European Union lacks a command centre, as every member state decides on its arms industry on a national level; moreover, not even the language of command is common.

It is at utmost importance to face the mountains of challenges around the topic of a common European army, and find the right solutions in the forms of decisive actions.



In the Republic of the United Europe, political will is not going to be an issue anymore, meaning that finding financial resources to overcome technical difficulties should not be an impossible task. The aim for the RUE is to establish a command centre and to set common standards of operation, to centralise its arms industry and weapons system development, and to co-ordinate the synchronisation and modernisation process between the existing armed forces of the member states.

In my view, the increase of funds to support the synchronisation, modernisation, and development of the new European army is inevitable, but it is not required to withdraw or regroup financial support from other projects. The major part of the solution of allocating financial resources is the smart redistribution of the money being spent already, permitting the member states of the RUE to spend only in accordance with common European standards – thus discontinuing parallel misspending. In terms of the new direction of foreign policy, the RUE would quit from the NATO collectively, meaning that the contribution being paid currently could be redirected into the creation of the common European army in the future. Altogether, the RUE should allocate 3% of its GDP to finance its military expenditure.

All capacities and capabilities – land, air, sea, cyber, and space – of the reformed European armed forces must be increased and strengthened. The primary focus should be on cyber security and on the development of the naval and aerial forces (e.g. construction of aircraft carriers), but the modernisation of ground forces (e.g. upgrade of tanks) are also crucial. In addition, Europe urgently has to develop and rely on its own nuclear protection, satellite system, and intelligence services, whilst decide on the structure and language of command, on personnel numbers, on creating a NASA-like space research and IT development centre, and on establishing a technological institution, which enables the RUE to research and construct the most modern and most efficient technology available. The Galileo project (global navigation satellite system) and the European Space Research and Technology Centre (or ESTEC) could form a good base to use for further development. Regarding modernity, Europe can learn from Israel, as the young state commands a high-tech military, which is at the forefront of drone and satellite technology and aerospace defence system. Also, the RUE must aim to gradually proceed with denuclearisation, abandoning the military use of nuclear power altogether.

Unless provoked or directly threatened, the European army must concentrate on the protection of its external borders, instead of foreign involvements. However, border protection takes us to a complex issue. In order to neutralise the anxiety of national governments that may not welcome the fact that armed forces – potentially soldiers from other member states – patrol on their soil, I suggest that the responsibility of protecting the borders should be given to the border states, but still under European command and finance. For instance, the Mediterranean region would be protected primarily by French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish personnel under a leadership the European command centre finds most suitable – based on expertise and experience, not on nationality.

In my opinion, the protection of the RUE’s vast borders covers three major regions: the Mediterranean, the East, and the Oceans – in this order of importance. The region of Mediterranean includes the entirety of the Mediterranean Sea, from the Gibraltar Straight to Tel-Aviv. It is an extensive border that separates Europe from an unsettling and unstable region (North Africa, Middle East), meaning that it is quite difficult to secure it from potentially hostile forces (e.g. terrorists), criminals (e.g. human traffickers, smugglers, drug dealers), and illegal immigrants. The Mediterranean region must be stabilised in two steps: Operation Pompeius and Operation Scipio. Named after ”one of the great statesmen and general” – also consul and triumvir – of the late Roman Republic, who successfully subdued the menace of piracy that disrupted trade and undermined security on the Mediterranean Sea, Operation Pompeius includes the elimination of organised crime and terrorism on the Mediterranean Sea and in North Africa. Named after another famous consul and general of the Roman Republic, who defeated the North African kingdom of Carthage, Operation Scipio includes the military intervention in failed North African countries on the behalf of co-operative and legitimate political forces that can guarantee unity, safety, and peace. The operations Pompeius and Scipio are going to accomplish stability by restoring security and peace in the Mediterranean region (e.g. eliminating Daesh).

Similarly to the Mediterranean, the region of East covers a vast territory to protect. Whilst the Mediterranean region consists mainly of sea and the forces are less organised and primarily irregular, the region of East consists of land entirely and the menacing forces are well-organised and regular. The protection of European borders in the East means defending Europe from a potentially hostile Russia. Although, diplomatic relations with Russia will be covered in the next articles explaining foreign policy, I must emphasise here shortly that the current negative relations between Europe and Russia are not the results of a purposeful European policy or diplomacy, but the bitter consequence of an unfortunate and unpleasant situation that comes with the alliance with the US. I am strongly convinced that a united and strong Europe could develop a fruitful and thriving economic and trade relationship with Russia. In the East, diplomacy must play the key role in achieving peace and stability, but a steady border protection – as a show of force – is inevitable to achieve success in the diplomatic efforts.

The region of Oceans includes the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, where border protection does not require tremendous efforts, as Canada, the UK, and the US are all considered friendly or neutral countries. As these countries and the RUE all have their own interests in the Arctic Ocean, limiting Russian activities jointly should not be too difficult.

In accordance with the challenges of external border protection and planned limited foreign activity, the number of army personnel should not be more than one million soldiers. As I am against the concept of compulsory military service for the general male population, I would suggest the encouragement and attraction of those, who are willing to undertake this noble service for Europe by offering a clear carrier path, decent salaries, and other privileges perhaps. The potential results could be decreasing unemployment, easing strain on the budget, and increasing army personnel simultaneously. The importance of border protection and the issue of large and permanent unemployment are present in the very same member states anyway (e.g. Mediterranean member states).



Given that the political will and fund allocation are accomplished in the spirit of unison, solving the technical challenges of creating the armed forces of the Republic of the United Europe should be absolutely doable. Once the reformation is completed, the RUE would have the fourth strongest army in the world, enabling Europe to guarantee the protection of its external borders, to defend against terrorism, and to deter potential Russian or Turkish aggression, whilst underlining the fact that the European army does not wish to play police beyond its borders or act as an aggressor altogether. The common European army is also the key for Europe to become a real global power, to underline the superstate’s independence from the US, and to pursue its own interests, designing a new foreign policy and preparing an impressive shift in diplomacy.