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Are EU Troops on the Way?

Between US President Donald Trump's bluster and the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, Europeans have as much reason as ever to worry about their collective defense. Yet, for all the excitement over new proposals to establish a joint defense force, a true European army remains a distant aspiration.

STOCKHOLM – Suddenly, the debate about creating a joint European Union army has gained real momentum. After French President Emmanuel Macron recently proposed the idea, US President Donald Trump disparaged it (in a tweet, of course), but German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed it (while urging caution).

The issue came to the fore this month with the centennial of the end of World War I, which naturally focused Europeans’ attention on matters of war and peace. While touring WWI battlefields, Macron observed that “peace in Europe is precarious,” and that “we will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”

The goal of establishing a European army dates back to the earliest stages of European integration after World War II. In 1954, the French parliament refused to ratify a treaty that would have established a European Defense Community and joint military force comprising West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. After that, the structures of integration that would eventually underpin today’s EU tended to be more economically oriented, and territorial defense was left to NATO and the US security umbrella.

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