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Czechs should clearly back Berlin’s European army project

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Prague, Nov 16 (CTK) – Prague should clearly support German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s plan to build a European army since Europe must start defending NATO’s eastern border now that Donald Trump’s USA no longer wants to do so, David Klimes writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Wednesday.

Dreams about a European army date back a half of century ago, but they repeatedly got bogged down on naivety, on fears that the step would weaken NATO and on countries’ unwillingness to give up a portion of their sovereignty, Klimes writes.

Everything has changed with Trump’s election as U.S. president now. No other U.S. president-elect has ever challenged NATO’s role in the joint defence of the West, not even following the collapse of the bipolar world in 1989, Klimes writes.

The previous dream is becoming feasible now, the more so that Trump’s pressure against Europeans leaving their defence up to U.S. soldiers has been joined by NATO leaders, Klimes writes.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Trump to maintain the USA’s role as the Western defence leader, but simultaneously he sharply urged European countries to accept their portion of responsibility, Klimes writes.

Europe is left with no other possibility than accepting the responsibility, he writes.

At present, it is not German Chancellor Angela Merkel but Ursula von der Leyen, the defence minister, who seems to be the most important politician of Europe, Klimes continues.

Faced with the urgent need to ensure European security, Leyen says she considers the building of a European army the right solution. Last week, she wrote in German media that Brexit and the U.S. elections have set a new course, to which Europe’s defence emancipation can be the only response, Klimes writes.

To illustrate the effect of Trump’s election, Klimes reminds of the European debate following the British Brexit decision in June. The federalists in the EU immediately realised that Brexit means the departure of a staunch opponent to Europe’s single defence policy. In September, it turned out that France and Germany had together secretly prepared a project of a common European army. The current joint battlegroups would start to be permanently combat-ready as of 2017, Klimes writes.

The plan gained a certain support, but it became clear soon that it will fall through because EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini dismissed it, Klimes writes.

It seemed that the French-German project will be rejected like all previous joint defence projects before, including the best-known one from 1950. French PM Rene Pleven proposed the creation of a Western European army, comprised of 100,000 troops and led by a European defence minister and the NATO supreme commander, Klimes writes.

Pleven’s proposal was rejected by the French parliament, however. Further projects continued to emerge but to no effect, because it turned out that the European Community was unable to agree on a single foreign policy, let alone defence policy, Klimes writes.

A good but also a sad example of the EU’s internal discords is the military intervention in Libya in 2011. French president Nicolas Sarkozy took up the position at the head of the international campaign for toppling Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, sending in the fighter planes that he tried to sell to Gaddafi four years before, Klimes writes.

Germany then refused to provide military support to its allies attacking Libya. Simply, a shame, Klimes writes, referring to the EU’s disunity in the military campaign.

Leyen still considers the European army project feasible. In Germany, she has even become a symbol of the end of Berlin’s post-war “military shyness,” and the Bundeswehr started to be reinforced under her command this year, for the first time since the Cold War end, Klimes writes.

On the European level, Leyen wants to transform the battlefields into really deployable units. Founded in 2007, the battlefields have never been used in a military operation so far, Klimes writes.

The fear of Trump has boosted the EU’s joint army plans. No matter whether the army is formed under the aegis of the EU or whether it forms a strong pillar within the Trump-ignored NATO, it must provide European units that would be ready for immediate deployment instead of having to wait for a EU summit’s approval, Klimes writes.

Perhaps it is unnecessary to add that the Czech support for Leyen’s plan must be clear and resolute, Klimes concludes.

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