All of a sudden, the European Union is in a big hurry to start integrating its military. After years of dawdling over the objectives enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon to fully integrate its military or at least set up a cooperative framework, the bloc has finally been motivated by the exit of Britain and the election of Donald Trump as US president to get serious about military cooperation.
The first step is establishing the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to pull together at least 20 EU countries in jointly planning, developing and coordinating weapons and equipment for military forces. The EU summit this week will affirm efforts so far and set deadlines this year for countries to make firm commitments to the project and to its joint budget. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, whose countries have the biggest military forces along with Britain, are the main proponents of closer cooperation.
But it’s an open question whether member countries can overcome their national egoism and give up even a modicum of sovereignty to literally join forces for the bloc’s security. Earlier efforts in weapons development, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and A400M transport plane, were marred by national rivalries, planning errors, cost overruns, multiple delays and mixed results in the final product.
Also, it is far from certain that backing into military integration through PESCO without integration of command and training will be any more successful than backing into economic integration through a joint currency without a common budget or fiscal policy. Attempting either without firmer foundations in Europe-wide democratic accountability seems problematic.