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The Euro-army will march to the beat of a different drum
By Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph, 2000-11-16

Boris Johnson is editor of The Spectator, http://www.spectator.co.uk/

I open the Financial Times yesterday, the paper that Jacques Delors once called "mon journal prefere" in tribute to its sycophantic coverage of the Community, and what do I find?

There's going to be a "new model army", says the FT. It's going to be "the foundation of nothing less than a new security architecture". By 2003, the EU will have the ability to project "military muscle" across the globe, it says here on page 28, with a picture of French, British, German, Spanish and other tanks being loaded on to a gigantic transport aircraft. It's going to be big, this European army - 60,000 troops on standby, says the FT. Is this possible? you ask. Can this be true?

Because if you are an alert FT reader, you will see that on page nine of the very same issue, the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, has dismissed the idea of a Euro-army as a myth. In fact, the Defence Secretary seems even more defensive than usual. The idea of this Euro-army is a festering lie put about by tub-thumping Little Englanders, he says, and then thumps his own tub for good measure. "I want to spell it out so there can be no doubt: no European army, no European cap badges, no European flags - a British contribution to European co-operation firmly under British control and deployed at the behest of a British prime minister."

Hooray. Huzzah. So that's all right then. It's nothing to do with a European army, and simply a question of a European "rapid reaction force".

The risk, though, is twofold. The lesser risk is that it won't work at all: that it will be just a talking-shop, a chance for brass hats in Brussels to have more splendid lunches with bureaucrats to celebrate the merging of the WEU with PESC; and that when the Western powers decide that they need something done, the Pentagon - which supplied 90 per cent of the munitions for Kosovo - will, as usual, get on with it.

No one has yet produced many plausible scenarios in which this Euro-army, sorry, reaction force, will be deployed. It won't have the heavy lift needed for big troop movements, or the air power for another Kosovo. The best hypothesis suggested by my old friend Charles Grant, of the Centre for European Reform, is that the Euro-army might be handy for evacuating EU civilians from an Algerian civil war, provided, of course, the civil war wasn't too violent. But until such time as we get the right conditions in Algeria, the risk is that the 60,000 will loaf around.

The second and more dangerous risk is that the project will work, in the sense that we take it so seriously, and the Americans take it so seriously, that real damage is done to Nato. We now have one Western alliance, which brilliantly unites Europe and America. There is a real danger that a Euro-defence pact could not only produce idiotic tensions between Brussels and Washington - of a kind seen already over trade, and which could lead to American disengagement from Europe - but worse, from a British point of view, we could find ourselves locked into "Euro" positions, on Iraq, for instance, or other parts of the Middle East, with which we do not agree.

Of course it suits the French to pretend that there could be a distinctively "European" military identity, independent of the Anglo-Saxon tyranny. But it would be better if the Euro-army was one of those plans that was, for once, more myth than reality.


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