Drive to set up joint European army independent of the US-led NATO gains momentum


(L to R) Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Prime Ministers of Hungary Viktor Orban, and Czech Republic Bohuslav Sobotka pose for a photo prior to the meeting of prime ministers of The Visegrad Group (V4) on August 26, 2016 in Warsaw, Poland. (AFP photo)

The bid to establish a European army independent of the US-led NATO appears to gain pace with prime ministers of Hungary and Czech Republic offering support for deeper ties within the continent.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as one of the strongest backers of a joint European defense force, insisted on Friday that a joint EU army was required to ensure security, saying, “We should list the issue of security as a priority, and we should start setting up a common European army.”
His remarks came during a meeting between leaders of Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw, where he added, “We need a real army, in which there’ll be understanding; in which the orders are given to the same language,” as cited in a Retuers report.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacts during a July 26, 2016 press conference. (AFP photo)

This is while his Czech counterpart Bohuslav Sobotka also insists that deeper European defense cooperation is a priority in order to secure ’s borders and respond to growing security threats from places such as the Middle East.
“We should also begin a discussion about creating a common European army,” Sobotka said as quoted in European wire reports.
“Certainly the Czech Republic can imagine stronger cooperation in the military area, integration of units, common exercises, and above all securing the capacity to organize operations to support common European foreign policy,” he added.
Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has called for a European border guard to be set up to protect the EU’s external frontier.

File photo of Hungarian soldiers (AFP photo)

While Chancellor Merkel has backed the idea of boosting security across the bloc, she urged caution on ways to achieve the objective saying, “Security is a fundamental issue… we can do more together in the areas of security and defense.” 
In July, an EU strategy document stated that the bloc should look to create greater military autonomy from NATO. It stated the EU could no longer rely on the alliance regarding various security issues and must instead develop an ability to “act autonomously if and when necessary.”
“While NATO exists to defend its members — most of which are European — from external attack, Europeans must be better equipped, trained and organized to contribute decisively to such collective efforts, as well as to act autonomously if and when necessary,” it added.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was first to call for establishment of an EU army in March 2015 saying, “A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries.” 
His suggestion, however, received a cool response from NATO, which warned against “duplication” with its secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg calling on Europe “to make sure that everything they do is complementary to the NATO alliance.”

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