German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Tuesday for the eventual creation of a European army during a keynote address to the European Parliament, echoing a similar suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron.
“We should work on the vision of creating a real European army one day,” Merkel said in a speech on the future of Europe to EU lawmakers in the French city of Strasbourg.
“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she added. Her comments came two days after world leaders gathered in Paris for the centenary of the end of World War I.
Last week, Macron had renewed a call for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States. His comments provoked criticism from US President Donald Trump, who has called on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
A European army could complement the NATO defence alliance, Merkel argued before the European Parliament.
The issue is controversial, however, with member states reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defence issues and a lack of clarity over the shape a European army could take.
France has proposed the initial launch of an intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a true European army.
Germany is critical of the proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish this outside of an EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart defence heavyweight Britain.
The EU already has so-called battlegroups to respond in crisis situations, however these have never been deployed.
Merkel’s highly anticipated speech came shortly after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends, as well as seven months ahead of EU parliament elections.
It was the latest in a series of plenary addresses by EU leaders on the future of Europe.
Merkel also stressed the importance of the EU’s fundamental values, at a time when countries including Poland, Hungary and Romania are coming under fire for controversial judicial reforms and rule-of-law breaches.
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
Merkel described a vision of a united Europe, underpinned by respect for differences, solidarity for those in need and the responsibility to recognize that national decisions affect all. She also called for a unified European approach on migration.
As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on October 29 that she would resign as leader of the CDU and said that her current term as chancellor would be her last.