Ursula von der Leyen addresses the European Defence Agency
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has outlined her vision for a united European defence strategy during a keynote speech in Brussels, in a move which immediately set alarm bells ringing in the UK. The President of the Euroepean Commission did not use the words “European army” during her address – but she made it clear she saw the bloc as “intrinsically a security project”.
She told attendees of the European Defence Agency Annual Conference: “Our partners are asking for greater European engagement in other parts of the world such as the Indo-Pacific, and we must recognise that our security is more closely interlinked than ever before.”
Referring to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, she continued: “We have learned that when a big country’s threatens a small neighbour, the whole rules-based order is at stake. And of course, our trade routes and supply chains are also exposed.”
As such Europe might be called to play a role in any of these theatres near of far, Ms von der Leyen continued. She said: “So we need Member State’s armed forces that are prepared for all sorts of scenarios from traditional to hybrid.
READ MORE: EU wants to put UK troops under its ‘unified command’, warns ex-army officer
“On land, at sea, in the air, and outer space, or cyberspace. “We always say that our union was born as a peace project and yes this is right. But peace requires security. And that’s why our union was also born as a security project.”
The EU’s “genesis” may have been coal and steel but it also had a central security dimension, Ms von der Leyen claimed. She said: “In those sectors, the common industrial policy was basically security policy. And then through the decades, this security dimension has grown.”
She added: “I’m not only referring to the birth of this agency, to our missions and operations. Most of our Union’s policies have direct security implications. From our transport policy for military mobility, our agricultural policy, for food security, from trade to research, from energy to communications, at times of unprecedented threats, we must refocus our attention on the security dimension of all our policies.
“We must once again think about our union as intrinsically a security project.” Ms von der Leyen acknowledged that collective defence remains “primarily the responsibility of the member states and of NATO”.
However, she added: “Strategic responsibility also calls for stronger European contribution within NATO and to NATO. So I want to focus today on how the work we have done so far can shape our future progress on European defence.”
Frederick Chedham, Reform UK’s defence and security spokesman, was deeply unimpressed.
The former British army officer told Express.co.uk: “Unification for UvL means entrapping UK defence technology and industry under Brussels control and she also wants the political decision making regarding military operations under EU direction.
“Margaret Thatcher warned against this alignment because the endgame was not clear. But UvL has made the endgame clear and it is worse than the Iron Lady feared.”
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