Germany will move to create a joint air force with France this week, as well as to join defence initiatives with the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, and the Czech Republic as part of a drive to integrate European militaries.
Supporters of the move describe it as merely increasing defence cooperation, but critics say it is leading the way towards the creation of an “EU Army”.
During the European Union (EU) referendum campaign, opponents of Brexit, such as former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, assured British voters notions of an EU Army were a “dangerous fantasy”.
However, a source told Reuters the new initiatives to link up member states’ militaries will be announced at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.
Germany will move to set up a joint fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J transport planes with France and sign a declaration of intent to join a European multinational fleet of Airbus tankers, led by the Netherlands and already including Luxembourg.
The planes are set to be based at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands, and at a German military base at the Cologne-Bonn airport, the sources told Reuters.
An expanded defence cooperation agreement will also be signed between Germany and Norway, including procurement plans for submarines and missiles, as well as joint training, logistics and maintenance efforts.
There will also be declarations of intent for joint training and deployments of land forces with the Czech Republic and Romania, the source added.
Together Europe can stand tall in the world & save billions. More of this please! https://t.co/UXGbM2NX7J
— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) February 14, 2017
Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, praised the revelations on Twitter, writing: “Together Europe can stand tall in the world [and] save billions. More of this please!”
Mr Verhofstadt is a committed federalist who has called for the creation of a full EU government with tax-raising power in the wake of Brexit, which will erode the sovereignty of member states further. He hopes this will counter the rise of populism and nationalism across the continent.
In November last year, in the lead-up to the Brexit vote, the EU Parliament passed a resolution to create a “European Defence Union” and hand more powers to the military components of the Common Security and Defence Policy.
“Terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber and energy insecurity leave EU countries no choice but to step up their security and defence cooperation efforts, thus paving the way to the European Defence Union,” the EU parliament said after passing the resolution.