On Monday, member states of the European Union will reach a formal decision as to whether or not the organization will establish a joint command center for future military operations, furthering their efforts toward establishing a joint European military and reducing their reliance on NATO and the militaries of the United States and England.

While members of the EU have tossed about the idea of establishing a joint military force for years, the military annexation of Crimea by Russian forces in 2014 and President Trump’s critical statements about NATO nations failing to live up to their obligations to the alliance have promoted a resurgence in concerns about European defenses, and some real conversations about the future of the continent if the United States were to limit its involvement in NATO operations in the future.

Last December, EU leaders decided that it was imperative that they consider new ways to establish “a permanent operational planning and conduct capability at the strategic level.”  Monday’s vote will permit the twenty-eight EU member nations to cast their ballot in favor or against doing just that, with the creation of a “Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC)” center hanging in the balance.

While the actual effect such a center would have immediately is negligible, the step itself would be symbolic, further dissolving the boundaries between European nations and taking a step further toward reducing the continent’s reliance on the United States.

Debate has raged between member states for some time regarding the establishment of a joint military force, although there are already three EU sponsored military training exercises underway in Mali, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.  Differing opinions from EU states even prompted argument as to what to call the head of the new strategic body within the EU, as some felt “commander” was appropriate and others bucked at the prospect.  Ultimately, it was decided that the person in charge of the MPCC should be called the “director.”

Britain, the most powerful military member of the EU, has repeatedly spoken out against the establishment of a joint “EU military headquarters,” in large part because it would serve effectively as a body very similar to NATO, without NATO’s primary financier and Britain’s closest ally, the United States.  However, since Britain voted to leave the European Union, the concept has gained increased support in nations like Germany and France.

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Some members of the EU are still concerned that the establishment of the MPCC could weaken NATO’s resolve in the region, but many see Monday’s vote as a compromise.  The MPCC would not necessarily be a joint “EU Military Headquarters” so much as a representative body comprised of thirty members that would oversee the bloc’s “non-executive military missions,” such as the ongoing operations in the three nations listed above, before eventually overseeing any “capacity-building, monitoring or demobilization and disarmament military missions.”

Despite the concerns of some members, and the strategic language used in the proposal intended to assuage their concerns regarding an EU military force, one French diplomat did not mince words regarding the vote and what it signifies to the French government.

“We are very excited, symbolically it is important. Whatever you want to call it, it is a step towards an EU military headquarters with a commander.”

 

Image courtesy of Reuters