The European Commission has declared itself “delighted” that political big gun Angela Merkel is backing an EU army.
The German chancellor used a speech in the European parliament on Tuesday to call for a “real, true European army”, claiming it was the best way to maintain peace.
“We have already achieved cooperation in the military sphere, that is good and we’re going to continue to support this,” she said.
It came days after French president Emmanuel Macron called for a “real European army” to protect Europe from threats including Russia, China and the US – despite it being a Nato ally.
“We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner,” he said, arguing that the policies of US president Donald Trump were jeopardising European security.
Asked about their statements on Wednesday, the chief spokesperson for the European Commission said: “We’re delighted that the political atmospherics around this work seems to be going in our direction.”
But they told Macron and Merkel to get their tanks off the commission’s lawn, stressing that its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, should take credit for the controversial policy.
“The first one that has spoken of an EU army four years ago was someone called Jean-Claude Juncker,” said the spokesperson.
“I’m now reading it as a Franco-German agreement. Of course, we are delighted the president of the French Republic and German chancellor within a few days publicly backed this idea.
“We have many times explained how we see these things. This is the commission that wants Europe to have a meaningful defence identity.”
Juncker first called for an EU army in 2015, when he told a German newspaper it was needed to ensure the bloc was “taken entirely seriously” in terms of foreign policy.
“A common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union,” he said.
At the time, the UK government said it would veto the policy but Brexit means the bloc can push ahead with the policy from next year.
The commission has backed its defence aspirations with £34bn in its latest long-term budget.
UKIP MEP Nigel Farage said the high-profile backing for an EU army made Brexit a “necessity.”
Some EU supporters are also concerned that the latest comments on an EU army would be forceful pro-Brexit arguments in the event of a second referendum.