Angela Merkel calls for a “real European army”

Angela Merkel lays out her vision for Europe.
Angela Merkel lays out her vision for Europe.
Image: Reuters/Vincent Kessler
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Since the election of Donald Trump and the UK’s decision to exit the European Union, German chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly stressed the need for Europe to come together and take its fate into its own hands. On Sunday, she spoke at a Paris Peace Forum against governments only looking to their national interests, saying an agreement like the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights wouldn’t be achievable in today’s world. “If isolation wasn’t the solution 100 years ago, how can it be today in such an interconnected world?” Merkel said.

Merkel returned to this theme today (Nov. 13) during a speech on her vision for Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, saying: “Solidarity always means we have to overcome national egotism.” She repeatedly stressed the importance of tolerance, calling it “the soul of Europe.”

Merkel’s keynote speech focused on how Europe must defend its unity and interests. This meant developing a common EU foreign policy and working on the vision of “creating a real European army,” that would complement the collective defense aims of NATO and “show the world that there will never be war again between European countries.” Trump has frequently complained that the US contributes disproportionally to the NATO alliance.

“The times when we could rely on others are past,” she said. “We as Europeans have to fully take our fate into our own hands if we want to defend our community.”

Merkel chuckled as her announcement was greeted with huge applause and some loud booing, saying, “This is great… I’m annoying some people.”

Merkel tentatively supported the idea of a common military force for the bloc when it was raised by French president Macron earlier this year. The European Union signed a pact last November agreeing to begin integration of military funding, weapons development, and deployment of European defenses.

Macron’s comments last week that a defense force was needed to protect the EU from Russia, China, and even the US angered Trump, who fired off several angry tweets on the topic earlier today. “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!,” he wrote.

Merkel added that with a common army came the need for a common arms export policy. Currently, for example, Germany has paused arms exports to Saudi Arabia over its alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while France hasn’t.