Merkel successor wants EU Army

German centre-right leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has called for the creation of a European army in a speech in Brussels that sets out the campaign themes for her CDU party in this year’s elections to the European Parliament.

Background 

The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is a Christian democratic and liberal-conservative political party in Germany. It is the major catch-all party of the centre-right in German politics. The CDU forms the CDU/CSU grouping, also known as the Union, in the Bundestag with its Bavarian counterpart the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU).

Angela Merkel chose not to contest for the leadership in October 2018. She was the spearhead of the CDU/CSU coalition for 18 years (2000 to 2018). She will continue to be Chancellor until 2021.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a German politician who was chosen as the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the party elections in December 2018. She joined the CDU in 1981 as a 19-year-old student and, after completing a masters in political science, worked her way up in state-level politics. Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer became the first woman to serve as a state minister for internal affairs in 2000 and the first woman to serve as prime minister of Saarland, a position she held from 2011 to 2018.

Analysis 

Returning repeatedly to the idea of a “Europe of security”, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is widely expected to be Germany’s next chancellor, said the creation of an EU army to exist alongside national forces was a “logical” step “if we don’t want to be the ball being played around between Russia and the US and China and the US”.

The CDU leader also underlined the need to shore up controls at the EU’s external borders, saying that irregular migration “will remain one of the biggest challenges for the European continent for decades”. “We have to have a joint answer and this also must be at the centre of the European election campaign”, she said, warning that the bloc’s border-free Schengen zone had to be reinforced to survive.

The speech marked Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer’s first trip to Brussels since her election last year to replace Angela Merkel as CDU chief. The conservative leader used the occasion to publicly endorse Manfred Weber, a Bavarian conservative who leads the centre-right in the EU parliament, in his bid to become the next president of the European Commission.

In a break with the Merkel-era, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer also gave full-throated support to the so-called “Spitzenkandidat”, or lead candidate, process of electing commission presidents that is opposed by many national leaders including France’s Emmanuel Macron. Mr. Weber is the Spitzenkandidat for the centre-right European People’s party.

Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer said the process, which involves Europe’s political groupings picking presidential candidates to lead their election campaigns, is key to the democratic legitimacy of the EU. “For me as chair of the CDU, it is clear that only a lead candidate can become commission president,” she said. With the commission set to veto the proposed merger between train companies Siemens and Alstom, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed calls from France for an easing of EU competition rules in order to facilitate the emergence of companies that can compete on the global stage.

Brussels’ current approach “perhaps prevents us seeing the bigger strategic picture for tomorrow”, she said, adding that Airbus should be taken as a model for other pan-EU industrial projects. She also appeared to criticize plans advanced by her own country’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, for an EU-wide unemployment insurance scheme. Mr. Scholz, a member of the government from the centre-left SPD, has promoted the idea in the context of EU talks on the creation of a Euro area budget. Such a scheme “will not solve” Europe’s unemployment problems, she said, adding that the EU’s answer cannot be “just pumping money into things”.

Assessment 

Our assessment is that a unified European army is a complex undertaking which will require a level of defence cooperation between countries not seen before in Europe. We believe that if the EU agrees on a unified army, we can expect a unified European superstate in coming decades which may lead to a coalescence of European countries.