Common European Army: proposal for Enhanced Cooperation

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This “non paper” arises from the reflections of a small group of people with backgrounds in military, diplomacy, journalism and politics. Due to the public offices held by certain members of this group, some authors shall remain anonymous.

The starting point for these reflections, leading to the preparation of this draft memorandum of understanding for the establishment of a Common European Army, is that NATO – of which 21 of the 27 European Union countries are members – is at present fundamentally capable of defending the territorial integrity of its members, but not – for essentially political reasons – in a position to respond to crises in the EU’s neighbouring countries, or, as a consequence, various threats to the security of the EU and its member states.

(Crédit : sylv1rob1/

Based on this premise, the Europe-Existence group believes that the way forward is through the construction/constitution – alongside NATO – of a strictly European military instrument which will put the European Union, or – during an initial phase – a group consisting of EU member states, in a political and military position to intervene in neighbouring territories to either prevent the outbreak of severe crises, or contribute to the resolution of such crises.

Thus, the objective is not to create a “Euro-Power” or a “Powerful Europe”, but to confirm the reality of the Union, as much for the “rest of the world” as for member states and citizens. As Jean-Claude Juncker has said, “with its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state”. Moreover, as Juncker emphasises, “such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world”. 1

As we stress below, the “Europe-Existence” group also believes that the European Union is endowed with a perfectly adequate institutional framework – requiring just a few modifications or updates in accordance with the existing principles of operation – to ensure the proper political management of this military instrument.


Common European Army: proposal for Enhanced Cooperation

High Contracting Parties,

Considering the security threats facing every single EU member state;

Considering, in particular, the security threat represented by severe instability in regions of the Maghreb-Sahel and Middle East, and, in certain cases, the existence of vast territories within these regions which elude the control of their parent state;

Considering the threat represented by the resurgence of international actors who pursue imperial and imperialist policies via the annexation and overt or covert occupation of territories belonging to other states;

Considering the existence of powerful organised crime networks involved in human trafficking;

Considering that certain international actors use the migration question as a weapon to destabilise the European Union and its members;

Considering the increasing use of cyber weapons by state and non-state actors, the spread of fake news via “social networks”, as well as the emergence of hybrid wars;

Considering that the EU’s policy of soft power, important as it may have been, has displayed its limitations so dramatically in the cases of Syria and Libya;

Considering that there can be no real EU foreign policy without a common security policy, a policy capable of defending, in ultima ratio, the interests, values and principles upon which the Union and the member states are founded, and therefore the integrity of people who embody them and territories where they have spread;

Considering that European military cooperation based on the articulation of individual national contingents does not offer sufficient guarantees of military and – even more so – political cohesion, in that it remains exposed to the unilateral retreat of one or more contingents for purely national reasons;

Considering that the affirmation in the Treaties of obligatory mutual assistance between EU member states (Art. 42 § 7 TEU), in the absence of a genuine common political and military incarnation, constitutes a dangerous illusion;

Considering that there can be no real common European defence policy without a common instrument – a common European army;

Considering that with Brexit the European Union loses the only avowed opponent to the mere suggestion of a common European security policy and, by consequence, a common European army;

Conscious that a European army could contribute in a substantial manner to the construction of a common European military culture and, consequently, a common European defence policy;

Considering that a common European army would constitute a powerful stimulus to the constitution of pan-European industrial groups in the defence sector;

Conscious that “the time has come for we Europeans to take our destiny into our own hands” 2;

In order to face these threats together, the High Contracting Parties decide to create a Common European Army (Common European Armed Forces) designed to undertake, in the first place, missions to maintain and restore peace, and stabilisation operations in accordance with the political, legal and military procedures specified below.

Political procedures

The common European army is placed under the authority of the President of the European Commission.

The President of the European Commission is assisted by a European Commissioner for Defence and Security who coordinates the organisation and funding of the common army.

The President of the Commission submits the commitment decisions of the Common Army and its procedures for the approval of the European Security Council, composed of all EU member state heads of state and government. The European Security Council shall act by a qualified majority (55 percent of states representing at least 65 percent of the population) of states participating in the Enhanced Cooperation.

The President of the Commission and/or Commissioner for Defence are accountable for missions underway, planned investments, and the overall performance of the Common Army before the joint Council of ministers for foreign affairs and ministers for Defence, and before the European Parliament, or before its Committee for foreign affairs and security.

Members of the Council and members of the European Parliament can, if they belong to a country participating in the Enhanced Cooperation, submit written and verbal inquiries to the President of the Commission and/or the Commissioner for Defence and Security, adopt resolution guidelines, propose amendments and, subsequently, adopt or reject the projected budget for the Common Army presented by the Commissioner for Defence.

Legal basis

On the basis of Article 20 of the TEU, the High Contracting Parties decide to launch a Enhanced Cooperation aiming at the creation of a Common European Army.

In order to ensure the Enhanced Cooperation’s maximum efficiency, the participating states decide on a common agreement with EU member states which are not part of this Enhanced Cooperation but which, in accordance with Article 330, can participate in its decision process without the right to vote, to provide in a timely manner for the following modifications to the Treaties in order to:

– establish the responsibility of the President of the European Commission as chief of the common army;

– establish the figure of an ad hoc commissioner responsible for the organisation of the Common Army, including budgetary questions;

– create within the European Council a “European Security Council”, with the power to authorise upon the proposal of the President of the Commission the engagement of the Common European Army, a formation in which also participate, without a right to vote, EU member state heads of state and government not participating in the Enhanced Cooperation;

– introduce the procedure of codecision (European Council and Parliament) for all questions relating to the organisation and funding of the Common Army;

– delete Art. 333 § 3 of the TFEU in order to allow the participation of new member states in the Enhanced Cooperation, on the basis of a majority vote taken by members already participating;

– modify Art. 331 § 2, final paragraph, of the TFEU [12] in order to establish that the decision process of the Council takes place by the qualified majority of members of participating countries.

Relationship with other institutions


The Common European Army is integrated within NATO in accordance with the specific procedures defined by common agreement, procedures which call for its operational integration within the Atlantic Alliance only when Article 5 of the Alliance is triggered.


The relationship with the existing Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), and potential and future PESCOs, is defined in the ad hoc protocols.

Military committee of the European Union

Just like EU member state Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff of the Common European Army is party to all aspects of the EU’s military committee.

Political and Security Committee (PSC)

A representative of the President of the Commission integrates PSC, composed of representatives of the 27 member states.

Financial procedures

The countries participating in the Enhanced Cooperation contribute to funding the Common Army through an annual contribution equivalent to 0.3 percent of their GDP.

Contributions of States participating in the Closer Cooperation 3

GDP 4  0,3% GDP 5 Contribution à l’UE 6 Defence Budget 7
Germany 3.386 10.158 19.587 40.447
France 2.349 7.047 16.233 40.852
Italy 1.757 5.271 12.000 21.166
Spain 1.208 3.624 8.080 10.528
Netherlands 773 2.319 3.384 8.686
Poland 496 1.488 3.048 8.638
Belgium 450 1.350 2.978 3.997
Czech Rep. 206 618 1.282 2.055
Romania 203 609 1.228 3.100
Portugal 201 603 1.375 2.398
Greece 184 552 1.247 4.111
Slovakia 90 270 599 935
Luxembourg 58 174 307 288
Bulgaria 55 165 378 640
Croatia 51 153 359 795
Slovenia 45 135 293 422
Lithuania 45 135 273 724
Latvia 29 87 184 470
Estonia 25 75 154 479
Total 11.611 34.833

Configuration of the European Army (European Armed Forces)

Initially, and taking into account NATO operating procedures, the Common European Army is primarily composed of three land divisions (an operational division, a division in preparation/training, a resting division), each subdivided into three brigades; three air squadrons and three naval aviation groups, coming to a total of around 90,000/100,000 soldiers. The European Army is under the command of a (four-star) general, Chief of Staff.

Projected Theatre of Command

Under the command of a (three-star) lieutenant-general, composed of:

A land component (around 20,000 soldiers) composed, in its turn, of:

a) 1 “light” division based at a Headquarters (HQ) and three brigades with mechanical/armoured elements. Each brigade is under the command of a (two-star) brigade general and comprises an engineer regiment, a logistics battalion, a signals regiment, a level-1 medical unit (ROLE 1 – first aid, stabilisation and triage).

b) 1 logistic theatre command (JLSG – Joint Logistic Support Group)

c) 1 level-3 field hospital (ROLE 3 – specialised diagnosis, surgical interventions, preventive medicine, including checks on foodstuffs, “operational stress management teams”).

d) 1 PSYOPS unit, 1 CIMIC unit (civic-military cooperation) and 1 CBRN unit (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence).

e) 2 operational Special Forces detachments (Land).

f) 1 ISTAR unit (Intelligence-Surveillance-Target Acquisition Reconnaissance).

g) 1 attack helicopter squadron

h) 1 transport helicopter squadron

i) 1 multi-role helicopter squadron

j) 1 MEDEVAC helicopter squadron (medical evacuation)

k) 1 military police unit (company/battalion)

An air component (around 6,000 soldiers) under the command of a (two-star) general, composed, in its turn, of:

a) 1 projected Air Component Command capable of deploying a “Deployed Operating Base” (DOB) and an “Aerial Port of Debarkation” (APOD) in the theatre of operations.

b) 1 tactical airlift group

c) 1 strategic airlift group

d) 1 fighter squadron

e) 1 fighter-bomber squadron

f) 1 combat SAR (Search & Rescue) helicopter squadron

g) 1 UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) unit

h) 1 projected radar unit

i) 1 “Force protection” unit (at the level of battalion/regiment)

A naval component (around 5,000 soldiers, including the onboard aerial component) comprising a naval group, under the command of a (two-star) admiral, composed of:

a) 1 aircraft-carrier/helicopter-carrier

b) 3 Frigates

c) 2 Destroyers (torpedo boats)

d) 4 Minesweepers

e) 3 Submarines

f) 1 Supply ship

g) 1 Logistical support ship

A cyber unit

This unit operates at the level of the theatre of command.

An intelligence service

The collaboration procedures between the European Intelligence Service and the Intelligence Services of the member states participating in the Enhanced Cooperation are defined in an ad hoc protocol.


It is not possible to go into detail on either investment or operating costs, since both depend on the number of countries of the 19 mentioned who will adhere to the Enhanced Cooperation, and because the costs of arms could vary considerably depending on the materials chosen. In a scenario where a dozen countries participate (including the largest countries), a range between 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent of GDP seems plausible.

Operating procedures

The Common European Army’s language for communication and work is English.

The officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the European Army enjoy the status of community employees; their salaries are calculated according to current salaries in the countries participating in the Enhanced Cooperation (averaging the five countries with the highest salaries)

As for the officials of the Commission, the number of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers is proportional to the number of inhabitants in each participating country.

Distribution 8 by participating country

Inhabitants Percentage
Belgium 11,46 2,86
Bulgaria 7,00 1,74
Croatia 4,07 1,01
Estonia 1,32 0,32
France 67,02 16,74
Germany 83,01 20,73
Greece 10,72 2,67
Italy 60,35 15,07
Latvia 1,92 0,47
Lithuania 2,79 0,69
Luxembourg 0,61 0,15
Netherlands 17,28 4,31
Poland 37,97 9,48
Portugal 10,27 2,56
Czech Rep. 10,64 2,65
Romania 19,40 4,84
Slovakia 5,45 1,36
Slovenia 2,08 0,51
Spain 46,93 11,72
Total (19 countries) 400,29

Initial training of Officers and Soldiers

The training of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers is overseen by a European Military Academy.

During the construction/constitution phase of the Common European Army, the member states of the Enhanced Cooperation each contribute in proportion to their population, their GDP and the capacities of their armed forces for training officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the Common European Army.

Location of military bases

Choices concerning the location of bases for individual units of the European Army are made in consideration of both threats against the European Union and the disadvantages of less-populated countries profiting from the economic benefits derived from arms production.

Supply of arms

Orders for the supply of arms are allocated with priority to industrial groups of which the majority of capital is owned by industrial actors belonging to at least 40 percent of countries participating in the Enhanced Cooperation, and representing at least a third of the overall population of participating countries.

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  1. EurActiv, 9 March 2015
  2. Angela Merkel
  3. 2017 data, in euro. Eurostat
  4. Eurostat 2018, in billions of euro
  5. In millions of euro
  6. Financial Report of the European Commission, 2017
  7. NATO, public diplomacy division, 2017, in millions of euro
  8. Population on 1 January 2019. Eurostat data.[/ref] of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers  9Based on a Enhanced Cooperation which could include the following 19 countries : Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.