Britain will never join an EU army (Liam Fox, 2/02/07, Daily Telegraph)
At a practical level, those who favour a greater role for the EU have three essential problems – the lack of defence spending among EU members, the lack of a common approach to foreign policy and the question of democratic accountability.
I often refer to the fact that Britain spends just 2.5 per cent of its GDP on defence, the lowest figure since 1930. Yet, while this is low by Britain’s standards, it is much more than many of our European partners spend. Germany spends only 1.4 per cent of its GDP on defence. For Spain, the figure is a mere 1.3 per cent, and Holland 1.7 per cent. Austria spends just 0.7 per cent and is considering reducing it further.
This is theoretically not an insurmountable problem, but to overcome it requires a revolution in thinking, and a transformation, particularly among low-spending countries, which shows no signs of even stirring on the horizon.
The idea that any of the EU states would ever be willing to contemplate spending on a scale that would match the level of protection afforded by the American defence umbrella is laughable. It is an issue that is likely to grow in significance when the British public awaken to the fact that, in combined Nato missions such as Afghanistan, British taxpayers and troops are carrying a disproportionate burden because too many of our European allies are unwilling to shoulder their fair share.
The second problem relates to foreign policy. Defence policy inevitably follows foreign policy: it is about projecting the force when needed to support your foreign policy objectives. Any common defence policy must act in step with a co-ordinated foreign policy. History teaches us that national self-interest will usually trump supra-national aspirations. Events in the Balkans since 1990 have shown how difficult it is to merge individual countries’ foreign policy objectives.
The crisis in the Balkans cruelly exposed the gap between EU rhetoric and the ability to act effectively. Unable to keep a peace that did not exist and unwilling to involve themselves in conflict, Europe’s Hour had indeed come, but it failed to live up to the challenge. It was America that was the prime mover in saving the Balkans from Euro-paralysis.
Better to follow America than”lead” Europe.