Merkel insisted that an EU army wouldn’t undermine NATO, but her remarks to the European Parliament were met with a combination of applause and dissent.
“The times when we could rely on others are over. This means we Europeans have to take our fate fully into our own hands,” Merkel said. “We should work on a vision of one day establishing a real European army.”
Merkel’s views come on the heels of Macron suggesting last week on French radio that the EU should build an army to protect against “China, Russia, and even the United States of America.”
Trump said on Nov. 9 that Macron’s suggestions were “very insulting,” and called for European countries to meet their NATO spending commitments.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2018
Trump criticized Macron’s comments on Nov. 13, tweeting, “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the United States, 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!”
The United States, France, and Germany are military allies under NATO. Washington contributed more than a third of the total funding to the 29-member alliance in 2017. Trump has pressured member states to meet the funding goal of 2 percent of each nation’s gross domestic product, but only the UK, Estonia, and Greece met that goal last year.
France spent 1.81 percent of GDP, and Germany even less, at 1.24 percent.
In July, Trump said, “We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France. We’re protecting everybody. And yet we’re paying a lot of money to protect.”
A Way to Strengthen the Bloc
The idea of a European army was first proposed in the 1950s, but reiterated by European President Jean-Claude Juncker four years ago as a way to strengthen the power of the bloc. The concept has never taken off, with the complications of bringing together armies from across the bloc proving unpalatable and expensive.
In her speech, Merkel emphasized that member countries should meet their economic responsibilities in the eurozone.
“Our common currency can only function if every individual member fulfills their responsibility for sustainable finances,” Merkel said, adding that otherwise, the strength and the stability of the eurozone is at risk.
She kept her vision for deeper monetary cooperation vague, however, saying, “We need to develop our monetary policy better. We’re working on a banking union. We have to look at responsibility and control, a banking union and then later a European insurance system.”
Merkel also trained her sights on Poland and Hungary, two countries whose leaders other member states worry are undercutting democratic institutions.
The European Parliament in September voted to sanction Hungary for flouting EU rules on democracy, civil rights, and corruption, while concerns have grown in the EU over Warsaw’s accelerated judicial overhaul.
“Solidarity is always linked to commitments of the community, and the principles based on rule of law,” Merkel said.
Reuters contributed to this report.