'OUTRAGE AS EU CHIEF CALLS FOR EURO ARMY COMMANDED BY BRUSSELS TO TAKE ON RUSSIA AND IS' [EXTRACT]

By Alison Little & Allan Hall

Express Online – 9 March 2015

Brussels’ top bureaucrat came under fire yesterday after calling for a European army to be set up as part of a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Jean-Claude Juncker – backed by leading German politicians – said a “Euro-Army” commanded by Brussels would provide a “more credible” response to threats, including from Russia. But his comments sparked a storm of protest in Britain, where Eurosceptic campaigners have long warned of Brussels’ ambitions for its own defence force.

UKIP MEP and defence spokesman Mike Hookem said:

“UKIP have been ridiculed for years and branded scaremongers for suggesting that the UK’s traditional parties were slowly relinquishing control of our defence and moving toward a European Army. However, yet again, UKIP’s predictions have been proved correct. A European Army would be a tragedy for the UK. We have all seen the utter mess the EU has made of the Eurozone economy, so how can we even think of trusting them with this island’s defence? This is simply a disaster in the making that would see Gibraltar returned to Spain, and the Falkland Islands left open to an unopposed invasion by Argentina. Even more concerning would be the prospect of British troops, under European command, operating in the Eastern Ukraine.”

Conservative MP Dr Julian Lewis, of the Commons Defence Committee, said:

“Opponents of the European Army concept have always said that this would undermine the whole basis of NATO. A European Army would be a tragedy for the UK. Having blundered in making clumsy overtures to Ukraine, the EU now wants to tell President Putin that it will stand up to him without the support of the United States. The whole basis of NATO’s existence was to show any potential aggressor that an attack on any of its European member states would instantly trigger a conflict with America. This foolishness strikes at the heart of European security.”

European Commission President Mr Juncker, who has long advocated a European force, told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag Sunday newspaper:

“Such an Army would help us to build a Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as jointly assume the responsibilities of Europe in the world. Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously.”

Such a force could, he said, “react credibly” to dangers facing the EU’s 28 member states or its neighbours. Moscow’s suspicions of such a move will be compounded by Mr Juncker’s specific statement that forming such a body would make clear to Russia that the EU is “serious about upholding the value of the European Union”. Mr Juncker insisted the force would not be in competition with NATO, the 28-member alliance which includes most but not all EU countries and which the UK views as the bedrock of western defence cooperation.

“Rather a European Army would bring an intensive cooperation in the development and the purchase of military equipment and bring substantial savings,”

said former Luxembourg Prime Minister Mr Juncker ... UKIP said Mr Juncker’s comments bore out the warnings it has issued in the face of denials by mainstream politicians – including Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg who last year accused Nigel Farage of peddling “a dangerous fantasy” by saying Europe wanted its own force ... Amid the ongoing row over whether the Conservatives will commit to continue spending the NATO recommended minimum of two per cent of national output on defence, Mr Hookem said UKIP would do so, as well as reversing coalition Armed Forces cuts ... A UK government spokesman insisted:

“Our position is crystal clear that defence is a national, not an EU responsibility and that there is no prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European Army.”