Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign affairs minister, believes that one of the ways of strengthening a common European identity is by building a Defense Europe “that is to say, a European army.”
In an interview published at the end of last week by Le Figaro, a conservative daily, Frattini explains himself:
In this way it [Europe] would increase its capability to intervene on foreign theaters. The creation of a Franco-Italian Alpine brigade is a first step. We would like other countries to join. Spain, why not, or Germany. The idea is not to impose a European army, but to give it the means to act. If Europe wants to be credible in the war against terrorism, in stabilising crisis zones and in nuclear safety, it must 'produce' its own security and not rely just on that of the United States.
The Alpine brigade, formally announced on April 9th during the annual Franco-Italian summit will, as its name suggests, be specialized in mountain warfare, with Afghanistan obviously in mind, and will be ready to be deployed by 2013.
What Frattini seems to have forgotten is that Europe already has various “armies” and that the first steps were taken more than 20 years ago:
The Franco-German Brigade established in 1987 forms the nucleus of Eurocorps. Joined by Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain they make up the five framework nations of this multinational corps established in 1992 and declared operational in 1995. It is open to all member nations of the European Union and NATO. Austria, Greece, Italy, Poland and Turkey also send staff to the headquarters in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Eurofor (European Union Force), formed in 1995 with a permanent staff based in Florence, Italy, is a land force composed of forces from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain tasked with humanitarian and military peace support operations.
But your average wo/man in the streets of Europe is unaware of the existence of these multinational forces and would certainly dispute the existence of a “European Army.” But then, does it matter very much? In places like Afghanistan or in the anti-piracy missions in the Red Sea, Europe's armies are working side-by-side or in integrated teams anyway.