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BRUSSELS — The UK has strongly rejected any possibility of a European army being created following a proposal along those lines made by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

"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," said a UK government spokesperson.

However, in a recent press statement, the European Federalist Party (EFP) welcomed the proposal to create a European army to face the threat represented by an increasingly assertive Russia as well as other security threats.

"Of course any army must be under democratic oversight, which requires the European Union to make a step further in the process of European integration towards a federal Europe with a stronger role for the European Parliament," said Pietro De Matteis, the president of the European Federalist Party.

Daniel Keohane, research director at the European think tank FRIDE, said he does not see it as a feasible proposal.

"There's no point in talking about an army unless you're talking about a federal state," Keohane told Defense News. "You need to be clear who is the political authority controlling it and who pays for it."

Keohane argued that the idea of military integration across the EU is a good one as "we have a demilitarization problem in the EU and falling defense budgets.This is what pooling and sharing in the EU is all about. But the drivers behind that integration have to be the national governments and not the EU institutions. That's the difficulty with the proposal."

While he said he can see why a committed federalist like Juncker wants to put the idea on the table, it is not "politically or militarily very realistic," Keohane said.

"I don't think it'll have much impact on the nuts and bolts of the EU defense debate as the Commission only plays a small role in that," he said. "Defense policy is really an intergovernmental area. More important is what EU governments will discuss at their June summit, where they are expected to discuss defense policy, and if anything new comes out of that, especially in terms of pooling and sharing. Without EU countries pooling more money, it is difficult to see how capabilities can improve much."

Email: jhale@defensenews.com.

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