'Our problems' Brussels chief confirms plans for EU army to end reliance on US troops

Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, said the EU must have the ability to deploy troops overseas without the help of the US or Nato in the future. Brussels’ latest drive for further military cooperation comes after European nations were forced to abandon their evacuation operations amid the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. France is spearheading a separate push for more strategic sovereignty after Australia cancelled a contract for French-built submarines in favour of nuclear-powered technology developed by the UK and US.

Responding to recent speculation over an EU army, Mr Borrell told US broadcaster PBS: “There will be problems in our neighbourhood in which the US will not intervene, and we should be able to do that on our own.”

Referring to the Afghan withdrawal, he added: “President Biden said at the United Nations that it is the first time in 20 years that the US is not at war.

“We Europeans, as I have said, have got to share a part of the responsibility and for doing that you have to have the capability of deploying troops like the US is able to do.”

Brussels wants to be able to create a 5,000-strong rapid response unit to deploy into conflict zones in the future.

Brussels-led “battlegroups” were agreed in 2007 but never used because their deployment requires unanimous support from the 27-member bloc.

In her recent flagship State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused EU leaders of lacking the “political will” to deploy Brussels-led troops around the world.

She insisted the bloc should be able to send “battlegroups” into conflict zones without the help of the US.

Mrs von der Leyen told MEPs: “There will be missions where Nato or the United Nations will not be present but where Europe should be.”

The top eurocrat added: “What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will. And if we develop this political will, there is a lot we can do at EU level.”

This push has also prompted suggestions that France could be ready to give up its seat at the United Nations Security Council in favour of a permanent Brussels representative.

A close ally of the French President has suggested his push for an EU army could result in a serious discussion about the bloc’s representation on the Security Council.

Sandro Gozi, an MEP for Emmanuel Macron’s party, said: “I think that if we move on these things we can put on the table also the discussion on the Security Council.”

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EU nations have so far been unwilling to send troops into battle under an EU flag.

France takes over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in January, handing it a key role in the bloc’s decision-making processes.

Mr Macron and Mrs von der Leyen are due to hold a summit of EU leaders to discuss the bloc’s military capabilities.

Mr Gozi told the Telegraph: “This is a unique opportunity for him and for Europe.

“We must be prepared to confirm our transatlantic alliance but also to become adult in terms of our security and take on our responsibility.”

The French government has since denied that it is willing to give up its seat at the UN Security Council.

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