Germany is pushing for a European army in the 28-member EU bloc, according to a white paper put forward by the German government. The army is envisaged to have a joint headquarters and shared military plans.
The news may upset the Brexit debate in the UK ahead of the EU referendum vote scheduled for 23 June. The Leave campaign, which has been warning of the further integration with the EU, will now have more ammunition to back its claims.
The Financial Times noted that the white paper is "one of the most significant" for Germany in recent years, given that Berlin has "long paid lip-service" to the formation of a European defence union. It noted that the white paper was to have been released shortly before the 23 June referendum but has probably been delayed to July.
According to the newspaper, the draft white paper outlines steps to "gradually coordinate Europe's patchwork of national militaries" and launch permanent cooperation under common structures among the member states. The initiatives proposed include strengthening cyberwarfare abilities.
Another proposal includes relaxing the post-war restrictions on army operations within Germany — a rather contentious issue. Deployments dealing with violence or threats of violence within Germany have been banned over fears of evoking Nazi-era practices. The draft proposal, according to the FT, seeks to end the ban, noting the "character and dynamic of current and future security-political threats".
"German security policy has relevance — also for beyond our country. Germany is willing to join early, decisively and substantially as a driving force in international debates ... to take responsibility and assume leadership," the white paper said.
The FT says the paper calls for "the use of all possibilities" that are permissible under the EU treaties such as establishing deep cooperation between willing member states, create a joint civil military headquarters for the EU operations, a council of defence ministers and better coordination of the production and sharing of military equipment.
It also noted the role of Nato in a European army. "The more we Europeans are ready to take on a greater share of the common burden and the more our American partner is prepared to go along the road of common decision-making, the further the transatlantic security partnership will develop greater intensity and richer results," the paper adds.
Roderich Kiesewetter, a Bundestag foreign affairs committee member wrote in a recent paper: "The creation of a European army is a long way off, but it is a strategic necessity to implement important steps to pave the way towards it now."