23 Mar 07. German Chancellor Calls for Gradual Creation of EU Army. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the current European Union presidency, called for the gradual creation of a European army, in an interview published March 23. “We need to move closer to a common European army in the EU,” Merkel told the top-selling daily Bild ahead of weekend celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundation for the EU. Asked how Europe will look in another 50 years, Merkel said, “The European Commission will have more room to maneuver with clearly defined responsibilities.” But Merkel said she did not expect the emergence of a European federal state, even in the distant future. “We will maintain the diversity of the national states,” she said. Asked about Merkel’s comments on a European army, her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm stressed she was talking about long-term goals. “There have been calls for greater integration of the [European] armed forces for a long time,” he said, adding that the scope for action that European has in the world “depends on its unity” and its ability to assume responsibilities. “The chancellor wanted to express her conviction that there are still things to do in this area in the long run. Of course we need to move forward step by step and together … This is not a debate for today but for the coming decades,” Wilhelm said. A defense ministry spokeswoman noted that the EU’s “battle groups” rapid-response forces, created for deployment in crisis zones, were an example of greater military cooperation within the bloc. Merkel, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering are to sign on March 25 a Berlin Declaration hailing past successes of the EU and outlining common principles and goals in the presence of the leaders of the other 26 member states. The chancellor said that a European constitution was key to eliminating the alienation that has arisen between the EU and many of its citizens. “A certain impatience is common because it often takes a long time for the 27 member states to reach a consensus,” she said.
“To change that we need an EU constitutional treaty to harmonize the decision-making mechanisms with a larger EU,” Merkel said.The German presidency said March 23 that the Berlin Declaration will insist that member states find a solution by 2009 to the crisis prompted by the rejection of the EU constitution by French and Dutch voters in referendums two years ago. Merkel said the EU was born in the postwar era with the dream of “a common Europe after the horrible experiences of the world war started by Hitler’s Germany,” she said.
“The idea of European unification is still a question of war and peace today. We should never take peace and democracy for granted, even if the longest period of peace in the history of Europe has become familiar reality thanks to the European Union.” Merkel, a conservative who was raised in former communist East Germany, said the European way of life could be summed up in one word: tolerance. “Our model in Europe aims for balance and community. That means, for example, that top earners pay a higher rate of taxes and that we have a solid social welfare system,” she said. “But we need to make sure that social security is linked to individual freedom and responsibility. And we will have to stand up for our values because the world is constantly changing.” (Source: Defense News)
21 Mar 07. Budget: Defence Expenditure. In his Budget Statement (21 Mar 07) the Chancellor of the Exchequer acknowledged that the UK owed “a huge debt of gratitude to our Armed Forces”. An additional £400m is to be made available in 2007/08 from HM Treasury’s Special Reserve for continuing commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. A further £200m is to be made available from the Reserve in 2007/08 to support world-wide peacekeeping activity.
Comment: Defence attracted only a grudging m