Brussels chief slams EU leaders for lacking political will to deploy EU army

The European Commission president insisted the bloc should be able to send “battlegroups” into conflict zones without the help of the US. She told MEPs: “There will be missions where Nato or the United Nations will not be present but where Europe should be.”

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Ms von der Leyen, left, said the creation of a 5,000-strong rapid response unit should be part of the EU’s future plans.

She 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.”

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

One critic, Romanian MEP Cristian Terhes, said: “While Nato is a defence alliance, an EU army implies that such battlegroups will be offensive.”

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