German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been working on establishing the groundwork for an European Union army, in particular developing a network of co-operation between troops from Germany and others from countries that are part of Pesco – Permanent Structured Co-operation.
The bloc comprises 25 EU countries with only Denmark, Malta and the UK remaining outside.
The move largely comprises of co-operation in training the troops, with the Bundeswehr training a number of soldiers from various EU countries and similarly, German troops visit their counterparts.
But the plan does not just comprise the army but also the navy and air force.
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron inspect German troops in Berlin
In Germany there are a total of 24 training facilities, which are visited by soldiers from other EU Member States.
Bundeswehr soldiers in turn visit 55 educational institutions of other armies throughout Europe, from Albania to Spain.
Amongst the camps German soldiers go through abroad is the elite officer’s school in St-Cyr, France.
German officers go there for around three months and learn and practice with French colleagues.
In addition, there are a whole range of other officers’ schools across Europe, which are visited by officer candidates, such as in Budapest, Zagreb or Rome.
In almost every EU country, the future leaders of the troupe can go to university.
In addition to the common career training, there is operational training, where soldiers are trained to use weapons and a fighter jet or a submarine.
The Bundeswehr trains the pilots of the Tiger attack helicopter with the French, while the Norwegians train the marines in submarines.
The closest partnerships, mainly with the Netherlands and France, have emerged from such joint training projects.
The Bundeswehr even has mixed units with both countries.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen talks to German soldiers
German soldiers are often subordinated to a French commander.
The aim is deeper European integration in defence, which could already be realised ahead of the aims of Pesco.
Green Party politician Tobias Lindner said that while not all the joint training ideas were initiated by Ms von der Leyen they were “expanded and intensified” during her term of office.
French President Emmanuel Macron is also a big supporter of forming an EU army and has previously called for the creation of a single leadership academy where member states can send their officers to study and train.
The German Ministry of Defence has said it is open to the creation of a single EU academy for its military elite but there has been no firm commitment to such a project due to concerns that Germany could end up paying the bulk of the cost to train soldiers from around the bloc.
German soldiers take part in a military exercise
The move by Ms von der Leyen comes after Brussels announced EU military cooperation is a now a “tangible reality” after signing off a huge new project.
The European Defence Fund has received its first grant from the bloc for a €1million research programme called Pythia.
Named after the Priestess of Ancient Delphi, Pythia will see countries including France and Italy join forces to research cutting-edge military technology.
The UK also forms part of the programme, despite leaving the bloc in 2019, alongside Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.
A further €90million will be dished out from the EU budget in the next two years as Brussels chiefs look to strengthen military ties across the bloc.
Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska said: “Only months after the launch of the European Defence Fund, we are delivering by supporting the first concrete defence research project with EU funding.