The European Commission President made the statement while serving as Germany’s Defence Minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her predecessor as head of the EC, Jean Claude Juncker, was looking to improve Europe’s standing on the international stage through his advocacy of an EU Army. Ms von der Leyen backed the proposal claiming a bloc-wide fighting force was a “long term goal” for Germany.
At a meeting in The Hague in April 2015, Ms von der Leyen referred to the Ebola outbreak as one example of where an EU Army would respond to “international crises”.
She said: “The European Army is our long-term goal, but first we have to strengthen the European Defence Union.
“The United States also wants us Europeans as a powerful force within NATO.
“To achieve this, some nations with concrete military cooperation must come to the fore – and the Germans and the Dutch are doing this.
“The Ebola crisis alone, or the attack of ISIS on the Yazidi has shown that Europe must be more flexible and have faster access anywhere in the world in the event of a crisis.
“Well-rehearsed structures within a European Defence Union could help to shorten coordination processes and speed up the help that is needed.”
She added: “All over Europe we will need to invest more if our alliances can reliably take responsibility.”
Ms von der Leyen also noted that such a project remained a long-term goal and would “probably only be something that my children would experience”.
This came after Mr Juncker had also expressed interest in an EU military force.
In March 2015, he said: “Such an army would help us to build a common foreign and security policy, as well as jointly assume the responsibilities of Europe in the world.
“A common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
An Ebola outbreak reached Europe in 2014, affecting people in the UK, Spain and Italy.
A Scottish nurse and aid worker – Pauline Cafferkey – contracted the virus while working in Sierra Leone as part of the medical aid effort during the West African Ebola epidemic.
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She survived the illness, but was readmitted to the hospital multiple times with complications related to the disease – at one point she was in a serious condition.
There has been no talk of an EU Army during the current coronavirus pandemic – of which Europe has been declared the epicentre.
The bloc agreed yesterday to ban travellers from outside the EU for 30 days in an unprecedented move to seal its borders.
The measure is expected to apply to 26 EU states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. UK citizens will be unaffected – the BBC reports.
Ms von der Leyen said at the video press conference: “They said they will immediately do that.
“This is good, so that we have a unanimous and united approach [where] the external borders are concerned.”
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