On March 28, the European Union unveiled a plan to enhance NATO defense capabilities, particularly in view of increasing Russian aggression. The plan, which envisions the establishment of a European Defense Union by the year 2025, is aimed at easing current restrictions on the deployment of troops and the movement of military materiel across Europe, in the same way that the Schengen Area agreement has enabled passport-free travel between 26 states, most of which belong to the EU.
Explaining the necessity for a “military Schengen zone,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said:
“By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise.”
The EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, emphasized another aspect of the proposed zone:
“This means a more efficient use of public money and a better-equipped transport network, ensuring quick and seamless mobility across the continent. This is a matter of collective security”
The principle of “collective security” — or “collective defense” — is enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO (Washington) Treaty, and it means that “an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.” It was first invoked after the 9/11 attacks, and has been implemented on several occasions, including in response to the civil war in Syria and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Currently, collective defense is impeded by regulations that make it extremely difficult for NATO to move troops and equipment swiftly and efficiently from one member-state to another.
This difficulty was behind the idea of creating the “military Schengen,” which was raised by NATO leaders in 2015, and repeated last July by U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. General Frederick Benjamin Hodges during the U.S. Army-led Saber Guardian exercise in Romania.