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Germany admits the EU is already building a ‘united’ army

Germany and France are now the "driving forces" in European defence and they would stand together in the face of any land assault, said Ursula von der Leyen.

The politician also hit back at those who criticise the European Union's PESCO defence scheme – where national military leaders pledge to co-operate with each other.

PESCO – which stands for Permanent Structured Cooperation – involves 25 armies working alongside each other.

She insisted the countries had signed up "not because we’re following requirements from Brussels but voluntarily because the benefits are obvious and because it’s in Europe’s security interests". 

She wrote in German newspaper Handelsblat : "We are making good progress. Despite Brexit, and the controversial debates us Europeans have among ourselves, Europe remains a unique creation, uniting half a billion citizens in the name of freedom and prosperity.

The news comes after it was reported  Germany is planning to recruit foreign EU mercenaries to boost soldier numbers as part of a drive to appease Donald Trump’s Nato demands.

The country recently vowed to increase defence spending and grow its armed forces from 179,000 to 198,000 active troops by 2024.

But the German military – the Bundeswehr – has struggled to fill its ranks despite a recent recruitment drive.

And it is now said to be considering bringing in nationals from other European countries to bridge the gap.

Some 255,000 Poles, 185,000 Italians and 155,000 Romanians, aged between 18 and 40, live in Germany, magazine Der Spiegel said, citing a government document.

If just 10 per cent of them could be tempted to sign up, that could generate 50,000 new applicants, it said.

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