Firstly, the relationship between the EU and the NATO, notably their cooperation and coordination is an essential factor affecting the EU consensus associated with military force. The NATO's new Strategic Concept states that ‘an active and effective European Union contributes to the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area. Therefore, the EU is a unique and essential partner for NATO.’ The NATO and the EU have 21 members in common. But all of them have only one set of military forces and capabilities. ‘The EU cannot deploy military forces if NATO is already engaged as all troops that are anticipated to be allotted to the EU force would already be assigned to the NATO.’ That is to say, the EU military force is only being ‘double hatted’
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It had historically caused the US fears for the duplication that would undermine the NATO. Further, that the EU could eventually result in a more equal role for the US in the European theatre may also raise fears that the US will be left out of important military decisions, though the present size of the EU military force is much smaller in comparison to the US forces, and it is unlikely to be any threat to the US military dominance in the near future.
To the contrary, a recheck of the related treaties, summits and councils developing the common defence policy of the EU confirms that NATO will still remain the key security institution in Europe. More to the point, the US is now not only having to contend with comparable external threats and internal constraints, but is also likely to shift its strategic focus away from Europe, the development of EU military force and the EU transforming into a military alliance thus can help lower the burden the US takes as the dominant military power in NATO. That may be the main reason ‘why Washington now clearly encourages more European and intra-EU cooperation – and even autonomy – on military matters, as a way to preserve and consolidate NATO.’ From the perspective of the EU, as the United States is the world's only remaining superpower, the EU indeed need support from the US before undertaking any major military operation on its own.
IV. HOW TO STRENTHEN THE EU CONSENSUS OF