European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday European Union members must increase defense expenditure and protect the bloc.
“The protection of Europe can no longer be outsourced,” Junker told a Defense and Security Conference in Prague.
He indicated the EU could no longer depend on NATO, especially the U.S., for the safety and security of European territory. He added the U.S. was “no longer interested in guaranteeing Europe’s security in our place”.
“The world around us is changing. The United States fundamentally changed its foreign policy long before the arrival of Mr. Trump… We have no other choice than to defend our own interests in the Middle East, in climate change, in our trade agreements,” Juncker added.
Juncker’s statement echoed remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stated last month the EU could no longer depend on the U.S. following the election of President Donald Trump.
During a NATO leaders’ meeting in Brussels on May 26, Trump harshly criticized other member countries, accusing them of not fulfilling their obligation to meet military spending targets.
Citing recent terror attacks in Europe and developments in the Middle East, Juncker said, “All of that shows that soft power alone is not powerful enough in an increasingly militarized world.”
He underlined that less than three percent of European troops were deployable with their current capability and added the EU needed to invest more in its military.
“That is why the European Commission proposed a European Defense Fund,” he added. “This is the fund that will make the European Union the biggest investor in collective defense research and technology in Europe.”
“A European Security and Defense Union will help protect our union, which is exactly what EU citizens expect…So the call I make today is not only in favor of a Europe of defense — it is a call in defense of Europe,” Juncker said.