European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker says the European Union cannot turn to the United States forever when it comes to its defense issues, urging the 28-nation bloc to cut its reliance on Washington’s military support.
“It becomes clear that we cannot rely on American defense support in the long run,” Juncker told Tiroler Tageszeitung, an Austrian daily.
He added that the European Union is steadily recovering from the crises it has faced since 2015, including the mass influx of refugees and the surprise election of Donald Trump as US president.
Juncker, who is a strong advocate of creating an EU army, has repeatedly called for separating European forces from NATO, a Western military alliance led by the United States.
His calls intensified after Trump raised uncertainties over his commitment to European security.
The senior European official advised the 28-nation bloc back in June against “outsourcing” its defense issues.
“The protection of Europe can no longer be outsourced. Even our biggest military powers – and I could count them on one, maximum two – cannot combat all the challenges and threats alone,” he said at the Prague Defense and Security Conference.
Calls for creating a European army have also been voiced by other EU officials.
“In the end, there will be a European army,” said Hans-Peter Bartels, the German parliament’s Commissioner for the Armed Forces in June.
The German official said eventually the EU will be organized and eliminate “disorganized, technically fragmented, and duplicate structures,” calling on EU states to organize their military forces sooner and create a single military force.
An EU plan to create a European army has been the subject of media debate over the past months.
The plan, drawn up by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, foresees the creation of a new European military and operational structure.
In March, the EU created a joint military headquarters in Brussels, dubbed the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) facility.
Many see the formation of the MPCC as the first step towards the creation of a European army led from the EU headquarters in Brussels.