PRAGUE: Europe has to take care of its defense given the shift in US policy, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday, promoting a hefty defense fund announced by Brussels.
“The protection of Europe can no longer be outsourced,” Juncker told a defense conference in Prague.
“Over the past decade, it has become crystal clear that our American partners consider that they are shouldering too much of the burden for their wealthy European allies,” he said.
On Wednesday, the EU unveiled an unprecedented plan to set up a 5.5-billion-euro ($6.15-billion) a year fund, following a Franco-German led bid to focus on security and defense to provide a new sense of purpose after last year’s Brexit vote shook Europe.
“We have no other choice than to defend our own interests in the Middle East, in climate change, in our trade agreements by stepping up our efforts on defense and by doing so together,” he said.
US President Donald Trump, who follows an “America First” policy, berated his European partners on military spending at a raucous NATO summit in Brussels last month.
Juncker said the EU would not compete with NATO, with which it shares 22 members, adding: “NATO has been and will remain the cornerstone of European security for decades. We are different but we complement each other.”
NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said the alliance welcomed the proposed fund.
“A stronger European defense means a stronger NATO and a stronger NATO means a stronger European defense,” she said, adding neither NATO nor the EU could tackle current challenges alone.