PRAGUE -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says European Union members must increase their military cooperation and rely less on the United States because the protection of Europe "can no longer be outsourced."
Speaking at a defense conference in Prague on June 9, Juncker said the United States is "no longer interested in guaranteeing Europe's security in our place."
"Our deference to NATO can no longer be used as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European efforts," he told conference delegates.
Only five of NATO's 29 members have reached the 2 percent of economic output military spending target.
"The protection of Europe can no longer be outsourced," he said.
Juncker's remarks echoed the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said last month that Europe could no longer "completely depend" on the United States and Britain following the election of President Donald Trump and the triggering of the Brexit process.
'No Other Choice'
"We have no other choice than to defend our own interests in the Middle East, in climate change, in our trade agreements,” Juncker said.
“The way forward starts with making sure that we spend what is needed on our defense," he said, adding that the EU and NATO were not competitors.
During a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels on May 26, Trump sharply criticized many NATO members for failing to meet military spending targets.
Trump also caused concern among NATO members at that Brussels meeting by giving a speech in which he did not specifically endorse Article 5, the keystone NATO principle that an attack on one alliance member is an attack against all.
Trump and the EU also are split on trade issues and the question of refugees.
On June 1, Trump announced the United States would pull out of the Paris climate accord, at treaty in which countries around the world agreed on emissions cuts aimed at fighting climate change.
NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller welcomed Junker’s call for greater cooperation on defense by EU countries, saying at the June 9 defense conference in Prague that a "stronger European defense means a stronger NATO and a stronger NATO means a stronger European defense."
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP