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9 Jun, 2017 13:24

NATO not EU rival, but Europe can no longer ‘outsource’ protection – Juncker

NATO not EU rival, but Europe can no longer ‘outsource’ protection – Juncker

Europe’s biggest military powers can’t defend it from external threats and the protection of the region can’t be “outsourced,” EC chief Jean-Claude Juncker said. His remarks come after Donald Trump called on the bloc to contribute its “fair share” to defense.

“War is anchored in Europe's history. The memories of terror and bloodshed are still all too vivid for many people in this country and in all of Europe,” European Commission chief Juncker said at the Defense and Security Conference in Prague. 

According to the EC president, Europe doesn’t have “to look much further than our doorstep to see that war is not a thing of the past.”

“The protection of Europe can no longer be outsourced. Even our biggest military powers — and I could count them on one, maximum two, fingers — cannot combat all the challenges and threats alone,” he added.

READ MORE: US ‘wants to untie itself’ from world, European Commission chief warns

Speaking about the US, one of the EU’s strongest allies, Juncker said that Washington had “fundamentally changed” its foreign policy long before President Trump took office.

“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. We have no other choice than to defend our own interests in the Middle East, in climate change, in our trade agreements,” he said.

READ MORE: Trump says Berlin must do more for NATO as German FM claims US leader puts Europe at risk

Juncker was apparently referring to a May statement by US President Trump. Back then, Trump said during his first NATO summit that members of the alliance “must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.”

“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump said, in reference to fact that the US currently takes on the most NATO spending.

According to Juncker, NATO has been and will remain the “cornerstone of European security for decades.” 

READ MORE: NATO allies must pay more to tackle terrorism, immigration & Russia – Trump

“Competition between the EU and NATO is not an option…But our deference to NATO can no longer be used as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European efforts,” he added.

The budget Europe spends on defense and security is not enough, Juncker said, drawing attention to the fact that the US spends four times more.

“While the European Union spends around €27,000 [US$30,000] per solider on equipment and research, the US spend €108,000. No wonder then that less than 3 percent of European troops are deployable at this very moment. That shows that we need to invest more, and invest in a more efficient way.”

This was why the European Commission proposed a European Defense Fund which will make the union “the biggest investor in collective defence research and technology in Europe,” he added.

The EC plans to allocate almost €600 million in support of defense until 2020. After 2020 the commission proposes to spend some €1.5 billion each year “as part of the new funding priorities of the Commission,” he said.