STRASBOURG, France, Sept. 14 (UPI) — European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed on Wednesday the EU establish a military headquarters to build toward a permanent common defense force.
Juncker made the comments in Strasbourg, France, during the annual state of the union address, which was partly devoted to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU following the “Brexit” vote. He said the U.K.’s departure should increase the necessity for greater European cooperation in defense.
“Europe can no longer afford to piggy-back on the military might of others or let France alone defend its honor in Mali,” Juncker told members of the European parliament. “For European defense to be strong, the European defense industry needs to innovate. That is why we will propose before the end of the year a European Defense Fund to turbo boost research and innovation.”
Though all EU members have military forces and most are NATO members, Juncker said funds are wasted in coordinating military missions between the countries. He said a common European defense force “should be in complement to NATO.”
Juncker said he insists the EU have a greater role in organizing each member’s military to provide greater security to the region.
“Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defense policy,” Juncker added. “The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defense capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation. I think the time to make use of this possibility is now.”
On the project of Brexit amid fears of rising nationalism that potentially threaten the EU, Juncker said the “European project continues.”
“Let’s choose to look forward. Be positive,” Juncker said.
Peter Lundgren, who belongs to the nationalist, anti-migrant Sweden Democrats party, said he does not want Sweden “to be forced into this type of military co-operation.”