European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the European Union should have its own military and not be so dependent on NATO.
While addressing the European Parliament in his annual State of the Union speech in Strasbourg, France, Juncker said on Wednesday that the 28-nation bloc “should be stronger” and start an EU military headquarters and work towards a joint army.
“We should work towards a common military force to complement NATO,” he said, adding that the European Commission should generally be more active in the field of defense in order to reduce its dependency on NATO.
He went on to say that the commission will propose a joint common European Defense Fund in the near future in order “to boost military research and innovation.”
Juncker, however, stressed that “more European defense in Europe doesn’t mean less trans-Atlantic solidarity.”
The commission president stressed that further military cooperation among EU states would help the bloc compensate for Britain's exit from the bloc.
'European strategy for Syria'
Juncker also said that it was unthinkable for the EU not to be part of the negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict in Syria, and proposed the development of a common European strategy for the Arab country.
“The consequences for Europe of this conflict are immediate but where [is] the EU, where are the member states, in the negotiations to try to solve this conflict?” he asked. “I’m asking for us to draw up a European strategy for Syria,” he added.
He suggested that the EU requires a general foreign affairs minister to represent its common interests on all international political matters, and recommended that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini take on the enhanced role.
"Federica should have a seat at the negotiating table on the future of Syria,” he said.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Over the past few months, the Takfiri militants active in the Arab country have suffered major setbacks as the Syrian army has managed to liberate several areas.
According to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, more than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.