The EU should step up efforts to strengthen its own military capacity and depend less on America, according to Manfred Weber, head of the center-right group in the European Parliament.
Although EU member countries have hundreds of thousands of troops, they were unable to secure Kabul airport, Weber noted in an interview with German media group Funke published on Sunday.
“The national armies remain of course the main pillars of defense. But, step by step, we must strengthen European capacities, like a European reaction force with a few thousand men. And we also need a cyber defense squad, ”said Weber, group leader of the European People’s Party – the largest faction in the European Parliament.
The EU has already made some progress towards a common military approach. In 2017, she launched a pact to get EU countries to work together on a range of military projects, including maritime surveillance, drone defense and military disaster relief. Earlier this year, 14 EU countries joined forces to provide a 5,000-strong rapid response unit.
But dependence on the United States for the evacuation mission in Afghanistan has heightened calls for greater European military cooperation.
European Council President Charles Michel said last week that the development of the EU’s military capabilities was “of the utmost importance for the future of Europe”.
However, EU member countries are divided on the issue. Many, especially the Baltic and Eastern countries, fear that the EU’s efforts will duplicate and dilute NATO’s capabilities. Some governments are also concerned that such measures will further damage delicate relations with the United States.
In recent weeks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly warned the EU against initiatives that could weaken the alliance.
Weber said that closed European military cooperation would save billions of euros and make the bloc more independent.
“Belarus, Ukraine, North Africa, the Middle East – the Americans will not solve these problems for us,” he said.