The chief of the European Union's executive arm said Wednesday it must do more in the defence field, starting with creation of an EU military headquarters and working toward a common military force, insisting the bloc's economic and cultural influence isn't enough to safeguard its place in today's uncertain world.
Jean-Claude Juncker, EU Commission president, said in a major speech that the 28-nation organisation "should be stronger" militarily.
"Together we have to make sure that we protect our interests," Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
The EU leader stressed that the bloc's actions should take place in concert with the U.S.-led NATO defence alliance, to which 22 EU member states also belong.
The vote in June by British voters to withdraw from the European Union
would deprive the EU of its militarily most capable member. France and Germany, the bloc's two most influential member states, recently submitted a proposal for greater EU defence coordination, ranging from creation of a logistics hub for pooling military transport to an EU military headquarters.
Earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Europeans to do more in meeting common security threats like the Islamic State extremist group.
Juncker said greater defence cooperation also makes economic sense for EU member nations since it would reduce as much as 100 billion euros' worth of wasteful duplication of spending yearly. He said that by the end of 2016, he also will seek creation of a European defence fund to help spur military-related research and development.