The European Union’s chief executive called on member nations to develop its defense capabilities without U.S. support, an appeal that came after the Taliban’s recent seizure of Afghanistan.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s remarks came a month after the Afghan army’s swift collapse and the messy evacuation of thousands of people fleeing the country after the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul.
“Europe can and clearly should be able and willing to do more on its own,” von der Leyen said during her annual state of the union speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“What has held us back until now is not just shortfalls of capacity, it is a lack of political will,” said von der Leyen, a former German defense minister whose country is among the most hesitant EU member countries to send troops into combat around the world.
She called on the EU to create a “defense union,” a development that would complement the bloc’s traditional soft power approach.
The EU president proposed tax incentives to encourage the development and sale of weapons within the EU, improving intelligence-sharing programs and bolstering defenses against cyberattacks.
The proposal to establish a 5,000-member force was first raised in May during a review of the bloc’s overall strategy. EU foreign policy head Josep Borrell said at the meeting he hoped a plan would be finalized by November.
The EU currently has a system of combat troops to deploy to areas of unrest, but they have never been used.
Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.