The European Union needs a military headquarters to work towards a common military force, the Commission president has told MEPs in Strasbourg.
Jean-Claude Juncker said the lack of a “permanent structure” resulted in money being wasted on missions.
Part of his annual state of the union address was devoted to the UK’s unexpected vote to leave the EU.
He insisted that the bloc was not at risk and urged Brexit negotiations to take place as quickly as possible.
The Brexit vote has given added impetus to plans for greater defence co-operation, because the UK has always objected to the potential conflict of interest with NATO.
But Mr Juncker said a common military force “should be in complement to NATO. More defence in Europe doesn’t mean less transatlantic solidarity.”
“A European Defence Fund would stimulate military research and development,” he said.
All EU members have military forces; most are also members of NATO; and several have extensive experience of operations abroad, from peace-keeping to war-fighting.
The real question is how to organise these component parts to get greater security. Mr Juncker insists that the EU must have a role here.
He wants to improve EU command and control facilities and appears to be suggesting that EU civil and military aspects of a given mission should be run out of the same headquarters.
He also insists that whatever the EU does it should not detract from NATO. But defence resources are finite. His critics will say nothing should be done that duplicates existing NATO activities, as that sends a signal of disarray in Western ranks to Moscow.
On Brexit, Mr. Juncker warned that the UK could not expect selective “a la carte” access to the internal market without accepting free movement of people.
The single market has dominated the Brexit debate in the UK. -BBC