Although NATO considers that it remains the major Transatlantic and European military operation, the European Union is taking increasing steps to create an EU defense and security alliance that some say will duplicate the role of NATO.
The Commission announced, November 30, the creation of a new "European Defense Fund" which would "support Member States' more efficient spending in joint defense capabilities" including research into "innovative defense technologies such as electronics, metamaterials, encrypted software or robotics" and the procurement of new assets, such as drone technology and jointly-bought helicopters to reduce costs.
The announcement comes on the back of the latest EU foreign ministers' meeting, November 14/15, which agreed to set up a rapid reaction force that will involve EU Battlegroups, "air security operations", "maritime security or surveillance operations", with its own headquarters, working alongside NATO.
'Not Competing with NATO'
The plans were immediately seized upon by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who told the Plenary session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, November 21: "As you all know, the EU is considering options for strengthening European defense.
"And I welcome that initiative, I welcome that debate and I strongly believe that a stronger Europe can contribute to a stronger NATO and that is also the clear message from the European leaders that I have met. The discussion is still going on but the message is that this is not about creating an alternative to NATO, but this is about strengthening the European pillar inside NATO.
"The only thing we have to avoid is that when Europe starts to strengthen its defenses it is done in a way which is complimentary to NATO, not competing with NATO," Stoltenberg said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "To guarantee our collective security, we must invest in the common development of technologies and equipment of strategic importance — from land, air, sea and space capabilities to cyber security. "
However, Juncker hinted that the EU would do more to work together, suggesting the time had come for the EU to take a lead on defense as it had become too reliant on the US.
"It requires more cooperation between Member States and greater pooling of national resources. If Europe does not take care of its own security, nobody else will do it for us," he said.