Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a former premier of Luxembourg, has long been a vocal supporter of the idea that the European Union should have more common defence capability, separate from the US-dominated NATO military alliance.
The imminent departure from the bloc of Britain, long opposed to EU military collaboration, has revived discussion of defence cooperation – as have concerns that President Donald Trump may be less willing than his predecessors to come to Europe’s defence in the face of a newly assertive Russia.
Some EU leaders share Britain’s view that giving the EU a big military role could undermine NATO.
Traditionally neutral, non-NATO countries in the Union are also wary. However, most member states agreed last December to cooperate on funding and developing their armed forces.
Asked about Macron’s remark earlier in the day and whether the Commission supported the creation of a “European army”, chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas noted that new EU project to collaborate on defence procurement and research as well as new EU military peacekeeping missions beyond Europe’s borders.
He told reporters at a regular briefing: “This is the Commission that put forward lots of initiatives and proposals to start building gradually a more meaningful and assertive defence identity in these difficult geopolitical times.”
Mr Schinas aded: “I don’t think that this defence identity will start with an EU army.
“We’ll see that at some point in time, probably down at the end of this process, we may see something that people already describe as an EU army or an EU pooling of resources to make this EU defence identity more visible and more meaningful.”
Earlier today Mr Macron said Europe needed to build a real army to become less reliant on the United States and in the face of a resurgent Russia.
The French President said: ”We won’t protect Europeans if we don’t decide to have a real European army.
“Faced with Russia, which is near our borders and has shown it could be threatening.
“I want to build a real security dialogue with Russia, which is a country I respect, a European country – but we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States.”