MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (AP) — The chief of the European Union's executive branch said Friday he wants to streamline defense procurement and industries in member states to make them more efficient and less dependent on U.S. military protection.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that even before Donald Trump's election as president, the United States had made clear it expects NATO members in Europe to beef up their own defenses.
Speaking at a conference marking the 25th anniversary of the treaty that created the EU, Juncker said he thinks the best way to accomplish that would be a standardized defense industry.
"We have in Europe 174 kinds of weapons" when "one European helicopter and one European tank would be enough," Juncker said.
Defense issues will be a key topic at next week's EU summit.
Former EU President Herman Van Rompuy, attending the treaty anniversary conference, said the bloc should do more to prepare its existing, rotating battlegroups.
The EU "cannot become a truly regional and global actor without a relevant military dimension," Van Rompuy said as he argued for the units to become operational.
Trump criticized EU nations during his presidential campaign for not putting enough money in defense. Fewer than half a dozen of the 22 allies in the EU spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product annually on defense, a threshold target set by NATO.
Juncker said Friday that the dollars European countries do spend on defense are spent less widely. If EU nations spend 40 percent on defense compared to the United States, "we have only 15 percent of the American efficiency," he said.
Juncker blamed it on the splintering of defense budgets and industry along national lines, causing duplication and waste.
Last month, Juncker's office unveiled plans to promote defense cooperation and wiser military spending.
The multibillion-euro proposal would fund research in areas such as encrypted software and robotics and boost joint investments on equipment such as drones and helicopters.