In an interview with the AFP, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Brussels’ efforts to boost spending and streamline its defence industry, but noted strongly that broader transatlantic bonds, read NATO, must still be the strategic foundation.
“I support EU efforts on defence, because more defence spending, new military capabilities and addressing the fragmentation of the European defence industry — all of that will be good for European security, for transatlantic security, for all of us,” he told AFP.
However, Jens Stoltenberg noted that most EU members are also NATO member states. This makes their citizens’ safety relies on an alliance that far outspends their own capitals on security, he argued. “So all these efforts — as long as they complement NATO — we welcome them, but the EU cannot defend Europe.”
The European Union doesn’t have an army of its own, but the European Commission is seeking what it calls a more “geopolitical role”, with its own foreign and defence industry policy.
The call from Emmanuel Macron to develop ‘’EU strategic autonomy” could not count on support from Jens Stoltenberg. As he mentioned “I don’t believe in Europe alone. I don’t believe in North America alone. I believe in North America and Europe together in strategic solidarity in NATO,”. Therefore, he rather prefers the term “strategic solidarity” to “strategic autonomy”.
Later this year, a NATO alliance leaders’ summit is planned and will be attended by US president Joe Biden. Contradictory to former president Donald Trump, the newly elected president seems to be more open to America-EU relationships. This raises hope and gives Jens Stoltenberg a political opportunity to strengthen the link between the two blocks.