Jean-Claude Juncker questioned the EU's financial commitment to NATO
The top eurocrat said he did “not like” the Commander-in-Chief telling Europe it needs to increase spending on NATO forces and raised doubts over its financial commitment to the alliance.
But there was mass confusion over whether or not he was making a new policy announcement, and just hours before the EU Commission’s chief spokesman had said the bloc “acknowledged” Mr Trump’s demands as reasonable.
The US President has suggested that America, which underwrites 70 per cent of the cost of NATO, will not continue to unconditionally support Europe militarily unless the continent starts stumping up its fair share.
At a midday briefing in Brussels yesterday Margaritis Schinas told reporters that “the EU acknowledges that more needs to be done on defence” and that eurocrats had “brought forward an ambitious defence package aimed at increasing defence spending”
Donald Trump has urged the continent to up its defence spending
America contributes 70 per cent of all NATO spending
He added that European nations remained committed to reaching an agreed NATO target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence, and that they want to “step up our cooperation with NATO and international partners”.
But just hours later Mr Juncker, speaking at a security conference in Munich, implied the exact opposite when he said Europe would not prioritise military spending over projects like foreign aid.
In a speech which veered wildly off the policy course set by his fellow eurocrats and EU leaders he railed against the US telling Europe what to do and implied it would refuse to listen.
I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this
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Mr Juncker said: “It has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this.
“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military.
“If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different.
“Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending. Europeans must bundle their defence spending better and spend the money more efficiently.”
11 things you need to know about NATO
Tue, February 14, 2017
NATO – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4th April 1949. The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
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Every member country, no matter how large or small, has an equal say in discussions and decisions. Photo shows: Signing the North Atlantic Treaty which marked the beginning of NATO, 1949.
The chief eurocrat also pointed out that Germany, the EU’s richest nation, would no longer have a budget surplus if it raised defence spending to two per cent – an argument unlikely to provoke much sympathy in Washington.
The chaotic episode demonstrates the growing confusion within Brussels over the future of EU-US relations, with Mr Trump’s unorthodox approach and open euroscepticism unnerving officials.
Senior EU figures have lined up to attack the Republican since his inauguration and many have suggested that Brussels now needs its own army in light of his shaky commitment to NATO.
But others have backed the US President including foreign secretary Boris Johnson of the UK – which does meet NATO spending requirements – who said Mr Trump “has a point” over Europe’s lack of financial contribution to the alliance.