Angela Merkel has vowed to take charge in creating a new EU army that will defend Europe against the “dangers” of a Trump administration.
The German leader says that the European Union needs to have its own army that will take on “more responsibility in the world,” as diplomatic relations between America and Europe “thaw” due to political differences.
And describing Brexit as “emotional” for her she urged the remaining 27 member states to use Britain’s decision to leave to railroad through ever closer military cooperation.
Mrs Merkel made the remarks as she picked up honorary degrees from two Belgian universities which were awarded in recognition of her work towards a ‘unified Europe’.
They come as eurocrats continue to press forward with plans for much closer European cooperation on military matters – a so-called ‘Defence Union’ – which is seen by most observers as the back-door creation of an EU army.
EU chiefs were recently forced to drop controversial plans for a joint military headquarters in Brussels after Britain pledged to veto them, but Mrs Merkel hinted they will be back on the table immediately after Brexit.
Concerns have been raised that an EU army will fatally undermine NATO – the western military alliance which has kept peace on the continent for 50 years – by creating a competing command structure.
But Mrs Merkel insisted such a force will need to come into being in part because of the indifference of Mr Trump, who takes office on January 21, towards the entire euro project.
She said: “Let’s not fool ourselves. From the point of view of some of our traditional partners – and I am thinking here as well about the transatlantic relations – there is no eternal guarantee for a close cooperation with us Europeans.
“I’m convinced that Europe and the EU will have to learn to take on more responsibility in the world.”
The German leader insisted that only Brussels, and not individual member states, can successfully solve global problems, citing defence issues including Russian aggression in Ukraine.
She said: “Europe is facing the biggest challenges for decades. It would be naive to always rely on others to solve the problems in our neighbourhood.”
In a speech to delegates in the Belgian capital she also addressed the issue of Brexit, which she said was an “emotional moment” but also presented Europe with the opportunity to press forwards with its military plans.
She said: “We should see this decision as an incentive to work together, to hold Europe together now more than ever.
“We must not be allowed to divide ourselves apart. The 27 have to appear together in the negotiations.”
Theresa May has pledged to trigger Article 50 by the end of March at the latest, and is set to deliver a major speech next week outlining what the Government hopes to secure in the upcoming negotiations.
Britain has been a staunch opponent of the creation of an EU army for years, arguing that it threatens NATO, and the PM has already pledged to do everything she can to prevent the scheme from becoming a reality.