European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Europe needs a “credible” army and that it had already laid down the foundations for one.
As a former Defense Minister in Germany’s cabinet under Angela Merkel, Von der Leyen said on Wednesday that past events have shown Europe’s lack of decisiveness and that Europe should “step up in some fields.” It should also be “more assertive in the world.”
Von der Leyen also addressed climate change and the economic risks involved, referring to the Forum’s Global Risk Report, which identifies the EU’s top five economic challenges as climate change-related. She vowed to free up $1.11 trillion of investments to incite a “green investment wave” before the year of 2030.
“The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy,” Von der Leyen added. “We will, for sure, be moving out of an economy based on fossil fuels, and we will be moving towards a sustainable and digital economy.”
Von der Leyen also found time to speak on the sidelines to U.S. President Donald Trump. The two had some brief exchanges on a coveted trade deal between the EU and the United States.
Von der Leyen praised the long history and friendship between Europe and the United States. “The American people and the European people are good friends. And this is what we’re going to build on, and indeed, we have issues to discuss, and we’re going to negotiate. But I’m looking forward to this relationship,” said Von der Leyen.
She also said: “We must also do more when it comes to managing crises as they develop.” In order to get there, Brussels would need a European Defense Union with “credible military capabilities,” and she boasted, Europe—mainly France and Germany—had already laid the building blocks.
“For that, Europe also needs credible military capabilities, and we have set up the building blocks of the European Defense Union. It is complementary to NATO, and it is different,” she said.
“There is a European way to foreign and security policy where hard power is an important tool – but is never the only one,” she said grimly. “Hard power always comes with diplomacy and conflict prevention, with the work on reconciliation and reconstruction, which is something Europeans know well because we have gone through this, here in Europe.”
Catherine Wen contributed to this report.