Angela Merkel has called for the creation of a “real, true” European army, echoing a similar call by her French counterpart.
The German chancellor’s backing for the force comes amid a spat with US president Donald Trump, who took offence to a suggestion by Emmanuel Macron that such an army could ensure Europe’s security in the shadow of the United States.
Ms Merkel endorsed the creation of the army while addressing MEPs at the European parliament in Strasbourg.
“We should work on a vision of one day establishing a real, true European army,” Ms Merkel said.
The French president made his call during a radio interview last week: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.
“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”
He added: “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”
The suggestion angered Mr Trump, who sent a series of hostile tweets about the comments.
On Tuesday the US president tweeted: “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”
The election of Mr Trump to the White House appears to have given more urgency to the cause of boosting the EU’s defence capabilities, with leaders warning they cannot simply rely on the United States.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said last year that “deference to Nato can no longer be used as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European efforts”.