European NATO members should take on more responsibility — but the alliance is still indispensable to Europe's security, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.
Their comments, published separately, come in response to a controversial interview given by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week, in which he lamented that US leadership caused the "brain death" of NATO, and criticized the alliance's lack of coordination. Macron urged European allies to "wake up" to the new reality of the US with Donald Trump at the helm.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, however, said it would be a mistake to undermine NATO.
"Without the United States, neither Germany nor Europe will be able to effectively protect themselves," he wrote in a column for Der Spiegel magazine.
Europe cannot be NATO's 'replacement'
Maas said Macron was right to focus on building a strong and sovereign Europe and admitted that European countries needed to cooperate better and take on more responsibility for their own security. However, Maas added that Europe would still need NATO for many years to come.
"And if Europe is one day capable of ensuring its own security, we should still 'want' NATO," Maas wrote.
"Yes, we want a strong and sovereign Europe, but we need it as part of a strong NATO and not as its replacement," the minister wrote.
Merkel hints at more military spending
On Friday, Merkel commented that Macron used "rather drastic words" to express his position on the US-led military alliance. In her regular Sunday podcast, Merkel described NATO as "indispensable" and "the central pillar of our defense."
The chancellor, too, said European NATO members should take more responsibility.
"This means that we should bring this European section of NATO stronger together," Merkel said.
The German leader also praised joint defense projects between France and Germany, including developing fighter jets and tanks. At the same time, Merkel said the German army needed "adequate financial resources" to meet current challenges.
Macron heads to Berlin
In his column for Der Spiegel, Maas once again pitched the idea of a European security council, previously floated by Merkel and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Currently, the EU demands unanimous consent from all member states on issues such as security. The security council model would see a rotating group of member states make key decisions, presumably making it easier to take action.
While the future of the initiative remains unclear, Maas said he was working closely on the idea with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian. The UK, which is on its way out of the EU, should still be involved in the mechanism, Maas said.
The issue of NATO is likely to be discussed during Macron's visit to Germany on Sunday, where he is set to meet German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Merkel.
dj/stb (Reuters, AFP)