German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.
"What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army," Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on November 13.
"A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries," she said.
Merkel said she envisions a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent's defense structure.
"Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community," Merkel said.
Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.
His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
On November 13, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.
"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!" Trump wrote.
Macron did not publicly respond to Trump's latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 1700s and criticized Trump for "insulting our oldest ally."
"Stop tweeting! America needs some friends," Kerry said.
The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg has said "more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond." That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on November 13.
"We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load," Mattis said.
France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.
Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.
The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.
Merkel's highly anticipated speech came shortly after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends..
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
As head of the EU's largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on October 29 that her current term as chancellor would be her last.