The EU should spend more on defense and not rely on the US, Roberta Metsola has said after Donald Trump threatened he would "encourage" a Russia attack on NATO countries who had not met their financial obligations.
In an interview with Politico, the European Parliament president said the EU needs to increase its defence capabilities including by setting up a defense budget.
"It must be ready to shoulder the responsibility if necessary and be ready for any eventuality,” she said, adding: “Europe cannot waver, when we see what could happen across the Atlantic … Europe needs to stand strong.”
To do that, Europe needs to increase its defence spending and "get practical about our strategic autonomy," Metsola said.
She told Politico that MEPs would push for the joint procurement and development of weapons to be "financed by the Union through a dedicated budget under parliamentary co-decision and scrutiny."
But a European "defence union" should complement, not contradict, NATO, Metsola said.
The EP president was speaking on Monday, a few days after the former US president told a campaign rally in South Carolina that he would "encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want" to alliance allies that were "delinquent" in meeting the group's defence spending targets.
Nato officials said on Tuesday that some two-thirds of NATO's 31 member countries are expected to reach the defence spending target of two per cent of GDP in 2024.
A spokesperson for Metsola later told Times of Malta that the constitutional neutrality of some member states, including Malta, would continue to be respected under her plans.
"That is a national position of some EU Member States which is always totally respected and States should participate as they can," he said.
Other European leaders similarly expressed concern about Trump's comments and, like Metsola, called for Europe to strengthen its defence capabilities.
"Reckless statements on NATO's security and Art(icle) 5 solidarity serve only Putin's interest," European Council president Charles Michel said on X, formerly Twitter.
"They do not bring more security or peace to the world. On the contrary, they reemphasise the need for the EU to urgently further develop its strategic autonomy and invest in its defence. And to keep our Alliance strong," he said.