NATO head calls for greater European defence effort

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Europe on Thursday to share more of its military burden with the United States, pressing for a strong and coherent defence industry.

"To deliver a strong Europe we also need a strong European defence industrial base," Rasmussen said in an address on strengthening the 28-member NATO alliance led by the United States.

"So far, the European defence industry remains too national and too fragmented. This is why I welcome the European Commission's proposals to enhance the industry's efficiency and competitiveness," he said.

The European Union has in recent years created a foreign service arm and developed a defence policy element which allows it to mount limited operations, such as an anti-piracy group off the Horn of Africa.

The United States meanwhile accounts for the bulk of NATO military expenditure and has long urged its partners to do more, especially at a time when budgets are under strain everywhere.

"I would like to see European Allies playing their part to acquire more drones to improve surveillance," Rasmussen said.

He also called for more large transport and refuelling aircraft as well as missile defence radars.

Rasmussen said that while Washington might be switching more attention to the Asia-Pacific region, there was no sign of any less US commitment to Europe.

"North America and Europe remain each other's partner of choice ... That's why we must all continue to invest in our Alliance. And why we must all shoulder a fair share of the burden, just as we all share in the benefits," he said.

"A strong Europe will require strong political will increase defence spending when our economies start to recover, as they will ... and to assume more security responsibilities in Europe's neighbourhood," he said.

European Union leaders will discuss defence at a regular summit in December and Rasmussen said he expected the meeting to "demonstrate strong political commitment.

"It will help to strengthen Europe. It will help to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. And it will help to rebalance NATO. This is an opportunity not to be missed."