European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged Europe to take assertive action, defend its interests and values independently, and reduce strategic dependencies, particularly in critical sectors like energy, key technologies, economic capacities, and defense. Speaking at the European Parliament Plenary on strengthening European defense, von der Leyen acknowledged shattered illusions about permanent peace, economic prosperity deterring aggression, and Europe’s adequacy in security matters.

Highlighting the current challenges of rising authoritarians, conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and aggressive economic competition posing security risks, von der Leyen emphasized the urgency for Europe to wake up, as its freedom and prosperity are at stake. She stressed the need to work on the future of the European security architecture comprehensively and swiftly, addressing threats across various dimensions.

Von der Leyen underlined that European sovereignty would strengthen partnerships without diminishing the significance of the NATO alliance. She clarified that a more sovereign Europe, particularly in defense, is crucial for reinforcing NATO.

European sovereignty, as von der Leyen explained, involves taking responsibility for vital aspects independently while maintaining the importance of alliances. She pointed out the commitment made in the Versailles agenda to reduce strategic dependencies in critical areas. Member States have already increased national defense budgets by 20%, and the European Peace Facility has mobilized funds to support the Ukrainian armed forces.

Von der Leyen warned that while the threat of war may not be imminent, it is not impossible, necessitating preparation, rebuilding, and modernizing armed forces. Europe must spend more efficiently and introduce the first European Industrial Defence Strategy.

Taking these steps requires bold decisions, political courage, and a new defense mindset. Von der Leyen suggested using windfall profits from frozen Russian assets to jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine, emphasizing the importance of Europe taking responsibility for its security. She concluded by stating that Europe cannot let Russia win, and the cost of insecurity is far greater than any immediate savings. Von der Leyen called for Europe to step up, declaring, “Long live Europe.”