Germany's defense minister says Britain's decision to leave the European Union offers an opportunity to press ahead with greater military cooperation in the bloc.

Ursula von der Leyen says Britain for years "consistently blocked everything that had Europe written on it," citing the example of a mobile European hospital some countries wanted to deploy to crisis regions.

Speaking at the presentation of a defense policy paper Wednesday, von der Leyen said Germany and France plan to take the initiative on future military cooperation.

She says the two countries will start talks with other EU members about creating permanent military structures. Germany already operates joint military units with France and the Netherlands on a bilateral basis.

Von der Leyen says greater security and military cooperation is possible under existing EU treaties.