Europe

Collective defense is suddenly a hot topic at EU summit

  • Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, alight after taking a boat down the Danube river during an EU summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. An EU summit, without the participation of the United Kingdom, in Bratislava will kick off the discussion on the future of EU following Brexit. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, alight after taking a boat down the Danube river during an EU summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. An EU summit, without the participation of the United Kingdom, in Bratislava will kick off the discussion on the future of EU following Brexit. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

  • French President Francois Hollande, left, speaks with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, center, and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel after a cruise on the Danube River as an event on the sidelines of an EU summit in Bratislava on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. European Union leaders gathered in Bratislava on Friday hoping to find a sense of common purpose again in the face of the planned departure of Britain and fundamental disagreements over everything from uncontrolled migration to the economy. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    French President Francois Hollande, left, speaks with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, center, and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel after a cruise on the Danube River as an event on the sidelines of an EU summit in Bratislava on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. European Union leaders gathered in Bratislava on Friday hoping to find a sense of common purpose again in the face of the planned departure of Britain and fundamental disagreements over everything from uncontrolled migration to the economy. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

Talk of joint efforts to defend Europe is on the lips of EU leaders after decades of leaving collective security mostly to the United States and NATO.

Nobody is suggesting a joint European army, with thousands of tanks and combat planes displaying the EU's star-studded logo.

But at a summit in the Slovak capital on Friday, heads of 27 countries named common defense as one of the goals needed to bring the bloc forward.

Declared French President Francois Hollande, "There is no continent, there is no union, if there is no defense."

The EU's Lisbon Treaty, which took effect in 2009, foresaw a mechanism for permanent defense cooperation inside the bloc.

But squabbles among member states have kept the topic in the background at most previous meetings of European leaders.