Europe

Juncker: EU should be 'soft power' amid defense pressure

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a news conference in Brdo, Slovenia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Jean-Claude Juncker is on two day official visit to Slovenia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a news conference in Brdo, Slovenia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Jean-Claude Juncker is on two day official visit to Slovenia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)  (The Associated Press)

  • The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, is greeted by Slovenia's prime minister Miro Cerar in Brdo, Slovenia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Jean-Claude Juncker is on two day official visit to Slovenia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

    The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, is greeted by Slovenia's prime minister Miro Cerar in Brdo, Slovenia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Jean-Claude Juncker is on two day official visit to Slovenia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)  (The Associated Press)

The head of the European Union's executive branch is stressing the importance of development aid, saying that the bloc should remain a "soft power" even as members face pressure to ramp up defense spending.

NATO has for years urged members to increase defense spending to reach a target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, and the issue has been seized upon recently by U.S. President Donald Trump.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday he favors European NATO members taking more responsibility. But he added: "I'm still in favor of the European Union being a soft power."

Juncker said: "Don't believe those who are saying that we have to spend more and more and more on defense. There are other means to safeguard the stability."