The chief of the European Union's executive arm says the bloc's economic and cultural influence isn't enough to safeguard its place in today's uncertain world, and it must do more in the defense field, starting with creation of an EU military headquarters and working toward a common military force.

Jean-Claude Juncker, EU Commission president, said in a major speech Wednesday that the 28-nation organization "should be stronger" militarily. He said the EU's actions should take place in a spirit of solidarity with the U.S.-led NATO defense alliance.

"Together we have to make sure that we protect our interests," Juncker told the European Parliament.

He said greater EU defense cooperation also makes economic sense for the bloc's member states, since it would reduce wasteful duplication of effort by individual nations.