The European Union needs to take a more active role in global politics if it wants to protect its interests, incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.
“Europe must also learn the language of power,” von der Leyen said during a speech on European policy in Berlin.
“On the one hand, this means building our own muscles [in areas] where we’ve long been relying on others — for example in security policies,” the former German defense minister said. “That also means applying our existing power in a more targeted way in areas where European interests are concerned.”
In the future, she added, the EU’s partners should expect stronger positions from the bloc as the former strategy of exercising “soft power” is no longer enough in today’s world.
Von der Leyen’s remarks in the German capital came on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. They also come a day after Germany’s current defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, called for Germany to play a more active military role in the world.
The incoming Commission chief also remarked on Brexit in her wide-ranging speech, saying that although the process has been a “shock,” it has also brought the bloc closer together.
“As paradoxical as it sounds, the shock of Brexit has strengthened our unity,” she said.
The UK’s turbulent divorce from the bloc “has not only shown what it means to leave the EU but also how much each country stands to gain as part of the European Union,” von der Leyen said.