PARIS Europe must invest in new military technologies to stay ahead of increasing threats and respond to "a new world" in which it cannot rely solely on the United States, the EU's Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.
Moscovici said European countries were more conscious about the need to increase military spending and cooperation given growing threats, Britain's decision to leave the EU and a U.S. push to have NATO allies spend more on their own defences.
"Everyone understands that now is the time for us to take our fate in our own hands," the European Union official told reporters at the Paris Airshow. "There are new threats, and they know they cannot count - as they did in the past - only on NATO and a good relationship with the United States."
He underscored the importance of the aerospace sector for the European economy, and said he hoped a new EU fund aimed at funding cooperative work on drones, satellites and other military projects would be "a good incentive."
But he said the military realities needed to be matched by political will among member states, preferably soon, and then eventually commitments of resources.
"There is now a window of opportunity for investing more in European defence ... but as with all windows, a window closes if you don't go through it," he said. "We should seize this moment, especially with the election of a new French president."
"We must stay at the technical frontier, and for that we need to invest constantly," he said. "Consciousness is the first step. This has to start now. This has to be discussed."
Trump recently reassured European allies that he would uphold the NATO charter's demand that all members be prepared to defend each other, weeks after jarring allies by not restating U.S. support for the agreement.
Germany and other European countries are boosting military spending, concerned about Russia's increasingly assertive military stance and a growing number of military conflicts around the world, but the increases are likely to be more gradual than dramatic.
European industry executives at the air show said they were upbeat about future prospects, but it would take time for the attitude to translate into concrete orders.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Potter)