The building blocks of the European Defense Union are being put in place, Germany's defense minister told CNBC on Thursday.
Ursula von der Leyen was speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
"We hope to build up a structure where on one side we have a reliable NATO, which will always be for collective defense and on the other side, we have us, the Europeans," she said. "We have to build up the European Defense Union."
"We have to solve the problems in our neighborhood as Europeans and therefore we're building up the European Defense Union," she added.
The union is designed to prevent the European Union from having to rely on NATO for its defense requirements. Twenty-five nations within the bloc have signed up to the common defense plan.
Von der Leyen said it was crucial "just to have the structures and have the forces that are deployable when a crisis hits... and to be able — if the political will is there — to be able to act sufficiently."