PARIS French President Francois Hollande on Monday responded to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's criticism of the European Union by saying the bloc did not need to be told what to do by outsiders.
"Europe will be ready to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will based on its interests and values," Hollande said before awarding France's highest honour to outgoing U.S. ambassador Jane Hartley. "It does not need outside advice to tell it what to do."
Speaking in an interview with London's Times newspaper five days before his inauguration, Trump described himself as a big fan of Britain and endorsed its citizens' vote last year to leave the European Union, predicting that more countries would seek to follow Britain's example.
Trump also said NATO was obsolete because it had not defended adequately against terrorist attacks.
Hollande, who in four months will step aside for a new French leader, said that the current geopolitical climate meant Europe had no choice but to strengthen its defence and military integration to ensure its voice was heard around the world.
"This alliance (NATO) was conceived to strengthen the capacity of its members to protect themselves collectively," he said. "It will only be obsolete when the threats have become obsolete."
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; writing by John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey)