France and Germany are "jumping the gun" with calls for a European army, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said, asserting that the continent's safety could be guaranteed only through NATO.
"The idea of a European army is going way too far for the Netherlands," Mr Rutte said at his weekly post-cabinet press conference.
"France and Germany are really jumping the gun. As far as the Netherlands is concerned, NATO remains the cornerstone of our defence policy," he told journalists.
French President Emmanuel Macron sparked controversy last week with his proposal for a "European army" to "protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States".
He said he wanted to reduce Europe's dependence on the US and US weapons for its own security.
Macron's call reflected a desire among several European countries to more autonomously handle their own collective defence, after US President Donald Trump's criticised Europe for what he sees as inadequate contributions to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence alliance.
Trump called Macron's idea "very insulting", tweeting that Europe should "first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidises greatly".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seconded Mr Macron's proposal.
During a European parliament session, she emphasised the need for Europe to bolster its self-defence capabilities, and said that a European army could run parallel to NATO.
"Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community," she said.
But Rutte insisted NATO remained the primary guardian of Europe's safety.
"As far as I am concerned, it is an illusion to think that the European Union without NATO can guarantee her safety," Rutte said.
"NATO, and the United States within the organsation, remains a crucial partner for peace and security in Europe and we will continue to point that out to our partners in our discussions," he said.