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The EU might spend money on defence for the first time ever.. MEPs are discussing proposals to support EU countries developing and acquiring military equipment together.

Deeper defence integration is not a new idea. The European Defence Community was one of the first and most ambitious attempts to create a joint European army in the early 1950s, but its failure cooled ambitions for Europe’s common defence for nearly half a century.

 

Over the last two decades, the move toward cooperation has intensified and Pesco is the latest initiative to jointly develop European military capabilities. Also, for the first time, collaborative projects in defence technology, such as the development of marine surveillance drones, might be co-financed directly by the EU.

 

MEPs are considering a proposal to establish a European defence industrial development programme, under which €500 million would be allocated from the EU budget for 2019-2020 to co-finance the joint development of new defence technologies and support joint equipment purchases. This amount is later expected to be increased to €1 billion a year. A similar programme to offer grants for joint military research, for instance in cyber defence and robotics, should be proposed by the European Commission this year, with a annual budget of €500 million after 2020, while a €90 million research test programme for 2017-2019 has already been started.

 

In a December 2017 resolution on a common security and defence policy, MEPs welcomed these efforts to better coordinate defence spending and reduce duplication and waste, recalling that, “compared to the US the EU-28 spend 40% on defence but only manage to generate 15% of the capabilities that the US gets out of the process, which points to a very serious efficiency problem”. Check our infographic to find out more about the benefits of closer defence cooperation at EU level.

 

Industry committee members discussed the proposals with experts on 22 January. “We have to better cooperate on innovative projects and better protect our know-how and technology,” said French EPP member Françoise Grossetête, who is in charge of steering the proposals through Parliament.

On 23 January, foreign affairs committee members suggested that the development of certain defence products, such as weapons of mass destruction, fully autonomous weapons or small arms produced mainly for export, should not be funded by the programme. Their opinion will be forwarded to the industry committee, Parliament’s lead committee on this issue, which is expected to vote on the final text by the end of February.