The EU will be able to spend money on defence for the first time ever. MEPs approved plans to support the joint development of military equipment and technologies.
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.
On 3 July, MEPs approved 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 equipment. For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, a European Defence Fund of €13 billion has been proposed to fund military development and research activities, while a €90 million research test programme for 2017-2019 has already been started.
The development of defence products will need to be carried out by a consortium of at least three companies established in at least three EU countries in order to be eligible for funding by the programme, while products prohibited by international law are excluded from funding.
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.
“This first European programme specifically dedicated to defence industrial projects will increase cooperation and strengthen the competitiveness of the EU defence industry,” said French EPP member Françoise Grossetête, the MEP in charge of steering the proposals through Parliament, following a deal with the Council on 22 May.