The EU might spend money on defence for the first time ever. MEPs are ready to start talks with member states on plans to support the joint development and acquisition of military equipment.
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 13 March, Parliament confirmed the decision to start negotiations with member states on 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 an annual budget of €500 million after 2020, while a €90 million research test programme for 2017-2019 has already been started.
MEPs stress that the development of defence products should be carried out by at least three companies established in at least three EU countries in order to be eligible for funding by the programme, while certain defence products, such as weapons of mass destruction and fully autonomous weapons, should be 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.
“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, during a discussion with experts on 22 January.