EU countries could achieve more on defence by pooling resources and coordinating their planning. Billions of euros are wasted every year due to duplication, overcapacity and barriers to procurement. MEPs adopted a report on it in plenary on 16 March. Defence cooperation is becoming more important because of increasing security challenges in Europe and the US pushing its European partners to invest more in defence.
Defence budgets dropped sharply after the start of the economic crisis, but this has started to change. Fourteen EU countries have increased defence spending as a share of their gross domestic product since 2014.
The UK, France and Germany account for 60% of all money spent on defence in the EU. However, the US is by far the world's largest spender on defence. Its budget is more than double of that of all EU countries combined.
European countries traditionally favour domestic manufacturers and arms suppliers, which explains why the defence market in Europe is as fragmented as our infographic shows. Soldiers in the EU use 154 different weapon systems, while there 17 different systems of battle tanks, compared to just one in the US.
In addition European countries pay more than they need to because if they bought together they would benefit from economy of scale. According to recent estimates, EU countries could save up to 30% if procurement was pooled and this money could in turn be invested in research and development, where Europeans are also lagging.
MEPs believe the European Commission could faciltate defence cooperation through the European Defence Agency.
Other ways to boost security
There is more to security than just defence spending. The EU also focuses on development cooperation to stabilise Europe’s wider neighbourhood, measures to prevent and deal with migration as well as support for a rules-based international order. The Parliament underlined their importance in its position on the EU Global Strategy
Wide-spread support for more cooperation
According to a survey carried out last year, 66% Europeans would like the EU to do more on defence.