EU countries 'wasting' money on separate defence policies
by Daniel Mason
The case for a more deeply integrated European Union defence industry is "overwhelming" because the policies pursued by individual member states are fragmented, insufficient to meet future challenges, and a waste of taxpayers' money, it has been claimed.
An opinion adopted yesterday by the European Economic and Social Committee – a consultative body made up of representatives from employers' organisations, trade unions and other interest groups – calls for the development of a "proper EU defence umbrella".
The focus on increasing financial coordination and completing the single market that has arisen from the economic crisis should be replicated in the defence sector, the report suggests. It says an updated EU policy is needed to meet the twin challenges of cuts to European defence budgets and rising spending in the BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Dutch rapporteur Joost van Iersal said: "While certain third countries raise their defence expenditure, we cannot continue wasting time with separate research programmes or defence strategies. The EU goal should be clear: a common defence policy, a common research programme and a shared defence production."
The report is critical of EU countries with major defence production capacities – including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Sweden – for failing to come up with "any viable proposal for rationalisation or consolidation". It claims that the arguments for an improved EU strategy are "overwhelming" and only a "matter of political will".
"Defence policy is shaped by countries' strategic interests, perceived threats and political objectives, which in Europe are mainly defined in national terms," the report says. "Obsolete approaches visibly lead to increasing fragmentation, gaps, overcapacity and a lack of interoperability in European defence capabilities."
Europeans have a "right to be adequately protected", it adds. "Future proof European armaments are increasingly needed. To that end current isolated practices of member states are completely insufficient as well as wasting taxpayers' money." The Libya conflict had made gaps in available weapons systems "painfully clear", according to the document.
To maintain a strong security and defence industry, the bloc needs a radical change in mindset and policies based on shared national and EU competences, it says. "Stagnation has led to national approaches and emphasis on national production. There is a certain renationalisation. Europe-based industrial companies are all focusing on export markets. There is no common strategic concept, neither among governments nor among industrial partners."
The report identifies research and development as particularly vulnerable to government cutbacks. "State of the art R&D is crucial for the development of new generation armaments that are badly needed [and] further strengthening of the technological and industrial basis of European defence must be planned as much as possible. To that end satisfactory measures at EU-level are necessary."
In Europe 50 per cent of defence spending goes on manpower, compared with just 25 per cent in the United States. The report suggests closer coordination between the European Commission, the European Defence Agency, and other stakeholders.
But it warns: "Cuts in R&D spending would directly affect a generation of researchers and qualified employees. If Europe does not succeed, industries may disappear, jobs will be lost and know-how will evaporate, leaving Europe at the mercy of others. A sense of urgency and action is needed among those who care for Europe and European security."
At the moment rising defence spending in the BRICs creates opportunities for European exporters, but the report questions how long that will last. "It is realistic to expect that emerging powers will start to build up their industry independently of western industries, and, subsequently, that they, as Europe's future competitors in third-country markets, will increasingly block imports from western countries."
It adds: "As no single country has sufficient resources available to fund new generation armaments, it is necessary to mix national and European goals as well as national and European resources, financially as well as industrially."
The Europeanisation of defence is coming soon
France is adamant about pushing the Common Security and Defence Policy to the top of the agenda through decisions made by the European Council, write Martin Michelot and Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer
Indeed: pooling, sharing, avoiding duplication are the tantrum of the EDA for a long time now. However, there is a lack of 'backbone' when it comes to more consolidated and substantial investment budgets. Some are hesitating to adopt strictly US defence vendor solutions, others whine about the cost overruns of larger programmes.
And the big challenge of integration - of the 'Global Information Grid' concept - is still on the drawing table. Certain vital security menaces you cannot - even latently - simply roll back the budgets for without facing the dire consequences.
It is time for European nations to wake up and brace for the "known unkowns" in the areas of cyber security and telecommunications, and to abridge the shortcomings in satellite C4I capabilities too. What would happen if a conflict in the European near-abroad triggers the use of better assets?
Nico Segers - JEF Belgium
The thoroughly deceitful EU tantrum of 'pooling' defence is simply another totalitarian lie, imposing 'more Europe' and the continued sabotage of sovereign independent nations within the continental landmass. The real enemy against which we must defend our country is totalitarian psychosis itself and all the demented traitors who pretend that ceding governance abroad is not a violation of our constitution and an act of treason.
Jeremy Ross - London, Uk
ý"As no single country has sufficient resources available to fund new generation armaments, it is necessary to mix national and European goals as well as national and European resources, financially as well as industrially."
So whats the new advanced Type-45 Destroyer, the Elizabeth class Carrier, New Lightning II stealth jets and the newly announced Type 26-Frigate coming out of the design stage? Sure, cutbacks have slowed a lot of it down but i think the UK is doing rather well in updating its kit.
James - UK
No, they are wasting money on the EU.
dave - England
Lets face it, the EU wouldn't come to our defence so we have to maintain our own defence capabilities - we cannot trust our security to Europeans. Would the EU come to defend our interests in Gibraltar or the Falklands? Or assist us in defending other countries to which the Queen is head of state, or indeed other commonwealth countries? I think not.
Joe Thorpe - Nottingham, England
No. Defence policy is one of the last things EU members still have control over. This isn't a Third Reich.
Januz - Puglia
@ Joe Thorpe: You insult me for being a European? And believe the UK involvement in the EU is 'not' benefiting the great British nation at all. Look at the revenue driven from foreign exports to Europe, man. If we'd still had a tax union levying imports from the UK, surely the Foreign Office would be looking to drive more into the Commonwealth - which means greater logistical costs in the long run etc.
Do not mistake me for a centralist. But look at what Scotland is doing. And no, there is far too little being done in making the case for EU collaboration. I am not talking about dominion and blunt haulover of power to command and lead defence assets and armies. I preach nothing of the sort.
Budgetary rationality is not an excuse for the decision making about national, local or regional assets. But as armies in Europe have no clear role aside from petty nationalist prestige projects in certain areas where sovereign, trade and economical interests call for projecting force, there is more to be done on civil defence, great humanitarian crises (floods, draught) and you can't do that effectively as a single nation.
Although the US believes that it does make pretentions to do so. But what about the civilian capacity of NATO? Indeed, a dwarf compared to military assets of which 2/3 are supplied by the Anglosaxon community.