Monday

23rd Jul 2018

EU countries to reduce dependence on US military

  • EU wants to pool military assets and improve its capacity, like air-to-air refuelling (Photo: EADS/Northrop Grumman)

European defence ministers endorsed plans on Thursday (22 March) to develop air-to-air refuelling capabilities and field hospitals in a bid to reduce military costs.

"Pooling demand, as lessons learned from former joint off-the-shelf procurements, indicates savings ranging as from 20 percent," said French official Claude-France Arnould, the head of the European Defence Agency (EDA), the research wing of the EU diplomatic service.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Collectively, the EU spends some €200 billion on defence annually. But austerity measures are forcing ministers to rethink how to best use assets and upgrade capability. The past decade has seen at least a 15 percent drop in EU defence budgets.

"Austerity is a challenge we cannot duck, we must confront and overcome. The only way is through co-operation," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at an EDA conference in January.

The EU-led Nato operation in Libya last year also exposed hardware and technology deficiencies in the EU military. Nato commander Marcel Druart told the European Parliament earlier in the week that the success of the Libya operation depended largely on US military input.

EU countries in Nato relied heavily on US technology to co-ordinate the offensive. The Americans monitored airspace and ground movement, making it possible for EU jet fighters to strike pre-designated targets.

Gaps in the EU military were already identified in Afghanistan. The former US defence minister Robert Gates last year said Europe's lack of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets rendered even Europe's most advanced jet fighters useless.

In Libya, the US was also instrumental in air-to-air refuelling. The EU now wants the same or similar capability. The EU defence ministers said developing air-to-air refuelling has become "a matter of priority."

The pressure for Europe to enhance its own military is also coming from Washington. President Barack Obama last year announced a new military strategy that shifts focus away from Europe and onto China, North Korea, and Iran - the so-called "Pacific Century."

Previous calls by the US for Europe to become more independent militarily have not always been heeded, according to the EDA.

"We have to take [the new US strategy] seriously. The US has strategic interests elsewhere that are compelling, and we need to show that we can do things like Libya by ourselves," stated Arnould back in January.

Aside from pooling and sharing assets, the EU ministers on Thursday also outlined a new pilot project to improve energy efficiency and increase the development of renewable energy.

Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece and Luxemburg plan on placing solar panels on military property, including rooftops, airbases and free land.

The EU armed forces' infrastructure has a total surface of around 200 million square metres, or the equivalent of more than four times the surface operated by any of Europe's largest retailers, says the EDA.

News in Brief

  1. Greece FM warns of Russian interference in Balkans
  2. Minister: No Franco-German disagreement on US tariffs
  3. UK Brexit minister warns of 'no-deal' preparations
  4. Munich: large protest against CSU's anti-migration line
  5. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  6. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  7. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  8. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU will be blamed for no-deal Brexit, UK minister tells Berlin
  2. Far-right Bannon to open EU campaign group
  3. Russia sanctions: test of EU commitment to international law
  4. Malta's PM cleared of Panama Papers wrongdoing
  5. EU wants answers to de-dramatise Brexit talks
  6. Juncker White House trip trumps the agenda This WEEK
  7. Italian populists try to sink EU migrant mission
  8. EU urges no-deal Brexit preparation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us