Saturday

30th Jul 2016

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

EU free movement must be curbed, UK says

British leader Theresa May has said free movement of EU workers to Britain cannot continue as in the past, while visiting Slovakia and Poland on Thursday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceThe Trans Adriatic Pipeline: An Opportunity or a Scam in the Making for Albania?
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen: I Condemn All Threats to Turkey's Democracy
  3. GoogleHelping Emergency Services Find You When You Need It Most
  4. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  6. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  7. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  8. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  11. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  12. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children

Latest News

  1. EU encouraged car industry to cheat, French report says
  2. Terrorism and migration top EU public's concern
  3. Spain's Rajoy warns of minority rule
  4. Car lobby complained about emissions tampering by others
  5. Critical IMF report heralds new Greek bailout battle
  6. EU free movement must be curbed, UK says
  7. EU political pressure alone cannot save the rule of law
  8. Merkel: Attacks won't change refugee policy