Wednesday

17th Aug 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

Opinion

A year of Taliban — only aid is keeping Afghan kids alive

It's a year since the Western military presence in Afghanistan ended. A year since panic-stricken people flocked to Kabul airport, trying to flee the country, and girls and women waited fearfully for the disintegration of their hard-won rights.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. A year of Taliban — only aid is keeping Afghan kids alive
  2. Is this strange summer a moment of change?
  3. Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists
  4. Iran responds to EU's 'final text' on nuclear deal
  5. Model minority myths
  6. EU must make public who really owns its fishing fleets
  7. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  8. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us