27th Oct 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 countries agree data roaming charges

Mobile operators will be able to charge each other for the use of data by their customers in Europe and to apply a surcharge when too many people use their network.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  2. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  3. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  4. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  5. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  6. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  7. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  8. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  9. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  10. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  11. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  12. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16