Saturday

28th May 2022

Better defence spending needed to back up EU 'principles'

  • The EU spends its defence money too inefficiently, says the EU commission (Photo: SHAPE)

Europe needs to make better use of dwindling defence budgets if it is to properly take care of military problems in its own backyard as the US orients itself towards Asia, the EU commission said Wednesday.

In an ideas paper meant to feed into an EU leaders defence summit in December, the commission noted that Washington is "rebalancing its strategic focus towards Asia" while the recent Libya war highlighted European military "shortfalls."

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

"We will not have the weight we need in the world without a common defence policy. To support it, we need to strengthen our defence and security sector," said EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

"We need to be able to back up our positions of principle with security and civilian missions that can help stabilize the situation in crisis areas around the world," he added.

EU states between them have about 1.6 million soldiers and spend €194 billion annually on defence - but this strength is diluted by overlapping capacities and spending at a national level.

Spending is down from €251 billion in 2001, while defence R&D spending declined by 14 percent between 2005 and 2010, to €9bn.

The commission points out that the US spends seven times more on research and development than all 28 member states put together.

Russia and China, for their part, are expected to double their defence spending by 2015 when compared to 2011.

"We want to support the defence industry for economic reasons but also for defence reasons," said industry commissioner Antonio Tajani.

But the commission is almost entirely bound by member states political will in this area, with governments often reluctant to share defence technology or pool resources.

This is exacerbated by a reluctance to let the EU commission muscle in on an area where it has no legal powers.

Meanwhile the EU only has a few serious military powers - predominantly the UK and France - while most of its states also have commitments to Nato. On top of this, some countries, such as Ireland, are neutral.

Much of the commission paper's suggestions reflect this complexity.

They focus on ensuring that defence-related legislation is being properly implemented, that member states are not abusing state aid rules to benefit national defence industries and that defence companies will have better access to EU funding.

A key proposal, says the commission, is standardisation. Its paper notes that most standards are civilian but when military standards are required, "they are developed nationally, hindering co-operation and increasing costs for the industry." Lack of common standarisation means armies cannot easily share equipment.

The commission also says it plans to make armies more energy efficient.

"I don't think this (proposal) is modest. It demonstrates a real will to progress," said Michel Barnier, internal market commissioner, reacting to suggestions that the paper amounts to little more than a repetition of what the commission has been asking of member states in defence for several years.

The paper is due to be discussed by EU leaders at their traditional December summit. The commission will then make a roadmap with "concrete actions and timelines."

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us