13th Aug 2022

EU defence ministers give boost to military spending

EU defence ministers have increased the European Defence Agency's annual budget by one third in a bid to improve the bloc's military performance.

According to a deal reached on Monday (19 November), the EDA budget will see a significant jump from €22 million in 2007 to €32 million in 2008 - something that should also help fill the "existing gaps" in three areas: strategic transport, force protection and intelligence.

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In addition, EU ministers set a series of "collective", but "voluntary" benchmarks designed to boost technologies that are crucial for future military capabilities.

One of the benchmarks foresees 20 percent of defence spending going to new equipment purchases, compared to the current 19.4 percent. The other suggests that two percent of the overall budget should be invested in defence research and technology - at the moment it is 1.2 percent.

"Investing in the right technology is critical for the future of European defence and the Strategy is exactly in line with the absolute requirement for us to spend more, spend better and spend more together", EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after Monday's ministerial meeting.

According to EDA chief executive Alexander Weis, "the decisions have put in place further building blocks for our common work of making Europe's armed forces and military budgets fit for the challenges of the 21st century which we must face together".

But EU defence ministers failed to give more financial stability to the agency by setting a three-year-long budget - something pushed for by France. The UK vetoed the proposal - a move in line with the country's traditional scepticism of military institutional arrangements outside NATO.

"We don't back a budget without seeing what we are paying for (..) We need to be convinced there is a reason", one British official said, according to Reuters.

Chad, Bosnia and Herzegovina

At the same meeting, France called for fairer burden sharing in Chad, an African state which should see over 3,000 EU troops in place no later than in December. The planned mission - aimed at facilitating a long lasting solution to the conflict in neighbouring Darfur - is short of equipment and logistical support.

"We are asking for at least financial contributions to show that this is a European engagement", French European affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet told journalists, describing the mission as "important".

However, Paris met British resistance again, with the country's Europe minister, Jim Murphy, saying "we have offered to give political support, and where appropriate any technical advice, but we haven't made any promises to offer any money or forces".

"We've said to the French from the outset that it is for the French and others to do the heavy lifting" in Chad, Mr Murphy said, according to AFP, stressing that London is already heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Apart from EU missions to Africa, the EU decided to retain its forces - currently numbering some 2,500 troops - in Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the "volatile" political situation there.

"While the security situation remains stable, the council is alert and concerned about the political developments", Portuguese defence minister Nuno Severiano Teixeira said.

"The EU [will] retain a military presence in the country for as long as necessary in order to continue to contribute to the maintenance of a safe and secure environment", the ministerial meeting concluded.

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