Tuesday

21st May 2019

Brussels moves to open EU defence industry market

  • European troops serving in crisis areas should have the best gear and technology, commissioner Verheugen said (Photo: NATO)

The European Commission has proposed a package of measures to open up the European defence industry market, designed to increase the efficiency of Europe's defence spending and ultimately to boost military capabilities.

"Opening the internal market for defence products will improve the competitiveness of the technological and industrial base of the European defence sector," industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in a statement released on Wednesday (5 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

According to internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who said he believes the new legislation will pass quickly through the EU law-making process, this would be "to the benefit of all: armed forces, taxpayers and industries."

Currently, internal market rules are not applied to the defence market, allowing member states to exclude defence contracts from EU procurement rules. In addition, national licensing procedures make transfers of defence material between member states complex.

The commission will now proposing specific legislation for defence procurement which should boost competition without completely removing the special status of defence policy within the internal market.

Explaining the motives behind the overhaul, Mr Verheugen said in a press conference that the EU as a whole is lagging behind in terms of the efficiency of its defence expenditure compared to the US.

He stressed that at the same time there are "real threats" to European security and that a number of member states have sent troops to crisis areas around the world, meaning that European armies should have the best equipment and gear.

According to the commission, a common defence market would significantly improve the military capabilities of member states without increasing defence expenditures.

"We're not going to be able to convince citizens to spend more, so we need to spend more efficiently, more prudently, that we get more for what we are able to invest in defence," Mr Verheugen said.

A common defence market is also "fundamental to establishing Europe's autonomy" in the world, he added.

Alexander Stubb, a Finnish centre-right MEP, told EUobserver that he supported the commission's efforts to have a strong defence industry.

But he warned that free competition should not go at the expense of smaller EU arms firms.

"Any proposal that gives an unfair advantage to the US or to the large scale companies of the big member states would be inappropriate. Some exemptions may exist," he said.

"It's an interesting first proposal, but now the real work needs to start in the Council [of ministers] and the European Parliament," he added.

A 2006 report commissioned by the European Parliament estimated that although EU governments spend about half the amount Americans do on defence, their defence capacities are only about 10 percent as efficient as the US.

One of the main reasons is the duplication of member states' defence programmes, with 23 parallel programmes for armoured vehicles.

The EU defence industry as a whole generates about €55 billion in revenues a year.

France to push for intervention force created by EU big six

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is spearheading an initiative to create an elite defence force made up of the six EU biggest states - France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Poland. The group would also commit to boosting their military spending and to a shared defence market.

European Parliament approves opening of defence market

The EU moved one step closer to a single defence market on Tuesday with the European Parliament approving a commission proposal aimed at harmonising and simplifying national rules in this area.

Feature

Salvini hosts anti-EU 'summit', as old ghosts haunt party

Italy's far-right League called for a "historic" defeat of pro-EU forces at its event in Milan this weekend, but fiscal clashes, fascist symbols, and mafia links cast Salvini's party in a controversial light.

Opinion

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

Agenda

EU votes on future leaders This WEEK

The political spotlight switches from Brussels to national capitals and regions this week as Europe gears up for the start of European Parliament elections on Thursday

News in Brief

  1. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment
  2. 80% of Erasmus students find job within three months
  3. September elections in Austria after Strache scandal
  4. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  5. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  6. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  7. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  8. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day

Opinion

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us