25th May 2019

European Parliament approves opening of defence market

  • Defence equipment should be purchased more freely and with better coordination among EU member states. (Photo: SHAPE)

The EU moved one step closer to a single market in the area of defence on Tuesday (16 December), with the European Parliament approving a commission proposal aimed at harmonising and simplifying national rules in this area.

"Today's approval brings us a decisive step forward towards setting up a true European defence equipment market," Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner responsible for enterprise and industry and one of the initiators of this directive said after the vote.

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

The current Nice treaty provides that internal market rules are not applied to the defence market, allowing member states to exclude defence contracts from EU procurement rules.

Moreover, 27 national licensing procedures make transfers of defence material between countries difficult, as they differ in terms of requirements. The licensing rules also apply to the export of defence related products such as spare parts or even army boots.

Applying heterogeneous and disproportionate national licensing systems is hampering the security of supply between member states and costs businesses over €400 million a year, a commission statement reads.

The proposal drafted by German green MEP Heide Ruhle and endorsed by the plenum on Tuesday provides a European system of licences which will be uniform and applicable throughout the 27 member states. Licences will nonetheless be granted at the national level, with governments still free to impose sanctions if the contractor fails to respect the licensing conditions.

The parliament also added some extra provisions to guarantee the security of transfers, notably with respect to the final recipients of products or components, in order to ensure that arms do not reach conflict zones.

The market fragmentation was also a problem identified in the recently reviewed EU security strategy, endorsed by heads of states and governments at their 11-12 December meeting.

"Restructuring of the European defence technological and industrial base, in particular around centres of European excellence, avoiding duplication, in order to ensure its soundness and its competitiveness, is a strategic and economic necessity. In this connection, the European Council calls for early finalisation of the Directives on intra-Community transfer of defence goods and on defence procurement," the summit conclusions read.

Strategy for French political reasons

While the directive was a "step in the right direction", it was still "a long way from having an EU market for defence equipment", with national procurement rules still remaining "very defensive", Giles Merritt, head of a Brussels based think tank on security and defence, the Security and Defence Agenda, told EUobserver.

Mr Merritt also pointed out that the reviewed security strategy endorsed by member states was not designed as a "great milestone", but rather to confirm the approach of the last five years.

He called for a "new budgeting mechanism for burden sharing", since at the moment Great Britain and France were not only contributing with most troops to EU missions, but also paying for the costs of the missions.

He was sympathetic to the idea floated by some EU officials that the security strategy could have waited one year longer, after US president Barack Obama was sworn in and the NATO 60 anniversary summit would have taken place in Strasbourg/Kehl.

"Practical politics must have driven them into doing it during the French presidency," Mr Merritt said.

Brussels moves to open EU defence industry market

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.

MEPs back opening of market in defence goods

The European Parliament threw its weight on Wednesday behind a draft bill aimed at making public procurements for defence goods and services more transparent and open.


Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'

The victory of the Dutch EU commissioner is news across the EU, yet the Netherlands is not allowed to publish the official result until Sunday evening.

EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'

EU leaders praised Theresa May's commitment to deliver an orderly Brexit - while they now brace themselves for an even more eurosceptic British prime minister.

Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?

This is a political crisis unprecedented in Austria since the war: the resignation of the vice-chancellor, firing of the interior minister, the mass resignation of FPO ministers, a snap election, and a no-confidence vote in the Austrian parliament on Monday.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal


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

Latest News

  1. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  2. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  3. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  4. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  5. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  6. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  7. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'
  8. EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us