Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Magazine

EU buys guns

  • Nathalie Loiseau (Renew, France), chair of the committee (Photo: Council of the EU)

Gearing up for the first big wave of EU spending on arms procurement will be a top priority for the European Parliament's subcommittee on security and defence (SEDE), according to its chairman, French liberal politician Nathalie Loiseau. But regulatory and strategic questions remained "unanswered", she said.

The committee would "monitor implementation of the tools we've created to enhance our defence union", Loiseau said, naming an alphabet soup of acronyms for EU projects on new defence assets: Pesco, EDF, and EDIDP.

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Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco), is to see 29 clubs of assorted EU states develop new attack helicopters, missile systems, and artillery guidance systems, among other hardware.

The list also includes drones, autonomous weapons systems, electronic warfare, and military space surveillance, "addressing new challenges," Loiseau said.

SEDE's task was to "adopt EDF regulation in full", she added, referring to the European Defence Fund, a €13bn pot for developing new systems.

And the committee should guide European Commission spending on the European defence industrial development programme (EDIDP), she said, referring to a separate €590m pot for defence research.

Some of SEDE's time would be spent monitoring the EU's 16 overseas civilian and military missions, Loiseau noted.

These ranged from a police force in Kosovo, to coast-guard training in Libya, and an anti-piracy force in the Indian Ocean.

Her committee saw eye-to-eye on its agenda, Loiseau indicated, but that did not mean there was no debate. "It's more about unanswered questions than divisive topics, for instance: what is the role of the EU on arms exports?", she said.

SEDE's main task should be "improvement of European defence mechanisms", she noted.

But "I would very much like to see a European defence strategy adopted," she added, with big questions such as: "does the functioning of Nato answer all our priorities in terms of defence of Europe? How do we build a satisfactory defence partnership with the UK after Brexit?", still "unanswered" as well.

Loiseau, a former French EU affairs minister and a former director of an elite French academy, is likely to work hand-in-glove with France's EU commissioner, in charge of the single market, industry, and defence portfolio.

French president Emmanuel Macron is a leading proponent of EU defence integration.

And while different views exist on Nato versus EU military structures, SEDE also contains a galaxy of former stars from Russia-facing EU states for whom joint arms procurement is welcomed.

Romania's former president Traian Băsescu (EPP, Romania) is a member, along with three former Polish foreign ministers: Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), Radosław Sikorski (EPP, Poland), and Witold Waszczykowski (ECR, Poland), plus an Estonian one, Urmas Paet (Renew, Estonnia).

The committee's European Parliament group coordinators are: Arnaud Danjean (EPP, France); Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia); Petras Austrevicius (Renew, Lithuania); Hannah Neumann (Greens/EFA, Germany); Jérôme Rivière (ID, France); Geoffrey Van Orden (ECR, UK); and Mick Wallace (GUE/NGL, Germany).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.

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