Monday

4th Jul 2022

EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities

  • EU countries need to refill their stockpiles, get rid of Soviet-era weapons and strengthen air capabilities, the EU Commission found (Photo: Yarden Sachs)
Listen to article

The EU Commission has proposed for member states to jointly spend on defence capabilities to decrease fragmentation and duplication as the bloc faces Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The commission on Wednesday (18 May) put forward its assessment of "investment gaps" on defence capabilities — after EU leaders asked them to screen defence spending when they met in Versailles back in March.

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

"Persistent underspending and lack of cooperation have resulted in critical defence capability shortfalls," the commission document pointed out.

"We need to spend together and better," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

The proposal for the EU to buying arms and military capabilities jointly fits into the efforts by the bloc to buying vaccines together and plans to buy gas together.

"By buying together, EU countries can get a better deal," commission vice-president Margarethe Vestager told reporters on Wednesday.

Borrell said there is "fragmentation and duplication" everywhere in the EU.

He pointed out that while the US has one type of tank, there are 12 different types of tanks in the EU, which increases logistical costs, and lacks interoperability.

"We need to know what equipment we have, where to prioritise investments, and how to coordinate among one another," Vestager said.

She added that in the last 20 years EU countries have increased defence spending by 20 percent, while at the same time Russia increased spending by 300 percent, and China by 600 percent — albeit from different starting levels.

EU countries are set to increase their defence budgets by close to €200bn so far in the coming years, the commission said.

The commission has talked about a "wake up call" in the shadow of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Since the euro crisis, there has been a "silent process of disarmament", Borrell said.

The commission has said it would invest €500m over two years for joint procurement in cases where at least three member states decide to buy together.

As the EU is facing an increased threat from Russia, it also needs to refill its stocks after several member states have supplied weapons to Ukraine in its fight with Russia.

Another goal is to phase out existing Soviet-era weapons systems still in use within EU member states. Reinforcing air and missile defence systems is also a short-term aim for the bloc.

In 2020, only 11 percent of investment was spent collaboratively, below the 35-percent benchmark agreed by EU governments previously.

In the meantime, Finland and Sweden have said they will buy portable firearms and anti-tank weapons together.

The two countries will step up their cooperation in defence procurement by Finland joining an agreement to acquire anti-tank weapons from Swedish weapons maker Saab Dynamics.

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the Nato alliance on Wednesday, a decision sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

There has been objections raised by Turkey but most Nato member support the two Nordic countries joining the alliance.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said he thought the issues could be resolved.

"We are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions," Stoltenberg said.

Weapons to Ukraine? It may be too late

Weapons shipments may not be much of a quick fix for Ukraine in the face of an integrated and well equipped invasion force like Russia's.

Agenda

EU leaders zoom in on sanctions and energy This WEEK

EU leaders are gathering in Brussels after they got stuck on imposing on oil embargo on Russia. Poland's recovery plan gets approved and Danish voters will vote in a historic referendum this week.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  2. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK
  3. The human rights aspects of Grenoble's 'burkini' controversy
  4. Council must act on core of EU migration package
  5. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  6. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  7. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  8. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us