If the Europeans really intend to build a common defense industry which will allow them to face the new challenges to come and to become a credible player on the international security scene, they must do and spend more together, and they must do it now , a group of ten write the defense experts.
Among the signatories of the letter are Alessandro Marrone, head of the defense program at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Federico Santopinto, senior researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS). The full list is at the bottom of this letter.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, most EU countries have announced their intention to increase their military spending. These increases are estimated at around 200 billion euros for the next few years.
The increase in the national defense budgets of European countries represents both an opportunity and a challenge for the EU.
As we pointed out in an article published last April, Member States must avoid rushing into hasty, purely national decisions and must not focus exclusively on short-term responses. Of course, the latter is important for replenishing ammunition stocks and meeting urgent needs resulting from the war in Ukraine.
However, EU countries also need to adopt a long-term perspective that can help build effective defense within a competitive European Defense Technological and Industrial Base (EDITB).
To this end, they must deepen cooperation and coordination among themselves, as well as with their NATO partners, and the EU must help them by strengthening its incentive policies. Otherwise, the new resources made available to Member States risk further aggravating the fragmentation of the EDTIB.
Faced with this challenge, in May 2022, the European Commission and the European Defense Agency (EDA) jointly proposed to create new financial tools to encourage EU member countries to carry out joint arms acquisitions.
The first of these tools, the EDIRPA (European Defense Industry Reinforcement through common Procurement Act), is planned for the short term with a budget of 500 million euros for two years (2023-2024). Its adoption is scheduled for the end of 2022.
The EDIRPA will lay the foundation for a monitoring tool called the European Defense Investment Program (EDIP), which focuses on the long term with a larger budget. EDIP should be adopted in 2023 for use from 2024.
There is no doubt that these initiatives are a step in the right direction. However, the fears mentioned in our previous article have partly come true. Too often, European states have reviewed their equipment policy almost exclusively within a national framework, with a short-term vision to the detriment of a longer-term vision. They also arguably favored off-the-shelf acquisitions or domestic development and production too much.
As a result, and in the short term, the €500 million foreseen by EDIRPA is a meager incentive compared to the €200 billion that EU Member States are preparing to spend in the coming years. to re-equip their armed forces. Such a meager incentive will be operational ten months after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine.
The EU must do more and faster to prevent such measures from becoming irrelevant. Despite this, the EDIRPA puts in place a mechanism that is the first of its kind: there is no other financial incentive in Europe that can push Member States to favor joint acquisitions.
In addition, in the medium and long term, it is also necessary to avoid short-term off-the-shelf acquisitions that dry up the funds necessary for the development of future programs. This would only increase European dependence on non-European equipment. Strengthening of EU military capabilities: yes; weaken EDTIB and increase our addictions: no.
Faced with such a situation, the EU must at least guarantee a substantial financial allocation to EDIP and increase the European Defense Fund (EDF), which is another key initiative launched in 2017 to support collaborative research and defense development.
The mid-term review of the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in 2023 offers this possibility. However, everything is in the hands of the Member States, and the final say on the EDIRPA and EDIP budgets belongs to them.
They must urgently agree on this file, and for that, it would be desirable for the Franco-German engine to resume work. Finally, European countries should also take advantage of these initiatives to immediately launch a joint EU defense programming and acquisition process that credibly connects to national capability planning and responds to national military, EU and NATO.
In a few words, if the Europeans really intend to build a common defense industry which will allow them to face the new challenges to come, if they want to become a credible player on the international security scene, they must do and spend more together . And they have to do it now.
Jean Belin, School of Defense and Peace of Bordeaux, University of Bordeaux
Renaud Bellais, Grenoble-Alpes University
Daniel Fiott, head of the Defense and Art of the State programme, Center for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy, Brussels School of Governance; assistant professor, Vrije Universiteit Brussels; and non-resident researcher, Real Instituto Elcano
Alessandro Marrone, Defense Program Manager, IAI
Sylvie Matelly, Deputy Director, IRIS
Jean-Pierre Maulny, Deputy Director, IRIS
Federico Santopinto, senior researcher, IRIS
Gaspard Schnitzler, researcher, IRIS
Trevor Taylor, Professorial Research Fellow, RUSI
Dick Zandee, Member of the Scientific Committee of the ARES Group