The European Commission has staked a claim to play a larger role in European defense industrial policy. In a “communication” released last month, the Commission suggested that European Union (EU) standards and certification apply to the industry’s projects and services; that joint research and development activity be stepped up; and that small businesses be boosted by “access to finance, information and other markets.” The Commission said that its new proposed strategy would lower the barriers between national defense markets; help the European defense industry become more competitive; and explore how dual-use technology, as well as the energy and space industries, could help the sector.
“Cuts in defense budgets and fragmented European defense markets threaten Europe’s ability to sustain effective defense capabilities,” the Commission warned. It said that EU countries cannot individually develop and maintain the technologies and capabilities needed for the future. European defense-related companies would benefit from better access to markets in the EU and worldwide; economies of scale through standardization and common certification; and greater access to EU funding.
The Commission’s move follows a study by the European Defence Agency (EDA) that highlighted the shortcomings of European defense industrial policy. The EU created the EDA in 2004 to improve Europe’s defense capabilities. It developed procurement and transfer policies that are now enshrined in EU law but has achieved only moderate success, despite the existence of a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) crafted by the member states. But the EU is “the most effective level for creating favorable regulatory conditions…removing barriers…and encouraging synergies,” the Commission asserts. It says it will present a more detailed action plan next year.
The UK’s defense trade representative body, the ADS, welcomed the Commission’s “valuable contribution to the debate.” Paul Everitt, chief executive of the ADS, added, “ADS is working closely with its members to ensure a successful outcome at the European Council summit in December for the UK sector.” Among EU member states, the UK is one of the least enthusiastic about devolving greater authority to the Commission in Brussels.