Full text of the opinion at the bottom of the page
While defence budgets across the European Union are being cut, defence spending in China, India, Brazil, Russia and others is going up. Therefore the EESC calls on the Council and the Commission to make an overall evaluation of determining aspects of the EU's position and role in the world, to result in a convincing update of European foreign, security and defence policies.
Defence policy is shaped by countries' strategic interests, perceived threats and political objectives, which in Europe are mainly defined in national terms. Obsolete approaches visibly lead to increasing fragmentation, gaps, overcapacity and a lack of interoperability in European defence capabilities. The EESC calls on the Council to work seriously on an EU defence umbrella.
Security and defence policy should boost the EU and Member States' self-confidence. It should inspire confidence in society and the general public, properly equipped soldiers, business and the sector's workforce. EU citizens have a right to be adequately protected. Adequate future-proof European armaments are increasingly needed. To that end current isolated practices of Member States are completely insufficient as well as wasting taxpayer’s money.
The EESC underlines the need of defining European strategic interests in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The European External Action Service (EEAS) should be directly involved.
The EESC emphasises that, should Europe wish to maintain a sound security and defence industry in creating a critical mass for effectiveness and cost efficiency, a radical change in mindset and policies is needed.
In addition to actions of the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Defence Package of 2007 the EESC calls for a well-designed European industrial policy for the defence sector with its specific characteristics of government requirements and public funding. In the framework of Europe 2020, this industrial policy must be based on shared national and EU competences.
EU policies and funding should link EU level and national investments leading to reducing fragmentation and duplication of public expenditure, enhancing quality and interoperability.
The Council and stakeholders should identify urgently and launch as soon as possible research programmes that would help European industry to address undesirable dependencies from elsewhere. "Dual use" technology is a necessity. The EU’s R&D programme should be supportive. It should ensure effective cross-border R&D cooperation.
Closer coordination between the Commission, EDA, and other relevant EU stakeholders is needed. The renewed commitment of President Barroso, Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Barnier as well as the establishment of the Task Force on Defence is very timely. The EESC also welcomes last December’s forward-looking EP Resolution on European Defence and the broad spectrum of issues at stake.