The European Economic and Social Committee strongly supports the launch of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), which is aimed at creating an interoperable and integrated common defence system – all the more urgent given the current geopolitical situation – by boosting Europe's strategic autonomy in the defence industry and developing a solid common European industrial and technological base.
The EESC deems essential a new approach that sees permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) as the primary mechanism of the Lisbon Treaty that can serve as both a political incubator for building a "Europe of defence" and as a catalyst for Member States' willingness and commitments, in line with Articles 42(6) and 46 TEU and Protocol 10 to the Treaty.
The Committee believes that only an "inclusive and ambitious" PESCO, which can establish a list of criteria and binding commitments, can bring about a process that overcomes the fragmentation of supply and demand and gradually creates a transparent and open European market.
The EESC believes that the EDIDP Regulation should be framed by a common strategic vision for the defence industry that can move towards the effective integration of European manufacturers and users, involving at least three Member States, when it comes to the financed projects and the procurement of goods and services.
The EESC strongly maintains the need for structured dialogue at European level, in synergy and coordination with NATO, and a council of defence ministers that can provide ongoing political leadership and a forum for consultation and the adoption of genuinely European decisions.
The EESC considers it essential that the EDIDP be underpinned by a system of governance that enables it to set specific, shared objectives, by means of an advisory committee of industry experts, to set the priorities for its work programme, and a management committee that includes the Member States.
The regulation should ensure:
- a good geographical balance between European countries;
- a significant involvement of small businesses;
- an end to job insecurity for workers in the European defence technological and industrial base to reaffirm the validity of EU funding;
- compliance with social and environmental standards, particularly in terms of eco-design and job security, in order to safeguard the industry's skills; and
- that all EU businesses, regardless of their location and size, have transparent opportunities to participate in the EDIPD programme.
The EESC agrees that the EDIDP should focus on the development of products and services and on prototyping.
The EESC considers that a prerequisite to the establishment of a common framework for European defence is the development of a widespread European culture of defence and security, to give a full meaning to European citizenship.