In a new opinion the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) fully supports the objectives of the European Roadmap on Critical Technologies for Security and Defence, which is particularly timely in view of the war in Ukraine.
At its July plenary session, the EESC adopted an opinion on the European Roadmap on Critical Technologies for Security and Defence. Hailing the Commission's proposals as a generally good initiative able to act and respond to various crises and geopolitical challenges, the EESC stressed nonetheless that the Commission should invest further in horizontal and vertical synergies between Member States.
First and foremost, the EESC believes that a comprehensive approach that spans the civil-military dividing line and combines the European and national levels should be adopted with all speed. The invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call telling us that we need to act much faster than usual.
Moreover, regarding the technical aspects, the opinion suggests that the findings of the Observatory of Critical Technologies (OCT) must be incorporated into roadmaps. The transition between the different phases of the technology and the industrial cycle can only be managed successfully if the ownership of an initiative and the responsibilities are clear.
Civil and military dual-use technologies and synergies in defence, security and space must be developed and integrated at European and national levels, said the rapporteur for the opinion, Maurizio Mensi. The European Observatory's essential roadmap on Critical Technologies needs clear governance, adequate resources and strong institutional status to set objectives, rules and criteria for evaluating technologies and data.
At the same time, the EESC calls on the Member States to ensure that their immediate responses to the Russian aggression against Ukraine are in line with the content and objectives of the roadmap, which is a long-term endeavour. Short-term national defence investments must be coordinated at European level to avoid increased fragmentation and duplication.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impact on European security has given a completely new urgency to the course of action that is needed. The Commission and the Member States must therefore ramp up the implementation of the roadmap and make it the top priority, said the co-rapporteur for the opinion, Jan Pie. The roadmap outlines the interaction between commercially-driven emerging technologies and strategic sectors that can become a truly European alternative to the Chinese and American approaches.
In addition to the Commission's initiative and for the benefit of the recipients (Member States, organisations and companies), the EESC suggests simplifying and streamlining the European programmes and instruments linked to Research, Development and Innovation (RD & I) as they are fundamental for the European Roadmap on Critical Technologies for Security and Defence.
The EESC also proposes setting up an online one-stop-shop for small and medium enterprises and start-ups, an online "EU-SMEs' corner", where businesses can enter predefined data and in return receive tailor-made information about which European programme(s) could best support them.
In her 2021 State of the Union address, Ms von der Leyen recognised that while work on developing a European defence ecosystem had started, a European Defence Union was needed.
The Roadmap on critical technologies for security and defence is part of a number of Commission-led initiatives in areas critical for defence and security within the European Union. It is a step towards a more integrated and competitive European defence market, which will enhance cooperation within the European Union by upscaling, mastering costs and enhancing operational effectiveness. The Commission is thus providing input in the run-up to the EU Strategic Compass on Security and Defence.