As the Russian invasion of Ukraine puts the spotlight on European defence, the European Economic and Social Committee has said in an opinion that it wants to see coordinated action and spending from Member States and a comprehensive European defence industrial strategy.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes recent announcements by several Member States that they will increase their defence budgets, and calls on them to stand by their commitment to invest more, in a more streamlined manner.
For the Committee the European Commission’s Joint Communication on Defence Investment Gaps Analysis and Way Forward is as an important step towards fostering defence cooperation between Member States. This is essential for reducing costly duplication of military capabilities, avoiding fragmentation of the EU defence market and improving Europe’s security. Increased European coordination is also a way to strengthen the capacities of NATO.
The EESC supports the initiatives proposed in the communication, which follows a meeting of heads of state in March 2022. Its aim is to bolster defence capabilities in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
EESC rapporteur Panagiotis Gkofas said:
It is important to invest together, invest better and invest in European.
In 2021, Member States allocated a record EUR 7.9 billion to collaborative defence equipment procurement projects, almost double the figure in 2020, the European Defence Agency reports. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has prompted pledges of further spending.
The EESC believes a comprehensive European defence industrial strategy is needed. The return of war to Europe has underlined the effects of years of underspending, which has led to an accumulation of shortfalls.
Besides correcting this situation, increased defence expenditure will also have to urgently address the short-term need to replenish and expand defence stocks. This includes the need to compensate for military assistance to Ukraine.
The communication confirms the European Commission’s aim of ensuring that increased defence spending results in a much stronger EU defence base, with increased deterrence. It offers new ways for Member States to engage with industry and improve joint procurement, and to increase their production capacity to meet changing needs. It also highlights citizens’ perception of the need for stronger EU action on defence.
The EESC says it supports the agreement to increase spending; strengthen cooperation through joint projects; boost innovation, including through civil and military synergies; and strengthen the EU’s defence industry, including SMEs.
EESC optional opinion: Defence Investment Gaps Analysis and the way forward
Joint Communication on Defence Investment Gaps Analysis and Way Forward