We need a quantum leap in European Defence Cooperation

EESC supports Common Internal Market of Defence Industry


It is essential for the EU to continue pursuing preventive and multilateral diplomacy, but at the same time Europe needs to strengthen its military defence capabilities in order to guarantee freedom and peace in Europe, says the EESC.

In its opinion on a European Defence Action Plan, adopted on 31 May 2017, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) supports the idea of a European Defence Union (EDU) and calls for close European defence cooperation.

"Despite some difficulties in the current transatlantic relations, NATO remains the foundation of European collective defence. But the EU must also take on more responsibility for the security of the Union and its citizens. This responsibility cannot be outsourced; rather, we need closer cooperation among our Member States, which can best be achieved within a European Defence Union," said rapporteur Christian Moos. As a first step in this direction, the EESC urges to set common strategic objectives. It also welcomes the planned coordination committee, but insists that the decision making-progress must be reserved exclusively to political representatives.

Strengthening the EU defence cooperation will have a positive impact on security, the economy and jobs

The EESC criticizes the overly fragmented defence market and industry causing:

  • inefficient allocation of resources,
  • overlapping remits,
  • a lack of interoperability and
  • technological gaps.

"This fragmented defence market is in contradiction with the strengthening of EU security", said co-rapporteur Jan Pie, "We therefore strongly support a closely integrated defence industry and a common defence market in Europe, including the development of common standards both for arms and dual-use devices, while not duplicating existing and NATO standards."

The EESC, however,  advises against opening current investment funds to the defence industry. Rather it backs the Commission's proposal of creating a European Defence Fund that is restricted to defence research and the development and acquisition of military capabilities. Furthermore, the strengthening of European defence capabilities must exclusively be guided by strategic considerations and a thorough assessment.  This must also apply to arms exports, which should be limited to strategic partners and allies and submitted to democratic scrutiny.

"More investment and cooperation in the defence sector will also help safeguard jobs and create employment.  In particular, it will be a unique economic chance for European SMEs including in the area of research and development for military purposes," concluded the rapporteurs.

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