leave it or double it with a “Made in Europe” defense

Ce que vise la Commission dans ses propositions, c

Will Europe transform the occasion by scoring a victorious point at the next European Council? What are we talking about ? Not from the Champions League final, which was played on Saturday evening at the Stade de France between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but from one of the major issues of the extraordinary meeting u European Council (Monday 30 and Tuesday 31 May) in Brussels, European defence. European countries have here the perfect opportunity to strengthen the European Defense Technological and Industrial Base (BITD), which is currently concentrated only in a few large countries (Germany, Spain, France, Italy, etc.).

Despite contested legitimacy on defense issues, the European Commission intends to help Member States “to invest together, better and in a European way”. If Paris pushes this strategy, the game is far from won, because many European countries prefer to buy weapons systems, including more expensive ones, in the United States to benefit from the famous American umbrella.

“What the Commission is aiming for in its proposals is to find sufficient incentives, in particular through joint purchases so that the replenishment of stocks is done towards equipment produced in Europe, we explain at the Elysée. Otherwise , I believe that we will have both missed an opportunity and perhaps taken a risk of undoing some of the advances that we have made in recent years in strengthening our defense industry”.

Defence: an EU investment deficit

With the support of the European Defense Agency (EDA), the Commisession presented on 18 May an analysis of the investment gaps in terms of defense capability and how to respond to it. Thus, between 1999 and 2021, the combined expenditure of the European Union in the field of defense has increased by only 20%, against 66% for the United States, 292% for Russia and 592% for China. This appalling analysis reflects an absolutely incredible lack of political and strategic vision of European countries.

“Our defense industrial base is no longer adapted or sized today – in volume and rate – to the type of high-intensity threats we face,” Thierry had modestly explained on May 18. Breton.

The observation made is quite striking when we look at the disparities in expenditure between the Union, the United States, Russia or China”, we confirm at the Elysée. However, it is explained to the Presidency of the Republic, it is not a question of embarking on an arms race, but on the other hand what this reveals is a lack of investment in recent years by most Europeans in their defense capacity”. Thus, first of all, the countries which have ceded arms to Ukraine to rebalance the balance of power with Russia, need to replenish their stocks. Eastern countries must also make an effort to replace their old equipment, some of which date from the Soviet era, “by European capacities”it is estimated at the Élysée.

At the Élysée, it is confirmed following the observation of the AED that Europe must strengthen itself in the field of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems. Thus, France has only eight SAMP/T systems, baptized Mamba equipped with eight missiles. Which is little, too little. Faced with SAMP/T, a program in cooperation between France and Italy, the Americans are offering the Patriot, which has already been purchased by seven European countries (Germany, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Sweden) while it is commercially more expensive. Between Europe and the United States, Sweden for example chose the Patriot system in 2017 despite a very good quality European offer with the SAMP/T system armed with Aster missiles and above all 30% to 40% cheaper.

Financial incentives

To convince countries reluctant to buy European weapons, the Commission will offer financial support. It wishes to set up by the summer a support instrument endowed with 500 million euros over two years topped up by the Union budget allowing urgent joint acquisitions of defense capabilities identified by a “task force” , created by the Commission and the EDA. This “task force” will work with Member States to facilitate coordination in short-term purchases, such as the replenishment of ammunition stocks. In addition, States could benefit from an exemption from VAT for purchases of intra-Community defense equipment. This European initiative may make it possible to limit the purchase of equipment outside Europe. Because at the Élysée, we already see “a surge in purchases outside the Union, which in the longer term would lead to increased dependence on other players, in particular the United States”.

“We have there, in a particularly difficult strategic context, with capability shortcomings that were old, but also urgent needs to replenish a certain number of stocks, a response from the Commission and, we also hope, a response of the European Council by endorsing these proposals. This is really a very important step for the deepening of European policy on the defense industry. We are really moving towards what we wanted, that is to say the implementation in common purchases and the ambition to develop joint capacities”, we underline at the Élysée.

In the medium and long term, the Commission must make a proposal “very quickly”, we explain at the Elysée. The Commission envisages during the revision of the multiannual financial framework to reinforce the budgets of the European Defense Fund (EDF) and military mobility thanks to the facility for connecting Europe. At the Élysée, it is estimated that there is “possibility also of finding other financial incentives in addition to the European Defense Fund, or of using the European Investment Bank”. On May 18, Thierry Breton had been clear: “Make no mistake about it, what we are proposing is potentially very structuring for European defence. There is no time to lose to implement it”. The ball is clearly in the European Council’s court.