Latest Posts
Skip to main content

In the current security context, Europe’s ability to defend itself hinges on the establishment of a Europeanized defense industry. However, the EU defense market is confronted with fragmentation, characterized by limited cooperation among Member States. This lack of integration poses significant challenges to Europe’s ambition to achieve strategic autonomy and equal status with the US in security and defense matters.

Murat Gibadyukov, 25 August 2023

The current state of the EU defense market landscape exhibits limited cooperation, leading Member States to pursue individual defense projects and procurement strategies. This fragmented approach results in inefficiencies, increased costs, and disjointed operations. To reinforce the EU’s position as a global security actor, a unified strategy is imperative. Such an approach would enable the pooling of resources and capabilities, bolstering defense capabilities and strategic autonomy.

The European Union has taken significant steps towards unifying the defense industry to address the challenges posed by fragmentation, and enhance its collective military capabilities. Initiatives such as the European Peace Facility (EPF) and the Act in Support of Ammunitions Production (ASAP) demonstrate the EU’s commitment to supporting cooperation for military production to achieve more autonomy and overcome supply shortages. Moreover, the European Defense Agency (EDA) has spearheaded efforts to coordinate the procurement of military supplies among 24 EU Member States and Norway, and to facilitate the procurement of 155-mm artillery ammunition to bolster the Ukrainian Army’s capabilities.

However, diverse standards, regulations, and certification processes across EU Member States create obstacles to cross-border collaboration within the defense industry. Furthermore, the reliance on non-European suppliers for critical defense technologies poses security risks.

In this connection, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently made it clear that Poland seeks to further deepen cooperation with the US defense industry: “Poland wants to build the strongest army in Europe. That is why we want to cooperate with the most advanced defense industry in the world, which is the American industry.” In addition to Poland’s preference for cooperation with the US defense industry, the country has also pursued individual deals with other non-EU nations, contributing to the fragmentation of the EU defense market and of EU security cohesion.

One notable example is the recent tank deal between Poland and the Republic of  Korea (ROK). Poland concluded a significant agreement to buy 120 K-2 battle tanks produced by ROK and to establish a production line in Poland to manufacture an additional 800 units for its armed forces. Instead of collaborating with fellow EU Member States, Poland’s choice to enter into such a significant defense deal with a non-EU partner underscores the prevailing fragmentation within the EU defense market.

Furthermore, the absence of  unified procurement leads to differences in military power among the EU Member States, with some possessing advanced technological capabilities and others lagging behind. The EU’s approach to acquiring combat aircraft showcases this disparity. Currently in the EU market three types of European combat aircraft are competing with the US F-35, with most European countries opting for the latter. This lack of consensus on a common combat aircraft makes it challenging to respond collectively to security threats and weakens the EU’s stance on the global stage. One must therefore ask, “qui bono”?

A unified procurement strategy would offer a solution to these challenges. By harmonizing standards and minimising redundancy, the EU can optimize defense budgets, enhance its negotiating power, and foster a competitive European defense industry. Amid this market fragmentation, some European leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, have been standing up for an independent European security and a strong Europe. In his keynote speech at the Nexus Institute in The Hague, in April 2023, Macron emphasised the necessity of defending and maintaining European sovereignty and laid out a roadmap for a comprehensive economic security doctrine for the EU. His vision for Europe includes a unified defense industry that allows the EU to make independent decisions and to determine its own foreign and security policies.

To address these challenges and achieve European strategic autonomy, closer cooperation and joint projects among EU Member States are essential. The EU aims to improve convergence in arms procurement through mechanisms such as the European Defense Industry Reinforcement through Common Procurement Act (EDIRPA), which acknowledges the need for a unified procurement system enabling joint purchases and promoting economies of scale to reduce costs and enhance interoperability.

However, the implementation of such initiatives is complex, requiring delicate navigation of national interests and security concerns. Effective supply consolidation might entail some Member States’ losing certain defense industrial capacities and benefits, but this move is necessary to strengthen European defense and deterrent capabilities, ultimately fostering autonomy at the European level. Coordinated defense planning is vital to ensuring that military capabilities are developed and maintained in a complementary and effective manner.

Finally, investing in defense research and development at the EU level can foster innovation and competitiveness within the European defense industry. The EU must support the growth of a robust and competitive European defense industrial base in order to reduce reliance on non-European suppliers.

This will requires political will and commitment from all EU Member States to work together towards common defense goals and policies to achieve these goals. This will enable the EU to overcome fragmentation and strengthen its defense capabilities, advancing towards greater strategic autonomy and equal status with other global security powers.

Picture: European Union Puzzle – almost done. © IMAGO / Design Pics
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner