Written by 9:11 am EU Investment

Could pragmatism reign into joint EU defence procurement? – EURACTIV.com

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In this week’s edition: FAC preview, European defence moves and Belgrade-Pristina dialogue mediation attempts.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has foregrounded pragmatism in what Europeans can, cannot or should not try to do alone when it comes to their defence policy.

Strengthening the EU’s defence policy and industries has rarely been part of member states’ strategic thinking in the past.

With war at its doorstep, the EU earlier this year pushed out its first military strategy, significantly rewritten and ramped up by unfolding events.

The EU also broke a long-standing taboo by agreeing to use its resources to provide weapons to a third country through the so-called ‘European Peace Facility’ (EPF), an instrument that could turn into a long-term option.

It also had drawn rather quick lessons and agreed to collectively “resolutely bolster investment” in defence capabilities and “substantially increase” defence spending across the bloc.

While EU investments had increased by 22% in 20 years, in the same period they had risen by 66% in the United States, nearly 300% in Russia and more than 600% in China, EU defence officials say.

Now, Western countries have been rushing to restock weapons and ammunition after shipping huge quantities to Kyiv, requiring industry to ramp up to meet the surging demand.

European countries need air and missile defence, anti-tank and artillery systems and drones, defence officials say.

But defence purchases in the EU are rarely carried out jointly, with countries eager to support their domestic industries.

Enter EDIPRA: The European Defence Industry Reinforcement through the common Procurement Act.

Proposed by Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton in the summer, the new instrument is meant to encourage European governments to work towards joint procurements of weapons “made in the EU but with no strings attached.”

When EU defence ministers meet on Tuesday (15 November), they are expected to present concrete proposals for coordinated arms purchases.

Brussels also hopes for around 5-7 key projects to coordinate purchases by member countries in areas such as ammunition.

But while governments have pledged a surge in spending, some companies fear much of the money will go on US equipment.

The latest considerations on the mechanism show that EU strategic autonomy for many has stopped equalling the development of a defence policy without the Americans or other partners.

The most recent draft of the EDIPRA regulation, first reported by Bruxelles2, suggests a workaround that could permit this future EU fund to assist joint purchases from third countries, which would likely be mostly the US.

“Let’s be honest, we can’t buy equipment we don’t have in Europe,” an EU official said.

“Of course, there are concerns about what this means for our industries, but under the current situation, more and more member states argue we should ‘buy what we need’ rather than primarily limit ourselves to buy ‘what we have’,” the official concluded.


EU IN THE WORLD

FAC PREVIEW | EU foreign ministers are set to discuss Ukraine, the situation in the Great Lakes region and the situation in the Western Balkans, including the recent escalation between Kosovo and Serbia, when they meet Monday.

For breakfast, they will hear from Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tsikanouskaya on the Minsk regime’s role in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Expect also some hard talk about how to avoid Moscow ditching EU sanctions through Belarusian loopholes.

On Ukraine, ministers will be joined virtually by their Ukrainian counterpart when they will formally approve the EU’s Ukraine military training mission (EUMAM) plan and make the decision to launch the mission. They will also start a debate about the future of the European Peace Facility (EPF), whose multiannual envelope of €5.7 billion could be exhausted soon.

Ministers are also set to discuss the way forward in EU-Russia relations, with an informal agreement expected on how they could be conducted in the short term. The bottom line is though that the EU’s ‘five guiding principles‘ are dead.

DEFENCE CORNER

FAC PREVIEW II |As mentioned above, when EU defence ministers meet on Tuesday, they are expected to present concrete proposals for coordinated arms purchases, assess the annual progress of the EU’s military projects and discuss current missions and operations.

MILITARY MOBILITY | The European Commission proposed a plan for ‘better connected and protected infrastructure’ aimed at allowing swift and seamless movement of troops and military equipment across the bloc.

After years of neglect, it looks like Russia’s war in Ukraine has made the bloc see the urgency to do more on military mobility – here’s an overview.

ENLARGEMENT LATEST

SERBIA-KOSOVO TALKS | The EU and France pressed Kosovo and Serbia to discuss proposals to normalise ties in the latest episode of the region’s explosive will-they-won’t-they when the Balkan leaders met in Paris before the weekend. Hope is that the arch-foes could meet face to face in Brussels soon, which would be an important symbolic step in the right direction.

EURASIA DIGEST

’STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP’ | As UN climate talks kicked off in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, the EU is moving forward to secure partnerships with developing countries on hydrogen and clean technologies, starting with Kazakhstan.

TURKIC PUSH | Turkey spearheaded a summit of Central Asian countries last week, aiming to strengthen economic ties with the region’s resource-rich ex-Soviet states while Moscow is distracted by the war in Ukraine.


WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 


ON OUR RADAR

  • ASEAN Summit
    | Sunday, 13 November 2022 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • EU foreign ministers meet on Ukraine, Great Lakes, Western Balkans
    | Monday, 14 November 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • EU defence ministers meet on Ukraine, defence capabilities review
    | Tuesday, 15 November 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • G20 Summit
    | Tue-Wed, 15-16 November 2022 | Bali, Cambodia
  • Verdict in trial of four accused of 2014 downing flight MH17 over Ukraine
    | Thursday, 17 November 2022 | Badhoevedorp, The Netherlands
  • EU-Central Asia ministerial with EU’s chief diplomat Borrell, Commissioner Urpilainen participating
    | Tuesday, 17-18 November 2022 | Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • Ukraine grain deal brokered by UN, Turkey expires
    | Saturday, 19 November 2022 | 
  • NATO Parliamentary Assembly holds its annual session
    | Saturday, 19 November 2022 | Madrid, Spain
  • Kazakhstan presidential election
    | Sunday, 20 November 2022 | 

PAST EDITIONS

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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