BRUSSELS — The European Commission is preparing to unveil a number of priority areas designed this summer to strengthen the European Union’s defense industry ahead of an EU summit of heads of state and government devoted to European defense policies at the end of 2013.
“It is not possible to mobilize resources if you don’t have a strong industrial base. That’s the main message of the commission’s communication [policy paper] that we’re preparing. We intend to have it done by the summer so there’s plenty of time to prepare the council [EU summit] well,” said Daniel Calleja Crespo, director-general of the Enterprise and Industry Directorate General of the European Commission at the European Defence Agency’s annual conference here March 21.
He argued that the council has “a great opportunity” to enhance the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and to send a strong message that it is important for Europe to work on this area and be able to take on responsibilities as “military capabilities are important and it is important to have a strong industrial base”.
Three of the priorities he referred to were: the need to strengthen the EU’s internal market (via two directives, one on the procurement of and the other on the intra-EU transfer of defense goods); an industrial strategy (including working with small and medium enterprises, working on skills and access to finance); and energy efficiency (here European armies spend about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) per year, the equivalent of a small EU member state, which means “lots of possibilities”).
A fourth area, related to research, development and innovation, he said had “fallen in EU military budgets while spending had increased in the U.S.
“We have Horizon 2020 and there are possibilities here for dual-use programs, for example, relating to unmanned aerial vehicles,” he said.
Horizon 2020 is an EU fund for research programs that is still subject to negotiation within the EU as part of the EU’s multiannual financial framework talks. He also said that money for innovation has not been cut so deeply in the multiannual financial framework talks, and so “if the European Parliament agrees, there will be a significant program in Horizon 2020.
“Where there are dual-use technologies, if the project is submitted by member states, I think we can use European funding,” he said, citing UAVs as a good example.
“If there are other programs where there is a dual-use aspect, this is also possible [for European funding],” he said. Referring to the “challenge of standardization,” he said that was a “challenge ahead of us in the defense sector,” adding, “expect some initiatives in this area”.
Eric Trappier, the chairman of the ASD Defence Commission and chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, said he expected the commission to make a decision with the European Defence Agency to start a program to determine if “we can fly UAVs in the European sky.”
Looking ahead to the EU summit in December, former Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said, “it can send a message to the public about the recovery of the CSDP or deepen the crisis of the CSDP of recent years. I think the council will send a positive message and give an impulse for the next phase of the CSDP,” he added.
On the question of the EU’s battlegroups, he said, “if not used, they could be lost” and so they [the council] should answer the question of the concept of battlegroups.
Klich also argued in favor of the EU having a permanent civil-military capacity headquarters.
At the council, Crespo said he wanted “a clear agreement on CSDP objectives and a strategy — a roadmap with concrete policies and timelines for the coming years until the next council, where we can monitor what has been achieved,” though he noted that he was not expressing the commission’s official position.
Klich also called for “a significant increase in the budget of the EDA,” a point on which Crespo agreed, arguing “the EDA needs to play an increasing role” as “it is important to have a strong CSDP.”
On the budget question, Claude-France Arnould, the chief executive of the EDA, said “she could not imagine a 20 percent increase in the EDA institutional budget in times of crisis” but that “what is important is to have additional money from member states for ad hoc activities.”
She hoped the money question would be raised at the council. “If we wait for the end of the crisis, part of our defense [sector] will be dead and have gone to the civilian side.”
“The council is a moment of truth. Decisions have to be taken,” said Crespo.