BRUSSELS — The European Commission is on track to unveil proposals, including one to certify defense products, to boost the EU’s defense industry.
Addressing members in the European Parliament’s Security and Defence Subcommittee April 29, the EU’s Industry and Entrepreneurship commissioner, Antonio Tajani, said the plan was to present a commission communication on defense before the summer. The communication, which is a kind of policy paper, will be the commission’s main contribution to discussions at the summit of European Union heads of state and government on defense at the end of this year.
Other key proposals include monitoring the transposition of two EU directives on defense products, identifying critical raw materials, promoting hybrid standards for products with civil and military applications and helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
He noted that the defense sector had recorded a turnover of €94 billion (US $122.4 billion) in 2010 and can therefore encourage innovation via high-level technologies.
He also said R&D defense activities have knock-on effects in other sectors, such as electronics, space and civil aviation, and “innovation in defense generates growth and thousands of skilled jobs.”
“The first priority is to ensure full and effective implementation of two directives on the transfer of defense products and contracting procedures in the security and defense sectors,” he said. “The commission will monitor the full implementation of the directives.”
As for the certification of defense products, he argued that a harmonized approach would mean significant savings in terms of time and costs.
“We will therefore assess measures to increase the involvement of the European Defence Agency in this area,” he said.
“Strategic and sustainable access to raw materials is a crucial issue for industry in general and for the defense sector too,” he added. “One idea is to pinpoint ‘critical’ raw materials for the defense industry and propose targeted action as part of our European strategy on raw materials.”
Synergies between the civil and military sectors was another area he addressed.
“We will therefore assess how to increase cooperation with the European Defence Agency in the light of the important discussions on Horizon 2020 [an EU funding program]. We’re thinking, for example, of promoting hybrid standards for products that have both civil and military applications and for which there is no alternative,” he said.
He also referred to the possibility for European armed forces to reduce their consumption of energy, pointing to a European Defence Agency project called ‘Go Green’ as a good example of this.
As for SMEs, he said, “we need to use existing instruments better for SMEs in the sector, supporting for example the development of clusters [of SMEs].”