PARIS — European Union officials are expected to meet with member nation delegates this week to craft ground rules for a €500 million (U.S. $523 million) fund envisioned to promote quick purchases of bloc-made military equipment.
The fund, if it works, could provide European countries with another source to replace equipment sent to Ukraine, as American and Israeli companies, for example, are champing at the bit to restock Europe’s arsenals.
But the mechanisms for dishing out procurement subsidies through the fund remain murky, with questions remaining about the scope of financial support and the definition of eligible purchases.
The European Defence Agency chief executive, Jiří Šedivý, told Defense News his assignment, handed down May 31, to set up a governance structure and funding instrument, in concert with the European Commission, to quickly fill capability gaps remains “very fresh.”
“We are talking to the member states, asking them to identify on their part their most urgent needs in terms of replenishment,” he said in an interview after visiting the Eurosatory defense expo in France. “And we then will aggregate those needs and requests, find where they overlap, and encourage joint recruit procurement in some areas.”
The tactical task of helping coordinate the rapid replenishment of munitions and equipment across the bloc is somewhat uncharacteristic for the European Defence Agency, whose leaders previously stressed that facilitating long-term cooperation and planning was their strong suit.
For Šedivý, though, the new effort is partly about getting nations interested in thinking of their defense from a common perspective.
“This is to encourage joint procurement by member states and joint procurement from European companies,” he said. “So it has, I would say, a dual purpose: first of all to help member states reestablish force readiness and their stocks, but at the same time to encourage cooperation and encourage involvement and strengthening of the European industrial base.”
European leaders kicked off a new wave of defense-boosting measures at their March 10-11 summit in Versailles, about two weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Since then, EU officials have conducted a study of capability gaps — and quick fixes for addressing them. Last month, they unveiled a list of urgent investment priorities that includes replenishing military stockpiles, replacing Soviet-era legacy equipment, and “reinforcing” air and missile defense capabilities.
Meanwhile, the European Defence Agency is also tackling of a review of its Capability Development Plan, a kind of blueprint for guiding the EU’s defense investment decisions. The last update was in 2018.
Spurred by the war in Ukraine, the new version is expected to reflect a scenario of higher-intensity conflict as well as updated guidance on working with NATO, which stands to grow with the pending applications of EU members Finland and Sweden, Šedivý said.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.