BERLIN – NATO leaders have their eyes on the European Union’s draft budget as a means to boost spending on infrastructure projects that could serve key military functions besides their civilian uses.

The push comes as both organizations seek ways to increase defense cooperation without stepping on each other’s toes. Defense officials have described joint activities in military mobility as a relatively safe space in a NATO-EU field fraught with political tension.

“There is an ongoing budget discussion in the EU and we’ll see what comes out of it,” Camille Grand, NATO’s assistant secretary general for defense investment, told Defense News in an interview on the sidelines of the NATO Industry Forum here.

All told, Grand said, on the table is a sum of €1 billion annually in EU money on top of the roughly €1 billion spent by NATO members on infrastructure improvements.

“I think it’s important that the EU delivers because it’s a good contribution on the part of the European Union to burden sharing,” Grand said.

Ensuring that Europe's main transportation lines are suitable for transporting military gear in the event of a confrontation with Russia has been a key concern for defense leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. A patchwork of diverging policies and technical standards still complicates the rapid movement of tanks and other warfighting gear across borders.

Grand stressed that NATO is not seeking to influence European Union decision making. But, he said, simple advice on military logistics during construction planning could make the difference between tanks being able to traverse through a tunnel or be stuck in front of it.

“Ultimately, it’s for both organizations to make their decisions following their own processes,” said Grand.

Debate on the European Union’s budget covering 2021 through 2027, proposed in the spring, is expected to continue this week.

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.

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