MILAN — The European Union’s executive branch has delivered a verdict after a five-months-long security review of Milrem Robotics’ participation in current and future defense cooperation projects under its new Emirati ownership.
The European Commission’s assessment, which began in March following Milrem’s takeover by Edge Group, has ruled in favor of involving the Estonian firm in collaborative defense programs, such as the integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System project, or iMUGS.
“The project [iMUGS] is still eligible. The guarantees presented by Estonia make Milrem compliant,” an EU official told Defense News this week.
What this decision implies is twofold. On the one hand, it conveys that Milrem will continue as lead contractor in possible follow-on iMUGS initiatives while also being allowed to take part in other European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation projects.
On the other, it backs that any project-related information will stay in the EU sphere, and shows an easing of concerns that foreign ownership could undermine the bloc’s wider security interests.
Earlier this year, a Milrem spokesperson told Defense News that the company already had in place legal boundaries restricting the sharing of confidential EU and NATO intellectual property information with Edge Group.
Asked about the final decision, Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem, said the firm has “very strict internal policies in place, and that is now also assessed by the European Commission.”
The previous responsible official for iMUGS with the Estonian government, Martin Jõesaar, declined to comment, citing his ongoing work with the commission.
The Milrem case represented the first of its kind, where a third party gained external control of a key company while it was leading one of the most prominent European robotics programs.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.