In mid-October 2018, 131 organisations and industries called on future MEPs of the European Parliament to put industrial issues “at the core of the EU’s future” (2018, ASD). For example, the Aerospace and Defence Association (ASD), representing the “the voice of European Aeronautics, Space, Defence and Security industries”, the main European industrial representative cluster. This involvement demonstrates the willingness of the European Armament Industry to increase their impact on the European Stage.
From the beginning of the European Defence debates, industrial groups have realised the opportunity this presents for them: to be part of the new European Military Cooperation. This must be done at the European level, crystallising the interest of many European actors. ASD, along with the main industrial groups, have begun to engage more strongly with European Defence Research, in order to provide a European Armament Industrial point of view on various key issues (2017, ASD). The organisation frequently produce Food for Thought and Position Papers to European institutions. The search for harmonisation of the multitude of programs, budgets, and goals in the defence and security fields has given the European Armament Industry a new role.
There has been a clear increase of investments, trends, and cooperation for the Armament Industry during the past few years in Europe (2017, ASD). The most recent projected boost of €500 million for 2019-2020 from the EU to the European defence industry, (2018, Defense News), can indeed be seen as “historic” (2018 Nielsen). For the first time, the EU will soon be able to spend money on defence (2018 Nielsen). Following the approval from MEPs, the “plans to support the joint development of military equipment and technologies” are set to go ahead (2018, EP News).
Yet, reservations remain. The European defence industrial development programme (EDIDP) is still missing certain conditions. For example, “the program conditions do not specifically prohibit the development and export of controversial weapons” (2018, Brzozowski).
One of the key aspects for the upcoming EDIDP however, is the encouragement of a “pan-EU development” of the European defence industry (2018, Defense News). For this reason, “a minimum of three companies from three EU countries” are required to participate for the purposes of the program (2018, Defense News).
Although, a positive development for encouraging cooperation and efficiency, this means that the future of this program inevitably contains heavy uncertainties, as this boost also comes at a pivotal time for the EU. Brexit is looming large on this horizon, with many questions still to be answered and many issues still to be resolved. The defence industry is one of the key areas that could be affected by the UK’s expected withdrawal from the EU, set to take place on the 29th of March 2019. Yet there is a clear wish across Europe to strengthen defence ties with fellow EU Member States, especially with the UK.
For many corporations in the European Armament industry, the free movement of goods and people, and the sharing of intellectual property, is seen as a vital component for business. It increases efficiency and profits. It is no surprise then that “the defence industrial sector in the UK is therefore calling for a ‘soft Brexit’.” (2017, De France, et al).
Currently, there are two key EU Directives dealing with this area, the “Defence Procurement Directive (Directive 2009/81/EC) deals specifically with goods and services related to security and defence.” (2017, De France, et al). The other “Directive on Transfers of Defence Related Products (Directive 2009/43/EC) provided a new licensing system for intra-EU exports, distinguishing between general licences, global licences and individual licences.” (2017, De France, et al). In order to ensure continued optimal bi- and multilateral armament cooperation in the EU, these rules and regulations would still need to be applied across the board.
France and the UK especially, have enjoyed close ties with each other within the defence industry. This can be seen through the 2010 Lancaster House Treaties, which set out this “structural bilateral partnership”, (2017, De France, et al). There are a diverse number of corporations and projects in this area, which could be affected by Brexit. For example, the MBDA missile sector integration project, which is a company that “combines the missile capabilities of France, the UK, Italy and Germany” (2017, De France, et al).
For now it remains to be seen how the program will continue to develop. Yet, with the widespread wish to strengthen defence across the EU, especially with the UK, the possibility of continued bi- and multilateral relations with the UK seems highly likely.
Written by Emma Marty and Maria Antonia Reis Teixeira da Costa, on behalf of the Finabel Permanent Secretariat.
Photo credits: EU Observer & Opex 360
(2018), Aerospace and Defence Association (ASD) – Association of Europe, “Let’s put industry at the core of the EU’s future!”, (Accessed 25th October https://www.asd-europe.org/lets-put-industry-at-the-core-of-the-eus-future).
(2017), Aerospace and Defence Association (ASD) – Association of Europe, “Food for Thought Paper on European Defence Cooperative Programmes”, (Accessed 25th October https://www.asd-europe.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ASD%20Food%20For%20Thought%20on%20defence%20cooperation%2022.03.2017.pdf.)
(2017), Aerospace and Defence Association (ASD) – Association of Europe, “ASD Facts and Figures 2017”, (Accessed 25th October https://www.asd-europe.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ASD%20Facts%20and%20Figures%202017%20%28Final%29.pdf).
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