Written by Johannes Krause
In response to the current hostilities in Ukraine, the European Union (EU) Commission (2022) has announced in a recent press release that it is committed to deepening its defence capabilities and broadening its defence cooperation. This goal has been reported in light of the recent informal meeting of Heads of State and Government in Versailles. At Versailles, Russia’s incursion into Ukraine was loudly condemned as an “unprovoked and unjustified” gross violation of “international law and the principles of the UN Charter” that “undermines European and global security and stability” (European Council, 2022, p. 1). In its effort to bolster the strength of EU defence capabilities, the EU Commission is further responding to the call to action recently made in the ongoing Conference for the Future of Europe.
The general desire of the Commission to enhance the EU’s military preparedness revolves around the better coordination of the “joint acquisition of military equipment” and the better articulation of common “strategic defence programming” with “clearer priorities” (European Commission, 2022). A further matter, which the Commission seeks to address, is the issue of effective defence cooperation, not only on an intra-European level but also on a transatlantic level. Ideally, the Commission hopes that the now somewhat urgent commitment to defence issues will result in “a fairer Transatlantic burden-sharing and a more effective European contribution within NATO.” The Commission has formulated a policy agenda designed to resolve issues through immediate and more long-term measures. For instance, in conjunction with the High Representative/ Head of the European Defence Agency, the Commission will act immediately to establish a Defence Joint Procurement Task Force, which will “work with the Member States to support the coordination and de-conflict their very short-term procurement needs.” Moreover, the Commission will propose new EU instruments to allow for greater collaboration in defence procurement between member states. The Commission seeks to incentivise this collaboration by committing “€500m of EU budget over two years” to this project.
The Commission has further pointed out that defence deficiencies must also be tackled in light of broader economic factors. In this sense, the Commission has noted the existence of key “industrial gaps,” which it seeks to tackle through “support to the European industrial base, including the strengthening of the European defence R&D framework.” To achieve this support to industry, the Commission has called for a “solid action plan to reinforce the European defence industrial capacity.” This action plan will involve the formulation of a Critical Raw Materials initiative, an “in-depth mapping of […] current and necessary additional industrial manufacturing capabilities,” and further measures to support “critical technologies” and “defence innovation.”
European Commission. (2022, May 18). EU steps up action to strengthen EU defence capabilities, industrial and technological base: towards an EU framework for Joint defence procurement. European Commission Press Release. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_22_3143
European Council. (2022, March 11). Versailles Declaration. European Council Press Release, pp. 1-10. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/03/11/the-versailles-declaration-10-11-03-2022/?utm_source=dsms-auto&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Versailles%20declaration%2C%2010%20and%2011%20March%202022