For the better part of the last two years, the world has been embroiled in the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated financial drain, leading to the expectation that many Member States’ GDP will decrease, leaving fewer funds available to cover increasingly large budgetary priorities. This will necessarily lead to cuts in the spending envisaged before the pandemic hit. In that light, defence expenditure has historically been particularly vulnerable, as is readily demonstrated by the 2008 economic crisis, which saw a decrease of between 30% and 8% in Member States’ defence spending (Mölling, 2020, 2). This is a particularly troubling trend for the aspirations of technological autonomy for the EU, which requires the constant deployment of funds and does not include any immediate security threat needing containment. Particularly vulnerable is the European Defence Fund (EDF), a programme that provides funds for cooperative research and technology (R&T) projects between the industries of at least three Member States. Its initial proposal of €13 billion in 2018 has already been cut to €8 billion (Brzozowski, Euractiv, 2020) in the wake of the pandemic, which corresponds to a 38% decrease.
When the Covid-19 crisis led to a lockdown of all activities, the lack of digital literacy from governmental bodies and defence personal exposed both a new threat and an opportunity. Bearing this situation in mind, NATO members (NM) have agreed at the 31st annual summit, held in June 2020 in Brussels, to initiate the Defence Innovation Accelerator of the North Atlantic (DIANA) that aims to reach full operability capacities by 2023. DIANA is NATO’s version of the U.S Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It will reinforce transatlantic cooperation regarding critical technologies to assure the security and defence digital literacy of NM.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on most of the world, and Europe is no exception. The European economy was deeply affected in several sectors. Business-related to defence, security, and European defence cooperation was one of the hardest-hit sectors.
The year 2020, was an eye-opening year for defence matters, which may provide certain lessons when comparing the defence budgets of 2020-2021, to pre-pandemic defence budgets. This Info Flash will look at the evolution of recent budgets and the possible implications an atypical year like 2020 might have on such budgets throughout Europe.