The European Union as a Strategic Autonomous and Defence Technological Actor: Between Promises and Reality.

The nexus between the concepts of European Strategic Autonomy (EU-SA) and the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) concerns the old willingness of the European Union (EU) to thrive as a global defence actor with autonomous decision-making and freedom of action. However, to do so, it is indispensable to achieve stronger technological sovereignty through balanced cooperation between Member States (MSs). The latter lack, inter alia, a common strategic culture, that is delaying the competitiveness and readiness of the European defence industry while leaving behind crucial investments in modern defence technologies. The EU finds itself in a reality where national interests prevail in a fragmented market with abundant duplicates of capabilities and collective budgetary deficiencies. For instance, this paper shall delve into the reasons why the EU is not yet a strategic autonomous and defence technological actor after actively working on this since 2013. This shall be done through an analysis of the two concepts – EU-SA and EDTIB – and an evaluation of the status quo. The final goal of this project is to prove that the prevalence of national interests over collective technological sovereignty is clogging the implementation of a tangible military-industrial base, without which the EU cannot become a strategic autonomous player in the defence industry.

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Different Path to Cooperation through Association: Legal Implications within the Common Defence and Security Policy for Potential EU’s Membership Candidates.   

On the 23rd and 24th of June, EU leaders gathered at the European Council to discuss, among others, newly formulated membership requests from Ukraine, Moldavia and Georgia. While still considered as third countries, states that fill up a membership request or obtain candidate status (as well as non-candidate third States) cannot - and should - not be entirely ousted or dismissed of hand from various EU legal frameworks and tools related to common security and defence policy (CSDP).

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How can the European Defence Fund help the development of European Defence Capabilities?

The geopolitical context of the European Union (EU) has changed significantly in recent years, leading Member States to face new threats. Confronted with this situation, European leaders have agreed to work more closely together in defence and security. EU Member States are not cooperating appropriately, which has led to inefficient use of funds, wasteful duplication, and inadequate deployability of defence troops. The military industry is characterised by rising defence equipment costs as well as expensive Research and Development (R&D) costs, which limit the launch of new military programmes and have a direct impact on the EU Defence Technological and Industrial Base’s (EDTIB) competitiveness and innovation (EU Parliament and Council, 2021). The level of defence spending varies significantly amongst Member States. Increased solidarity is required to deliver joint defence capabilities, particularly through the engagement of the EU budget. The cost of non-cooperation between Member States in the field of defence and security is estimated at between €25 billion and €100 billion every year (Maelcamp, I.; Ungaro, A.R.).

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The European Defence Fund and COVID-19: how will the pandemic affect cooperation in EU innovation?

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.

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European Defence Fund: Dilemmas and Potentials

The launch of the €7.9 billion European Defence Fund (EDF) materialises years of talks and debates over the emergence of a European defence industrial and technological cooperation. The EDF is set to finance defence capability and critical technologies projects such as the next generation of aircraft fighters, tanks, semiconductors, cybersecurity, or communication systems.

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