European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska has welcomed the European Parliament’s decision to endorse creating a European Defence Fund (EDF).
“More defence cooperation in Europe is essential to address the growing global instabilities and cross-border threats to our security. It is clear that no country can do this alone. The endorsement of the European Defence Fund will allow us to significantly step up our defence cooperation”, she said in a statement.
According to the EU official, the Fund is poised to encourage “joint investments and technological innovation in the defence sector”, helping “to spend taxpayer money more efficiently and ensure Europe can benefit from the best interoperable defence technology and equipment”.
European legislators endorsed funding the EDF with 328 lawmakers voting for and 231 against during their recent session. They recommended allocating €13 billion for the cause within 7 years; however, the final sum should be agreed amid discussions on the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027. The funding will be committed to developing “cutting-edge” military technology that would make the EU competitive in the field. According to The Guardian, the proposal specifically focused on so-called “disruptive technologies” that “can radically change the concepts and conduct of” military action.
The decision marks a breakthrough in ongoing discussion on the matter. President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the creation of the EDF in his 2016 State of the Union address. Although the European Commission is incentivising European defence cooperation with a 590-million-euro budget until 2020, it proposed a fully-fledged EDF worth €13 billion in June 2018.
Despite joy in the European Commission, the concept evoked has criticism from some parliamentarians, for instance, German Social Democrats branded subsidies to the European arms industry “a wrong path”.
Notably, France and Germany have already started developing a next-generation Future Combat Air System (FCAS) comprising a new fighter jet and accessory weapons. The fighter jet, which is intended to eventually replace France’s Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighter aircraft, is to become operational by 2040, while the first demonstration flights are expected in 2025. The contractors entrusted with the mission, funded by France and Germany equally, are Paris-based Dassault Aviation and Airbus, with its headquarters in Leiden, the Netherlands. Spain also joined the project in February, while both Paris and Berlin are inviting other European countries to join.
On top of this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently supported an idea brought up by her successor as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who proposed creating a European aircraft carrier in an essay outlining her vision for Europe’s future.
Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have for the last year been pushing the idea of a joint European army for the bloc, something that would be part of the wider transatlantic NATO alliance framework.