European security put at risk by fragmented defence market

Written by Ana Gomes, Reinhard Bütikofer and Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz on 27 May 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

MEPs have called for the creation of a European defence market to curb unnecessary spending.

Ana Gomes (S&D, PT) is parliament's rapporteur on the impact of developments in European defence markets on the security and defence capabilities in Europe

In this report, parliament very clearly calls on the commission and all member states to correctly implement the defence package directives, to save and better spend taxpayers' money on defence equipment, and produce the kind of equipment needed for our collective security.

We need a functioning internal defence market and a strengthened European defence technological and industrial base to ensure strategic autonomy and guarantee that the EU is indeed assuming its responsibilities as a security provider, not only for itself but, in particular, for regional and global security. 

Heads of state and government will meet in Brussels next month to discuss the way forward on the common security and defence policy (CSDP). They must understand that they cannot continue reducing national defence budgets in such an uncoordinated and blind way. Nor can they continue to abstain from making joint strategic investments in equipment Europe desperately needs, be it in cyber security, air and maritime security, strategic air lifting or communications interoperability.


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This is costing us vital capabilities, and is harming our own security as well as that of our neighbours. This is a call of the utmost importance, given the particularly tense situation in our neighbourhood, with war and terrorism, cyber criminality and other grave threats on the rise. 

The recently approved EU naval force operation to target the trafficking and smuggling of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean should be an example of why we need an effective CSDP, backed by a transparent defence market. 

We must face up the challenge and ensure an effective and swift generation of force and operation. This mostly on the member states, who must coordinate defence planning and invest in working more closely together, pooling and sharing strategic assets and capabilities.

 

Reinhard Bütikofer (DE) is parliament's Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur on the impact of developments in European defence markets on the security and defence capabilities in Europe

Ana Gomes' report, which was adopted during the last plenary session, is probably the best report the European parliament has ever adopted on the very delicate issue of a European defence market. 

The Greens/EFA group has voted against similar reports in the past, as we did not share many of the ideas which were promoted by Socialist or Conservative colleagues. 

But this report, not least because it integrates some of our amendments, shares the same analysis we have reported for years: the main problem of the many defence markets in Europe is not decreasing national defence budgets but fragmentation, inefficiency, poor transparency, corruption, mismanagement and the absence of clear and strict internal market rules. 

The current state of affairs is deplorable: the member states are still number two worldwide when it comes to defence spending, but the €180-190bn they shell out each year generate a large amount of brand new defence equipment that is not operational - A400M planes, Eurofighters and NH90 and Tiger helicopters, for example. This is a severe security problem and an enormous waste of taxpayers' money. 

The report also contains strong language on the fact that national defence industries within Europe now seek to increase exports to third countries that have shaky human rights records, and play a rather negative role with regard to regional peace and stability.

However, the report does still contain some more than questionable ideas, such as reducing taxes to be paid by the defence industry via VAT exemptions and misusing structural, regional and social funds for the sector.

A truly European defence market will only work efficiently when there are no more subsidies which lead to further market distortions.


Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (EPP, HU) is parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee opinion on rapporteur on the impact of developments in European defence markets on the security and defence capabilities in Europe

In my view, member states' key priority should be to fully implement the directive on the defence procurement package. Our governments are fully aware that in the long-term, creating an EU market for defence procurement - therefore limiting problems linked to fragmentation - will lead to a better functioning internal market for the European defence sector.

Internal market rules should be used to their full potential to counteract the ongoing fragmentation of the European defence and security sector. 

The correct implementation of the legal framework for EU defence public procurement by the member states could contribute to more efficient national defence spending and strengthen the European defence technological and industrial base.

I regret that little progress has been made so far in this direction, despite the adoption in 2009 of the defence package directives. I find it deplorable that the previous efforts made to unify demand have not resolved the issue of fragmentation. Consequently, at this point re-setting our priorities is essential.

I strongly believe that specific steps need to be taken to ensure that the directives are properly applied and to check and monitor national transposition procedures, to make sure that they do not result in market distortions. 

Achieving this goal is our long-term plan, however, a lot remains to be done. I believe defence procurements are imperative and I truly welcome the council's decision to put the strengthening of the defence of Europe on its agenda.

About the author

Ana Gomes (S&D, PT) is parliament's rapporteur on the impact of developments in European defence markets on the security and defence capabilities in Europe

Reinhard Bütikofer (DE) is parliament's Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur on the impact of developments in European defence markets on the security and defence capabilities in Europe

Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (EPP, HU) is parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee opinion on rapporteur on the impact of developments in European defence markets on the security and defence capabilities in Europe

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