MEPs have given their approval for the new European Defence Fund, backing a report paving the way for the €13bn programme to become fully operational.
This fund is viewed as a major defence initiative for the EU and aims to encourage cooperation in developing the technologies and equipment needed to address common defence and security challenges.
Reacting to the parliamentary committee vote, Françoise Grossetête, chair of the European Parliament’s EPP working group on economy and environment, said, “The EPP has always been a strong supporter of, and has pioneered the idea of, a dedicated fund for European defence.”
She described the fund as a “a long overdue strengthening of European defence capabilities”.
Grossetête added, “It is imperative that we improve European defence cooperation to avoid duplication of projects and develop strong flagship programmes".
“Too often, defence projects in Europe have been done on an isolated, country-by-country basis. This has led to development of multitude of often-incompatible weapon systems, compared to the consistent approach of, say, the United States”.
“We want to encourage pan-European cooperation in defence projects and we want to make sure that eligibility criteria for companies are strict, to improve our strategic autonomy”, noted Grossetête.
“It is imperative that we improve European defence cooperation to avoid duplication of projects” Françoise Grossetête MEP
“Competitiveness, innovation and excellence are the keys to selecting the projects”, she added.
The European Commission said it also welcomed the “partial general approach” on the Fund, also approved by EU member states in the Council. The Fund was first announced by Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2016 in his state of the union address. In June, the Commission followed up by tabling plans for the Fund for 2021-2027.
The fund will provide the financial firepower for crossborder collaboration in defence research and development projects for state-of-the-art, interoperable technology and equipment in areas such as encrypted software and drone technology.
Further reaction came from Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, who said: “I welcome the progress made by Council on our proposal for a European Defence Fund as part of the next long-term EU budget.”
“The Fund is a game changer for greater defence cooperation in Europe and European strategic autonomy” Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska
“The Fund is a game changer for greater defence cooperation in Europe and European strategic autonomy.”
“As soon as the European Parliament has adopted its position, I invite the co-legislators to start discussions in order to reach a common position without delay".
The Fund will provide €4.1bn to directly finance competitive and collaborative research projects, particularly through grants.
Beyond the research phase, €8.9bn will be available to complement member state investments in defence products by co-financing the costs for prototype development and during the certification and testing phases.