The European Defence Agency (EDA) says that in 2014, the last year for which full figures are available, deployment figures "noticeably" declined, while defence research and technology (R&T) expenditure is at its "lowest level."
On a brighter note, the EDA says that 2014 marked a "turning point" for European defence expenditure.
The EDA 'defence data' gathering exercise reveals that after a continuous six-year decline, which started in 2008 following the outbreak of the global economic and financial crises, total defence expenditure of the 27 EDA member states increased in 2014 by 2.3 per cent from €190bn to €195bn, compared to the previous year.
The EDA, a Brussels-based EU agency, says that 2015 estimates suggest a further "nominal" increase of 2.6 per cent, or €5bn to €200bn, the level comparable to that before the economic crisis.
However, the data, supplied by ministries of defence, report some worrying trends, saying that since 2006 defence personnel, both military and civilian, has been steadily declining.
This was most evident between 2008 and 2011, due to "unfavourable" economic conditions.
"Thereafter personnel numbers continued to fall, thought at a slower pace, a rate of -1.7 per cent per year on average," says the EDA.
From 2013 to 2014, total civilian personnel reduced by almost two per cent to 400,000, whereas military personnel by half that (almost one per cent) to 1.4 million.
The agency also says that the average number of troops deployed outside the EU territory decreased by almost 46 per cent, from 58,000 in 2013 to 32,000 in 2014, mainly due to withdrawal of participating member states' troops from Afghanistan.
In relation to the overall strength of the 27 member states' military personnel, the share of deployed troops almost halved, from four per cent in 2013 to 2.2 per cent in 2014.
Meanwhile, a slight increase (+3.2 per cent) in R&T expenditure achieved in 2013, was lost the year after, as R&T spending dropped by 4.6 per cent (-6.1 per cent in real terms) back to 2012 level of €2bn the lowest since 2006.
The EDA says, "R&T expenditure was highest in 2006 amounting to €2.7bn - the expected response to the ambitious goal set by the EU leaders at the Hampton Court summit in 2005 to achieve a paradigm shift in defence R&T by spending more and spending more together.
"However, it has been gradually decreasing since then, despite the repeated urge to invest in defence R&T now to have effective and credible defence capabilities in the future."