The European Union agreed on Tuesday (14 November) that it would increase its military research budget for the first time since 2010 after the United Kingdom slightly changed its position on defense. Britain’s softening opposition is a breakthrough and may suggest the country’s willingness to support military cooperation even after it leaves the EU.
The EU increased its 2017 military spending on the European Defense Agency (EDA) one day after it had agreed on a new defense plan to make Europe less dependent on the United States in terms of ensuring the continent’s security. EDA helps EU countries develop aircraft and other military assets. These assets also support the NATO’s operations as 22 EU countries are also NATO members. Following a modest 1.6 percent increase in line with inflation, the EU’s total budget will now be 31 million euros.
Federica Mogherini, head of EU’s diplomacy commented that although the increase was still rather symbolic, it was a clear sign of the readiness of all EU Member States including the UK to boost the funding and reflect on the work that has been done and that needs to be done. EU diplomats think that a change in the UK’s position may mean that the country will want to closely cooperate with Brussels on defense and military issues after Brexit becomes a reality. Such a position seems to be reasonable given the range of security issues in the EU’s closest neighborhood such as the conflict in Ukraine, the Syrian civil war or fight against ISIS.
EU’s prompt update of its military budget is also a reaction to the election of Donald Trump as US President, which has only encouraged Brussels to work towards its growing ambition in the area of defense and security. Mr Trump suggested during his pre-election campaign that he would not be willing to support countries that do not spend enough on their own security.