As the world’s balance of power is shifting with the emergence of new centers of gravity and as the United States is rebalancing its strategic focus towards Asia, Europeans seem determined to bolster a common security and defense policy, being convinced that such a policy is necessary for Europe to meet the new security challenges in an autonomous and effective way, to guarantee its own security, to assume its responsibilities in the world and to be more influential.
This determination was outlined by the European Commission in a communication it presented last month, enumerating a set of measures “to strengthen the internal market for defense, to promote a more competitive defense industry and to foster synergies between civil and military research.” The Communication which underscored that the successive waves of cuts in European defense budgets and the persisting fragmentation of defense markets threaten Europe’s capacity to sustain effective defense capabilities and a competitive defense industry also expounded options in other areas such as energy, space and dual-use capabilities.
EC officials insist on the vital need for European defense industry to remain “a world-leading centre for manufacturing and innovation, creating highly qualified jobs and growth.”
As put by the EC President José Manuel Barroso “in times of scarce resources, cooperation is key and we need to match ambitions and resources to avoid duplication of programs. It’s time to do more together and it’s time to commit and engage for more Defense cooperation. “We will not have the weight we need in the world without a common defense policy. To support it, we need to strengthen our defense and security sector,” he said.
High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, on her part said, “the EU has the ambition to act as a security provider, in its neighbourhood and globally, both to protect its own interests and contribute to international peace and security. To be able to do so, we need capabilities. And to have capabilities, a sound industrial base is vital.”
Although defense and security matters have always been part of each country’s strategic prerogatives, in the current world juncture, it is becoming increasingly obvious to Europe that to develop new technologies and to bolster military capabilities require more joint efforts and cooperation as no country can take up the challenges on its own. Europe also needs to invest more in defense and security after its spending in the field dropped to €194 billion compared to €251 billion in the past ten years, while the budgets earmarked for defense research and development have been cut between 2005 and 2010 to stand at only €9 billion. Meanwhile, many other countries are devoting greater budgets to their military spending. India has thus increased its expenditures by 14 percent in 2013, China is doubling hers every five years while Russia is projecting to increase the defense budget to 6 percent of its GDP.
Pundits warn that this downturn in European military spending can be dangerous as it puts at stake Europe’s strategic industrial assets, the competitiveness of its military industry, its strategic role on the international scene and its very capacity to ward off contingency threats.
European leaders are to scrutinize the EC’s Action Plan seeking to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of Europe’s defense and security sector, as well as a report prepared by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy