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New report highlights importance of defence cooperation

The European Economic and Social Committee have released an Opinion Paper on the current state of the European defence industry. Many of the conclusions in the Opinion are in line with work being carried out by EDA.

Entitled ‘The need for a European defence industry: industrial, innovative and social aspects’, the paper calls for a stronger and more integrated European defence sector, suggesting that “Obsolete approaches visibly lead to increasing fragmentation, gaps, overcapacity and a lack of interoperability in European defence capabilities. The arguments for improvement are overwhelming; it is a matter of political will.”

The report notes that security is the first duty of governments, and a key part of their compact with their citizens – and suggests that current spending levels mean that the credibility of this guarantee is being undermined. It makes the point that foreign affairs and security, defence, and industrial capability are all deeply interrelated, and must be integrated into a coherent strategy. The report calls for a “radical” change of mindset in the way governments deal with defence.

One area that the report particularly highlights is Research and Development, which has seen many cuts in recent years, but which remains absolutely crucial to an effective defence in the long term. The report concludes that European research spending should seek opportunities for “dual use” investments and reduce technological dependency on sources outside Europe.

The report welcomes the creation of the Task Force on Defence – with EDA as an associated member – as well as the European Parliament’s December 2011 Resolution on European Defence, and the personal commitment of many senior EU officials to the cause of an effective national defence. In that regard, the paper calls for still closer cooperation between the key parties in defence.

The authors argue that the European Defence Agency in particular has a key role to play, and that it must act as a full partner to the European Commission on defence issues – with the full involvement also of the defence industry and other stakeholders. In doing so, the fragmentation and duplication of public expenditure may be reduced, enhancing quality and interoperability.

Many of the issues raised in this paper fall within the purview of the EDA. The recent launch of the Effective Procurement Methods initiative and the progress made on the joint procurement of satellite communications are but two examples of EDA’s successes in European defence cooperation. Today’s signature of an Administrative Arrangement with OCCAR demonstrates the commitment to maximizing effectiveness through links with other defence stakeholders.

The full text of the Committee’s Opinion Paper is available here.