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EDA study analyses defence industrial strategies

The war in Ukraine is a dramatic reminder that the European Union needs a robust, globally competitive European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) to strengthen its Member States’ defence capacities and support the EU’s role as a security provider. While defence industrial policy remains a Member States’ prerogative, the past few months have seen progress in several EU policy initiatives for increasing joint defence expenditures, reducing EU strategic dependencies, boosting civil-military innovation, and more recently, promoting joint defence procurement. All these initiatives represent a great opportunity to enhance the EDTIB and overcome the national fragmentation that persists in the European defence equipment market. A European Defence Agency study has analysed the latest national defence industrial strategies and policies in EDA participating Member States (pMS) relevant for the development, production, and procurement of defence equipment. The aim was to provide an overview of existing national strategies and policy documents and evaluate how far they take into account the EU defence environment and influence national attitudes toward EU defence cooperation. 

Strategic autonomy and EU defence initiatives: a positive if nuanced outlook  

The study shows a generally positive attitude towards strategic autonomy, even if the concept is sometimes understood differently. That reflects the diverse and nuanced defence industrial interests and policies in each pMS. As the analysis shows, strategic autonomy has mainly influenced defence industrial policies through concrete initiatives such as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF).  

The EU defence initiatives undertaken since 2016 enjoy an almost-unanimous support among EDA pMS, although several countries still lack strategies to address them. Interestingly, some countries are set to produce new or renewed defence industrial strategies, taking into account EU-level developments and so bringing change. 

The status of European defence industrial cooperation 

When looking at defence industrial cooperation among EU countries, the study shows how regional cooperative frameworks only play a minimal role in policies and planning. Incentives for cooperation on procurement come from elements other than geography or established diplomatic arrangements. Converging interests in specific industrial sectors, how national DTIBs complement one another, and joint procurement programmes play a bigger and more important role. The landscape of preferred bilateral partners within the EU is quite diversified, as it strongly reflects national demands and characteristics, including the size and feature of domestic industrial bases. PESCO has largely reconfirmed traditional partnerships but, at the same time, the large number of projectsand their inclusive approach broadened the participation and generated mixed partnerships. 

Towards a gradual Europeanisation of supply chains?

According to the analysis, PESCO and the EDF have triggered a certain convergence on a gradual Europeanisation of national supply chains, with an indirectly positive effect on the European defence equipment market. However, the fact that 12 pMS have not yet implemented the 2019 EU regulations on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) control, despite COVID-19 having epitomised the costs and risks of strategic dependences, raises concerns on the overall resilience of the European defence industrial ecosystem. The gradual Europeanisation of supply chains connects industries and technologies across EU Member States: it links countries protected through FDI control mechanisms with others without similar measures in place, that may present a weak spot for extra-EU interferences. 

Background and contribution to EDA’s work 

The project lasted seven months (December 2021 – July 2022) and was carried out by a consortium led by Istituto Affari Internazionali, and included the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and numerous national experts. While the study was partly drafted prior to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the report was reviewed considering the ongoing war. 

The analysis contributed to EDA’s knowledge and understanding of the different national approaches towards the European defence industry. The study’s outcomes and related recommendations provide useful inputs both to EDA’s work as well as pMS' efforts, by informing ongoing activities, such as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), Permanent Structured Cooperation- PESCO, key strategic activities, and EDA’s industry engagement policy.