How will the European Commission’s Defence Action Plan (EDAP) help your company and the defence industry in general to meet these challenges? What’s your assessment of EDAP?
The Action Plan is raising hope for the first time. President Juncker declared in his State of the Union Speech that Europe must be able to defend itself internally and abroad and that this goal is not possible without cooperation, innovation and investment. Otherwise it would not be possible for Europe to fulfil more voluntary strategic responsibilities. As regards establishing a European defence fund as envisaged in the Action Plan, I am as sceptical as I am about many other political interventions in market processes. We don’t need any new subsidies, but instead fair market conditions in the entire EU if we want the best competitors and technologies to triumph. More market also means: shake-out. This is urgently needed if we’re going to be globally competitive and if the aim within the EU is more standardisation and more interoperability. Nowadays, too many manufacturers are producing too many systems in too many EU Member States and they are then, unavoidably, too expensive.
As you know, the EDA is working to enhance and deepen the structured dialogue with industry. What would be your recommendation to make the best of it?
Industry is already pretty involved in many studies in the capability and technology domains of the EDA. What should be enhanced is a dialogue between these CAPTECHs. We have to become better at converting documents into hardware. That would certainly be helped by an increased budget for the EDA.
Some analysts say that the creation of KNDS in late 2015 has set a trend for the future which more European defence producers will have to go if they want to remain competitive, namely one of cooperation and consolidation. Would you agree?
Absolutely. Europe will only be capable of defending itself if its defence industry consolidates. Consolidation means: shake-out and cooperation, flanked by denationalisation. That is the way chosen by the owners of KMW and Nexter when they founded KNDS. France made a particularly large contribution to that process. It requires a great deal of trust to place half of a 350-year-old state enterprise in the hands of 27 German families. Vice versa, the owners of KMW also placed half of almost 180 years of exclusive family ownership in the hands of the French state. That is what having the courage to face the future looks like, and we would bet anything that this nucleus of a European national system of consolidation will win more partners. It is also essential that the politicians play their role. A construct such as this will only be successful if work on sensitive technologies is permitted across national borders and if a unified export right applies to the products that result. I can see too little improvement on these issues.
It was said at the time that KNDS would serve as ‘platform’ to integrate other manufacturers. How much has this project advanced and could it one day become the ‘Airbus of the land systems sector’ as some have suggested?
Our sector has to reorganise itself. The idea of a single leadership of European armed forces - without even talking about a single European army - can only be realised if Europe pulls more tightly together, including in the defence industry. It is no secret that the KNDS doors are open to other partners. We are receiving reports from various sources that people would like to speak to us about common future prospects. Airbus has its own story – but just look at the highs and lows the company has gone through to be where it is today. It was worth every effort – and yet Europe still finances three different fighter jets.