Opinion & Analysis

The EU’s defence ambitions are for the long term 

The Commission’s new proposals to strengthen Europe’s defence industry will be hamstrung by limited funding and member-states’ doubts. But in the long term, the EU’s role in defence will probably grow.

Last week, the European Commission released much delayed plans to give greater coherence to the EU’s involvement in defence. The Commission’s European Defence Industrial Strategy (EDIS) and the accompanying proposal for a European Defence Industrial Programme (EDIP) mark the latest steps in the EU’s deepening role in defence industrial matters. Their aim is to shift from the emergency measures taken since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to what the Commission terms “structural EU defence readiness”.

The EU has taken on a growing role in defence in the past few years. In 2021, the Union set up a European Defence Fund (EDF) to encourage more joint defence research and development. The EDF is the EU’s flagship defence industrial tool and is worth nearly €8 billion between 2021 and 2027. Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine saw the Union dipping its toes into encouraging member-states to purchase military equipment jointly, by subsidising the added costs of co-operation through the European Defence Industry Reinforcement through Common Procurement Act (EDIRPA). The EU also created a financial instrument to support the defence industry directly in increasing production of ammunition and missiles, the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP). EDIRPA and ASAP are only worth €300 million and €500 million respectively – a tiny amount compared to the €240 billion EU countries spent on defence in 2022. However, they mark the EU becoming more involved in defence through direct financing – previously seen as a taboo.

About the Author: 

Luigi Scazzieri is a Senior Research Fellow at CER. His areas of expertise include European foreign and security policy, Italy and the EU, transatlantic relations, migration.

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