Strengthening European Defence Research

In light of rising instability in Europe's neighbourhood and new emerging security threats around the world, the EU needs to be able to protect its citizens, defend its strategic interests, and ensure the welfare of the European model with free and secured trade circulation. While enhanced cooperation in defence research is essential, collaborative spending is at its lowest level in a decade.

Collaborative spending down

KC-30A MRTT and E-7A Wedgetail conduct Air to Air refuelling testing.

While there is broad agreement that EU Member States need to work closer together in defence and security, collaborative spending on defence Research and Technology (R&T) has fallen to alarmingly low levels. In 2014, EU Member States invested just €2bn in this area. By comparison, the United States plan to spend $18bn for its Defence Innovation Initiative in the 2017 budget alone.

This gap could have far-reaching consequences: Europe risks losing its technological capabilities in critical domains such as robotics, automated systems and unmanned vehicles. This, in turn, could lead to a transatlantic technological gap, which would negatively impact interoperability, competitiveness and the EU’s strategic autonomy.

To reverse this worrying trend, European cooperation and investment in defence must be significantly strengthened without delay. Investment in defence research not only enhances security and helps industry to maintain a skilled workforce in Europe, but also offers a significant return on investment.

The European move towards defence R&T

Having recognised the need to step up its efforts, the EU has launched the European Defence Fund (EDF), which includes the Preparatory Action for Defence Research (PADR). The PADR is to demonstrate the added value of EU-supported defence R&T in the 2017 to 2019 period. If successful, the programme could be extended into a fully-fledged European Defence Research Programme (EDRP) in the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework which begins in 2021. In 2019 and 2020, the PADR will be complemented by the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) to foster the joint development of defence capabilities between EU Member States.

Airbus and the European aerospace and defence industry fully support these initiatives. It is essential that Member States and EU institutions harness the current political momentum to enhance cooperation in defence research. This requires a willingness to cooperate as well as the allocation of adequate resources to this strategic area.

As the European Commission stated in its recent reflection paper on the future of European defence, “enhancing European security is a must”. We wholeheartedly agree. It is now up to the Member States to put their words into action to make the first EU-wide defence projects a reality.



The making of a European Defence Union

Strengthening Europeans Defence Research

Nato summit

EU Defence Found

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