The EU is facing unprecedented challenges that endanger the safety and security of its citizens: Since 2015, a series of terrorist attacks have taken place in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and the UK. With recent missile tests by North Korea, security tensions in Asia are mounting. And the strained relationship between the EU and Russia has not yet recovered since the annexation of Crimea. Obviously, Member States cannot handle these challenges on their own – and yet the defence landscape in Europe is increasingly fragmented. For example, according to the European Commission, the EU-28 use 20 different fighter planes (6 in the US), 29 different frigates (4 in the US) and 178 different weapon systems (30 in the US) – something that does not prove to be very efficient.
But what can the EU do to promote defence cooperation and collaboration among Member States? In 2016, High Representative Mogherini presented in the Global Strategy for the EUs Foreign and Security Policy the Permanent Structured Cooperation for Member States willing to undertake higher commitments in security and defence. As part of the European Defence Action Plan by Commissioner Bienkowska, the European Defence Fund will finance defence research and support Member States in their joint development and acquisition of defence capabilities.
The European Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation are important first steps towards a European Defence Union – but there are still many more things to be done. Given the long lead times in aerospace and military procurement, Airbus calls on all Member States and institutions to adopt and implement the EU defence initiatives as a matter of urgency. Only with sufficient public support at national and European level, the EU will be able to provide safety and security for its citizens in the future.