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European Union launches new defence fund amid growing security concerns

20 June 2017

The European Defence Agency, the agency that helps EU governments develop their military capabilities, has also proposed a smaller fund made up of EU states' public money, the so-called Cooperative Financial Mechanism, or CFM.

"People across Europe are anxious about their and their children's security".

The EU should be transformed into a "military power" amid growing animosity between the bloc and Donald Trump, Brussels chiefs said yesterday. Defence cooperation would be strengthened, but the EU's participation in the most demanding operations would remain limited. As in other areas of EU cooperation, she can expect support from French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently appointed Sylvie Goulard, a strong European federalist, as his defense minister.

Britain had long blocked EU defence integration, fearing a European armed force wearing the same uniforms. The Fund will coordinate, supplement and amplify national investments in defence research, in the development of prototypes and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology.

Although the European Union has more than a dozen military missions overseas, the world's biggest trading bloc has never been able to match its economic might with broad defensive power, preferring to rely on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In his political guidelines in June 2014, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated "I believe that we need to work on a stronger Europe when it comes to security and defence matters".

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"The real test is going to be on defense and not on the euro", the diplomat said, noting that if a conflict were to develop in, say, the Balkans, the European Union should have the capability to intervene without turning to London or Washington to take the lead.

Wendela de Vries from Stop Wapenhandel, a Belgian NGO, said: "These proposals will not lead to peace and security, but will only increase the profits of the arms industry". The new European Defense Fund would create certain joint capabilities; however, the bulk of defense would be carried out by member states.

Currently, about 80% of procurement and 90% of research are conducted on a national basis within the European Union, the commission said. "We have to act now, independently and efficiently".

An EU official noted on Wednesday that the Commission was already allocating €590 million to a prototype of the joint defence fund for the years 2017 to 2020.

A fraction of this, €25 million, is available for the first competition round, with the biggest chunk of money, €15.5 million, to go to proposals for a new underwater stealth drone.

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The official added that the European Union institutions would not get any of their own military capabilities even if the plan went ahead at full pelt.

"The Commission and member states must also provide more clarity regarding the medium and long-term objectives of the Common Defence Policy".

Under a "Security and Defence Cooperation" scenario, Member States would still decide on the need for security and defence cooperation on a voluntary and case-by-case basis, while the European Union would continue to complement national efforts.

The EU is stepping up its efforts on common defence policy and a "coalition of the willing" could quickly deploy EU troops and promote common defence projects.

It said member states' joint projects, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Tiger helicopter, had in the past cost too much, taken too long and had to produce aircraft with too many varied specifications.

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In order to avoid further divergences and duplications, the Commission will use European Union funds to boost member state cooperation on research and the development of new prototypes.

European Union launches new defence fund amid growing security concerns