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A Failure in EU Collaboration May Jeopardize the Creation of a Joint Force

The European Union states spent the highest amount ever on their defense last year, but collaboration between states was lacking in terms of their joint investments in defence. This lack of cooperation may have an influence on the 2017 deal, in which European countries agreed to improve defence cooperation.

EU Defence Report

The European Union states spent the most on defense since records began in 2006. The total amount spent in 2020 was about $225 billion or 200 billion Euros, but joint investments by governments declined, according to a report released on Monday by the European Defense Agency (EDA). 

 As reported by the European Defense Agency, the total spending of EU countries except for Denmark - which opts out of participating in military projects - reached $198 billion in 2019, a 5% increase.

The report shows that 19 member states increased their overall spending last year, with six countries spending over 10 percent, with six countries spending over 10 percent in excess of their overall spending.

U.S.-led NATO, which has set a 2% goal for its allies, reported that defense expenditures accounted for 1.5% of economic output in its 26 member states. Despite being members of NATO, the majority of EU members want to be able to act independently when necessary of the United States.

With Britain leaving the EU, nuclear power has left as well, and as the US has turned more inward or toward Asia, multiple European governments have pushed for a stronger and more sovereign EU defence policy.

However, military spending has not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic or the ensuing economic crisis.

Despite a drop of 6% in GDPs among member nations, defence spending remains stable in 2020, according to the report. Even with this positive development, the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are still unknown, according to the EDA.

Although an EU military accord inked in late 2017 to try to pool resources and halt the rivalry between national sectors that have hampered previous defence initiatives, the EDA report found a drop in collaborative investment.

 The EDA Chief Executive Jiri Sedivy said that it is especially concerning that collaborative spending in Europe is declining. The report indicated a 13% decline in cooperative equipment procurement in comparison to 2019, to 4.1 billion euros, the third-lowest figure recorded by the agency.

According to EDA data, there has been a "substantial drop" in European joint defense equipment purchases since 2016.

Last year, EU member states spent only 11% of their overall equipment procurement in collaboration with other EU governments, falling short of the collective objective of 35% established in an EU defense accord agreed in 2017 to pool resources.

EU governments mainly bought equipment on their own last year, falling short of their 2017 commitment to carry out over a third of such acquisitions in cooperation with their neighbors. In spite of this, EU member states have spent at least 20 percent of their total defence expenditure on defence, with 14 countries allocating even more.

Research and technology expenditures climbed 46 percent in 2020, reaching €2.5bn, a record amount for the year. Over 90 percent of the rise in research and technology was attributed to France and Germany.

EDA, however, says that defense research investment lacks collaboration, as well.

Increasing European cooperative efforts is the only way to defragment the European defence capability landscape, helping member states to purchase their military equipment more efficiently, warns the report.

Even without coordination, the EU intends to build a joint military force of up to 5,000 personnel by 2025 to intervene in various crises without relying on the US.

The EU still develops 60 collaborative military projects despite the launch of a joint weapons fund. While the EDA hopes to agree on a new quick-reaction force, it said investments in defence research and technology remain fragmented and lack collaboration.

Defense Pact a Historic Moment

The unveiling of the EU's military accord in 2017 was regarded as a watershed moment for the continent. The European Union's twenty-three member nations had signed to strengthen defence cooperation. The Permanent Structured Cooperation Treaty, or PESCO, legally binds its parties to joint defence initiatives while also agreeing to raise defence spending and contribute to quick deployments.

History-making step: The agreement fulfills a 70-year-old desire among European states to integrate their defences and is the most significant step in two decades toward matching the EU's economic and trade strength with a more robust military.

Countries agreed to contribute to the European Defence Fund and to begin developing military cooperation and intelligence.

What does Pact Involve?

Officials have identified 17 cooperative projects that will be covered under the PESCO agreement, including:

  • An international military training center for Europe.
  • Standardized military radio communication standards.
  • The establishment of a German-led European medical unit and logistical center.
  • Aimed at bolstering emergency response capabilities.
  • Sharing cyber-intelligence.
  • Drones for Submarines.

Reasons behind the Pact

An air campaign involving a Franco-British coalition in Libya in 2011 ran out of munitions and equipment, which forced the French and the British to depend on the United States, a major embarrassment for the European Union, a significant economic power.

Russia presents a future challenge, and the pact aims to deal with it. In 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea caught Europe off guard, and they are constantly threatened by state-sponsored computer hackers and militants. European governments consider the pact essential to protect their citizens from any computer or military intrusions.

It was US-led NATO that stopped the bloodshed during the 1990s Balkan wars after the EU governments failed to act together.

It also aimed to reduce Europe's dependency on the United States.

The former American president's criticism of low European defense spending, a host of disagreements on foreign policy, and his warnings to allies about the United States' incapacity to depend on them have also played a role.

With Trump's warning to the European Union, the bloc realized it could not always rely on the United States to come to its aid. 

In August 2020, after Kabul fell to the Taliban, Europe's dreadful dream became a reality once more. Europe had no clear exit plan and was unable to deploy its troops in necessary places, and military operations were once again reliant on the United States.

Why Lack of Collaboration is Worry for EU

Europe's lack of cooperation could impact their plans to have a joint force. As we have already seen in Afghanistan, EU officials noted that only 5,000 troops were required to secure the Kabul airport but the EU has failed to meet that requirement.

Considering suggestions for a European Rapid Response Force This comes after the bloc felt marginalized during the American-led pullout of Afghanistan. The European Union has been urged to build its own unified intelligence sharing and military capabilities in order to respond rapidly to the crisis. Following the Afghanistan episode, chief joseph Burrell stated,  Afghanistan has demonstrated that the weaknesses in Europe's strategic autonomy come at a cost and that the only way forward is to integrate our forces and increase not only our capabilities. He stated that Europe must have the will t/o act if it is to be able to act autonomously and not be reliant on the decisions of others, even if these others are our friends and allies.

The proposed strategy was to establish a 5,000-strong force capable of rising up to 20,000 troops. As Slovenian defense minister urged for a novel system that would see troops dispatched in the name of the EU from so-called willing countries.

However, the concept has failed to receive widespread support in the EU.

Many European leaders believe that the EU must prepare not just for the defence of its interests and principles, but also for the protection of its citizens in a chaotic situation such as Afghanistan.

The exit of the United Kingdom, a nuclear-armed nation, from the European Union has already impacted Europe's military capability, now the lack of collaboration among member states has jeopardized its plan to have a joint standby force.

Final thoughts

Currently, Europe is worried about rising Chinese influence and assertiveness. Hence, a better military plan is needed, but at the same time, there are a lot of technical and political questions that need to be addressed before building a European army. 

Because twenty-two European countries are already members of the NATO alliance, many have expressed concern that a new force would be redundant. 

Defense analysts believe that European Union and NATO capabilities must be coordinated. Therefore, European countries cannot be recipients of contradictory demands from the EU and NATO.

At the present, it appears that the best approach for Europe to proceed is to increase its investment but to improve defense collaboration.  Moreover, each state should collaborate with other States since constructing at this stage may be counterproductive.

Written By: Olivium's Staff.


  • europe/record-eu-defence-spending-masks-failure-collaborate-report-says-2021-12-06/

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