Brussels, 29 January 2002
European arms industry leaders have called for moves to reduce the gap in spending on military research and development (R&D) between the EU and the USA. EU spending on defence technology currently reaches just over a quarter of the US level.
At a recent conference on defence R&D organised by GPC International, arms industry representatives said that unlike the USA, Europe has no central body for the funding of defence R&D. At present, money is spread between national governments, EU institutions and industry. Delegates also called for EU governments to decide now which technologies will be key in safeguarding Europe's future security.
The call follows a warning from a leading academic at Washington's National Defence University, Kori Schake, that the gap between US and EU military strength will not close unless moves are made to increase EU spending on military technology and R&D. Ms Schake was reported as saying that 'most European governments do not perceive the same magnitude of new threats or imagine themselves fighting the same kinds of wars that are driving US innovation.' She explained that while the USA is concentrating on high technology improvements, the EU tends to focus on crisis management and troop movements.
The US Congressional Budget Office has also warned that if NATO's European contingent fails to keep pace with new technology, it could jeopardise Europe's ability to work alongside American forces in future conflicts.
Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister and UN envoy, has singled out the Galileo satellite navigation system, a European Commission-European space agency initiative, as one way to improve European defence capabilities. Mr Bildt said on 31 December that 'if Europe truly wishes to be taken seriously as a partner by the USA, while ensuing that it has access to capabilities critical for its economic development, it must demonstrate that it has both the will and the means to develop a presence in space. Galileo represents a litmus test for the EU in many different ways.'
A spokesperson for Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said that she did not foresee a reordering of EU research and development priorities in the light of these warnings, emphasising that the EU Framework programmes for research do not include research for military applications. She explained that while systems such as Galileo and GMES (global monitoring for environment and security) have not been designed as defence systems, their use for security purposes cannot be excluded should the need arise.