EU Ministers call for more defence research and technology

European defence ministers have called for more joint spending on weapons research so as to boost the EU’s military coherence.

‘Investing in the right technology is critical for the future of European defence, and the strategy is exactly in line with the absolute requirement for us to spend more, spend better and spend
more together,’ said Javier Solana, the Head of the European Defence Agency (EDA).

The ministers agreed that they should boost their spending on equipment procurement by half a percentage point to 20% of total defence outlay, and make at least 35% of all procurement
expenditure in collaboration with other members.

‘Today’s decisions have put in place building blocks for our common work of making Europe’s armed forces and military budgets fit for the challenges of the 21st century,’ said Alexander Weis,
Chief Executive of the EDA.

The ministers agreed to raise their spending on weapons research and technology (R&T) from 1.2% to 2% of their total defence budgets, with a fifth of that amount being spent on
collaborative European projects – double the current rate.

Although these collective benchmarks are voluntary, they will be monitored annually by the EDA, Mr Solana said.

Member States should also work more closely together to identify the most important weapons technologies that should be developed at EU level, ministers agreed.

The call could prove controversial, as some Member States are fiercely protective of their national arms-development programmes – an issue they see as a matter of national security.

The ministers agreed to increase the annual budget of the EU’s armaments agency by almost one third, from ?22 million in 2007 to ?32 million in 2008.

The EDA is controlled by the defence ministers of all EU Member States except Denmark. It was founded in 2004 to promote weapons research, production and cooperation in Europe.

In 2006, EDA members spent a total of ?200 billion on defence, with ?38.7 billion spent on equipment development and procurement, according to official figures.

By comparison, the US spent just under USD 500 billion (?338 billion) on defence in 2006, with USD 86 (?58) billion spent on equipment.

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