by Natalia Pouzyreff, Member of Parliament (Yvelines/6th district), Member of the Defence Committee, Assemblée Nationale, Paris
Since 24 February 2022, the war on Europe’s doorstep has led to a surge in military spending amongst European countries. Germany has conducted a total shift in its defence policy and has dedicated a special €100bn fund. Poland, for its part, has raised its defence expenditures with the aim of reaching 4% of its GDP and has stated its ambition to have one of the most capable armies in Europe. As for France, the government has issued a new planning defence law (Loi de Programmation Militaire) for 2024-2030 devoting €413bn to its armed forces.
An urgent need for rearmament
The return of a direct threat and the need to refurbish the equipment sent to Ukraine have led to an urgent need for rearmament. Weapons manufacturers have to boost their production. However, recent events have shown that European Member States are struggling to agree on a common purchasing policy. Such non-concerted initiatives jeopardise the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB). The European defence construction relies on a long-term and consistent effort. The challenge faced by European Member States is thus to reconcile short-term answers with the preparation for the future that is key for European strategic autonomy.
Several instruments such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF) have been implemented by the European Union aiming at a more integrated defence capability. Still European policy, based on competition, too often favors a spreading of funding leading to the dispersion in skills and manufacturing capabilities. As an example, the EU HYDEF missile interceptor project has been initially awarded by the Commission to a consortium despite their relatively lower expertise compared to missile manufacturer MBDA. The European Commission is currently reviewing its position on the matter. If we want to reinforce our EDTIB we have to concentrate resources and build world industrial leaders. This is a matter of consistency and credibility of the defence policy in Europe.
The indispensable interoperability with NATO
Interoperability with NATO capabilities is also a key issue. NATO remains the backbone of the collective defence in Europe. The hypothesis that the conflict in Ukraine will last and that the United States will have to concentrate their forces in the Pacific region cannot be ruled out. In this perspective, European Member States must align their defence policies in order to assume their responsibilities in sharing the burden of the transatlantic security on one hand and to develop their ability to decide and act by themselves on the other. Indeed, strengthening the European pillar within NATO is not contradictory with the emergence of a European power especially since the same armies are concerned. Furthermore, it is expected by NATO that allies must be able to foster their forces and even take the lead at army corps level. Still the most capable and willing European countries must be able to decide and act together in a coalition in case the United States are not involved. With this in mind, operational readiness must be at the heart of our common defence policy. This will both benefit the transatlantic alliance and European sovereignty.