The EU changes pace and prepares for war: here is the 1.5 billion plan to “wake up” the defense industry

The European Union was born more than 70 years ago (with the Czech Republic as its core) to say “never again” war on European soil. Today, faced with Russian threats, the specter of Donald Trump's return to the United States and chaos in the Middle East, the EU is preparing to go to war again. Si vis Pacem, para bellum. Hopefully this will not be necessary, or will be as late as possible, but it is time to prepare the continent to participate in armed conflict again – this time, and it would be the first in history, united against armed conflict. external enemy. Still without a specific name, but who at the moment most likely resembles Vladimir Putin. “There is no more room for illusions, Putin used the peace dividend to prepare for war. Europe must wake up,” chanted Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament last week. Your Commission is presenting today in Brussels the main means of achieving this. It is called the European Defense Industry Strategy (EDIS), and the program which should result provides for the allocation of 1.5 billion euros by the end of 2025 to build, precisely, the “preparation of European defense” (at war). ). Like, how? Above all, support faster and more efficient production and purchase of weapons. Typically, member states are sovereign under EU defense treaties, through mechanisms such as subsidies, tax cuts and the attraction of private capital. But, if the governments of the 27 approve the proposal, there is also the possibility of joint European purchases – therefore carried out directly by the Commission on behalf of the Member States – of war material. “Just as we have done very successfully with vaccines or natural gas” over the past three years, von der Leyen anticipated in Parliament.

A head (and a foot) in kyiv

Of course, it has been two years since the EU began seriously changing its own mindset geopolitics, painfully abandoning the illusion of peace evoked by von der Leyen. But until now, all the measures taken – from the adoption of a new “strategic compass” to the ASAP plan to support the production of munitions – were aimed primarily at militarily supporting the already attacked country, Ukraine. Attention is now focused on preparing the Union's internal military industry for any scenario, including that of the “high-intensity conflict” that seemed to be history. However, the legislative package proposed by the Commission continues to place a strong emphasis on strategic coordination with Ukraine. “In fact, we treat it as a quasi-member,” said an EU executive official. Concretely, the strategy envisages the creation of a European office for defense innovation in Kiev, the association of Ukrainian authorities in (almost) all EU defense programs, the holding of an EU-Ukraine forum on the defense industry in 2024. And other initiatives to come.

Ambitious goals, a modest budget

“Peace is no longer a given,” said the EU's high representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, when presenting the new strategy. “The EU is not a military alliance, but we must have a ready military industry: it is time to move from emergency mode to a medium and long term vision.” For Borrell, this means increasing both production capacity (of arms and munitions) and the certainty of a useful financial environment. “Member countries currently buy five or six different types of weapons and more than €100 billion in arms purchases are spent outside the EU every year, 60% of which is in the United States alone. If this was ever the case, today this model is no longer sustainable,” echoed Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who spoke with a clearly visible yellow-blue ribbon as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine. “We must change the way we spend: invest in Europe and move from a mode of response to the crisis to that of structural preparation for defense.” Doubts remain – if these are the ambitions – As for the expected budget allocation: 1.5 billion euros in two years is only a fraction of what is needed to change the pace, as European officials themselves admitted. This is a first allocation intended to encourage action by Member States, it can only grow,” Vestager clarified during the press conference.

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