Sunday, June 26, 2022

EU unveils Ukrainian arms buyers’ club to slash prices on growing shopping list

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The EU’s needs are urgent: after agreeing to buy arms worth €2bn

The European Commission has announced an unprecedented plan to coordinate the EU’s fast-growing national defense spending to ensure the bloc’s forces avoid costly overlaps.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the program aims to close the gaps between national military capabilities while boosting EU industry.

“We need to spend more on defense and we need to do it in a coordinated way,” she said.

“Today we are proposing concrete measures to strengthen our defense capabilities and the military-technological edge of our European industrial base, based on an analysis of defense investment gaps.”

While EU leaders have long pondered measures to improve military procurement, their efforts have stalled because the bloc has no legal authority to enforce common defense management. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted EU governments to give Brussels a key role in managing broader manufacturing ecosystems and to focus on improving investment in the defense industry.

Officials have underlined that one of the aims is to ensure that EU taxpayers get better value for money from their respective defense budgets. The EU has chosen to adopt a common approach to the supply and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic to allow rapid access and avoid competition.

Ms von der Leyen, a former German defense minister, said the program would benefit the EU in many ways. “Joint procurement is operationally better for our armed forces because it strengthens interoperability between armed forces. It is financially better because of economies of scale. And it’s better industrially because it strengthens our industrial base,” she said.

Although European countries were already increasing their defense budgets before the war in Ukraine, the conflict triggered profound changes in European defense policy. Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO, while Germany and Denmark want to increase their military spending by a further 200 billion euros over the next few years.

The Commission’s program aims to give Brussels a role in ensuring greater efficiency in defense spending by allowing European buyers to pool resources to leverage markets. The EU’s needs are urgent: after agreeing to buy arms worth €2bn

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell acknowledged that years of cuts in Europe’s military budget and underinvestment must be reversed. “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the security landscape in Europe,” he said.

“Many are increasing their defense spending, but it is crucial that Member States invest better together. We must achieve economies of scale, reduce fragmentation and critical gaps in our armed forces.”

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