European Union unveils funding boost in defence action plan

NH90 helicopter in Black Blade military exercise involving several European countries in Belgium - 30 November Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Part of the EU plan is aimed at boosting spending on such assets as helicopters

European Union leaders have unveiled a plan to increase defence funding, research and procurement for the bloc.

In a statement, the European Commission said the plan aimed to boost spending on assets like drones and helicopters, while funding innovative technologies.

It is aimed at reversing a decade of defence spending cuts by EU members, amounting to nearly 12% in real terms.

The plan comes as US President-elect Donald Trump threatens to scale down the US security commitment to Nato.

Mr Trump said during his election campaign that he would not defend Nato allies that were not paying their share of contributions to the alliance.

Europe looks to its defences

There are concerns among some EU and Nato members about possible Russian aggression and Mr Trump's closeness to Moscow.

Brexit has also been a factor in the creation of the plan, because the UK has traditionally blocked Franco-German initiatives to give the EU a greater security dimension.

'Common development'

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said more investment and co-operation between member states was needed.

"To guarantee our collective security, we must invest in the common development of technologies and equipment of strategic importance - from land, air, sea and space capabilities to cyber security," Mr Juncker said.

"If Europe does not take care of its own security, nobody else will do it for us."

The plan would:

  • set up a European Defence Fund to support investment in joint research and joint development of defence equipment and technologies
  • invest in defence industry suppliers
  • strengthen conditions for a competitive defence market and support member states in procurement

The "research window" of the new defence fund would be increased from €25m ($26.5m; £21.3m) already proposed as part of the 2017 budget to €90m in 2020, to cover such areas as robotics and encrypted software.

At the same time a "capability window" would aim to "mobilise" €5bn a year of member states' money to purchase equipment such as drones and helicopters jointly. The Commission would act as a form of treasury to manage these tenders.

While defence spending in EU countries has fallen, military co-operation between them has not deepened, the Commission's statement said. It estimated that this failure was costing the bloc between €25bn and €100bn a year.

The BBC's Europe editor Katya Adler says that while the EU has its own rapid reaction forces there is little evidence of the unity among the 28 nations necessary to create a European defence union.

The European Council, comprising heads of state and government of the EU, is expected to discuss the defence plan later this month.

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