New developments in defense procurement policies in Europe.

Author:Retat, Bernard

Today, defense equipment procurement in Europe is basically performed nationally. Each country independently determines its equipment requirements and then develops and deploys that equipment via its own national procedures. There are a few programs conducted in multilateral cooperation, but they are not the rule and do not involve all the European countries; in practice, even these programs actually turn out different national versions of so-called same equipment. Their effectiveness can therefore be debated.

This go-it-alone approach of course contradicts the rules of the single market that have been put in place for the procurement of civilian public goods and services, and the spirit of what we call the "first pillar" of the European Union. But as far as defense is concerned, each European nation still enjoys full sovereignty thanks to Article 296 of the Treaty of Rome, stipulating, primo, "that no member state is obliged to supply information, the disclosure of which it considers contrary to the essential interests of its security" and, secundo, "that any member state may take such measure as it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security, including its linkage to the production of or trade in arms, munitions and war material." Article 296 can thus provide a good excuse for any European nation to act in what it considers its national interest, ignoring the pressures for competition inside Europe; and indeed member states in general have invoked essential security interests to make the bulk of their defense purchases on a national basis.

This situation is no longer sustainable, for many reasons--political as well as economic. On the political side, a European solidarity in the defense sector is emerging in more European countries as they become involved in international crises--today, for example, in Kosovo. This has increased the importance of the EU's "second pillar" comprising the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). In this context, new instruments have been put in place on the military and operational side in Europe, and they link up to the need for the defense industries in these countries to have a common and competitive equipment program for these European forces. In other words, the new operational environment imposes the need for a sound Defense, Technology and Industrial Base (DTIB). Its success or failure will impact the ability...

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