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European Commission Vice President responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship
Defence Communication: Presentation
Press Conference / Brussels
24 July 2013
Europe is facing a great challenge: strengthening its role in the world and its operative capabilities in the defence and security sector in times of financial constraints.
The defence sector plays a crucial role, also from an economic point of view. The defence industry contributes to Europe's GDP with a turnover of approximately 100 billion euros, creating 400.000 direct jobs and more than 1 million indirect ones.
Many of these jobs employ specialised staff, such as engineers and experts in cutting- edge technologies.
With Europe facing the need to strengthen the competitiveness in such a strategic sector, without handing over its own security, would it then not be beneficial to join forces?
Europe has to find the necessary will to adopt a more integrated defence policy, with a real internal market and a globally competitive industry.
Only in this way will we be more effective and defend our sovereignty, with positive spill-over effects in research, innovation and growth.
As President Barroso already underlined, today the Commission is offering ideas and concrete proposals to Member States that shall be discussed and approved during the European Council in December 2013.
The objective is to strengthen competitiveness and to improve the functioning of the internal market. My colleague Commissioner Barnier will discuss this last topic more precisely.
In order to improve the operational context for industry and SMEs, we need to remove existing obstacles that still limit innovation, research and standardisation efforts.
For example, today in Europe there are 16 different types of frigate, compared to one in the USA, and 17 production lines for tanks, compared to the 2 existing in the USA. Not to mention the 4 different European combat planes.
In this way Europe, despite having globally more resources available than the USA, does not manage to put in place the same economies of scale, consequently spending more for products which are not necessarily better.
Moreover, even when we employ the same tank or plane, we often use different software or technologies, which make them non inter-operable, thereby increasing difficulties in European common missions.
Also with regards to research, we proceed in an uncoordinated manner. We could have a budget balance superior to that of the USA, with positive spill-over effects in industrial competitiveness, but instead, with 28 separate balance evaluations, it is difficult to create synergies and to compete globally with increasingly advanced technologies.
We need to act now
We need to proceed beyond the two pillar-directives regulating the European defence policy currently, namely Directive 2009/81 on Defence and Security Procurement and Directive 2009/43 on Transfers of Defence-related Products.
In particular, the Commission proposes to:
The space research programmes and the implementation of programmes such as Galileo, Egnos and Copernicus have important effects also on our security.
We have to ask ourselves how to make the best out of the dual nature of space applications and if the EU should have its own defence capabilities based on the Galileo model, the first entirely European space infrastructure.
Europe is currently finds itself stuck at a crossroads and shall be overwhelmed if it does not decide to actively pursue a more integrated Europe.
Increasing coordination in the defence sector, while duly respecting national prerogatives, is a step in the right direction.
To this end, it is important for the European Council in December to discuss these matters and to find the will to proceed further. The Commission is ready to play its role and shall offer its contribution.