Towards a Unified EU Defense Market

One of the major priorities of the French EU presidency was to advanceEuropean defense in a number of particular areas. With regard to goalssuch as the 60,000-strong European expeditionary capacity, that hasamounted to renewed verbal commitments to already formulated positionswithout any strict deadlines or formal commitments. On others, such asthe creation of an EU operational headquarters, and the role of EUdefense in general, it has resulted in the stated removal of politicalroadblocks from Great Britain. Both of those are significant, if forthe time being symbolic, accomplishments.

But this report from the EU Observerabout the first decisive steps towards a unified EU defense marketstrikes me as being perhaps the sleeper development that years laterwill take on far greater significance. As much as British and Americanresistance to EU defense, the lack of a rationalized European defenseindustry has hamstrung efforts to integrate the continent’s militarycapacity. The problem of duplication of production, as well as theincreased cost due to reduced economies of scale, aggravate the difficulties posed by already small European defense budgets. Meanwhile, problems ofstandards and interoperability create obstacles for operationalintegration.

As the American defense industry shows, unifying amarket does not by itself eliminate geographical or industrialrivalries. But it does make rationalizing a procurement program ona continent-wide scale possible.