Nr 1  2011

On European Arms Collaboration

The landscape changes rapidly when it comes to European arms collaboration. Every European defense budget is, or will be, affected by the recession, the EDA (European Defense Agency) is in the process of installing a new management, and the bilateral French-UK agreement from late last year on arms collaboration (also on previously taboo topics such as carriers and nuclear weapons) will have far-reaching consequences for many European countries.

From an acquisition perspective, recent initiatives by the European Commission will become law in EU member states later this year, and will put much more stringent restrictions on exempting defense contracts from competition.

It has proven difficult to run joint European programs with many participants, and there appears to be a trend towards initiatives with fewer participating nations, sometimes open also to others not on grounds of political correctness, but provided the additional participating nation can make significant contributions in terms of funding, knowledge,  and a willingness to participate in joint, overseas missions. The impetus to receive actual value for money when it comes to defense investment is growing ever stronger.

The Nordic collaboration NORDEFCO is yet another such example.  It is perceived in Brussels as an outstanding success, maybe to an extent it doesn’t always deserve, but it is certainly worth pursuing when it comes to harmonizing capability and arms requirements among the Nordic nations. Collaboration between culturally and linguistically like-minded nations is always easier, in particular when they are also geographically collocated. From a Swedish perspective we see no contradiction between simultaneous, active participation in both NORDEFCO and EDA.

In view of the above challenges, it seems unlikely that Europe, for the foreseeable future, will be able to counter the US hegemony in arms development and acquisition, but a more realistic attitude towards the nature of multi-national collaboration will certainly help.