The EU’s defence budget: is it enough to reach its goals?

The European Commission’s recent creation of the DG Defence Industry and Space aims to create a more structured, collaborative approach to defence. However, according to the European Court of Auditors, it objectives won’t be met unless it increases spending.

The EU’s current goal is to increase its total defence spending by 22.5 billion euros in the next ten years. But in a review paper of the defence policies, it was reported that this figure would be insufficient if the EU wants to defend itself without the help of the US.

The report notes, “it is estimated that an investment of several hundred billion euros would be needed to overcome the current capabilities gap,” adding that “significant and uncoordinated cuts in member states’ defence budgets, together with underinvestment, have affected their military capabilities.”

One member of the European Court of Auditors, which is responsible for investigating and analysing EU spending, said that there’s a huge discrepancy between the EU’s ambitions and the resources it’s actually willing to commit to them. He added that “full-scale military planning (by the EU) is a duplication of NATO”.

Another issue is that member states have different aims. For example, “some tend to focus on territorial defence against the military threats posed by Russia, while others are more oriented towards security challenges originating in North Africa or the Middle East”.

In addition to this, the report noted that the UK is currently, along with France, the EU’s main national military power. As the UK is planning to leave the bloc next month, the EU needs to look at its strategic goals, as there could be a huge hole in its funding.

It says: “If a very big member with a huge military budget and forces leaves the EU, then this gap becomes even bigger. If we are now talking about ‘strategic autonomy’ and this mismatch (with resources) then, if the biggest (military) spender will leave, strategic autonomy becomes even more unrealistic.”

Between 2021 and 2027, the EU plans to increase defence spending by 700%. But as noted in the report, a lot of what the EU is planning to do overlaps with NATO’s role, and at the moment, the vast majority of member states are already members of NATO.

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