This month, 25 helicopters from six European Union countries were buzzing over the northern Portuguese countryside in an impressive battlefield exercise designed to improve cooperation and interoperability.

Backed by 12 fixed-wing planes and 3,000 military personal, exercise Hot Blade 2014 forms part of a broader helicopter training initiative that’s showcased by the European Defence Agency as a example of how EU nations can work together to overcome military shortfalls.

The exercise came at a testing time for European defence policy. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have revived fears of conflict in Europe. At the same time the United States has been shifting its security focus towards the Asia-Pacific region and US-European relations have been strained by espionage revelations.

Meanwhile, austerity driven budget cuts have left European armed forces underfunded. Among the EU nations in NATO, only Estonia, Greece and the UK met the alliance’s target of 2% of GDP spent on defence last year.

Set up in 2004 to boost cooperation among EU members, the European Defence Agency has been working to counter the impact of falling military budgets by encouraging countries and pool and share their capabilities. Rini Goos took up his post as Deputy Chief Executive of the EDA last year. We asked him how pooling and sharing is working, and where the main pitfalls lay.

Is pooling and sharing the right answer to budget constraints? Or should European countries simply be spending more on defence? How should EU defence policy interact with NATO?

Many of these questions have been given added urgency by events in Ukraine. We had a video question sent in by Francesco in Italy who asked whether the Ukraine crisis has increased the need for greater integration of the European defence sector.

One issue frequently highlighted as a weakness in Europe is the fragmentation of the defence market. The way EU countries persist in protecting national defence industry champions is blamed for producing wasteful duplication and harming the ability of European armed forces to work together. Robert asks how big is the problem of duplication in EU military procurement and expenditure?

What do you think? Should the EU have a single market for the defence industry? Does the Ukraine crisis mean Europe should be doing more to strengthen its defences? What should be done to make Europe’s defence sector more efficient? Share your questions, comments and thoughts in the form below and we’ll take them to policy makers and experts for their reaction!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – UK Ministry of Defence

54 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Gian Marco

    no, stop being fooled by USA wars and interests. We should develop our foreign policy, reinforce multilateralism and dissolve NATO and neonazi militias and parties in UKR

  2. avatar
    Jason Pi

    Europe and Russia should abolish visa system and create a new free trade agreement. Russian should be made mandatory in schools. It makes more sense economically, biologically and in its intrinsic cultural-artistic legacy.

    • avatar

      I don’t think russian “mandatory” in school in a good idea.
      But the VISA system *IS*.
      Sadly right now tensions are pretty high.

    • avatar
      Samuel Tandorf

      Biological sense??
      We should make sure the Eastern borders to the Ukraine and Russia are secure with a standing EU Army to keep them secure. And I agree, EU border personnel should speak Russian to help them do their important jobs.

  3. avatar
    Dawid Dubanosow

    or we just should bomb out whole wild Russia before it doesn’t suppose its possible. like US on Hiroshima…

  4. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Defense, arms, weapons, should be “last resort”. Cooperation, mutual understanding, mutual development, cultural interchange. Let’s start there!
    And, speaking of “strengthening defenses”, with what objective? How would this contribute to the development of humanity?

  5. avatar
    Dim Zev

    I expect answers from the case Ares (2014) 1502108.
    On 12 May 2014, registered the above case involving questions-clarification for start and functioning IACS system acting cross-checks for payments rural EU support.
    Because the competent European Commission not replied , i resorted on 11 July 2014 to the Ombudsman 01253/2014/ANA to mediate to answer my questions.
    So far I have not gotten any response.
    Is this ordinary for Europe ?

  6. avatar
    Umberto Banchieri

    Stregthen and unified defence policy for UE is the only way to counter the menace of Russian new imperial politics and instability on southern Mediterranean Sea and middle-orient.

    • avatar
      Samuel Tandorf

      I agree!

  7. avatar
    Paul X

    “pooling” capabilities will just means those countries that do not want to spend on defense will benefit from the countries that do, either every country contributes equally, or you fight your own battles

    UK Defence procurement has always been motivated by politics rather than t
    obtaining the best equipment available. Typical fiasco’s include Nimrod AEW, Tornado F3, SA80 rifle and Bowman radios. All examples of political projects focused more on defence industry jobs rather than providing the best kit to the troops. Ask the people who actually operate this kit what the solution would have been and the answer was to buy tried and tested systems from the US, clearly the anti American lobby counted more than the lives of servicemen trying to operate with sub standard equipment

    • avatar
      Kroum G. Balabanov

      Dobri, I agree with many things you wrote, but it was Putin’s grave mistake to attempt to deprive the Ukraine of its European choice. He could have offered them a membership in the EAU, regardless of association with the €U. Then, if the €U had agreed, Russia couldhave become a de facto €U member via Ukraine & the EAU. If the €U had refused, it wouod have lost face, not Russia. But Putin chosethe path of war and undermining the international order (diversive, subversive a asymmetric guearilla style warfare)

    • avatar
      Kroum G. Balabanov

      Paul, I agree with the distorting political influence on procurement upon “pooling capabilities”. Yet the idea of collective security is effectively the same as the idea of insurance – not all countries (esp small ones) are threatened by a stronger external agressor at the same time. They share the risk (& the loss/claim) for a premium. What angers me is that many a NATO member does not pay enough premium.

  8. avatar

    Europe should increase trade, political, cultural and educational relations with Russia and integrate it in EU. It was a big mistake to associate Ukraine without Russia. Security can be achieved through peace, not war. Whatever weapons EU and US may posses, once a war with Russia begins, casualties will be millions in EU. EU leaders, remember history and do not be like Napoleon and Hitler.

    • avatar

      Putler should know better than to start something he cannot finnish.
      I am all for Russia into the EU, but not as a satellite to the “russian fascist empire” Dughin is planning !

  9. avatar
    Christiane Vermoortel

    Shouldn’t listen to Rasmussen that much, he’s just trying to sell to Europe the new weaponary that is being tested in Gaza.

  10. avatar
    Sylvain Baron

    L’U.E est une institution, pas un Etat. L’Arme Franaise n’a pas vocation dfendre les Etats Baltes qui se montrent agressifs avec l’Ukraine et la Russie de faon inconsquente. L’Arme Franaise, ainsi que notre bombe nuclaire ne servent qu’ dfendre les intrets de la France. Compris les Nazis europstes ?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Nando Aidos
      You listed many laudable plaudits, BUT what if one counterparty is NOT prepared to ‘mutually understand’ the other party?

      What if one counterparty wants to coerce the other regarding the error of their ways/culture/laws?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Sylvain Baron
      Isn’t France meant to be pro-EU?

    • avatar

      We already know of french hypocrisy.
      “We are for EU…but not too close to us..please”
      “We are for more integration of minorities..but…not in France, please”
      “Stop being racist…but don’t complain when we deport people we find undesirable due to their skin color from Paris”

      Si tu penses que l’UE est unne organization comme les nazis, tu es un fou !

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      WRT your last sentence – I personally think that the intent of the EU is noble and laudable.

      Unfortunately, it wishes to achieve its aims by fair means and foul e.g letting in under-developed and systemically corrupt countries to the EU ‘club’ without forcing same to civilize themselves first.

      That being said, I would still aid say Romania* if it ever got threatened by say Russia – despite your obnoxious, vile, hate-filled splenetic bilge.

      * By aid I don’t mean loo paper or cutlery BTW.

  11. avatar

    Dammit no more wars with Murika and it’s insane allies, the UK puppets !
    Let them go into wars and create enemies.

    All we need now is recover our economy. Stop funding CORPORATE arms industries for ‘wars’ and put the money to serve the PEOPLE who need it.
    We already have almost two..TWO ! generations lost.

    And the third is on its way and STILL we do nothing !!

    • avatar

      @Cravyen, ……you would sound so much better if you could replace your rudeness & aggression with a bit more politeness! However, it’s not totally wrong what you say about war & peace!

  12. avatar
    Pedro Pereira

    So that’s what happened. I could hear them everal times per day during a week or more

  13. avatar

    Definitely NO! We need the CFSP and we need to coordinate our military budgets! Everything else is just a huge mess and we will loose our military capabilities..

  14. avatar

    That s an easy one.The core-countries of the EU should start joint ventures or make fusions.That way Companies focus their resources on one or two types of a weapon.Basically that s what is the advantage of eads.In the 70s every country was doing research on bombers,transport and stuff.These days there is a400m andthats it,there is tiger helicopter,there is nh90.
    Instead of wasting money for doing research in every single country we should just focus on one project and use the money that we saved on research ,for production of additional numbers,higher numbers of troops or better training.Instead we have a not countable number of companies which produce the same stuff and then argue for orders.Heckler&Koch,Fabrique National,Steyr AUG,Beretta,MN st.etienne…All producing auto rifles and waste money on research…1 standart rifle for whole europe and you saved yourself plenty of money

    The only aspect the governments should pay attention to,is to keep the arms industry in the hands of those countries that are let s call it “core-EU”.
    The UK is not really pro EU,so you should keep them from buying shares of arms companies.Same thing with the US.That would cause dependency,which we should actually avoid,if we want to make an independent foreign policy

    • avatar

      @Alex, ……….you seem a suitable candidate to advise NATO- give it a try!
      I would rather suggest ignoring the EU’ suggestion to waste one’s 2% GDP on unproductive matters. Limit it to below 1% and spend the rest in education & R&D!
      We all die soon enough!

    • avatar

      I suggest we tell France it should shut down all its weapon manufacturing, after all it’s all redundant anyway, others produce the same stuff.

      Now we await the reaction of France, I’m sure that in their typical ‘European’ spirit they will comply.

  15. avatar
    Thomas Nemo

    Yeah, just keep increasing defense spending all over the globe, until we’re out of all the resources that could also have been spent on something non-destructive. Oh boy oh boy I can’t wait to go mushroom cloud spotting.

  16. avatar

    Military spending versus education: what creates more jobs and makes more sense?

    Research shows, that this industry creates the least jobs per monetary unit invested than any other one! From this point of view it would be a great waste for “normal peaceful countries” to be dragged into a race to meet the 2% GDP spending as per EU proposal. The EC want stop there, because of the unavoidable pressure exercised on the EU by the US Republicans for more & more! Some thoughts & stats:


    The traditional mighty countries should spend what they wish- different minded ones should rather have a choice and increase spending in education, R&D and raise a white flag above their Parliament! Keep it down to 0.50 to 1% of GDP! Just able to keep law and order & disasters under control at home!

    Any extra contribution should be voluntary- similar to Sundays church donation campaign. Again a matter of a member’s choice & no EU prescription & threads!

  17. avatar
    Jude De Froissard

    Europe should have its own weapons….but each country must be able to use them independently. …and we should also have a European army for certain cases.

    • avatar

      @Jude, ……..lovely! You mean like “rent a truck”, rent a “bazooka”, rent a cruise missile”, or rent a whole “French or EU legion” similar to US’s “Blackwater”- just call them “Whitewashers” in Europe! Maybe even open an account, get a discount, than one can knock off ones neighbor if he becomes too irritating?

  18. avatar
    Francisco Guerreiro

    EU should not support fascist states…such as the new Ukranian government. Wake up. The EU leaders are just puppets!!

  19. avatar
    Francisco Guerreiro

    EU should not support fascist states…such as the new Ukranian government. Wake up. The EU leaders are just puppets!!

  20. avatar
    Alkis Karydis

    Europe should look at its own interests regarding Ukraine and to stop being US’s dog. Winter is coming and Europe is depending in Russian gas.

  21. avatar
    Sérgio Sábelkin

    Francisco Guerreiro!! claro vamos apoiar Russia ate que o Putin no nos fode a todos!! a minha porta mais inteligente do que tu!! morcego

  22. avatar
    Sérgio Sábelkin

    Francisco Guerreiro!! claro vamos apoiar Russia ate que o Putin no nos fode a todos!! a minha porta mais inteligente do que tu!! morcego

  23. avatar

    Defense industry should be abolished. There is no threat, there are no enemies. We should not let a bunch of Polish and Ukrainian warmongers itching for some kind of ‘payback’ on Russia determine our policies.

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