Security and Defence

Policy briefs

European defence industry: urgent action is needed!

17 Jan 2024 - 13:20
Source: ©Reuters - A 155 shell for Cesar gun being manufactured inside the Nexter Arrowtech factory, near Bourges, France

By invading Ukraine in February 2022 Russia has thrown the European security order into the waste bin. In essence, the Western reaction has been ‘we will not fight, but we will support Ukraine in its war effort’. Western countries have delivered a wide variety of weapon systems. Although this support has been vital for Ukraine’s defence, it has resulted in minimum levels of American and European arms and ammunition stocks. As a consequence, the burning question is how to ramp up the defence industrial production, in particular as the armed confrontation in Ukraine has developed into a war of attrition. 

The EU has launched several initiatives to support member states in procuring replacement equipment and ammunition to be delivered to Ukraine. At the same time, European countries have to strengthen their own defence capabilities in order to increase their share of the burden of NATO’s collective defence, while also realising more European autonomy. In the EU, there is broad political support for the strengthening of the European Defence Industrial and Technological Base, not only for economic reasons but as a necessary precondition for Europe’s security. However, despite this urgent call, industrial production is lagging behind, endangering both Ukraine’s war effort and the strengthening of European security and defence. 

This policy brief assesses how the EU is responding to the urgent challenge of adapting its defence industry to the requirements resulting from the new security environment. The central question is what should be done in order to change gear for increasing the production of ammunition and weapon systems. After assessing the consequences of the changed security situation for European capability needs, the author addresses the steps so far taken by the EU and the challenges lying ahead as the war will continue in 2024 and perhaps even beyond. The final section presents ten concrete action lines to overcome the obstacles for ramping and speeding up European defence industrial production.

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