Leaders of European armament industries, gathering in Brussels for a conference on defence research and development, said that the EU should reduce the technological gap with the US. The conference, organised by GPC International, called for more investment in EU defence technology that currently reaches only 26 per cent of the US level.
Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister and UN envoy, warned that there was very little chance to have an EU-US dialogue on security, as it would basically concern the question of how the EU can use American defence capabilities.
Mr Bildt singled out the planned EU global positioning and communications system, the Galileo, as one initiative that would give Europe defence capabilities and pave the way to a more constructive dialogue across the Atlantic. He said that the strategic worth of such a system was proven during the recent war against terrorist networks in Afghanistan, which demonstrated that “space-based broadband is needed rather than firepower to be successful in a basically stone-age environment”.
A representative of the Spanish Presidency warned that European defence industry was plagued with dispersion. The official said that the defence procurement system should be coordinated at the EU level, and that European armaments companies should be able to operate across the borders. The Spanish Presidency believes that research and development is the best area to start defence cooperation in Europe, he added.
The conference warned that unlike in the US, there is no central funding body for defence R&D in the EU. Funds are spread between national governments, EU institutions, and industry; and synergies between the three are minimal. Participants agreed that European governments and companies should decide which will be the key technologies to guarantee security of Europe in the future.