The EU prepares its defense “arsenal” – The first unified defense strategy and the benefits for Cyprus | Liberal

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The war in Ukraine, the financing of military aid to Kiev, the possible re-election of Trump in the USA and in general the ongoing international scene, which is fueling clouds of insecurity and an increase in geostrategic competition, led the EU in taking steps towards the difficult task of building a unified common Defence.

Specifically, at the beginning of March, the Commission presented for the first time a European Defense Industrial Strategy, while last Thursday the leaders of the 27 member states at the European Council Summit expressed the their intention for further access to public and private funding. The road, however, is expected to be long, with the most sensitive issue being the future funding of more defense investments.

The Commission’s plan for a European Defense Industrial Strategy

The European Defense Industrial Strategy, proposed by the Commission, foresees a series of actions to encourage common markets and estrengthening the market for defense products from within the EUwhile defining indicators, which aim to measure the progress of the member states, in terms of industrial readiness.

As a first and basic instrument for the implementation of the strategy, the European Commission submitted legislative proposal for a European Defense Industry Program (EDIP); which is seen as the bridge between short-term emergency measures, introduced in 2023 and ending in 2025, and a longer-term approach to achieving defense industrial readiness.

The Commission has made it clear that it is not about changing the EU Treaties, but about better cooperation within their framework, with the member states to retain the primary responsibility for Defense, ceding some of their powers. At this point it should be noted that the Commission’s proposals to be transformed into an EU regulation need, as usual, to receive approval from the EU member states and the European Parliament.

The intention of the states to proceed

In another development on the issue, last Thursday, at the European Council Summit, European leaders expressed their commitment to strengthen the EU’s defense capability, calling on the Council and the Commission, after exploring all options for mobilizing fundingto report in June.

Alongside they called on the European Investment Bank to adjust its policy for lending to the defense industry under the current definition of dual-use goods, while preserving its financing capacity.

The activation of the European Investment Bank is one of the scenarios that have been proposed, with fourteen EU member states sending a letter a few days earlier to EIB officials to request more efficient financing of defense projects.

Other scenarios, which have been put on the table for discussion, are Eurobond issue for Defense – with countries such as France and Greece strongly in favor of joint borrowing – and the capitalizing on windfalls from frozen Russian assets.

How Dr. Kostas Lavdas and Dr. Foteini Asderaki comment

Invited by filenews to comment on whether he thinks there is an honest intention from the member states to proceed with the common Defense, the Professor of European and Comparative Politics at Panteion University, Dr Kostas Lavdas argued that for many states the desire is sincere, but remains a difficult goal with many conditions.

He further emphasized that ultimately, only the progress in the European defense industrial strategic policy (EDIS) could (with joint supplies, joint defense projects etc) promote this target and added that EDIS is moving, but still very slowly.

On the part of Dr. Fotini Asderaki, Professor of European Integration Theory and European Education Policy at the Department of International and European Studies of the University of Piraeus and elected President of the Doctoral School of the European College of Security and Defense, commenting on the conclusions of the Defense Summit in Philenews, she pointed out that “after the crisis in Ukraine the debate on security and defense takes center stage on the European agenda, both in the creation of common defense structures and in the creation of a ‘common market’ for defense equipment and the financing of common defense industry projects’.

He emphasized that already “the creation of the European Defense Fund, managed by the European Commission, with €8 billion for the period 2021-2027, is an important step for European cooperation“, indicating that “this amount is however very small compared to what is required to cover defense costs, modernize and strengthen Europe’s defense capabilities”.

He emphasized that the burden on defense spending is unbearable for the countries of the South, which face more threats, arguing that “it is no coincidence that two distinct groups were again formed at the European Council of March 2024, after the proposal of the Greek Prime Minister for the issuance of a Eurobond and the support of the South (France, Italy, Greece) against the North (Germany, Holland, Sweden, Denmark)”.

He added that in any case the conclusions of the European Council reflect the intention for further access of the European defense industry to public and private funding, with proposals from the Commission and the Council of Ministers expected in June.

The benefits and role of Cyprus

The Professor further emphasized that Greece, with its burdened defense budget, but also Cyprus will have significant benefits from European funding.

Asked if she thinks that Cyprus and Greece could take some initiatives to highlight their role in the context of common Defense, the Professor answered in the affirmative, clarifying that potential initiatives should be linked to the wider interests and threats to the Union and not be limited to the question concerning the risk with Turkey. At this point, it is worth mentioning that a recent initiative of Cyprus, which gained support from major powers, because it added value to them and not only to the proposing country, is the “Amalthia” plan for the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Cyprus could, therefore, further highlight its geostrategic role as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East and above all as an advanced outpost of the West, i.e. as a guardian of the gates of Europe, located at the most south-eastern end of the Mediterranean.

As a semi-occupied country, after all, which is faced with the Turkish threat and while experiencing a strong military disparity with Turkey, Cyprus cannot but be in favor of strengthening the EU’s defense armor and its strategic autonomy.

However, when President Christochoulidis was asked to comment on the issue concerning Defense, after the Summit, he spoke of an important development and expressed his satisfaction. “It is an area that is part of the wider framework of the strategic autonomy of the European Union” he said, noting that this is an issue that as Cyprus “we are ardent supporters of and I am happy yesterday because there was a general consensus on the need for the European Union to go even further in matters of defense and security, for all states to invest more”, but also “to strengthen the European defense industry even more”.

He emphasized that “as the European Union, if we want to claim what we all say, the geopolitical role of the European Union, this geopolitical role goes through and through a strong will but also political acts, actions to strengthen the defense and security sector”.

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