Can the EU’s defence ambitions survive budget cuts?

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Series Details Number 131
Publication Date April / May 2020
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised that hers would be a “geopolitical Commission” that would take bold steps towards a “genuine European Defence Union“. The Commission’s 2019 proposal for the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF) reflected this ambition. Years of high-profile announcements about the Union’s aspirations as a defence actor culminated in a proposal to spend money on defence for the first time – almost €20 billion over seven years. This was to be divided between defence research and development and ‘military mobility’ – measures to facilitate the movement of military equipment across the EU by upgrading existing infrastructure (for instance by strengthening bridges) and simplifying customs formalities for military operations and the transport of dangerous goods.  But cuts to defence spending agreed during the 2020 budget negotiations imply that member-states do not take defence as seriously as the rhetoric of a ‘geopolitical’ Union suggests.

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ESO Records
Elcano Royal Institute: Analyses, No. 1/2020: A geopolitical Commission? Beware the industrial-strategic gap in EU defence policy
EPRS: Briefing, February 2020: Military mobility: Infrastructure for the defence of Europe

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