EU defense investments result in duplication, shortfalls: Foreign policy chief

Josep Borrell warns bloc on 'fragmented' spending, resistance against defense reforms.

EU defense investments result in duplication, shortfalls: Foreign policy chief

Serious but uncoordinated defense investments by EU countries have resulted in duplication and shortfalls in military capacities, the bloc's foreign policy chief said on Sunday.

The combined defense budget of EU nations is four times Russia's and nearly as much as China's military expenditure, Josep Borrell noted at a panel discussion of the Munich Security Conference.

Despite this, the bloc has been unable to achieve the same results as these countries, Borrel added.

"We spend a lot of money, but there is not enough coordination," he underlined, explaining that EU defense policy "is too fragmented and dispersed, we don't have a common line."

He also admitted that this lack of coordination in investments has at times resulted in a duplication of defense capabilities, while there have also been "major gaps and shortfalls" in logistics and other areas.

"We have to spend more, and we have to spend better and smarter," Borrell highlighted, noting that the Strategic Compass, the bloc’s new defense strategy that he presented last year, would mend these problems.

The action guide sets concrete proposals and timelines for strengthening EU defense, such as setting up a swiftly deployable EU force of 5,000 troops, investing in industrial capabilities, and securing the bloc against cyberattacks.

The plan would strengthen the bloc's defense in a way that would complement NATO requirements.

"We need capacities that are available, modular and easily combined," Borrell pointed out, explaining that EU ministers supported his recommendation on the so-called "modular approach."

The plan promotes a "modular combination of forces" to ensure that the EU can "handle any kind of mission with different characteristics," such as providing airport security, assisting in conflict settlement, or participating in combat, he said.

At the same time, Borrell said the EU must speed up its action on defense, acknowledging that "there is still a lot of resistance," divisions inside some national governments while "some industries are not competitive yet."

The Strategic Compass is expected to be adopted in March.