The European Commission (EC) is proposing to push the issue of a common armaments policy within Europe as part of a two-pronged strategy to accelerate restructuring in the region's defence industry.
Industry commissioner Martin Bangemann, who has been making increasingly urgent calls for action from Europe's manufacturers, says that the EC must now act to "facilitate" the necessary restructuring.
"The European defence-related industry is too fragmented to be sustainable," he warns in a report released by the European Commission (EC) industry directorate on 12 November.
Although the EC has stressed that it does not want to interfere directly in the restructuring of the industry, it believes that it can help to set up an "integrated European market" for defence products.
It proposes a two-pronged strategy which would see proposals drawn up for a "common position on a European armaments policy", while at the same time setting down an "action plan" designed to speed the restructuring. It says that the "speed and scale" of change make it "imperative" for Europe to start taking action in 1998.
The EC wants to step up efforts to create a European Armaments Agency and to establish "a strong, integrated European defence, technological and industrial base".
It says that it will work towards simplifying the movement of defence products between EC states, draw up a list of products which could be exempt from customs tariffs, and work towards harmonisation of national and European research programmes "to avoid wasteful duplication".
It will also work with industry to set up a European system of standards for defence-equipment purchases and will "-look closely at utilising the synergies between civil and military technologies".
Many of the initiatives, such as plans to introduce a simplified licencing scheme, are timed to begin in 1998, with all of the actions completed by 2000.
"The need to implement a European Union strategy to keep up with the major changes in defence-related industries is becoming more pressing every day," says Bangemann.
Source: Flight International