Regulatory framework proposed to preserve competitiveness of European contractors

The European Union is moving forward with efforts to agree a common armaments policy, with the publication on 11 March of a 17-page document outlining proposals for the establishment of a legal and regulatory framework to ensure Europe's defence industries remain competitive and procurement is co-ordinated.

Greek defence minister Yannos Papantoniou says Airbus is one of the few examples of Europe successfully taking on global competitors, and this happened, he says, because a co-ordinated approach was adopted. Greece holds the six-month revolving presidency of the EU.

The aerospace and electronics sectors in Europe have been forced into consolidation by the strong links between military and commercial aerospace, with Airbus "the role model and the ready example for the military to adapt to", says a study commissioned by the Greek presidency on prospects for the European defence industry.

But the European Commission, the EU's executive body, says that the fragmented legal and regulatory framework limits the ability of companies to adjust "or pushes them towards strategies and alliances which put the EU in a disadvantageous position".

For example, the EC says, in the combat aircraft sector a number of EU member states have opted for a US solution to their needs instead of a European one.

A more coherent overall framework, the EC adds, is also needed to underpin some of the ad hoc agreements reached by a number of member states. These include the letter of intent signed by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK to accelerate industrial restructuring; and OCCAR, set up by France, Germany, Italy and the UK to improve oversight and management of co-operative programmes, which is due to manage the seven-nation Airbus Military A400M transport project.

The EC adds that on the military side, the efficiency of multinational forces such as the European Rapid Reaction Force "requires the high degree of interoperability of their armaments", and that to achieve this in a cost-effective way "the solution would be to equip the national units that make up these forces increasingly with the same equipment". The Commission's ultimate goal is to have a single set of rules governing defence procurement in Europe.

Source: Flight International