Why are we letting the defence industry hijack the EU?

MILITARY

‘He has fought hard to keep a French hold over the European commission’s internal market portfolio, which includes key defence investments.’ Emmanuel Macron reviews troops in Paris on Bastille day Photograph: Eliot Blondet/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian

By Apostolis Fotiadis

Away from public scrutiny, France is pushing Europe into prioritising increased arms spending over political alliances

Wed 11 Dec 2019


‘He has fought hard to keep a French hold over the European commission’s internal market portfolio, which includes key defence investments.’ Emmanuel Macron reviews troops in Paris on Bastille day Photograph: Eliot Blondet/AFP/Getty Images

For three years now, the European Union, created to promote peace and understanding, has been undergoing a profound pivot to militarisation and hard power. Europeans are served up a relentless narrative about their continent’s duty to stand up to external challenges: Russian assertiveness, the US retreat from Nato and traditional Euro-Atlantic structures and China’s rise as a geopolitical force. But this narrative has served to legitimise a militarising agenda that, away from the spotlight, is being set and pushed by defence industry interests and their political cheerleaders.

Countries in Scandinavia and central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Finland and Sweden, have all increased military expenditure as part of this creep towards arming and organising for potential use of lethal force. Major western European countries have kept the annual military spending-to-GDP ratio stable, but at least four are consistently among the biggest military spenders in the world. Last year, France spent €57.2bn (£48bn), Germany €44.4bn, Italy €25bn and Spain €16bn. In the UK, defence spending topped €50bn. As a comparison, Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute database, spent €55bn. The vast sums being devoted to maintain and build up the military capacity of individual EU countries come at a time when, with Brexit and the rise of nationalism in former iron curtain countries, the EU itself has never appeared so weak.

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