EU creates directorate for European defense industry

Sept. 16 (UPI) — A new agency established within the European Commission to deal with Europe’s fragmented defense industry will have France’s former defense minister in charge.

Sylvie Goulard is expected to be nominated in a European Parliament hearing, and lead the directorate starting on Nov. 1. The development of the agency is seen by some as a signal that Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming European Commission President and former German defense minister, seeks to have Europe to take more responsibility for its own defense.

Goulard would be the EU’s commissioner for industrial policy, with a leadership position in coordinating the EU’s defense industry’s research and development projects, with a goal of making the 29-member bloc less reliant on U.S. military technology.

The EU does not have an army, and member states treat defense policies as internal issues, but the bloc has encouraged cross-border defense initiatives.

The EU’s defense and external security budget has increased from $3.1 billion in the period 2014 to 2020 to $24.7 billion for 2021 through 2027. The new budget also allocates another $14.3 billion to a European Defense Fund to promote unified defense projects.

Goulard, closely aligned with French President Emmanuel Macron, will likely deal with objections from members states eager to maintain control over their national defense budgets; from NATO, concerned that its members not in the EU will be shortchanged in military projects, and the United States, which is eager to see more weapons and other defense systems sold to European countries.