* Graphic on EU defence spending tmsnrt.rs/2ctbMmP
* Joint defence research to renew fleets, end waste
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, Nov 30 The European Union will unveil
its biggest defence research plan in more than a decade on
Wednesday to reverse billions of euros in cuts and send a
message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that Europe wants
to pay for its own security.
Part of a broader push to revitalise defence cooperation,
the European Commission will propose a defence fund and seek to
lift a ban on the EU's common budget and its development bank
investing in military research.
The main proposal, to be presented at around 12 p.m. (1100
GMT), is an investment fund for defence, which could allow EU
governments that pay into it also to borrow, ensuring funds are
always available for joint defence programmes such as
helicopters or drones.
The fund, which could start on a small scale in 2017, could
be backed by the European Investment Bank to finance projects if
governments agree to remove the ban on backing military
With the Commission overseeing a common EU budget of about
150 billion euros ($160 billion) a year, France and Germany say
it is time to allow it to be used for military research.
The European Parliament has approved a 90 million euro pilot
plan for 2017 to 2019 and the Commission could potentially
allocate 3.5 billion euros from the budget between 2021 and
2027, officials say.
Defence research spending by EU governments has fallen by a
third since 2006, leaving the European Union reliant on the
United States for advanced warfighting equipment.
During the U.S. election campaign, Trump questioned whether
the United States should protect allies seen as spending too
little on their defence, raising fears that he could withdraw
funding for NATO at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.
France and Germany rely on ageing military transport planes,
for example, while some navy helicopters have been grounded
because of technical faults related to long years of service.
A report by the German military seen by Reuters on Tuesday
showed its Tornado jets had a readiness rate of just 44 percent
and its newer Eurofighters were ready for use 52 percent of the
time, well under the goal of an average 70 percent readiness.
"Europe has to be very careful that the investment gap is
not translated into an ever wider technology gap," EU foreign
policy chief Federica Mogherini told defence contractors and
officials at a speech earlier this month.
"If left unchecked, this could translate into a political
gap which would clearly not be in our interest," she said,
referring to a potential loss of the EU's foreign policy clout.
An earlier Commission plan in 2003 failed to win over
governments. This time around, France, Germany and Italy are
seizing on Britain's decision to quit the bloc. They see it as
removing an obstacle to deeper defence cooperation, given
Britain's fears about a European army run from Brussels.
Britain's departure removes one of the biggest contributors
to the EU budget, although it is not clear if Britain would seek
to collaborate on defence from outside the bloc.
"We see EU defence as detrimental to NATO, but if there are
major collaborative research projects, we would want to be part
of them," said Geoffrey Van Orden, a former brigadier in the
British army and now a lawmaker with the eurosceptic European
Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.
Germany and France say sharing resources may be the only way
to sustain adequate military forces. EU officials point to the
merger of missile systems companies in France, Italy and Britain
in 2001 to create MBDA, the only European group able to design
and produce world-class missile systems.
Waste is also a problem, as European governments champion
national defence contractors. According to EU data, the bloc has
19 types of armoured infantry fighting vehicle, compared with
one in the United States.
($1 = 0.9438 euros)
(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by