August 29, 2018 / 4:00 PM / 25 days ago

German finance minister urges European defence mergers

JOUY-EN-JOSAS, France, Aug 29 (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz called on Wednesday for mergers within the European defence industry to get a better bang for the buck on procurement spending.

Scholz told a business conference outside Paris that governments were concentrating too much procurement spending on local companies and said weapons systems were too fragmented across Europe.

“We must support mergers not only under the leadership of our own national champions, so we will achieve a better integrated defence policy that would provide internal security and turn the EU into a serious player within the global military architecture,” Scholz said in a speech.

Despite long-standing calls for mergers, European governments and defence contractors have made little progress consolidating the industry.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who was at the conference with Scholz, said this month that plans to combine the civilian shipyards of French state-owned shipbuilder Naval Group and Italian group Fincantieri should not include defence assets.

The multinational Airbus A400M military transport plane has also set an uninspiring example for cross-border defence cooperation as the programme has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.

Meanwhile, France and Germany are pushing ahead with plans to develop a next generation combat aircraft to replace France’s Dassault Aviation Rafales and Germany’s Eurofighters, made by a European consortium.

The two countries also have plans to jointly develop a new battle tank due to be operational in 2035. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by John Irish)

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