Ireland’s “increased interest” in European defense cooperation welcomed

Ireland’s “increased interest” in European defense cooperation has been hailed in the context of declining overall military spending.

Jan Pie, head of the Association of Aerospace and Defense Industries of Europe, warned that the region’s ‘fragmented’ approach to military development could no longer maintain its competitiveness amid rising spending from China and others.

“I would like to congratulate Ireland for the increased interest on the defense side in the EU and the EDF (European Defense Fund),” he said on Thursday during a webinar hosted by the ministry. of Defense aimed at connecting Irish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). with European funding opportunities in the sector.

“I think this is a very welcome initiative not only from an Irish point of view, but certainly from the point of view of European industry as a whole and also from the point of view of the competitiveness of the EU.”

Mr Pie said increasing European investment was crucial to keep competition on a global stage where Asia-Pacific’s GDP growth is on track to overtake that of Europe and the United States of America. by 2050.

“The failure of the EDF is simply not an option; we must all be fully committed to making EDF a success, ”he said.

Data from the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that in 1990, Europe and the Americas accounted for about 75% of global GDP growth, but that figure is on track to decline to 45% by 2050. Mr. Pie said that in terms of global military spending, it wouldn’t be a surprise if China ended up matching the United States.

“The long-term trend in Europe [from 1960 to 2020] has been declining for decades, ”he said, adding that investments had started to rise again.

“Collaborative defense equipment [investment] is extremely weak… the disease of the European system is fragmentation and that is what needs to be addressed.

Turnover

In 2019, the turnover of the European defense industry amounted to 259 billion euros with 892,000 direct jobs, the conference said.

Pat O’Connor, of the newly formed Irish Defense & Security Association (IDSA), said that the same year the domestic industry exported € 2.4 billion worth of dual-use products – those with applications military and civilian – about as much as the beef industry.

He said there are currently 548 foreign and domestic companies active in the Irish market with between € 1.5 billion and € 2 billion in estimated investment spending over the next nine years.

“The fact that Ireland has underinvested in defense for so long means that we now have the opportunity to develop capabilities focused on these new disruptive technologies,” he said.

“As we know, Ireland will contribute around 150 million euros over the next six years to this [European Defence] Funds. We need to make sure that Ireland has the right policies and the right supports in place to ensure that Ireland gets a return on this investment at least equal to this. ”

Defense Minister Simon Coveney said the EDF would help EU member states better coordinate and complement national investments in defense and develop technology and equipment “which might otherwise not be feasible”.

“It is essential to understand that the EDF concerns a wide range of research and technological developments which go far beyond the type of traditional sectors of the defense industry which, although present in many other Member States, do not are not a reality in Ireland, ”he said. .

However, Thursday’s webinar, which was intended as an in-person networking event, also drew criticism given the nature of the investment.

Joe Murray, coordinator of the Afri peace charity, described it as an attempt to militarize Ireland’s industrial policy.

“[It] is a very sad day and a very disturbing event, ”he said. “The aim is to introduce Irish industry to the European Defense Agency and provide them with information on the funding available to develop weapons systems.”

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