Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

besch2_ Bernd Wüstneckpicture alliance via Getty Images_germany military Bernd Wüstneck/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Who Should Hold Europe’s Arms?

Although the EU has one of the world's strongest arms-export frameworks, the rules are not enforced. If Europe is to have any chance of deepening defense cooperation, let alone creating a defense union, that must change.

BERLIN – Earlier this year, Germany decided – over the objections of France and the United Kingdom – to extend its arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, reflecting concerns about the legality of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. The dispute highlights the discord and inefficiency that still plague European arms-export policy. And failure to address it is severely undermining the European Union’s efforts to raise its defense profile.

Initiatives like the European Defense Fund – which seeks to coordinate, supplement, and amplify national defense investments – have been hailed as silver bullets for Europe’s defense-capability problem. But, as Anne-Marie Descôtes, France’s ambassador to Germany, has pointed out, if European governments are to develop military equipment jointly, they have to be able to rely on their partners to export the necessary components. That requires a transparent and predictable set of export rules.

As my co-author, Beth Oppenheim, and I set out in our Centre for European Reform research paper, “Up in arms: warring over Europe’s arms export regime,” weapons exports can facilitate defense cooperation with allies by improving interoperability. In some cases, they can also be used to raise the defense capabilities of strategic partners, bolstering efforts to address globally significant security challenges, such as piracy or terrorism. At home, exports to third countries allow European defense companies to make the most of economies of scale, while forcing them to produce more competitive products. The more countries that are involved in these exchanges, the bigger the impact.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/F1y9xSY;
  1. pisaniferry106_Mark WilsonGetty Images_phase one agreement trump china  Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Explaining the Triumph of Trump’s Economic Recklessness

    Jean Pisani-Ferry

    The Trump administration’s economic policy is a strange cocktail: one part populist trade protectionism and industrial interventionism; one part classic Republican tax cuts skewed to the rich and industry-friendly deregulation; and one part Keynesian fiscal and monetary stimulus. But it's the Keynesian part that delivers the kick.

    0
  2. yu49_ShengJiapengChinaNewsServiceVCGviaGettyImages_G20trumpjinpingshakehands Sheng Jiapeng/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

    PS Say More: Keyu Jin

    Keyu Jin assesses the “phase one” US-China trade deal, questions whether the US can ever accept China’s development model, and highlights a key difference in how the Hong Kong protests are viewed inside and outside China.
    0