HomeEuropeEU industry chief: We need to switch to ‘war economy mode’

EU industry chief: We need to switch to ‘war economy mode’

Roll up your sleeves, Rosie the Riveter.

The European Union “must now move into war economy mode,” its defense policy chief said Thursday, as the war in Ukraine forces Europe to ramp up its security and defense industries.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton promised attendees at a European Defense Summit €1 billion from the European Peace Facility to continue replenishing member countries’ stocks after they send arms to Ukraine.

“The recent war of aggression against Ukraine has radically changed the security environment in Europe,” Breton said via videolink. He added that the Commission was ready to speed up public procurement procedures, clear hurdles to the transfer of ammunition within the single market and lift “any regulatory barriers” on working time.

The French commissioner repeated his call for Europe to increase its production capacity to 1 million rounds per year within a year, as part of a draft defense production bill called the “Act in Support of Ammunition Production” (ASAP).

Last week, the Commission approved plans to increase the EU’s ammunition production capacity by injecting €500 million from EU funds into European shell factories to boost weapons manufacturing — matched with co-financing of around €500 million from member countries and other sources.

Micael Johansson, chief executive officer of Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab, said the target of 1 million ammunition rounds was realistic and Saab could provide 400,000 rounds alone from its Swedish plant.

“We can move tomorrow, if the Commission decides who will acquire” the ammunition, he said. “The European Investment Bank also needs to get its act together and start supporting the defense sector.”

Johansson said Europe has been “too dependent” on the United States and needs to increase its sovereign capabilities. “If we are at 70-30 dependent on the U.S. today we need to shift that around to 30-70 for sovereign capabilities,” he said.

As of now, member countries would begin spending €70 billion in the next three years to boost their defense capacity, the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told summit attendees.

“I was not a fan of [former U.S.] President [Donald] Trump but I think he was right in one thing: European doesn’t share their part of the burden” within NATO’s defense spending, Borrell said.

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