Discussions surrounding the European Defence Fund (EDF) have revealed the extent of disagreements between Ministers and MEPs. Tension arose over the overall goal of the fund and what outcome it would have for European Defence in general.
The EDF was first commissioned late in 2016. At the time Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment, and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen said: “The Fund will act as a catalyst for a strong European defence industry which develops cutting-edge, fully interoperable technologies and equipment.”
“Member States will remain in the driving seat, get better value for their money – and ultimately see their influence increased.”
Since then, almost every aspect of the fund has come into question. Brexit is an obvious spanner in the works, with questions arising over whether non-EU members will be allowed to contribute.
One prominent point of contention was ethics. Legal experts expressed concern that the fund may violate the Lisbon treaty, which explicitly prohibits military projects funded from within the EU budget.
Questions were raised on the ethical ramifications of research into autonomous weapons and the potential for the export of arms. German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer described the decision not to exclude funding ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as ‘shameful’.
He warned that the EDF should not be used for nuclear rearmament ‘at any cost’. Legal experts warned that if an objective is not clearly set out it could face more lengthy negotiations and objections.
Less contentious objections include disagreements over how the fund will be managed. It is still undecided if the fund will be controlled by the commission or under collaboration by member states.
No agreement has been reached on the eligibility criteria for nations to participate. The American Chamber of Commerce in Brussels warned that restrictions on non-members will make participation ‘virtually impossible’.
With Brexit negotiations ongoing, there appears to be no clear solution in sight. Some leaders are encouraging Britain to remain a part of the fund, but that may depend on what restrictions are put in place.
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