EU Defence Ministers approved a plan to strengthen Europe’s military capabilities

The 27 EU Ministers of Defence approved the 2023 EU Capability Development Priorities at the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board on November 14. The document serves as the foundation for all EU-wide defense planning and efforts.

The priorities, based on lessons learned from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, contribute to EU defense aims and are meant to “lead to the implementation of specific projects” against a backdrop of ongoing underfunding and limited European defense cooperation.

What are the new capability priorities?

The document outlines 22 priorities for developing European defense, including fourteen prime concerns in five military areas and eight priorities related to strategic capabilities. These are the necessity for integrated air and missile defense, the modernization and development of battle tanks, infantry combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and counter-drone capabilities.

The EDA underlines that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine highlights the urgent need to strengthen military mobility in the EU and beyond, as well as to address the inadequacy of military intelligence capabilities, particularly the deployment of drones. Enhancing interoperability and boosting cooperative responses between civilian and military services are key goals to prevent attacks on underwater infrastructure.

Question of support for Ukraine 

The EU is not on track to transfer 1 million artillery shells to Ukraine by March 2024 due to the status of defense production and bureaucratic impediments.

The EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell,  stated during a meeting with member states’ defense ministers and discussed the necessity to examine the situation with ammunition manufacturing to support Ukraine and methods to enhance supplies.

“Then, with the ministers, talking about Ukraine, I reiterated the urgency to increase our military support to Ukraine and, in particular, the immediate needs of the Ukrainian army to defend [itself] from the Russian aggression. This means air defense – we reviewed the work in progress of the training of the pilots for the F-16, winter equipment – because it is clear that the war will last during the winter and ammunition”, EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell said after the meeting.

The need for a new EU military enhancement plan

Adopting this document underlines the European Union’s need to meet Russia’s and other possible adversaries’ threats. Russia’s war in Ukraine highlighted Europe’s need to boost defense capabilities.

It is also about maintaining the EU’s military aid for Ukraine, given the possibility of a drop in US assistance due to the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

Given all of the military aid that the EU nations have supplied to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the subject of restocking the EU countries’ military equipment and weaponry is essential. 

As the EU has promised to send one million shells by March 2024 to Ukraine and already struggles to meet this commitment, there is another critical reason to replenish weapons and military equipment stocks.

Ukraine’s fight against Russia has taught the EU the need to modernize its military technology and manufacture advanced technologies, such as drones and electronic warfare, to ensure defense capabilities against possible adversaries.

The ongoing Russia’s war against Ukraine, aggressive rhetoric, and nuclear blackmail do not exclude the possibility of a potential Russian invasion of EU countries, which is why the EU needs to strengthen its defense capabilities.

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