The European Union risks becoming irrelevant in global politics if it fails to strengthen its defense capabilities and spending on innovation, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the European Defense Agency Conference in Brussels, the bloc’s de facto capital, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that without a stronger defense policy, the bloc could soon become irrelevant in “power politics”.
He stressed that without significant investments to integrate new cutting-edge technologies in European defense systems, the bloc will lose interoperability with its partners and advantages vis-à-vis its competitors.
“Either we invest a lot in defense innovation, or we will become defense irrelevant,” he stressed, urging EU member states to “do much more together” and “right now.”
“Innovation is shaping the global balance of power,” Borrell said, pointing to how the EU and its member states are lagging behind other global actors in defense innovation spending.
Last year, the US spent €14 billion ($15.8 million) on defense innovation, 14 times more than what EU member states invested, he explained.
Borrell also said civilian innovation had a huge impact on defense, especially in the cyber domain, noting that in 2020 tech giant Alphabet/Google had spent 10 times more in research and innovation than all EU defense ministries combined.
According to Borrell, his recently revealed defense strategy, the Strategic Compass, offers a remedy to these problems.
The action guide, presented to EU foreign and defense ministers last month, sets forth concrete proposals and timelines for strengthening EU defense, such as setting up a swiftly deployable EU force of 5,000 troops, investing in industrial capabilities, and securing the EU against cyberattacks.
The final document is expected to be adopted in March.
Based on the lessons from the Yugoslav Wars, the idea of reforming and strengthening the bloc’s defense and security policy has been on the table since the mid-1990s.
However, EU member states have been unable to advance on the policy due to the high sensitivity of the topic and diverging interests.