Europe’s Defense Industry at a Crossroads: Challenges and Opportunities in Joint Military Projects


Europe’s quest for a unified defense industry faces significant challenges, as highlighted in the exploration of the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) project, a collaborative effort between Germany and France. The project underscores the difficulties in achieving cooperation among European defense giants, with disagreements over who will manufacture key components like the main gun. This situation exemplifies the broader tension within the European Union (EU) regarding defense collaboration: the balance between supporting domestic industries and the benefits of joint procurement and production. With the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, there’s an increased urgency for the EU to streamline its defense policies and practices, potentially saving billions of euros. However, national interests, political hurdles, and a fragmented industry pose significant obstacles to creating a unified European defense market.
  • Germany and France are jointly developing the MGCS project, facing challenges in deciding the division of labor.
  • European defense collaboration is hampered by national interests and the desire to protect domestic industries, despite the potential cost savings and efficiency gains from joint procurement.
  • The EU’s defense market remains fragmented, with Article 346 allowing member states to prioritize national security over common market rules.
  • Joint procurement projects, like the A400M Atlas and the Eurofighter, have experienced cost overruns and challenges in meeting the diverse requirements of participating countries.
  • MBDA, a missile consortium, emerges as a successful model for European defense collaboration, benefiting from a governance structure that promotes joint interests over national ones.
  • The EU aims to increase defense trade within the bloc to 35% and collaborative procurement to 40% by 2030, but challenges remain, including the exclusion of the UK from current plans.
  • The war in Ukraine has intensified the push for a more unified European defense policy, but significant political and industrial hurdles stand in the way of achieving a single defense market.

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