Western approaches

Plans for a European version of the US military research agency DARPA will be included in the new EU constitution, EADS chief Phillipe Camus said last week.

The agency would fund important research projects and encourage European investment in advanced defence technologies, he said. Like the US department of defence’s DARPA, the agency could also fund defence-related basic scientific research and the development of equipment prototypes for the military.

Speaking at EADS’ technology conference in Paris this week, Camus said he envisages co-operation between DARPA and its European twin to reflect the extensive co-operation he believes should exist between Europe andthe US on defence technology. There would be no future in either party being isolationist, he said.

European governments must also spend more on defence, he claimed. ‘European governments must face up to their responsibilities within the western alliance adequately to fund advanced R&D. In particular investments are needed in the military communications network, in space, and in precision-strike weapons. That is why we fully endorse current efforts to create a European armament, military capabilities and research agency.’

European governments are being lobbied by EADS and other defence organisations to include the agency in the new EU constitution which is due to be agreed by member states by May 2004. Camus is confident that the agency will appear in the final draft, and said ‘there is a clear understanding of the need for better [European] integration in this area’.

As well as carrying out research, the agency would be able to undertake a common procurement policy for the states involved and would effectively oversee European defence technology research, development and deployment.

Camus explained that EADS’ head of strategy, Jean-Louis Gergorin, had originally proposed the creation of the agency and that he saw it operating on two levels.There would be a mandatory level of involvement in the agency for essential military procurement for all member states, and a second, ‘à la carte’ layer, which would enable states to be involved in different projects to varying degrees on a multilateral basis.

Despite Camus’ hopes for closer co-operation between Europe and the US in military equipment development, isolationist forces in US politics have been pushing for legislation that would force the US government to buy only US-made defence equipment.

But Camus’ view of US and European defence collaboration appears to be shared by the US defence industry. Representative industry bodies from Europe and the US have signed a common letter which has been sent to the US government, opposing the legislation.