Later this week Europe's senior defence procurement officials will meet in Brussels behind closed doors to discuss their strategy to maintain key areas of competence within Europe, Alexander Weis, director of the European Defence Agency (EDA), told me today in Brussels at a conference entitled “Which concrete solutions to strengthen the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DTIB).”
“Future air systems is the area on which most views converge as being the key area in which we must preserve our position,” he told me in the margins of the conference “and by air systems I mean everything that flies except weapons.”
Weis said “we have identified helicopters and UAVs as being the first areas to look at.”
Earlier he had not minced his words in his address to the conference, attended by European procurement officials from across the 27 European Union member states as well as industry leaders, that if Europe's defence industry hopes to be competitive with the U.S. one, then there must be less hesitancy in cross-border procurement.
The EDA has an electronic bulletin board, step one of which is reserved for governments to post contract opportunities (350 worth €5 billion currently on the bulletin board) “but the number of cross-border contracts is still low and their overall value is low”. Step two is reserved for industry. “Only 16 out of 70 [identified prime contractors in Europe] have posted opportunities” he said crossly, haranguing his audience with “I want to see serious involvement by industry and in particular one pan-European company of four big letters [we all knew he was referring to EADS] which is completely absent.”
He encouraged the European defence establishment to have what he termed “structuring programmes without which the DTIB will remain theoretical. We don't need words, we need projects and programmes,” he said pointedly.