The European Military-Industrial Complex

10 May 2015

The European Military-Industrial Complex

EU heads of government will meet to discuss (amongst other things) defence cooperation. They will without doubt point to the need for increased defence efforts due to the unstable situation on Europe’s external borders. This week European Defence Agency (EDA) chief Jorge Domecq gave a more honest account in the European Parliament. The real reason for doing more on defence is to keep high-tech companies from leaving Europe. In short, the military-industrial complex is back, or rather it never went away.

This will certainly appeal to Dutch centre-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Invest more money in common support for research and innovation by the defence industry. And it would astonish nobody if his partner in the coalition, the PvdA (Labour Party), went along with this. Despite this, the EDA’s plans are otherwise. In all areas more national as well as European money must go on defence, more must be contracted out so that even more firms than now might profit, and the defence industry must be able to profit from research moneys made available free of charge by governments. And as an additional special offer, if you leave it up to the EDA, for the most part no VAT would have to be paid.

At the end of his speech, the EDA chief lost himself in an alphabet soup of abbreviations, but what it came down to was that what was primarily needed was greater investment in being able to refuel planes in the air, in drones, in satellites, and in protection from Internet attacks. On the first of these, in which the Netherlands is leader in the field, the corporation involved was even named: AIRBUS. We can properly assume that behind the other priorities European corporations lie hidden.

In left circles it has since the 1960s been seen as useful to look at the underlying economic interests behind military actions. There are corporations which have a direct interest in both the deployment – and often along with that - the destruction of weapons, if the state is willing to extend subsidies for their research into new armaments.

Generally these ‘left –wing stories’ are matched by the right’s threat analyses from which it invariably emerges that all of our security is at stake if we don’t intervene militarily, or if we don’t have our defence capability in good order. Perhaps, as all recent military interventions – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya – have led merely to greater instability - Domecq has changed his tack, as he simply argued that defence is of importance to European industry. Only if we give strong support to the sector will we be assured that these strategically important companies will remain in Europe. The honesty of the man is to be valued, but it’s a sad state of affairs when we in Brussels have evidently gone beyond shame and not only admit the existence of a military-industrial complex, but are proud of it to boot. The market has its costs, in human lives too..

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