European Defence Ecosystem, Third Countries’ Participation and the Special Case of Turkey


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                                                 European Defence Ecosystem,                                                 Third Countries’ Participation and the Special Case of Turkey

Emre Kürşat Kaya, EDAM, Research Fellow

  • During the last three decades, the European Union acquired a vast range of exclusive and shared competences. Although these competences concentrated on economic integration, there have been significant transfers of sovereignty from national to supranational level in other policy areas. Despite these developments, further integration in the Common Security and Defence Policy has been limited. Since the initiation of the CSDP at the Franco- British Saint-Malo summit in 1998 and until the European Council of 2013, it has mostly been a taboo to discuss security and defence matters at the supranational level.
  • CSDP has consolidated its rank as a high topic in the Brussels agenda in 2017 with the launch of the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). Both initiatives are unique for different reasons. The EDF is the first Commission-led defence initiative. As a treaty-based initiative, PESCO requires participant member states to accept binding commitments.
  • The first two waves of PESCO projects (for a total of 34 projects), as well as the first EDF-funded research projects, have already been launched. The first concrete results from both initiatives are expected in 2019. This year will also represent an important period during which the governance rules should be established, most notably regarding third country participation.
  • Non-EU countries are waiting for the announcement of clear conditions in order to participate in joint projects with their European partners. This group of countries includes Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, and soon the United Kingdom. The conditions to participate in PESCO or EDF projects will need to consider technical requirements and political sensitivities.
  • The participation of the United Kingdom into defence projects in the post-Brexit era is critical to ensure the success of these initiatives. The United Kingdom is the third largest European major arms exporter. Yet, conditions should be applicable to all third countries. Any special treatment offered to the UK will trigger heavy critics by other candidates.
  • Although Turkey’s current political relations with EU member states and institutions have deteriorated, it keeps strong economic ties with the Union. Notably, Turkey plays an important role both as a defence exporter and importer for the EU. The EU is the second largest client of Turkey (after the US) representing 25,4% of its defence and aerospace exports. Ankara represents 3% of total EU exports of major arms and is a key client for member states such as Spain and Italy (respectively 14% and 10% of their total arms exports). There are also strong ties between the Turkish defence firms and their European counterparts. Turkish companies are part of European projects such as the Cougar MK1 and the Airbus A400M. Moreover, large European companies are active in the making of key Turkish defence products (i.e. Agusta Westland – ATAK T129; MBDA & Thales – Air and Missile Defence Systems; BAE Systems – TF-X).
  • This paper aims to present an overview of the latest developments in the European Union’s new defence ecosystem and to analyse its meaning for potential partner countries such as Turkey. The paper first presents the main components of the EDF and PESCO. It then examines the current state of affairs regarding the conditions for third country participation to these initiatives. Finally, the analysis focus on the case of Turkey through its defence industrial relations with the EU and its potential participation to the EDF and PESCO.

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