Brussels – EU defence ministers approved 13 new projects on Tuesday under the bloc’s joint defence cooperation programme, ranging from an unmanned anti-submarine system to a new medical training centre.
An overall 47 projects have now been approved under the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework, launched by member states in 2017 to overcome their traditional fragmentation on defence issues and reduce reliance on the U.S.
The Maritime Unmanned Anti-Submarine System will use cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence for anti-submarine warfare, according to the EU.
It will help protect “underwater high-value infrastructures as well as sea-based energy systems,” while warding off threats to underwater communication lines, an EU project list states.
The EU also plans to establish a cyber academia and innovation hub, to develop a technologically skilled workforce and a “cyber-savvy ecosystem,” it announced.
The project will be run by Portugal and Spain.
Meanwhile, Poland and Hungary will take the lead on setting up a medical training centre focused on supporting the EU’s special operations forces.
EU capitals have traditionally been protective of their national defence industries, while relying on NATO to provide an umbrella for collective defence activities.
In recent years, however, Europe has been called upon to take on a greater share of the defence burden.
Meanwhile, the 25 EU member states participating in PESCO have so far failed to agree on conditions for third countries such as the U.S. – and Britain after Brexit – to participate in projects.
Countries such as the Netherlands stress the importance of bringing on board allied states with large defence industries and expertise, while France in particular has argued that Europe must develop its strategic autonomy.