The Opinion will give the support of the European Committee of the Regions to the European Defence Fund, the first initiative of its kind aiming at reinforcing EU defence capability and enhancing its efficiency.
The Opinion will also make recommendations to make sure all territories and companies - large, medium, small size, as well as active in the military sector or not - can benefit from the European Defence Fund.
The need for the European Defence Fund to benefit only EU industry, with a restricted definition of EU beneficiaries, including sub-contractors, will be reaffirmed. The opinion will stress the importance of integrated European defence supply chain for the EU strategic autonomy and the development of its territories.
The Opinion will highlight the role of regions and clusters in mobilising their industry, in particular SMEs, to participate in the calls fo the European Defence Fund, as well as highlight the opportunity for territorial development that the fund represents.
The opinion process allowed to team up with the European Commission to promote the European Network of Defense Related Regions to local and regional stakeholders, notably through a lunchtime briefing organised on 21 November 2017 in Brussels, Belgium, and a local event organised on 7 March 2018, in Riga, Latvia.
The opinion also created an interinstitutional dialogue between the CoR and the European Commission on the need for regions and regional cluster to be seen as partners to encourage their industry and SMEs, from the military and civilian sectors, to participate in the calls for projects which will be launched by the European Commission.
Lastly, the opinion allowed the discussion on the necessity to preserve defence industry in border regions, especially on the European Eastern borders, while it was reaffirmed that evaluation of applications for financing should be based on excellence and the integration of SMEs within EU defence supply chains.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- supports the European Defence Fund (EDF), encompassing both the "European Defence Industrial Development Programme" and the "Preparatory Action for Defence Research";
- requests the Commission to focus on a territorial and/or place-based approach and in so doing keep SMEs, regional clusters and regions in all the Member States informed about the possibilities of benefiting from the programme and about further funding opportunities for defence plans, particularly with a view to supporting regional strategies for intelligent specialisation;
- calls for the objectives of the Programme to include the build-up of defence and security capacities in EU Member States with external borders;
- requests main contractors and sub-contractors to be EU-based and undertakings be at least half-owned by EU Member States or natural or legal persons, and be effectively controlled by European capital. The management and actual control of these companies must be locatable in the European Union;
- strongly urges that additional points be given when examining project applications from consortia to which a large number of SMEs belong;
- calls for the work programme to ensure that at least 20% of the overall budget will benefit actions enabling the cross-border participation of SMEs;
- considers that the programme budget should be drawn from unallocated margins under the multiannual financial framework ceilings;
- considers that the adoption of a European Defence Fund must not be used as a pretext for reducing or affecting in any way allocations for cohesion policy, which must remain the European Union's main public investment tool with a view to improving European integration through social, economic and territorial cohesion.