EPRSLibrary By / July 4, 2013

European defence in times of austerity

Last update: December 2013 “Pooling and Sharing” and “Smart Defence” The economic crisis and subsequent substantial cuts in national defence…

© Michael Rosskothen / Fotolia

Last update: December 2013

“Pooling and Sharing” and “Smart Defence”

Apache Helicopter
© Michael Rosskothen / Fotolia

The economic crisis and subsequent substantial cuts in national defence budgets have put the military capabilities of the EU MS considerably under strain.  It has also triggered the necessity for improved and better coordinated military cooperation between Member States’ armed forces. According to a RAND study, defence budgets will continue to be significantly reduced over the next four years in EU MS. In order to maintain military capabilities, in 2010 the EU introduced “Pooling and Sharing” and NATO launched the so-called “Smart Defence” initiative, both aiming to enhance cooperation and make military expenditure more cost-effective in the future.
The European Council of December 2012 highlighted “the urgent necessity to strengthen European cooperation in order to develop military capabilities and fill the critical gaps” and decided that December 2013 summit would be devoted to the CSDP. The European Defence summit’s agenda comprises three broad topics: pooling and sharing military assets; boosting Europe’s defence industry; and a better response to crises.
In September 2013 EPP MEPs presented 10-page group’s paper with envisioned summit objectives: to boost Europe’s defence capabilities via stronger EU support for research, industrial policy and pooling and sharing activities.
This keysource gathers main documents, analysis, views of various stakeholders and statistical information on European defence in times of austerity, with special emphasis on “Pooling and Sharing”.

Read our briefings The maritime dimension of the EU’s CSDP from Septmber 2013 and NATO in the aftermath of the financial crisisfrom April 2013. Also keysource The impact of the financial crisis on European defence, June 2011.


And What Will Europe Do? The European Council and Military Strategy / Sven Bbiscop, Egmont Institute, Security Police Brief n. 46, May 2013, 8 p.

Pool it, Share it, Use it: The European Council on Defence / Sven Biscop, Egmont Institute, Security Police Brief n. 44, March 2013, 5 p.

Pooling and Sharing Factsheet, European Defence Agency, January 2013


Cost of Non-Europe Report: European Common Security and Defence Policy / Blanca Ballester, European Added Value Unit, EP EPRS, December 2013, 91 p.
This report argues that there is a cost of “non-Europe”, namely a price to be paid for operating at a national rather than European level. The cost derives from the lack of integration of the military structures of the Member States and the lack of a truly integrated defence market. The monetary cost of non-Europe in defence is estimated to range from €130 billion, at the higher end, to at least €26 billion, on a more conservative calculation.

Pool it, share it, or lose it: an economical view on pooling and sharing of European military capabilities / Overhage, Thomas, Defense and Security Analysis, Vol. 29, issue 4, p.323, December 2013 [For full text access, please contact the Library]
In a general and economical view, this article analyzes methods and mechanisms for the pooling and sharing of military forces and weapons inside the European Union (EU) in times of scarcity.

Enabling the future. European military capabilities 2013-2025: challenges and avenues / EUISS; Report No.16, May 2013, 73 p.
This Report seeks to place European military capabilities in a broader perspective and highlight potential avenues for exploration and development over the next decade.

A battle against decline? EU defence after the European Council, Andrea Frontini, Brief, European Policy Centre, December 2012, 2 p.
Abstract: “In its meeting on 13-14 December 2012, the European Council invited EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Commission Vice-President Catherine Ashton (HR/VP) and the European Commission to develop more proposals and actions for enhancing the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) by September 2013.”

Pooling & sharing austerity? The Defence Agency’s 2013 budget / Ulrich Karock, Policy Insight, EP DG EXPO, November 2012, 3 p.

EU Member States in permanent multinational forces / Ulrich Karock, Policy Briefing, EP DG EXPO, November 2012, 18 p.
EU Member States participate in a number of permanent multinational forces and headquarters. These structures are positive examples for EU-and NATO-led ‘pooling and sharing’ and ‘smart defence’ initiatives.

NATO and the Challenges of Austerity, Larrabee, Johnson, Gordon, Wilson et al., Study, RAND, November 2012, 15p.
Abstract: “In the coming decade, NATO will have to operate in an environment of growing fiscal austerity and declining defense budgets. The onset of the global economic crisis has forced most European governments to trim their defense budgets: Germany will reduce defense spending by a quarter over the next four years, Britain’s defense budget will be slashed by over 8 percent in real terms by 2015, and the defense budgets of some of the smaller European nations have taken even larger cuts. The United States is also planning significant reductions.”

Defence Spending in Europe in Light of the Economic Crisis, Alessandro Marrone, Report, Istituto Affari Internazionali, October 2012
Abstract: “The economic crisis has impacted deeply on defence spending in Europe. It has led to uncoordinated cuts to defence budgets at national level, but has also revived interest in bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Both the EU and NATO have made an effort to involve European countries in cooperative projects, under the banners of “Pooling and Sharing” and “Smart Defence” respectively, with limited results. At the same time, the European Commission has adopted two directives regarding defence spending, and the European Defence Agency has been strengthened.”

Dynamic Change Rethinking NATO’s Capabilities, Operations and Partnerships, Ed. Riccardo Alcaro and Sonia Lucarelli, NATO Allied Command Transformation and University of Bologna, October 2012
Abstract: “While the US has been constantly modernizing its armed forces, NATO European states, with the partial exception of the United Kingdom (UK) and France, have lagged far behind (even if one factors in the differences in resources). When pondering on how much and on what to spend public money, European governments are invariably driven by domestic considerations – which for Europeans rarely revolve around military issues – rather than NATO commitments. As a result, a growing imbalance has ensued, with certain allies proportionally contributing to Alliance activities much more than others. While this problem is anything but new in NATO’s history, its proportions – augmented by the economic crisis, which has led to cuts in military spending in most NATO member states – have now acquired an unprecedented scale.”

Military Capabilities: From Pooling & Sharing to a Permanent and Structured Approach, Sven Biscop and Jo Coelmont, Policy Brief, EGMONT, Royal Institute for International Relations, September 2012
Abstract: “In 2013 the European Council for the first time since long will deal with European defence. An excellent opportunity: to move key Pooling & Sharing projects to the implementation stage in the short term, and to launch a permanent and structured approach to the development of European military capabilities for the long term.”

The implications of military spending cuts for NATO’s largest members, Andrew Dorman, Bastian Giegerich, Camille Grand, Adam Grissom, Christian Mölling, Clara Marina O’Donnell, Report, The Brookings Institution, July 2012
Abstract: “There have long been debates about the sustainability of the transatlantic alliance and accusations amongst allies of unequal contributions to burden-sharing. But since countries on both sides of the Atlantic have begun introducing new – and often major – military spending cuts in response to the economic crisis, concerns about the future of transatlantic defense cooperation have become more pronounced.”

Pooling and Sharing in the EU and NATO: European Defence Needs Political Commitment rather than Technocratic Solutions, Christian Mölling, Comment, SWP, June 2012
Abstract: “At NATO Summit and EU Councils alike states praise pooling and sharing (P&S) as a kind of technocratic miracle cure for their impending inability to act militarily. That states will benefit economically from pooling their military capabilities sounds plausible. However, it remains unclear how the curtailment of sovereignty that such pooling necessarily involves should be accomplished. Consequently, the initiatives launched to date have not been particularly successful.”

Smart but too cautious: How NATO can improve its fight against austerity, Claudia Major, Christian Mölling, Tomas Valasek, Report, Centre for European Reform, May 2012
Abstract: “At the Chicago summit, NATO countries are unveiling a number of multinational acquisitions such as a fleet of spying drones. While these are needed, expensive and technologically impressive, most new collaborative projects are far more trifling and cover areas such as military education and human resources. Member-states remain afraid of defence collaboration: the dependencies it creates, its initial costs and the potential loss of jobs.”

The EU between Pooling & Sharing and Smart Defence: Making a virtue of necessity?, Giovanni Faleg and Alessandro Giovannini, Report, CEPS, May 2012
Abstract: “The financial crisis has deeply affected European defence budgets and, as a consequence, the EU’s capability to act as a provider of global security. This paper assesses the extent to which pooling & sharing (P&S) of military capabilities is a viable plan to boost collective capacity-building and offset the heavy budget cut-backs, drawing impetus from the NATO ‘smart defence’ agenda.”

CSDP, Strategy and Crisis Management: Out of Area or Out of Business? / Luis Simón, In: The International Spectator, Vol. 47, No. 3, 2012, pp. 100-115.
In order to meet the demands of a changing geopolitical environment, CSDP must break away from its distinctively reactive approach to security to include all the functions normally associated with the military including, chiefly, deterrence and prevention.

Smart Defense and the Future of NATO: Can the Alliance Meet the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century?, Conference Report and Expert Papers, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, March 28-30, 2012
Abstract: “The experiences in Afghanistan and Libya have pointed to the consequences of chronically underfunding defense establishments, the difficulties in getting twenty-eight sovereign states to commit resources equitably and predictably, and the challenges of responding effectively to new, rapidly emerging threats. The transatlantic alliance must confront a number of fundamental strategic questions about its future.”

Stakeholder views

EU Institutions

European Parliament

EP resolution of 12 September 2013 on EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects
EP resolution of 12 September 2013 on the maritime dimension of the Common Security and Defence Policy
EP resolution of 22 November 2012 on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy
EP resolution of 14 December 2011 on the impact of the financial crisis on the defence sector in the EU Member States 

EPP group: Towards a stronger Union defence policy, September 2013. MEPs Arnaud Danjean, Michael Gahler and Krzysztof Lisek have drafted a document on behalf of the EPP Group with a view to the European Council in December.

European Commission

Communication on the European Defence and Security Sector adopted on 24 July 2013, COM/2013/0542

Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector, MEMO/13/722, 24 July 2013


Council conclusions, Enhancing the development of capabilities, 27 November 2013
Council conclusions, EU Military Capability Development, 19 November 2012
Council conclusions, Pooling and Sharing of Military Capabilities, 22 March 2012

European Defence Agency

Final Report by the High Representative/Head of the EDA on the CSDP, EDA, 15 October 2013

Code of conduct on pooling and sharing, EDA, November 2012


European Council’s Conclusions on CSDP, 13-14 December, 2012
Speech by Herman Van Rompuy, Defence in Europe: Pragmatically Forward, March 2013
Remarks by President Herman Van Rompuy following the European Council, 14 December, 2012
Interview with Gen. Håkan Syrén, Chairman of European Union’s Military Committee (EUMC), 9 October, 2012
European External Action Service, website on CSDP
European Defence Agency, website on Pooling and Sharing


NATO LibGuide: Smart Defence and Interoperability

Selected country and regional approaches

  • The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia 

Towards a smarter V4: How to improve defence collaboration among the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, Tomas Valasek (editor), Report, Slovak Atlantic Commission, May 2012
Abstract: “Since the beginning of the economic crisis, NATO and EU countries have cut tens of billions of euros from defence budgets. Many abolished entire capabilities such as tanks or maritime patrol aircraft. European countries’ capacity to project stability and defend their interest in the neighbourhood and beyond is being tested as never before.”

  • Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden 

The Nordic declaration on solidarity, The Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Declaration, 5 April, 2011
Abstract: “The intensified Nordic cooperation will be undertaken fully in line with each country’s security and defense policy and complement existing European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation.”

  • France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain

Meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers and Ministers of Defence of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, 15 November 2012

  • France and the United Kingdom 

Speech by The Rt Hon David Lidington MP on EU Common Security and Defence Policy: The UK Perspective, 27 June 2012

Franco-British military cooperation: a new engine for European defence?, Ben Jones, Report, European Union Institute for Security Studies, February, 2011
Abstract: “The primary motivation is not to produce a greater or more effective ‘European’ military capability. It is to maintain French and British aspirations to power projection and to military credibility in the eyes of the United States.”

  • France and Germany 

France and Germany sign new defense agreement, 15 June, 2012

  • The United Kingdom and Germany 

British-German Defence Co-operation in NATO. Finding Common Ground on European Security, Lisa Aronsson and Patrick Keller, Report, RUSI/KAS, May, 2012
Abstract: “The seminars took place in Berlin and London, and brought together government officials, policy analysts, academics and industrialists to exchange views on the Chicago Summit agenda. They discussed their visions for NATO’s role in Europe and identified areas to improve co-operation and mutual understanding.”

  • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Baltic Defence Ministers announced new defence cooperation initiatives, 2 December, 2011

  • United States 

All alone? What US retrenchment means for Europe and NATO, François Heisbourg, Wolfgang Ischinger, George Robertson, Kori Schake, Tomas Valasek, Report, Centre for European Reform, 1 March 2012
“With the US reducing its role in NATO, the Europeans need to assume more military responsibility, and the alliance needs to narrow its ambitions.”

  • Russian Federation

Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective – 2011, Carolina Vendil Pallin (ed.), Report, the Swedish Defence Research Agency, August, 2012
Abstract: “Russia intends to increase its conventional military capability and correspondingly plans to increase its defence budget in both relative and absolute terms. If the Russian political and military leadership is successful in this ambition, the overall military capability of Russia could increase significantly as early as in 2020.”

  • Asia

Asian Defense Spending, 2000–2011, Joachim Hofbauer, Priscilla Hermann, Sneha Raghavan, Report, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, October, 2012
Abstract: “Today, several Asian countries are already among the largest defense spenders in the world. In addition, unlike the defense budgets in many other regions, Asian defense spending continues to be on the rise. This trend stands in particularly stark contrast to Europe and the United States, where defense budgets have been declining in recent years.”


Kangaroo Group Discussion Paper for the December Defence Summit / Kangaroo Group, July 2013
The Kangaroo Group has elaborated a discussion paper in view of the European Summit in December. Karl von Wogau Secretary General of the Kangaroo Group explained that this paper only contains projects which have a chance to be accepted by the Heads of State and Government at this meeting.


Defence Spending (Percent of GDP in 2011) in the EU 27, USA, Canada, China, Russia and India

Defence Spending (Percent of GDP in 2011) in the EU 27, USA, Canada, China, Russia and India

  • Furhter reading

European Defense Trends 2012, Joachim Hofbauer, Priscilla Hermann, Sneha Raghavan, Report, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, December, 2012
Abstract: “European defense spending has exhibited two key trends in the past decade. The first is that total defense spending in Europe declined from 263.1 billion € in 2001 to 220.0 billion € in 2011 (a compounded annual growth rate [CAGR] of -1.8 percent). The second trend is that aggregate spending on a per-soldier basis rose significantly, from 76,700 € in 2001 to 100,800 € in 2011 (a CAGR of 2.8 %).”


Bruxelles2: pooling and sharing

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