Italy, Germany and France: tri-heartland of EU defence? Industrial policy, aerospace and defence featured prominently in the Action Plan that Berlin and Rome just signed into existence – thereby closing the triangle with Paris and creating a tripartite structural cooperation mechanism between Europe’s three biggest economies. And there are some indications of deals to come that would reshape the EU military industry (and shared defence prospects) by creating a powerful core at its centre.
- The three governments have been cooperating closely on a number of key sectors – including critical raw materials, artificial intelligence and space – amid a wider EU push to coordinate better responses to external shocks.
- Meanwhile, they have also been expanding their roster of shared defence projects, as each country’s national champion seeks to leverage close ties to create value-generating partnerships and increase their global competitiveness.
Ongoing dealings. German defence titan Thyssenkrupp (specifically its naval division TKMS) and Italy’s leading shipbuilder Fincantieri have been seeking to establish a strategic cooperation on warships, and talks are reportedly at an advanced stage. The two companies already have a long-standing submarine partnership.
- Elsewhere, Fincantieri and France’s Naval signed a MoU on the mid-life upgrade of Horizon-class frigates – a key step in their joint programme under the International Organisation for Armaments Cooperation (OCCAR)…
- … because it paves the way for a parallel deal between industrial contractors Naviris (Fincantieri plus Naval Group), Eurosam (Italy’s MBDA and Thales) and OCCAR itself on behalf of the Italian and French Ministries of Defence, an operation that could be worth around €1.5 billion, according to Quotidiano Nazionale.
Other joint projects… In aerospace, Berlin and Rome are already cooperating on a range of industrial endeavours, including the construction of Eurofighters, Eurodrones, and the NH-90 helicopter. Meanwhile, the cooperation between Rome and Paris encompasses an expanding range of joint projects, embodied by MBDA’s Aster missile and Italy’s recent entry in the Franco-British FMAN/FMC missiles, as well as the ongoing shipbuilding joint ventures.
- The three capitals also signed a trilateral deal at the European Space Agency Summit in early November, seeking to boost the European launchers and spaceports ecosystem – and immediately re-starting France’s Ariane 6 and Italy’s Vega-C launches activity.
- Italy also allocated €3.1 billion for ESA’s budget, bringing itself on par with France at the top of the agency’s contributors.
… and possible ones. Italy and Germany (plus Spain and Sweden) might have also agreed to jointly develop the next-generation European battle tank, dubbed MGCS, as Berlin’s initial plan to build it with Paris seems to be flagging. This also seems to be the case with the Franco-German FCAS project, geared at building the next-generation fighter jet along with the Spanish.
- Berlin’s clear interest in the parallel project, the GCAP (a momentous cooperation between Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and possibly Sweden), opens the door to its exit from FCAS. And if that happens, it’s not unlikely Paris and Madrid might also want to join in and merge their plans with the new European (and Japanese) project.