The moves toward more cross-border cooperation on defense purchases at the European Union summit concluding Friday are "a very positive step forward," said Tom Enders, chief executive of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.
Mr. Enders, a frequent and harsh critic of how European politicians handle military spending, said declarations at the gathering calling for greater cooperative buying, organization and certification of military equipment and services offer "a sign that the political will exists" to take action.
EU countries, under financial pressure amid the economic crisis, have been cutting military spending but have failed to boost efficiency by pooling their purchases. Mr. Enders and other industry leaders, as well as some defense officials, have long called for greater cooperation on European security.
Conclusions agreed at the summit recommend steps to harmonize military standards and certification and increase the volume of multicountry military procurement. The summit was the first since 2008 dedicated to defense and security issues.
"More European programs with common specifications and certifications are needed to sustain the European defense-industrial and technology base," Mr. Enders said in a written response to questions from The Wall Street Journal. "At stake is the autonomy of European defense and jobs and growth of an industrial high-tech sector in Europe."
Major powers including China, Russia and the U.S. are either boosting military spending or trying to refocus for greater efficiency. Mr. Enders said Europe faces a choice:
"We take action or we become dependent on our allies," he said "Europe has taken its head out of the sand to look at the reality of its security and defense."
While the summit shifts the tone in EU discussions of defense cooperation, it won't remedy Europe's inefficient military acquisitions quickly. European militaries have already launched many projects jointly, but complex management and conflicting demands to maintain jobs in many countries have increased the cost of equipment such as the Eurofighter military jet, of which EADS is one producer.
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