Defence industry bemoans ‘unfair’ selection of companies for NATO talks

A meeting between defence industries and NATO on Thursday (15 June) has caused a serious backlash, mainly from those who were not invited, potentially jeopardising the military alliance’s drive to support a badly needed ramp-up of production.

NATO defence ministers met for the first time with leaders of 25 major Western defence companies on Thursday to encourage them to ramp up production amid ammunition shortages.

The talks came as Ukraine’s Western allies are exploring how to continue sending it the necessary military equipment.

Governments have asked defence companies to increase production while companies request clear long-term demand signals to justify investment in new production capacities, supply chains, and personnel.

“One of the issues that we have to recognise is that if everybody keeps thinking about ‘my industry’, we will never get there,” Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren told EURACTIV.

But companies and countries that did not get an invitation to Thursday’s meeting are not happy.

NATO’s general secretariat invited companies particularly involved in the making of what an alliance official referred to as “battle-decisive munitions”.

The list of companies, seen by EURACTIV, shows that they mostly focus on manufacturing ammunition, missiles, air defence systems, and drones. In addition, they all seem to produce – or be in a position to  produce – what Ukraine needs on the battlefield.

For instance, they make Caesar canons, Javelins, Patriot and HIMARS missile defence systems, or Soviet-era ammunition rounds which Ukraine still uses.

Spain blocks ramp-up plan

But the guest list was not built in a “fair” way, several industry representatives who were not part of the selection pointed out to EURACTIV on condition of anonymity.

For instance, major companies like Airbus Defence, French Dassault and Safran, American Boeing, French MBDA, German Diehl, or industries specialised in electronics, such as German Hensoldt, or Spanish munition maker Expal, bought out by Rheinmetall, were not invited.

The selection criteria was “not clear,” different industry representatives, who had been lobbying to get their seat at the table, told EURACTIV.

Even though no concrete outcome from the talks are expected, they would have liked to be included out of principle, the industry sources said.

As EURACTIV reported earlier, NATO has looked at setting up a plan to identify targets for investment and to aggregate demand signals, pinning down standardised transatlantic equipment from the alliance’s members for the industry.

In a sign of protest that no Spanish company had been invited, the country’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles refused to approve the start of the work on the Defence Production Action Plan as long as listening to Spanish companies  “is not considered”, El Paìs reported.

Subsequently, Robles also boycotted the meeting, according to the Spanish daily.

EU struggle

Struggles to put together a guest list have also kept the EU from organising such an industry meeting.

The EU has launched different industrial policies to boost military equipment, especially ammunition, production and joint procurement to fill in the gaps.

Around the Schuman roundabout in Brussels, where the EU institutions are located, there were plans to invite a certain number of defence industries to participate in a ministerial meeting, in a show of support to boost production capacities.

But the plans fell through as the 27 EU ambassadors failed to agree on the guest list, EU diplomats said.

At the NATO talks, the EU was represented by the bloc’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, according to one of the people present.

Ollongren described the talks as “a dialogue between people” but not “a formal roundtable”.

“For Ukraine, we really need all of them, we need to make it simpler and we need to have fewer differences because of the immense fragmentation that we also see on the NATO side as we are now exporting to Ukraine is not something that makes us strong,” she said.

[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski/Zoran Radosavljevic]


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