Photo of Elżbieta Bieńkowska

Elżbieta Bieńkowska

Elżbieta Bieńkowska is a senior advisor in the firm's Brussels office. Elżbieta, a non-lawyer, served as European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs in Jean-Claude Juncker’s team from 2014 to 2019. In that capacity, she was responsible for much of the European Commission’s regulatory activity that affects the EU’s 450 million citizens, and all companies doing business in the EU. Elżbieta oversaw all product regulation in the EU, setting the rules for goods and services in sectors as diverse as chemicals, cars, electronics, IT infrastructure, machines, medical devices, and hydrogen. She managed the EU’s treatment of IP, led the Commission’s extensive work on standardization, and ran the EU’s industrial policy.

Before joining the European Commission, Elżbieta served as Minister for Infrastructure and Development of Poland as well as Deputy Prime Minister. In this role, she was in charge of the allocation of European Union funding and responsible for significant investments in Poland’s transport infrastructure.

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In early March, the EU released its first-ever European Defence Industrial Strategy (EDIS), accompanied by a proposed regulation establishing the European Defence Industry Programme (EDIP). The aim is to boost defence capabilities in Europe through greater and more efficient spending. In particular, the strategy seeks to reverse recent trends, whereby 78% of defence acquisitions by EU countries since Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine were made with non-EU producers, with U.S. firms accounting for 63%. It also addresses recent concerns by the defence industry over ESG constraints on obtaining private financing.

The ultimate benchmark for success, as recounted by one EU foreign minister, is whether these measures will help deter Russia and other adversaries. Nonetheless, it reflects greater operational focus of the EU on defence and security issues, and what in practice the European Commission and other EU institutions can do to bolster capabilities in a policy area that will remain the primary prerogative of EU Member States.

Plugging Defence Gaps

Since the end of the Cold War, European defence has suffered from perennial underinvestment and lack of policy support for the defence industry. Whereas Europe collectively spent on defence over half of the U.S. totals in the early 1990s, it now spends about one-third compared to the United States—arguably at a time of much greater security threats to Europe compared to America. There are simply not enough soldiers, tanks, planes, ships, missiles, guns, and ammunition in Europe, nor domestic facilities to produce the necessary weapons systems and materiel. Moreover, EU countries have procured defence products at a national level, exacerbating fragmentation within the European market. This fragmentation has led to the creation of national industrial silos and numerous defence systems that often lack interoperability.Continue Reading Mobilizing Greater Defence Capabilities in Europe: the EU’s Defence Industrial Strategy

This year’s Munich Security Conference reemphasized the need for Europe to invest in greater defense capabilities and foster a regulatory environment that is conducive to building a defense and technological industrial base. In Munich, President Ursula von der Leyen committed to appointing a European Commissioner for Defence, if she is reselected later this year by the European Council and European Parliament. And the EU is also due to publish shortly a new defense industrial strategy, mirroring in part, the first-ever U.S. National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) released earlier this year by the Department of Defense.

The NDIS, in turn, recognizes the need for a strong defense industry in both the U.S. and the EU, as well as other allies and partners across the globe, in order to strengthen supply chain resilience and ensure the production and delivery of critical defense supplies. And global leaders generally see the imperative of working together over the long-term to advance integrated deterrence policies and to strengthen and modernize defense industrial base ecosystems. We will continue tracking these geopolitical trends, which are likely to persist regardless of electoral outcomes in Europe or the United States.

These developments across both sides of the Atlantic follow on a number of significant new funding streams in Europe over the past couple of years, for instance:

  • The 2021 revision of the European Defense Fund Regulation allocated €8 billion for common research and development projects, meant to be spent during the 2021-2027 multi-annual financial framework (MFF).
  • As a direct response to Ukraine’s request for assistance with the supply of 155 mm-caliber artillery rounds, the EU adopted the 2023 Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP), with a €500 million fund to scale up production of ammunition and missiles.
  • Most recently, the EU adopted the 2023 European Defense Industry Reinforcement through Common Procurement Act (EDIRPA), introduced a joint procurement fund of €300 million to facilitate Member States’ collective acquisition of defense products.
  • The European Peace Facility (EPF), an off-budget instrument, with an overall financial ceiling exceeding €12 billion, is primarily destined toward procurement of military material and large-scale financing of weapon supplies to allied third countries (including €6.1 billion for Ukraine).

Continue Reading Insights from the Munich Security Conference: Towards an Expanding U.S.-EU Defense Taxonomy?

On December 14, 2023, the U.S. Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2024 (NDAA), authorizing $886 billion in defense spending. Amid its numerous provisions, there is the concept of the “national technology and industrial base,” which now includes the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand and could potentially serve as the basis for wider industrial cooperation with European and other global partners. This could provide useful synergies with ongoing efforts in Europe to galvanize defense production and help ensure an enduring competitive edge for the wider West over potential adversaries—within NATO and with global partners.

The Global “National Technology and Industrial Base”

The national technology and industrial base (NTIB) is defined in U.S. law as “the persons and organizations that are engaged in research, development, production, integration, services, or information technology activities” in national security and dual-use areas. First established in 1994, NTIB initially included only Canada in addition to the United States. In 2016, however, United Kingdom and Australia were added, followed by New Zealand in 2022. NTIB entities may receive preference for certain limited procurement actions and may be exempted from certain foreign ownership or control/influence requirements.

The logic behind this initial expansion was to foster industrial defense cooperation among the Five Eyes allies, which already had provisions for intelligence sharing potentially required for sophisticated military projects. And the expected benefits were to leverage economies of scale, promote innovation, and increase interoperability.

Given Russia’s large-scale war of aggression against Ukraine and the longer-term challenge from China, the NTIB could be expanded further to ensure that the wider West is able to produce the military materiel required to deter and confront any security challenges. The United States and its NATO Allies have already faced stockpile constraints in providing weapons supply to Ukraine to continue waging its defense. Now, the 2024 NDAA has added Israel and Taiwan to a program started to expedite delivery and replenishment of munitions to Ukraine, which will put further pressure on existing production. The NTIB could also serve as the fulcrum to leverage European defense initiatives in light of Russia’s war of aggression.

European Defense Initiatives

The European defense landscape has long been characterized by severe under-investment and fragmentation among Member States, with less than one-fifth of investments in defense programs conducted in cooperation. In 2009, the European Union expressed its willingness to facilitate joint procurement with the adoption of procurement rules for munitions, arms, and war material in the Defense Procurement Directive. However, implementation was lacking, and most procurement contracts were still awarded without an EU-wide tender.Continue Reading U.S. Defense Bill’s Implications for European and Global Partners