Cyprus is laying the groundwork to tap into EU defence funds that will be made available over the coming years, defence minister Savvas Angelides said Tuesday.
The defence ministry has set up a research & innovation department, and the goal is to foster synergies with defence-related industries and research centres to propose projects eligible for EU cash.
Cyprus needs to be ready to draw funds from the €13bn to be disbursed via the European Defence Fund from 2021-2027, Angelides stressed.
He was speaking to the press after briefing MPs of the House commerce and industry committee.
The aim is to upgrade the armed forces, with assistance from Cypriot industry in matters of technology, and in partnership with other EU member states in specific programmes.
Responding to questions, Angelides cited as examples the design and manufacture of unmanned vehicles, and projects for developing weapons systems technologies.
For his part, chair of the House committee Andreas Kyprianou (Disy) spoke of the capacity of Cypriot industry together with academia to advance research and innovation on the island.
“The EU’s PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) provides many opportunities to develop Cypriot industry and to attract to Cyprus outstanding scientists and top minds,” he said.
PESCO is the part of the EU’s security and defence policy in which 25 of the 28 national armed forces pursue structural integration.
It’s understood that Cyprus is participating in eight PESCO projects, including the Joint EU Intelligence School which, according to media reports, will be based in either Cyprus or Greece.
The school will train intelligence staff and work on building new military hardware.
Akel MP Costas Costa said his party was unimpressed given that for over 15 years successive governments in Cyprus have only paid lip service to the much-vaunted Science & Technology Park.
He said the current administration finally gave up on the Pentakomo Technology Park – a project first floated back in 2006 – when it removed from the state budget the funds previously allocated for building the roads providing access to the park.
“The government should first look to what it can do about this serious matter, of creating a technology park, for which the designs were complete but which it tossed away, before considering whether we are capable of developing a high-tech defence industry.”
Critics say programmes like PESCO will see nations effectively sub-contract their militaries out to the EU, thus ceding their sovereignty.
In June 2018, the Commission proposed to allocate €13bn to the European Defence Fund for 2021-2027.
According to a press release at the time, only collaborative projects involving at least three participants from three EU member states are eligible.
Also, the EU will only co-fund the development of common prototypes where member states commit to buying the final product.