Sovereignty and Interdependence in EU Military Procurement Regulation

On 12 June 2023, Dr Nathan Meershoek defended his dissertation Sovereignty and Interdependence in EU Military Procurement Regulation. Herein, he evaluates the effectiveness and appropriateness of Directive 2009/81/EC, which aims to strengthen the military 'strategic autonomy' of the European Union by liberalizing European defence industries. This liberalization is based on public procurement obligations for the Member States within the legal framework of the internal market. It is argued that this (market) approach to regulate military procurement is at odds with Member States' sovereignty on issues of strategic interest, and that regulation instead should primarily reside with the intergovernmental EU Defence Policy.

The first part of the dissertation builds on international relations theories, to evaluate the extent to which geopolitical power structures constrain EU integration and regulation of military procurement. This is relevant, because exception to the Directive can be justified by national security interests. Due to the significant differences in the military interests of the Member States, it is concluded that the economic interdependence approach – inherent in the chosen legal basis within the EU's internal market competence – is unsuitable as a basis for regulating military procurement. In military procurement the military-strategic interests of the Member States are decisive, so decisions are mainly aimed at strengthening independence (or, in other words, sovereignty) and/or military interdependence. Successful European integration in this area within the economically oriented system of the single market is therefore unlikely.

In light of this conclusion, the second part of the dissertation answers the question whether the Directive was adopted on the correct legal basis in the EU Treaties. After considering the role of sovereignty in the division of competences between the EU and its Member States in the field of military security, the legal characteristics of the security exceptions in the EU Treaties and the substance of the Directive, it is finally concluded that the Directive was adopted on the wrong legal basis in the EU Treaties. 

Based on the previous conclusions, the final part of the thesis provides guidance for a better regulation; first of all, by placing the regulation primarily within the intergovernmental EU Defence Policy. Based on five general principles – aimed at better facilitating sovereignty and interdependence – a recommendation is made of how the regulation could be improved.